Bryce Dryden is a former medic from 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, who is heading out to the jungles of Burma to teach trauma medicine. He is working with Earth Mission Asia, a non-profit that has worked in the area for years, striving to build healthcare infrastructure among the Karen people in eastern Burma/Myanmar.
There is a dire need for all sorts of healthcare in rural Burma. Once you start to leave the cities and large towns, infant mortality rates skyrocket, preventable deaths from things like diarrhea and malaria increase, and of course deaths and crippling injuries from trauma are far more common. A small cut from a shard of bamboo could get infected and kill someone if they don’t have the knowledge and skills to treat it. Add to that the fact that you could reasonably suggest that most Karen people — at one point or another in their lives — will see several traumatic, life-threatening injuries occur right before them … a little training can go a long way.
Bryce was a special operations medic, serving eight years in the Army. He deployed to Afghanistan twice and has worked for both the 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). After his exit from the military, he became a civilian instructor at the Special Operations Combat Medic course (SOCM). Needless to say, his experience in both the field and the classroom will prove invaluable to those who are seeking to practice trauma medicine out in some of the most rural and dangerous parts of the world.
SOFREP spoke to Bryce, and asked him why he is choosing to make this trip to teach trauma medicine in such a distant and remote place.
Well, first off, I’ve been interested in medicine for as long as I can remember. So much so that in elementary school I carried a first aid kit in my back pocket. I would take notes during any medical scene that made it into a war movie — which I wouldn’t recommend — and would envision one day being there in the position to help someone who truly needed it. I decided the best way to do that was to join the military and become a combat medic.
Despite joining the Army and positioning myself, through hard work and hardheadedness, in one of the greatest fighting forces on the face of the earth, I was never there when it counted. With frustrating frequency the missions I was on were the boring ones. Don’t get me wrong, boring is good and we accomplished more than most, but I joined the Army to help people in need and they were always out of arm’s reach. I would watch the drone feed of the missions I didn’t attend and would see soldiers wounded and civilians caught in the crossfire. My last night in Afghanistan was the night I watched one of my best friends die on the drone feed.
After that night I spent four years trying to deploy again with no success. It was clear to me that God had other plans for me. Everything I could accomplish in the Army medically came very easy. Everything I could do to advance my career stalled. I decided to leave the Army and begin teaching medicine where I learned it: at the Special Operations Combat Medic course. I told myself that I was expanding my scope of influence but I just felt like I was getting further and further away from people in need. After continually listening and learning from the experiences of the guys who were still serving as medics, I decided I needed to do something more.
That’s when I contacted the people at Earth Mission Asia and offered my services. We formulated a plan to bring the high quality medical training I received as a Ranger Medic to the jungles of Burma where land mine injuries and other significant trauma are commonplace. Ultimately, whatever medical care I render while there will end when I leave; not unlike giving a man a fish. However, if I can train local aspiring medical providers to react to trauma the way I was taught (a method which has resulted in zero Rangers dying of preventable causes in the entire Global War on Terror) I can teach a man to fish, so to speak.
I chose to travel all the way to Burma because, as I’ve told people before, in the United States even if you are homeless, penniless, and destitute an ambulance is just a phone call away. In Burma, reaching medical care may mean a 3 day walk through the jungle. There are people in Burma, like the lead American doc of Earth Mission, who have the vision of tackling the medical issues that meet him where he is, but also extending his knowledge to the people in the area who can reduce the gap between injury and aid. That is a project I want to be a part of.”
When Bryce arrives in Burma, he’ll be leading a two-week training course for Physician Assistant students studying at one of Earth Mission’s training facilities. He will cover a myriad of topics, building off their existing knowledge and teaching some new methods of treatment altogether. Some of the major focuses will include massive hemorrhage, airway maintenance, respiratory support, head trauma and other life-saving procedures.
The course that Bryce will teach is one step in Earth Mission’s five-year PA program. Students get both classroom and practical experience during these years of training, and they must graduate as experts in many facets of jungle medicine, trauma being one of them. Upon completion of this in-depth course, the graduates will eventually return to their home villages in the jungle. There, they can use their newfound expertise to build lasting infrastructure throughout Karen State, Burma.
Bryce has dedicated a large portion of his life to serving the American people by way of service in the military. Now, he still feels the pull to serve and he seeks to lend his expertise to those in need.
Check out Earth Mission here, and Bryce’s YouCaring Campaign here, through which he is funding his airfare and basic necessities, on top of medical supplies and training equipment necessary to provide adequate teaching services to the Karen students.
Images courtesy of the US Army and Earth Mission.