The Chinook helicopter flies low and fast and banks hard to the right to show us her belly before landing. Inside, a medical emergency response team (MERT) of Army nurses, medics and a physician are desperately trying to keep a grievously wounded U.S. Marine alive.

The report came in 20 minutes earlier: “ISAF male, bilateral amputations, failed cricothyrotomy in the field followed by intubation on the helicopter, now in cardiac arrest with CPR in progress.”

I don’t normally feel tension during the offloading of a patient but every additional second in that helicopter means more dead brain. This is what it feels like to be a surgeon in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2013.

To read more from Dr. Possley’s article on Task & Purpose, click here.