Thursday, December 16, 2010

Suddendly, Sub Medevacs Have Been Making the News

UPDATE: Fri, Dec 17, 2010 around 9 AM
One reader e-mailed this interesting behind-the-scenes “what if…”:
Right now our Independent Duty Corpsmen are trained to do everything up to taking out an appendix if they absolutely had to. What if a woman on a submarine had a health problem that required immediate attention like an ectopic pregnancy? Right now the wardroom table is our make-shift surgical table. I heard they are going to create a set of stirrups to attach to the end of the wardroom table for emergent female examinations and medical procedures. Then there’s the interesting dynamic of the male E-6 corpsman doing pelvic exams on the female O-3.

Until recently it had been quite rare for the news media to report on submarine sailors requiring medical evacuations (MEDEVACs), unless an unusual incident (e.g. coillision or fire) causes multiple injuries, or significant damage. In those cases, or if there has been a fatality, the mainstream soon picks up the story, regardless.

For the Atlantic fleet alone, submarine MEDEVAC rates (per 1000 man-months underway) for the years 1993 - 1996, were 1.9, 2.0, 2.3, and 2.0, respectively. Of those alone, had you been aware through the general media of even 50%? Not likely for most of us.

Fast forward to 2009 and 2010, however. Not only do we read about sub MEDEVACs, we can expect release of related video to follow. The latter does not occur without sub fleet authorization.

Why? The current emphasis on sub MEDEVACs is part of a program to desensitize both the public and submariners to what is coming in 2012 --- women submariners. Women require MEDEVAC 1.3 times more often than men (20% - 25% of which are due to gynecological problems).

Why? Because there are The Medical Implications of Women On Submarines pdf link . What exactly are the medical implications?

- Women use healthcare at a rate 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than men. Manpower losses due to health disqualifying conditions will likely increase for submarines with female crewmembers, including anemia, gall bladder disease, urinary tract infections, and a higher rate of orthopedic injury.

- Women, who lose 50% of their bone mass over a lifetime (compared with 35% for men) are at higher risk for osteoporosis. In a submarine, CO2 levels are ten times higher than normal and can lead to osteoporosis, in addition to decreased vitamin D levels from the absence of sunlight and a relative lack of physical activity. - Hmmm! Tobacco smoking is the largest determinant of CO levels in the blood.

There is more, of course, in the 44 page document.

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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