Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mothers Day in Iraq......America's pain..........

Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2007
12:27 AM
Subject: Mother's Day in Iraq

It was Mother's Day Sunday, my first day off in two weeks. Last Sunday a three star general was visiting and the Officers in Charge of each ward were expected to be in the hospital to meet and greet. But today I could sleep in and then tend to my garden. I had mixed potting soil into the sand outside my living area and placed multiple flower seeds. In order to inspire growth I'm watering the garden twice daily but moisture wicks away faster than I can pour it. So far my morning glories and zinnias are sprouting defiantly against the summer heat but the leafy edges are curled and burnt. We've seen 116 degree days already. It feels like standing in front of a giant hair dryer that burns my eyeballs when I bike into the wind. Today's sky is clear and sunny. I think it is going to be a good day. The spring has brought us several "Brown out" days where sand hangs heavy in the air like clouds of grit. My thoughts wander to Mother's Day at home where I know my family is visiting a new baby. My daughter-in-law Amy, my son Jason's wife is a new mom to a second son. I'm wishing I was there to see him. But I'm planning to make some Mother's day phone calls later in the day to their home as well as my own mother and mother-in-law. I find myself scanning the surrounding turf wearily before I kneel to inspect my fledging plants. Yesterday a three foot cobra was captured at one of the security gates. I don't want to meet one that is enjoying the coolness of my garden. My mid-morning is interrupted by my pager that never leaves my side. The message reads "8 Casualties arriving in 20 min to EMT". As I'm throwing on my uniform I get a second page that increased the number to nine casualties. I can't hurry any faster for nine than I can for eight. Within seven minutes I'm into the EMT where trauma teams are being assembled into each trauma bay. By time the first patient is rolled off the Blackhawk helicopter and into the triage tent, we are 100% ready. The wounded are coming to us directly off the battlefield. In the triage tent outside our EMT, clothing is cut off the casualty to make him"trauma naked". Assessment and decision of trauma bay assignment takes less than three minutes by one of our experienced nurses and medic. The first casualty has a mangled right lower leg that has muscle, bone and clothing twisted into a mass. It's an unusually dry amputation up to his groin. A burn had seared his flesh stopping the bleeding. It probably saved his life. The first patient looked almost exactly like the ones that would follow. In all we would use ninety-six units of blood products in this mascal. An IED had exploded and flipped a tank completely over. The nine patients we were expecting turned into eleven. Everything in the EMTclicked smoothly because we've gotten lots of practice. And withpractice, we get better. The EMT doesn't get noisy, just more focused. Emergency release blood comes from lab; the portable x-ray machine moves swiftly between patients and the surgeons prioritize the Operating Room schedule. It is controlled chaos. One of the new docs voiced out loud,"You all know what you're doing down here!" I smiled at the compliment but wished that we didn't have so much trauma for practice. That's a high price to pay for experience. The last casualty was a soldier who probably would have been declared DOA but he came to us with CPR in progress. A medic was tirelessly performing chest compressions while members of the injured soldier'sunit were watching with worried eyes that told us, "Please, don't give up". We didn't. We brought the lifeless body into Trauma bay one and continued the resuscitation. He had been trapped under the tank for fifteen minutes. A gaping wound had transected his chest and brought inside organs to the exterior. We put him on the monitor and it showed that his heart was conducting electrical impulses in the attempt to continue beating. But there was no pulse or blood pressure. Our emergency doctor called for a scalpel and opened the chest wall down to the soldier's heart and held it in his hand. Three of the four chambers of the heart had gaping holes. No amount of resuscitation was going to restore life for this soldier. We had to give up and we did. The commander of the dead soldier and a few unit members were waiting outside of the trauma bay waiting to hear news. The doctor and I took them aside with the chaplain and told them that we had tried everything we knew how to do to save his life. His body was just too damaged to hold life. They shook our hands and thanked us for trying. We were told that his wife was expecting their first baby. We could see the pain contorting their faces yet they wanted to see him to pay their last respects. We walked them behind the screen blocking the trauma bay and allowed them several minutes of privacy. A pall always descends over the EMT when we lose one of our nation's heroes. All I could think of was that the soldier's wife would get a visit on Mother's Day and be told that the father of her baby had been killed. Every Mother's Day would be a reminder. And I hurt for his own mother. She had lost a son. When we heard that the ambulance was going to arrive soon to take the body away, a decision was made that gathered momentum. We would send the soldier off with a silent tribute of our respect for his sacrifice. The EMT staff gathered along the walk-way ramp to our EMT and as his bodypassed we rendered him a salute. It is a small thing done in a moment of time that the soldier couldn't see but will stay in our hearts as a reminder of our mission. We are here to save lives and any loss is one too many.

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