The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan presented doctors in the United States with a number of new challenges. Injuries and amputations from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) required new treatments, and after a decade of war the medical community has made use of some unique methods in treating wounded warriors, according to The Associated Press.
Thanks in large part to research conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM), doctors have been able to help injured troops in a variety of ways. For instance, in several cities across the U.S., an innovative spray made from skin cells has helped treat burns. In others, doctors have been able to regrow lost tissue or rebuild damaged ears and noses.
"The whole idea is to bring all these researchers together to develop these great technologies that were in early science to eventually be ready for the troops,"Terry Irgens, the former director of AFIRM, told the AP.
Among those who have benefitted from the advancements is Army Staff Sgt. Michael Mills, who was gravely injured in 2005 due to a bomb blast. Though still on a long road to recovery, surgeons managed to rebuild his nose by using part of his forehead, according to the AP.
"I'm very happy with the new look I have now," Mills told the news agency. "I don't let my disability run my life. I run my disability."
Such advancements are critical in helping improve the lives of wounded warriors once they return home, and there are many soldiers who need medical attention. According to Department of Defense statistics, more than 49,600 troops have been wounded as the result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are many initiatives across the country contributing to the goal of AFIRM including UCLA's Operation Mend. In addition to Mills, many other soldiers have received treatment from Operation Mend, and they were recently honored at a Los Angeles Dodgers game, Yahoo! Sports reports.
The two who were honored, Joey Paulk and Louis Dahlman, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium on July 4. The accomplishment was certainly impressive for Paulk, who suffered burns over 40 percent his body, had his hands amputated and had to re-learn how to walk after his convoy hit anti-tank mines.