With a little ingenuity ... MiTT Soldier makes something from nothing
March 31, 2009
BAGHDAD - Meet "Woody," the newest member of the 6th Iraqi Army Military Transition Team. He doesn't say much, but he makes a big contribution to the MiTT Team in the form of medical training.
Woody is, in fact, a medical dummy. His arms and legs can bend naturally. He can bleed from six different areas. His chest can even be decompressed with a needle.
It may sound like this dummy is a high-dollar item normally found in medical schools but Woody has much humbler origins. He was built right here out of scrap wood, discarded uniforms and a few odds and ends by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Orozco, medical advisor, 6th IA Div. MiTT.
The idea sprouted from Orozco's mind when he came to Iraq to assist Iraqi Soldiers with medical training. He found himself giving classroom instruction with very little effective hands-on training.
"I wanted to create a more interactive training environment," he said. "The more you show someone hands-on, the more they participate."
Initially, Orozco's idea was simple.
"In the beginning, it was a very simple procedure that I wanted," the Fort Carson, Colo. native said. "What I wanted was two sticks to simulate arms, two sticks to simulate legs and something in the middle."
Luckily, contractors were doing some construction projects around the MiTT Team's living area which provided raw materials and tools to get the job underway. From there, Orozco's idea of a stick man mushroomed into something much more.
"That's how we basically came up with the dummy. Little by little, we came up with new ideas," Orozco explained. "We got excited and just kept adding different things."
The first things to transcend the original plan were the functional arms and legs.
"One of the main ideas I had was to make sure that it could move like a person, to make it realistic," he said. "I realized I can make a joint, I can make knees and little by little, I started creating."
He added joints at the shoulders and hips to enhance the functionality of the dummy's limbs.
"I've never done this kind of stuff," he said, shrugging. "So if you look, you're going to see some rough joints, but they work."
A major aspect of Orozco's medical training is controlling bleeding, so he brainstormed. He took intravenous tubing and ran it down the arms and legs to six places: the arms; the upper legs; and the lower legs to form bleeding points.
"Each line is like a vein," he said. "Add a little red Gatorade and the dummy bleeds."
Creating a bleeding arm or leg was easy enough he explained, but being able to stop the bleeding required some ingenuity. He added padding in the arms and legs, using old uniforms and bandages to give the arms a more natural feel and enable a tourniquet to work.
"It created a tourniquet effect to these parts, so Soldiers can apply a tourniquet and stop the bleeding," he said. "It's great to watch a Soldier see what happens when you put on a tourniquet to let them know that it stops the bleeding. You can apply a tourniquet to the dummy and you won't hurt anything."
Like a modern-day Geppetto, Orozco continued to perfect his creation, making it increasingly more complex. He built a torso to connect his newly perfected arms and legs.
"The stomach, I didn't know what to do with it, so I added some mole skin to simulate guts," he said. "Basically, it's just a box, so we can add things to it if we need or want."
Woody's chest is a unique display of form and function.
"What I wanted to do was create an area where you can actually do a needle decompression," he explained. "I used empty bottles to simulate lungs. You can do CPR on it; you can stab it. One good thing about the bottles is when they go bad, all you have to do is take them out and replace them."
Despite Woody's complexities, it took a mere two days to build, according to Orozco.
"The reason for that is that I've never done something like this before," he said with unadulterated modesty. "I can't cut wood; my wife doesn't let me do projects like this around the house because I mess it up."
Woody may not be as advanced as his pre-manufactured brethren in the U.S., but he definitely has his advantages, according to Orozco.
"There is a dummy that's connected to a computer that can cost up to $10,000," he said. "You can listen to the heart with a stethoscope, it can breathe and do all sorts of weird stuff; it does practically everything. All that aside, it's not something we need to be able to do in this environment. You're not going to listen to someone's heart while bullets are flying."
While other medical dummies may range in the thousands of dollars, Woody costs practically nothing to construct.
"This is technically all leftovers," Orozco said. "The good thing about it is if something breaks, all you have to do is replace it with a simple piece of wood."
Woody is a valuable addition to the MiTT Team's training regimen, according to Orozco. With a little ingenuity and hard work, innovations like Woody will continue to help the mission of training the Iraqi Army.
Perhaps in the future, there will be more dummies like Woody to help the Iraqi Army sharpen its medical skills.