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Episodes & Studies Volume 1

Regimental Aid Post

Regimental Aid Post

In a fixed position, as was common in Italy, the Regimental Aid Post was often in a partly demolished house. During a battle the medical work at the aid post was carried on under the din of gunfire and exploding shells; the earth shook under the continued shock of explosions.

The chain of medical services really began at the Regimental Aid Post where the medical officer was the advanced representative of the Medical Corps. He was responsible for giving the essentials of first aid treatment to the wounded so that they could be sent on as quickly and as comfortably as possible. To the soldier there was some comfort and reassurance in having a qualified doctor in attendance in the line itself, and this knowledge had its effect on a man’s morale before and during an action.

Resuscitation measures were limited to wrapping the patient in blankets, warming him with hot water bottles and hot drinks. Transfusions of whole blood were available only in exceptional circumstances, but blood plasma and serum, which could be kept without refrigeration, were often made up and used for transfusions even at the Regimental Aid Post.* Rapid transfer to the Advanced Dressing Station was always the aim.

* * *

‘The jeep moved along rough roads on its journey from the RAP to the Advanced Dressing Station and every bump was agony. We safely reached 6 NZ ADS, in a house on the outskirts of Faenza, at half past nine in the morning. I was examined again, given five sulphanilamide tablets, and evacuated to 4 NZ MDS, which had opened in Faenza following the capture of that town on 16 December. The conveyance for that stage of the journey was a motor ambulance car, which was much more comfortable than the Bren carrier and the jeep.’

* Blood is a mixture of a fluid called plasma and millions of tiny red blood cells. When a man is wounded he loses whole blood from the injured vessels and also plasma seeps into the damaged tissues. The body compensates for this by contracting the blood vessels and accelerating the rate of flow by more rapid heart action, and bleeding is stopped by clotting. The loss of blood both produces and accentuates shock.

Blood transfusion is the mainstay of resuscitation. Whole blood is the most useful as it supplies all wants. A transfusion of plasma, which can be preserved in sealed bottles, is sufficient when bleeding is less marked. Saline and glucose solutions are of great use in replacing fluid in patients suffering from loss of fluid alone. Refrigeration is required for the preservation of whole blood but not for plasma, and as plasma can also be dried it is very easily transported.

Many hundreds of our wounded owe their lives to the thousands of bottles of blood, plasma, and glucose-saline that were sent to the forward medical units. A wounded man can lose as much as six or seven pints of blood and still be saved providing his injuries are not overwhelming.