By Air Force Capt. Peter Shinn
Combined Joint Task Force 101
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (4/28/11) - During a mission in the Sarkani District April 25, the senior combat medic for the Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team provided urgent medical care to an Afghan road worker whose eyes had been accidentally doused with diesel fuel.
Co-workers of the injured man, Roz Amin, carried him to the Sarkani District Center shortly after the accident, which occurred on a road paving project just a few meters away. Members of the ADT were at the district center conducting a key leader engagement with the district sub-governor and other officials.
Amin’s co-workers brought him to a member of the ADT’s security forces and explained Amin had fallen into hot tar.
The security forces team member quickly located U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Martinez, the ADT’s senior medic, and asked Martinez if he could help Amin.
“When we’re out on mission, our job is to treat our soldiers first, but if an Afghan has an emergency involving life, limb or eyesight, we have a duty to treat them, too,” said Martinez.
“So when I first heard it was a burn, I was prepared for the worst, because I’ve seen a lot of burns at home and here in Afghanistan and it can be pretty bad.”
However, when Martinez assessed Amin, he discovered he had only minor burns on his hands and face.
Working through an ADT interpreter, Martinez learned that immediately after Amin had fallen into the tar, his co-workers had pulled him out and bathed him in diesel fuel to remove the tar accidentally splashing Amin’s eyes.
“It became clear that the primary injury was to his eyes,” Martinez said. “So my focus was to clear all the fuel from his eyes to preserve his vision.”
Martinez gently washed Amin’s burns and began aggressively irrigating the injured man’s eyes.
“I had to work with whatever I had in my aid bag, and my aid bag is primarily geared toward combat trauma, so I improvised,” said Martinez. “I was also lucky to have a lot of help, because this was really a team effort.”
The treatment team included both Afghans and Americans.
A friend of Amin’s helped hold Amin’s eyes open as Martinez irrigated them. U.S. Army Spc. Daniel Kersbergen, an ADT security forces team member, prepared and administered an intravenous fluid bag to prevent Amin from becoming dehydrated.
“I’m an EMT back in Iowa,” Kersbergen said. “So this was just another day at the office for me.”
After Kersbergen administered the IV, Martinez bandaged Amin’s eyes and led him to a room that the employees of the district center had prepared. Through the ADT interpreter, Martinez instructed Amin to remain still for four hours and to seek additional care if his eyes did not improve.
Amin expressed gratitude for the treatment Martinez and Kersbergen provided him.
“I am a poor man,” Amin said. “I do not know what I would have done if they had not helped me, and I thank them very much.”
Martinez emphasized the outcome for Amin would probably have been grim in the absence of prompt medical attention.
“Without prolonged irrigation of his eyes, the chemical burning process would have continued, and he almost certainly would have lost his eyesight,” said Martinez.