Michael Yon, Soldiers Angels, and the incredible journey of Soldier X

posted at 10:00 am on March 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Last July, I was interviewing Michael Yon live from Afghanistan when a gunshot went off, and Michael had to conclude the call quickly.  That turns out to be the accidental shooting that Michael describes in his post today, a shooting that nearly took the life of a British soldier.  Instead, the soldier is now recuperating, thanks to the innovative Novalung, the American and British military commands, Soldiers Angels, and Yon himself:

Soldier X had been shot in the abdomen and chest, losing his right lung and damaging his liver, according to the US military Stars And Stripes newspaper. Another American military report said his blood supply was replaced more than ten times, and that he was transfused with 75 units of blood and another 75 units of platelets.

He was alive – but only just. He needed specialist equipment to do what his lungs could not: provide oxygen to his blood and remove the carbon dioxide built up in its passage through his body. He needed an artificial lung and intensive care within hours. Such equipment was available at hospitals in Britain, nearly 4,000 miles away, but Soldier X would almost certainly die on the long flight.

He needed a portable, low-pressure artificial lung and the Americans offered to help. But the bureaucracy of moving from the British to the American military system meant that valuable time was being lost. …

Contacted by a quick-thinking British doctor at Camp Bastion, Mr Yon sent an urgent email to a group of American civilian volunteers called Soldiers’ Angels near Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where most American casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan are initially sent.

The volunteers, founded by the great-niece of General George S. Patton, alerted the US Army’s nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s Acute Lung Rescue Team, which specialises in going straight to the aid of soldiers with severe lung problems.

And within an hour, the team was in touch with doctors at the nearby University of Regensberg who had access to a revolutionary portable artificial lung called a Novalung. The still experimental German-made machine takes over much of the job of circulating blood, filling it with oxygen and filtering out the carbon dioxide without the use of the mechanical pumps in the older Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines, which have been known to cause damage to a patient by forcing the blood around the body.

Be sure to read the rest of the remarkable story.  When I read the post, I immediately recalled the shooting incident during our July 24th interview and asked Michael to confirm.  In an e-mail, he did, saying that he knew he’d been on the phone at the time but couldn’t recall with whom.  I’m embedding the interview into this post just to close the loop on the story.

Update: A friend of mine at Soldiers Angels says that the story of their involvement got “a little confused.” While they did help do coordination in this case, they didn’t have anything to do with securing the Novalung. Founder Patti Patton-Baden says on her Facebook page that “we’re good, but we’re not that good yet.” They’re more than good enough, take it from me.

Michael Yon delivers independent reports from the battlefields of the war on terror, which are entirely reader-supported. Please be sure to visit his site to contribute to that effort in order to keep us abreast of the realities on the ground. At the moment, Michael has a series of photo essays that are just outstanding, so don’t miss them.

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We are surrounded by true, unsung heroes! Bravo, all.

indypat on March 7, 2010 at 10:05 AM

You can bet your life that technology like this will not be found in America if ObamaScare gets passed.
This technology wasn’t discovered and /or perfected in the U.S.
Does that tell you something?

Cybergeezer on March 7, 2010 at 10:07 AM

I’m watching to see how much media hatred is focused on this group now that they’ve been exposed?
Palin might get a break.

Cybergeezer on March 7, 2010 at 10:09 AM

In classic fashion, private citizens acting out of compassion and enlightened self interest, save a human life from being “Administered to Death”.
Cybergeezer is dead on! How much of that do you think will be allowed to happen under ObamaCare????

Lew on March 7, 2010 at 10:16 AM

Amazing technology, and God bless the Slodiers Angels, two weeks ago our little community lost a young 20 year old Lance Cpl. who had been shot in the hip and died while being airlifted out of the field in Afghanistan. God bless all our men and women who elect to serve our great country.

fourdeucer on March 7, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Cybergeezer is dead on! How much of that do you think will be allowed to happen under ObamaCare????

Lew on March 7, 2010 at 10:16 AM

Superb technology aside, a wounded soldier will be considered a nonproductive unit and a dollar sign attached to his life.
It’s the only way we can reduce the deficit, you know.

a capella on March 7, 2010 at 10:28 AM

Bravo

AH_C on March 7, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Just took the time to listen to this interview-amazing! Does anyone else know…do the Brits have anything like anysoldier.com to support their troops? Their courage and strength mirrors our own. They are some of our strongest allies. Salute and thanks!

indypat on March 7, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Amazing what can be done nowadays. Sometimes, I see a glimmer of hope for the future.

Daveyardbird on March 7, 2010 at 10:33 AM

I’ve been doing Soldiers Angels for years now, we support five different troopers through my shop and send them care packages and letters and such. It’s inexpensive and easy if you feel like joining.

Bishop on March 7, 2010 at 10:33 AM

“‘I told her about some of this,’ MaryAnn wrote to Yon. ‘She broke down and couldn’t believe “all of those people would do all that for my son.’”

It’s worth, ma’am, because of what your son was doing for us.

ExUrbanKevin on March 7, 2010 at 10:33 AM

Cool.

percysunshine on March 7, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Wow, do we love life more than death. Wonderful, wonderful thing.

ProfessorMiao on March 7, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Exactly a capella, and if they’ll do that to a soldier imagine what they’ll do to someone they’ve flagged as disagreeable or troublesome and over 50?

Sara Palin was wrong when she warned of those “Death Committees”. It won’t be committee it will be a cost/benefit algorithm buried in a massive software package buried in the federal bureaucracy somewhere in the CDC. Nobody will ever get to face another real human being and hold them accountable for the decision, but the decision will be made nevertheless. And you will die to save a few dollars of a collapsing system in a failing State.
Have a nice day!!!!

Lew on March 7, 2010 at 10:50 AM

Novalung is powered by the patient’s own heartbeat at a lower pressure, and has been used by the Landstuhl team several times, even though it has yet to be formally accepted into general use by either Germany or Britain.

It had never been used on a patient in transit, however. Soldier X would be the first to use it on his flight back to Germany.

Does anyone know if the successful use(s) of Novalung has sped along it’s approval for general use in the US/Germany/ or Britain?

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 7, 2010 at 10:53 AM

Does anyone know if the successful use(s) of Novalung has sped along it’s approval for general use in the US/Germany/ or Britain?
journeyintothewhirlwind on March 7, 2010 at 10:53 AM

A U.S. congressional committee is looking closely into how quickly the Novalung can be approved for use in civilian hospitals. The only obstacle left for approval is where the factory will be located and how big a kickback that state’s representatives will receive.

Bishop on March 7, 2010 at 11:10 AM

I’ll say this much: Soldiers’ Angels is the one charity that I find a way to donate to, regardless of my circumstances. I’ve personally seen the results of their efforts, and it is amazing. One of their programs, Project Valour-IT provides voice-activated laptops to wounded soldiers so they can stay in touch with their families and friends. These are given at no cost to the recipient.

http://www.soldiersangels.org/

As a veteran, and the father of a soldier in Afghanistan, I cannot tell you how important these good folks are, and how much good that they do, day in and day out, without seeking recognition. They just do what needs to be done.

God bless them all.

AW1 Tim on March 7, 2010 at 11:13 AM

God bless Soldiers’ Angels and our military, as well as our allies’ military fighting alongside our soldiers. Brave heroes.

I will donate to Yon and Soldiers’ Angels today. Thanks for the post Ed.

cubachi on March 7, 2010 at 11:44 AM

When we get a conservative leader in the White House, I hope she will give Micheal Yon the highest civilian award possible–with Oak Leaf Clusters.

Thank you so much, Mr. Yon. Small payment for a true hero.

(Oops, did I say “she”?)

davidk on March 7, 2010 at 12:18 PM

I have been a proud member of Soldiers’ Angels for over 6 years now and have adopted many many heroes through them. Patti is the most caring person I have ever met and her commitment to our troops is forever unwavering.

I encourage for you to adopt your own hero if you can. If money is an issue – you can sign up to simply write letters of support. If you love to sew – join the sewing team – the blankets go to our wounded troops. There are so many things you can do to support our troops directly.

This story is just one – there are more than 1000′s just like this.

Janimal on March 7, 2010 at 12:25 PM

The only obstacle left for approval is where the factory will be located and how big a kickback that state’s representatives will receive.

Bishop on March 7, 2010 at 11:10 AM

Ain’t that the sad truth.

davidk on March 7, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Proud to be one of Michael Yon’s supporters with my contributions. Please, keep him in your prayers.

El Coqui on March 7, 2010 at 12:28 PM

And it led to the Army medical agency reprimanding at least one of the doctors for his actions, even as the families of the injured praised the doctors for taking bold steps to save their sons.

BDU-33 on March 7, 2010 at 1:33 PM

And this is exactly the sort of thing we expect by the truckload if ObamaCare gets passed into law.

AW1 Tim on March 7, 2010 at 1:38 PM

I’ve been donating to both Soldiers Angels and Yon for years. This is why.

juliesa on March 7, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Thanks for the truly heartwarming story. Heroes indeed.

scalleywag on March 7, 2010 at 2:19 PM

I’d like to thank everyone for the kind words and support of Soldiers Angels. We truly couldn’t do it without all of you.

Michael Yon is going to correct the factual error in a follow up post. When Patti says that we aren’t that good yet, believe her. We will be eventually.

Oh, and Cybergeezer, if anyone tries to give Soldiers Angels any trouble, we will squash them. We have enough goodwill accumulated that we can handle things, but support from people like you is ALWAYS appreciated.

I’m proud to serve as a Member of the Board of Trustees of Soldiers Angels, and prouder that Hot Air would choose to spotlight us.

RPL on March 7, 2010 at 2:51 PM

BDU-33 on March 7, 2010 at 1:33 PM

This is stupid. When the choice is between dying and using a new unapproved medical machine, which would you pick? Doctors do this all the time.

Blake on March 7, 2010 at 3:57 PM

Thanks for the tips about Yon and soldiers angels.com.
See Barry, charitable giving isn’t dead at all. We are just a lot more careful about who we give to. Michael Yon and soldiers angels.com have stories that deserve to be told and supported (you can supply your own comparison!)

indypat on March 7, 2010 at 7:27 PM

I had the honor of working with the Soldiers Angels when deployed to LMRC in 06.We had 6000 casualties come thru that year and they were there for everyone of them.So they didnt get the lung this time but they know how now and don’t think they will forget how.

docflash on March 7, 2010 at 8:01 PM

Great work Michael. Using your resource (your mind) to getting to word out to the right brings forth much help. We just need to get the word out and bureaucracy out of the way and the world will be just fine.

MSGTAS on March 8, 2010 at 10:04 AM

BDU-33 on March 7, 2010 at 1:33 PM
This is stupid. When the choice is between dying and using a new unapproved medical machine, which would you pick? Doctors do this all the time.

Blake on March 7, 2010 at 3:57 PM

What the hell are you asking me for? This is a news article form Stars & Stripes in 2006 about how hard it was to get approval to use the Novalung which resulted in one LMRC doctor getting an LOR which a lot of people don’t realize happened. That is all, no conspiracy.

BDU-33 on March 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM