Devotion to pre-hospital care earns soldier in Afghanistan top medical award


Lt. Hans Hulsebos of the United States Navy is serving a tour in Afghanistan, and recently earned the Ditch Medicine Award, a top honor for out-of-hospital trauma care. Medical officials from the Joint Theatre Trauma System (JTTS) in Bagram, Afghanistan presented the honor to him last month for his devotion to pre-hospital care, but he credits his corpsmen for their hard work.

“Everyone was really a major contributor,” said Hulsebos, the battalion surgeon with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Sabit Qadam. “It’s hardly an act that I did alone. They are the guys that really carry the weight. They’re putting IVs in, putting chest tubes in, and really saving lives. It’s all about our corpsmen.”

But Hulsebos is being humble, as he trained corpsmen before their deployment, and continues to guide them.

His parents who live in Cowesett both work in medicine. His father, Larry, is a veterinarian at Brown University, and his mother, Patricia, works as an emergency room nurse during the night shift at Miriam Hospital. They didn’t know about their son’s award until they were contacted for comments for this article, a fact that further shows his humility.

“It’s not about getting an award for what you do, it’s about what you do,” Patricia said. “I think that’s probably why he didn’t let us know. He loves what he does. The award wasn’t his goal. His goal was to keep doing better in the field.”

Larry agrees.

“We’re really proud of him,” he said. “We continue to be very impressed with what these guys are doing in Afghanistan.”

Patricia also said it amazes them that their son, along with the other soldiers, is helping injured people without standard equipment like x-ray machines.

“If you can diagnose a patient without having to wait for a test, that is a pretty impressive skill,” she said. “And obviously he has a knack for teaching.”

The medical staff in Afghanistan feels the same.

According to a report published by the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System, a state-of-the-art, 24/7 operation that provides a connection between the media around the world and the military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, “officials reviewed aid stations throughout Afghanistan and presented the award to [Hulsebos] based on the number of patients seen at the facility, the quality of care performed on the patient, and the method used for recording patient care.”

The article also noted that Hulsebos’ aid station is considered a Role 1 Medical Treatment Facility, as it is equipped to provide basic medical care, such as First Aid, immediate lifesaving measures and triage.

“However, the medical treatment provided to patients at Sabit Qadam was beyond what was expected of Hulsebos and his corpsmen and therefore drew the attention and recognition from leadership at the JTTS. The JTTS … noticed the patients coming from Sabit Qadam had a survivability rate of 95 percent, just 3 percent less than patients at Role 3 medical facilities, including Camp Bastion.”

Hulsebos said he oversees about 40 corpsmen, as well as physician assistants and other medical members. His team is responsible for the overall health of the entire battalion, while the majority of the patients they treat are Afghan National Security Forces personnel, including the national army and police.

“On average, we see one casualty a day,” he said. “I could see four or five patients one day, and then the next couple of days, see nobody.”

He was commissioned in 2009, and deployed in March. At the time, his son, Ian, who he named after his brother, was just 1 week old.

“The baby cooperated quite well because he was going to be deployed on the 13th and the baby was born on the 5th,” Patricia said.

His bother is also in the military, as he is a Marine. Ian has served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Patricia said both men were deployed around the same time. Hulsebos left in March, and Ian was deployed in May.

“It’s a little unnerving to have two kids over there,” she said. “With the sequester, they are only getting two meals a day.”

Patricia said Chloe, Hulsebos’ wife, is also a doctor, as she is a podiatrist. The couple lives in California.

“He’s really dedicated to what he does and so is she,” Patricia said. “It’s not about the money with either one of them. It’s more about the patients.”

Patricia and Larry, who have lived in Cowesett for more than a decade, anticipate their sons’ safe return. Hulsebos plans to visit his parents when he comes home in about a month, while Ian is expected to return shortly after.

Hulsebos is looking forward to seeing his family, especially his son.

“I can’t wait to get back to see him,” he said.


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