Proper litter carry ensures patient safety

  • Published
  • By Airman Greg Meyer
  • 8th Medical Operations Squadron
Your alarm goes off, it's 4 p.m. on day four of a base exercise, and the weather is one of Kunsan's cold, snowy, winter nights.

After reporting to work and finding your wingman, you begin the waiting game.
Soon enough your patience is rewarded and the alarms start to sound. You hear the order for post-attack reconnaissance teams to begin sweeps of the compound, and you and your partner make your way out into the biting cold.

Things are going smoothly until your wingman loses his footing and crashes to the ground. You carefully slide your way over to him and ask if he is okay. The glazed look in his eyes tells you he is not. You quickly grab your radio and call for manpower and a litter. As the team reaches your wingman, you can tell they have not practiced litter carries recently and are utterly lost at how to move him. Luckily for you all, you just practiced litter carries at the recent ability to survive and operate training and are pretty comfortable with the procedures.

As the team fumbles with opening the litter, you remind them not to use their hands to force the cross bar down, but to instead stomp on it using their feet so they won't risk causing an injury to themselves. Once the litter is set up and placed next to your partner, you position the team members so they are evenly spaced and can perform a proper transfer from the ground to the litter. Everyone keeps looking left and right trying to figure out who calls the commands. You remind the team the person stabilizing the head will call the commands.

Once everyone is ready, you hear a small, frail voice from beneath a gas mask call out the preparatory command, "Prepare to move." Unfortunately, you are the only one who hears the command, so you kindly remind the Airman in charge he needs to be loud to overcome the gas mask. The Airman tries again and the entire team immediately responds, "Ready." The team leader then gives the order, "Move," and your wingman is swiftly moved onto the litter.

The rest of the manpower team takes their positions at each side of the litter; it seems their previous training is starting to kick in since they all remembered to keep their knees closest to the litter on the ground. You also notice the person to the right of the patient's head is calling the commands with confidence. Once the team is on their feet, they begin moving your wingman towards a vehicle of opportunity to transport him to the clinic for further evaluation.

To clarify the proper steps to a little carry:

1. Properly position manpower evenly on both sides of the litter.

2. Keep the knee closest to the litter on the ground prior to lifting.

3. The person to the right of the patient's head will call commands.

4. If you are the one calling commands, make sure to call them loud and clear so all other members of the team can hear you. All team members should repeat the commands.

5. Once the patient is off the ground, the person to the right of the patient's head will continue to call movement commands.

6. Remember safety. Speed and recklessness will only injure the patient more. If the conditions or terrain make patient movement difficult, add manpower on each side of the litter to help. You can also slide the litter along the ground if necessary for the safety of your patient and yourself.

A lot of us never expect to be put in this type of situation. Unfortunately, it happens all too often and the only thing we have to rely on is our training. Situations like this don't warrant the time to open our Airman's Manual and refresh ourselves on the proper steps of litter carries. Hopefully this quick refresher will allow you to look better than the manpower team in this story.