Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dedication...

"Two wounded inbound. IED attack" the Army coordinator says. We go to the OR, turn on the lights, start warming fluids, ensure the oxygen generator is turned on along with the anesthesia machine. After that we wait, always with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.
"Headlights coming down the alley" yells one of the surgeons. Four soldiers quickly unload a casualty off the humvee and run into the trauma bay as we direct foot traffic. I'm standing in casualty receiving and start to follow the patient in when I'm frozen in my tracks: he is so dark from dirt and mud that he doesn't look like he has a uniform on and I can't make out his facial features. He has to be Iraqi civilian. I'm a little confused because the word was two Army soldiers? I do a double take and don't see anything beyond the upper portion of his thighs. Nothing there but empty space....
The medic is on their heels, and he looks as pale as a silverlit moon. His uniform is caked with dirt. Sweat streaming down his face into his eyes; he doesn't even notice, because he's practically running blind into the trauma bay when the chaplain and I stop him. Chaplain asks him if he's the medic, and he can only shake his head in the affirmative. We quickly thank him for doing such an outstanding job of getting the patient to us, and "chaps" takes him aside to talk to him and comfort him.
I, on the other hand, follow on the heels of the litterbearers into the OR. Staff is streaming in to help. I position myself on the soldier's right flank and establish IV access while simultaneously putting monitor equipment on. Quick scan of the room to see if crowd control is needed, and I spot an unknown visitor wearing a tan flight suit with no identification. I quickly walk over, introduce myself, and request he immediately identify himself. "Company Commander" he says. We talk for a bit, and I ask about the patient. "Just married a few months ago while on R and R. Such a good guy" he says. What to say back....? We both stand in silence for a few moments. I ask him if he's OK with staying, and he seems fine. I quickly go back to work. The orthopeadic surgeon, Tim, and general surgeon, Martin, are working on the extremities at the same time. Mark and I take great care to package him up for the flight to Al Asad....we start giving sedatives and pain medications immediately.


His unit: their love for him is unquestionable. His buddies press into the OR the second we finish working on what's left of his legs. A few with shellshock and patched up arms and legs from the blast are at his side and don't want to leave, hollow look in their eyes and mouths stuck permanently in "O" mode. Eric talks to them about how well their battle buddy, their brother in arms, did with the surgery....they are so upset with themselves as if they were to blame. Eric gives one a bear hug; reassures them it isn't their fault. We let them....no, we are honored to let them, be the litterbearers back to the ambulance for the short ride to the helo pad.



I help load him into the ambulance for Mark, and turn to run ahead to the helo pad. As I turn, I come to a screeching halt again for the second time tonight. His entire unit is lined up and at attention along the route to the helo pad. As the ambulance slowly pulls out, they render colors to their wounded brother. I was so proud of them all; they would see one of their own through anything........the air heavy and charged with emotion, I find myself stumbling because this time it's my turn to be blinded by tears as I try to make it to the landing area before the ambulance.
They all walked behind the ambulance to the helo pad, and helped Mark and I load him onto the Blackhawk. We stand together one last time as the Blackhawk spins up rotors and gently wisks him to the 399th CSH at Al Asad. Not a muscle twitches until helo and patient are out of sight.
Now we wait for the updates and pray that he will continue to have a good life with his new bride beyond this violent collision of reality. Who deserves it more than this man?

12 comments:

SuperSean said...

Touching post. It is blogs like yours that given us here in the civilian world of what is really going on and the stories (positive and negative) that the media omits.

Thanks

SuperSean

Kay said...

I am sitting here reading this and I can't help but let the tears go. People back home I do not think have a clue about what our troops go though every day no matter what their duty. God be with all of you. Our prayers and thought for all of you no matter where you are.

Bag Blog said...

" I was so proud of them all; they would see one of their own through anything........the air heavy and charged with emotion."

I am so proud of all of you. Thanks for sharing this moment, the emotion. My prayers are with you

Debbi (no 'e' on the end) said...

I am sobbing here. You are all so amazing in the work you are doing. Thank you for giving us the information the media doesn't. You're writing is so thoughtful & you make us feel we are right there with you all. God Bless & keep you all safe. Our prayers go out for this young soldier & all his 'battles' too.

Desert Flier said...

Some of my posts are hard to read, I realize. Writing what I witness-one of the more difficult things I have done in life....
Through my eyes and from my heart...
Carl

Elizabeth said...

Keep writing.
I had to read this post over many times. My mind did not want to absorb it.
You share with us what you see. It is through your writing(eyes) that we get a small glimpse into the daily life of some very remarkable people and some very tragic events.

Anonymous said...

Carl,
Thanks for showing us that with the bad there is a lot of good.
Phil

Pam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pam said...

I love your blog. I read it over and over you tell us things that no one else does. My son is getting ready to leave for Iraq in 19 days. He is a combat medic with the MPs. I hope he finds someone like you to help him through his tough days. He is excited that he can make a difference. He is my hero as you all are my heros. Thanks for all your sacrifices. I appreciate all you are doing.

MAJ Bruce H. Rockwell, M.D. said...

As a fellow provider in Anbar province, I see the same casualties and tragedies as you. However, I see none of the glory that you try to invoke - neither in the casualties nor in the care that we provide. I find your attempts at self-heroicism and self-aggrandization in the name of the fallen soldier to be nauseatingly objectionable.

Desert Flier said...

Major, I write from the heart. This post is dedicated to the men of that unit and the unwavering dedication they have for one another. A tactful way of engaging in dialog would be to simply send me an email. It is listed under Contact Me.
Respectfully, LT Carl Goforth

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A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.