The battle (for veteran healthcare) continues
Dr. Sudip Bose is an emergency medicine physician, military combat veteran and medical advisor to the Dr. B team. Passionate about improving veteran health, Dr. Bose founded The Battle Continues, a 501c3 that offers veterans financial support for medical treatments. To commemorate Veterans Day on November 11, we asked Dr. Bose to share what he learned as a combat physician and how it inspired him to pay it forward. Here are his thoughts.
When the Battle Continues
I had the honor of providing medical care for injured soldiers during combat. I’ll never forget seeing Jeff, an amputee who now has a prosthetic leg.
If Jeff had been an amputee in 1777—the year after our fledgling nation declared independence—he would have lay in the snow, bleeding to death, waiting for help that would never arrive. It wasn't until almost a hundred years later, in the Civil War, when brother was pitted against brother, that a soldier like Jeff could be placed in a horse-drawn carriage—our first ambulances—and taken to people's homes and churches—our first hospitals.
Fast forward to the trenches and noxious gasses of World War I and Jeff could reach out his left arm and receive a blood transfusion. And then, amid atomic bombs and concentration camps in World War II, Jeff could receive penicillin. In the Korean War and later in the jungles of Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War, he could be air evacuated.
During my career, our focus was to stop bleeding—to stop hemorrhage. Because, simply put, the number one cause of preventable death on the battlefield is bleeding to death before the injured soldier makes it to the combat support hospital. 80% of preventable deaths are simply from bleeding to death.
So I did what our medics on the streets today do out of vehicles: I would hop out with a backpack of limited medical supplies to tie tourniquets and stop bleeding. That was a big change for me, having worked out of a trauma center with shelves of supplies, bags of blood and lots of doctors to help. But it was as simple as that. Sometimes the low-cost, efficient solution prevents downstream costs, morbidity and mortality. That's what the tourniquet did—it stopped bleeding on the front lines. And that was our number one focus.
On top of that, I had a backpack full of supplies but sometimes what I needed was not in that backpack. It takes innovation to function with limited supplies. Suddenly, combat boots become a neck brace because you can put the soles of the boots to the ears and tie them around the head. An M-16 rifle becomes a splint for a broken tibia. I'd started lines in veins to access blood, but never on a sidewalk with people shooting at me—so I got a different perspective on venous access.
That perspective advances healthcare.
Our first ambulances, hospitals, blood transfusions, penicillin, air evacuations and modern-day hemorrhage control—the whole evolution—made it so friends like Jeff could survive. Even as recently as the Korean War, becoming an amputee was a death sentence. Now, it's not. What I do in the emergency room is because of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Now, here’s why I started The Battle Continues:
One of the people we helped was Brock—a veteran who suffered from an explosion. He's now sporting metal plates in his back and a reconstructed ankle. His wife, Christina, is a Navy veteran. And like many veterans, they were homeless when they came back from deployment. I was a combat physician, and my job translated to the civilian sector. But if you're driving tanks or a gunner, your leadership skills don’t translate. So Brock and Christina were homeless and I asked them, ‘What was the best gift you received?’ Their answer shocked me. They said the best gift they received was a blanket. We think it takes so much to help these veterans. But the little things can make a big impact.
When somebody donates to The Battle Continues, every penny goes to an injured veteran’s medical costs. Donate $25 and that $25 lands in a glass fishbowl and we write a check and I use my connections to help someone get a surgery or cover costs for a prosthetic limb. It's as simple as that. It's like tying a tourniquet—a plain piece of cloth wrapped around a limb to stop bleeding saves 80% of preventable deaths and tons of downstream costs.
That's what The Battle Continues does.
Keep it simple, like a tourniquet. Like a blanket.