At a recent military trade show, an actor lay on a stretcher, wincing in mock pain. He was outfitted with gobs of Hollywood-style make-up — the kind used on victims in TV crime dramas. The actor’s left leg appeared to be ripped to shreds, a piece of shrapnel protruded from just above his right eye and his chest heaved up and down to mimic the effects of panic and shock.
He appeared to have just been injured by an improved explosive device, or IED, the most deadly weapon used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. He even cried out in pain.
“Where’s McCallister?” he shrieked. “How bad is it?”
The goal of the simulation was to showcase a new product that California-based Strategic Operations hopes will be purchased by the U.S. military to help train combat surgeons.
The demonstration at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, in Orlando, Fla., featured a 25-pound replica of a human torso and chest, complete with blood, skin and internal organs. An actor straps on the suit — which is padded with fiberglass to protect the wearer from getting cut by a scalpel — and a surgeon can then practice administering emergency care, a skill that’s been tough to replicate in training simulations.
“This is way beyond anything that’s been used before,” said company President Stu Segall. “It gives the medical community something that’s very realistic and can be reused.”
He says the system, which has patents pending, will hit the market within a year and will cost about $10,000. Strategic Operations will market it to medical schools and military trainers.
In the demonstration, the actor had eerily realistic burns on his face, and blood dribbled from his mouth. A surgeon cut open the suit’s fake skin and peeled it back to reveal the guts, kidneys, a heart and liver. Each of the organs bleeds when punctured, and some emit a foul odor.
Segall said he hopes medical trainers will use the suits to teach students how to care for patients in traumatic situations. His company already has several Army and Marine contracts to provide live training simulations that use role-players and Hollywood-style effects.