At the burn unit of Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, the sheer damage done by year after year of insurgent bombs is breathtaking to witness and beyond excruciating to endure.
For the badly burned, recovery is tedious and truly uncertain.
Immune systems are compromised. Tissue rejection and infection loom as constant threats.
Until just a few months ago, gauging the scope and depth of burns was at best an inexact process, sort of an educated guess by caregivers using paper, colored pencil and opinion.
"We found there were a lot of variations when people would do the same patient," said James Williams, a specialist in burn care at BAMC.
Those "variations" have proven deeply problematic when designing medical strategies for patients.
"It was difficult for us to track heal rates, heal patterns, treatments over time," said Jose Salinas of the Army's Institute of Surgical Research
To attack the problem Salinas sought a 21st century solution
The resulting software has proven revolutionary, allowing caregivers to precisely map the severity of burns.
"You can map a patient multiple times, then you can see how a patient is tracking over time. You can do statistics you can do analysis on those heal rates," said Salinas.
"We have automatic calculations that are digitally based which takes away errors that we may do in our mathematics. Everybody is on board and they really like it," said Williams.
Software developer Craig Feinrich calls Wound Flow system an ultra high tech tool that's helping escalate healing.
"What's great about this is they bring this up everyday in rounds so as they go from patient to patient to patient" said Feinrich.
And they are patients who've often paid a terrible price for their country.
What shouldn't be forgotten is that the innovation inspired by their suffering will soon help preserve the lives of the American citizens they served.
The Wound Flow mapping system was honored as one of the top 130 innovations of 2012 at the World's Best Technology Expo.
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