An adult Armenian earthquake victim, suffering from chronic pancreatitis, was treated Friday by local physicians, with consultation from Houston and Salt Lake doctors.
And no one left his native land.Thanks to space-age technology, physicians at LDS Hospital saw their first quake victim via a "telemedicine space bridge" linking the United States and the Soviet Republic of Armenia.
The history-making link, officially established Friday, was the first step toward new medical technology of the future.
It's a phenomena that Dr. Terry P. Clemmer, chief of critical care medicine at LDS Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of Utah, helped negotiate. Clemmer was one of four U.S. medical specialists who visited the Soviet Union and Armenia.
After meeting with representatives from the USSR Ministry of Health and visiting Soviet hospitals and rehabilitation centers, the delegation signed a letter of agreement to make U.S. medical expertise available to the practicing physicians in Armenia.
The doctors there are treating long-term medical problems resulting from December's catastrophic earthquake.
Under the auspices of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the USSR Ministry of Health, LDS Hospital became one of four facilities in the U.S. to participate in the communications effort.
Other facilities are the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.; University of Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services in Baltimore, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Here's how the system works:
The space bridge uses satellite links donated by Comsat Corporation and Intelsat. NASA provided a compatible satellite ground terminal, which is located close to the large teaching hospital in Yerevan. The hospital serves as the Armenian center with remote video recording capabilities.
The signal originates there and then is broadcast by Intelsat to Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The signal is then relayed by Comsat to the consulting hospitals.
The link has a one-way video and two-way audio capability, which enabled U.S. physicians and a visiting Armenian doctor to view patients on a television screen stationed at LDS Hospital's communication center on Friday.
Dr. Nikogosyan, a reconstructive surgeon, and Emil Torosyan, a communications specialist, were at the hospital to watch television technology in its finest hour.
A NASA program for cooperation with the Soviet Union already exists under the 1987 agreement between the United States and the USSR concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes.
The telemedicine space bridge is coordinated under the auspices of the U.S.-USSR Joint Working Group on Space Biology and Medicine, one of five joint working groups established by the agreement.
Clemmer said LDS Hospital is one linking facility. Under Clemmer's direction, expertise from LDS and the U. Hospital will be coordinated to provide consultation and education programs needed to help with the Armenian medical problems.
"Depending on their expertise, certain hospitals will receive certain cases," Clemmer said. "There will be some areas in which we will all participate, but one hospital will be the lead hospital for any one case."
Clemmer said LDS Hospital will take the lead in prosthetic joints, infectious diseases, burns, physical rehabilitation and reconstructive surgery.
"One hospital will carry on the bulk of the conversation," he said.
Clemmer said the consultation from American physicians will be a boost to Soviet doctors, whose medical system has been overwhelmed by several natural disasters.
On Monday and Friday, the Armenians will tranfer CT scans and patient information. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday U.S. doctors will consult with experienced Armenian physicians who are eager to learn Western techniques.
What began as a humanitarian effort could be a key to linking expertise of the Western specialists with needy countries throughout the world.