The University of New Mexico launched its new University Healthcare Emergency Response Team (UHERT) in grand fashion recently. The UHERT participated in the 2015 Bataan Memorial Death March by bringing together 110 volunteers to provide medical care for the 5,600 event participants.
The marathon-length course travels through the rugged terrain of the White Sands Missile Range to commemorate the heroic efforts of the U.S. Military during World War II on the Bataan Peninsula. New Mexico had a large presence of military personnel that endured and succumbed to the events during the war.
Participants in the event included individuals and team runners, walkers, marchers, active duty, wounded warriors, and veterans. There was a wide range of ages from teenagers to a 97-year-old Bataan survivor that partook in the commemorative affair. Some carried heavy packs and wore full military uniforms or historical regalia.
Due to the ruggedness of the course, injuries and illness are higher than most marathons. In past years 20 percent of the participants needed some type of medical support for blisters, heat issues, orthopedic injuries or even life threatening illnesses and this year was no different. The team, set up in five tents along the 26.2 mile course, treated more than 800 patients with illness and injuries ranging from severe blisters and orthopedic injuries, to heat illness and cardiac events.
“This was a planned, mass-casualty event,” said Byron Piatt, emergency manager for the University of New Mexico and UHERT team commander. “It is a good opportunity for our responders to practice disaster medicine in an austere environment."
The UHERT is comprised of volunteers from the University of New Mexico, University of New Mexico Hospital, and other medical and support staff from across the state. The New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), the New Mexico Department of Health, the University of New Mexico Campus Community Emergency Response Team (CCERT) and medical organizations from Arizona, Colorado and Utah all joined them in their efforts.
“This annual event is a great chance for us to work and collaborate with our partners, other first responders, agencies and the military. It is important to practice and lay the groundwork with them in advance of a real emergency situation,” said Robert Perry, UNMH’s emergency preparedness manager and UHERT’s operational chief.