Surgery patients no longer 'in the dark'
By Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney , 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
/ Published August 16, 2009
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A new, improved lighting system in the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group operating room has the future looking brighter for surgery patients.
Staff Sgt. Michael Southam, 379 EMDG non-commissioned officer in charge for medical maintenance, described the problems with the previous lights that necessitated their replacement.
"The older-style lights were susceptible to power spikes on base," said Sergeant Southam, deployed here from Misawa Air Base, Japan. "As a result, the two light bulbs within each of the light heads would have to be replaced nearly every month."
Additionally, Sergeant Southam said the design of the old lights cast shadows on patients during surgery, impeding the doctor's view. The new lights each use 35 high-intensity light-emitting-diodes to elim-inate almost all shadows. "The improved technology also means the lights will be able to last nearly 20,000 hours before replacement," the Slidell, La., native said.
Staff Orthopedic Surgeon Maj. (Dr.) Todd Grebner, a native of Metamora, Ill., recently conducted an operation under the new lights and admits they are a big improvement over the old ones.
"These new lights are more comfortable to work under because they don't produce as much heat as the traditional bulb lights," Doctor Grebner said. "They also allow changes in the concentration of the light beam on the surgical field, sort of like the shutter on a camera," he said.
Once the need for new lights was identified, the surgical team waited roughly two months for the new equipment to arrive. At that time, they called upon the experts at the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron to install their new equipment. "We had to involve CE Electric to ensure the power run from the circuit breaker to the control box and back to the lights themselves met all necessary electrical codes," Sergeant Southam said.
In order to complete the installation quickly and without mission interruption, the civil engineers assigned to the project arrived weeks in advance to survey the location. Three days were scheduled for the final installation to allow for any unexpected problems, said Staff Sgt. Mary Cisneros, project lead for the 379 ECES team.
"All of us have been in the military from four to 13 years and have never worked on medical equipment," said Ser-geant Cisneros, deployed from Grand Forks AFB, N.D. "Most of the time they have their own contractor who specializes in medical equipment," she said.
"Three days is usually what we give ourselves for a job like this due to unknown circumstances. For instance, we didn't know what was above the ceiling before we started because of the need to keep the area sterile."
Even with the extra time, the lights were installed and the operating room was up and running again within 24 hours.
"Once everyone was aware of the plans they were able to break into smaller teams and tackle multiple parts of the job at once," Sergeant Southam said.
"This team went above and beyond by not only completing the electrical work, but also helping to mount the brackets to support the lights from the ceiling and installing the light heads. The whole team was extremely knowledgeable and showed great teamwork," he said.
While the medical group is grateful to the civil engineers for helping enhance their operating room capabilities, the 379 ECES team is thankful for the chance to assist the medics.
"To help the medical team with better visibility when doing a major surgery was the greatest aspect of this job," said Sergeant Cisneros, a native of Prescott, Wis. "We want to thank the medical group for giving us the chance to give them the equipment needed to perhaps save a life or limb."