Hello again from beautiful Iraq 17 OCT 03
Sorry it’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote, but it’s starting to become like – well – it’s GROUND HOG DAY! …Again…and…again…and…again…
Getting just a bit monotonous. A bit.
My typical day – get up at about 1930 or so (ok, ok, 7:30 pm for my non military friends and family) sit on edge of cot, turn on computer to do a bit of reading (ok, ok, play spider solitaire). At 2020 grab towel, washcloth, shampoo etc, put on PT (physical training uniform) and flip-flop shower shoes (don’t kick any scorpions), head to shower line. The showers are housed in a GP (general purpose) medium tent. It’s guys’ shower time till 2030, but women start lining up at 2015 and I have to get there early enough so I get to the shower in the first wave – I have to be at work at 2100. Normally a shower tent has 12 showerheads. Well this one has maybe 8 of them working – on a good day. So take a shower, put PT uniform back on with new set of undies, flip flop back to my tent, put on DCU’s (wear the DCUs for a week at a time, depending on how much dust and dirt is on it.) Put on boots. Grab Kevlar helmet, flack vest, computer bag, amble to office through the dfac (dinning tent) to see if there are any apples out (I missed dinner, again – dinner hours are from 1700 to 1815 – I’m usually asleep) grab an apple. Munch on apple as I walk to office. My office. Basically my office is just a desk with a computer on it sitting in the hallway near the entrance to the hospital. Now it would be too much planning to put another group in this space – like Patient administration so that the comings and goings of the hospital can be monitored…
So any way
The hospital is composed of a number of “depmed” - deployment medicine – tents. The tents are doubled walled with ac and heat, electricity. And has a flooring of essentially large plastic padded rugs. The tents are connected, and the passageways have the same flooring. Unfortunately, any one over 5 ft in have developed a permanent stoop to their shoulders as the clearance of the passage ways is less than 67 in. (he he let you all do the math…) We have 15 to 20 tents set up, about 62 beds by doctrine (which is developed at echelons above this reality); in THIS reality we have 54 beds (sorry doctrine, cant really fit that many beds in the tents and still be able to get next to them to do patient care…)
Sinks to wash hands are provided by a 5-gallon water container, a pump with a foot switch, and a 5-gallon wastewater container. Refill/empty as needed. Equipment in the ICUs to include ventilators, blood warmers, suction etc etc etc, just like in a “real” hospital. The PODs (portable oxygen devices) suck the o2 out of the air to provide 100% O2 if we need it for vents, etc,
I check the two ICU’s and the two ICW’s - one each for Americian/coalition forces, one each for EPWs (enemy Prisoners of war). We also get just plain prisoners too – thieves and such. Most of our EPWs have been shot cause they do something stupid – like fire an AK 47 at a tank or something. There have been times which in one ICU is the wounded American soldier, and in the other ICU the wounded Iraqi who shot him. Make for an interesting dichotomy. Happy your patient is doing OK, yet wanting to beat the hell out of him for wounding/killing our own people. Hopefully, we are showing these people that we are not the power hungry, evangelist, (all we are here to do is to forcefully convert everyone to Christianity), warmongers that have been taught to believe. But, as anyone who has tried to show someone a different way could tell you – its hard to overcome the way you were raise to believe.
We are presently taking care of a 6 yo girl who got 30% burns when she fell backwards into the cook pit in her house. She had been initially cared for at the Iraqi hospital, but her father brought her here for further care. We went ahead and accepted her, and she is healing nicely – going to get a graft tomorrow to help with the bad bits. Her father has been staying here with her, and is very grateful for our care. An article came out about 3 months ago telling how we had turned away another child (poor wittle girl being denied care by the cruel and heartless CSH) when her father sought our care for burns, how terrible we were & etc. The child who was turned away was assessed and had minor (relatively) burns and was being treated appropriately by the Iraqi hospital. Of course, I know THIS case of us caring for this child is not going to get in the papers at all. Ahhh, the 5th estate.
Talking of papers, we had a couple of journalist from “the Guardian” stay overnight hoping for some action. Didn’t get any – VERY slow night (yay!). He was very surprised that I knew what the paper was and that it was out of Britain. It was almost insulting. Then I read his article. Now I AM insulted. Well, the US warmongers are at it again, with Bush “challenging” the Iraqi “resistance fighters” into attacking US troops, & covering up how many Americans are wounded and killed, etc. Funny – I can think of at least 3 web sites which are keeping a close tally of injuries and deaths, including and official pentagon one – (every one who has come through our hospital is on that one – although it is usually attributed to the other CSH in this area – they keep stealing our thunder…sigh).
ANYWHO, back to my typical day. I check out the ER, see how many stretchers are in use and by whom – preferably OUR staff catching a snooze – then sit at my desk.
I get up and make rounds occasionally, go find a doc, clarify orders, and keep an eye on the ER.
At 0600 I do the 24 hour report on everybody, skip breakfast (same stuff every day – except now we are getting some cereals, and the bacon is made out of pork – a real breakthrough…) change into my PT uniform, do pt, go to bed. Get up to tell the *&^%#$ hammering nails into something next tent over to cease and desist till after 1700. go back to bed. Get up to empty the bladder again in our lovely portaspotties, go back to bed. Get up for mortar attack. Empty bladder. Go back to bed.
Yesterday, about 3 pm, I was awoken by a soft boom then a VERY loud KABLAM! Mortar. Hit across the street. I rolled off my cot and stayed down (I must admit I did say a 4-letter word on the way down…) until I was sure the next one wasn’t heading for me, then scurried to cover. Gee – for the first time in a few weeks EVERYONE quickly got to cover – no nonchalant wondering around this time – everyone MOVED. That’s what happens when they land on our front porch. (Actually landed in our motor pool just across the street) yikes. Usually they land on the other side of the compound. Not this time.
Today I woke to a very different sound. A soft, gentle, patter of rain against the tent. The air was soft, warm with moisture. A rumble of thunder. I got up to go walk in the rain – its so rare here. Just enough to clear the air a bit, pat down the dust. Not enough to leak in the few holes in our tent. Real clouds in the sky. What a treat.
The mice are still invading the hospital and our living tents. Mashed M&Ms seem to be the bait. The tent next door killed 9 mice with the same M&M – maybe we should write a testimonial for the M&M/MARS Company? Melts in the mouth – not in the hand, or on the mousetrap!
Behind the mice came the snakes. Looking for mice. I say – let them come! They’ll take care of our mouse problem. Unfortunately the people don’t appreciate this view. So we add snakes to the dead critter list - 2. The next animals following the mice in are the more traditional cats. We have a group living around the hospital (mama and kittens) ant the other day they snuck into the hospital through the x-ray iso. We chased them out through the OR. Can only happen in Iraq. (No, we did NOT add the kittens to the dead critter list, thankyouverymuch!)
Speaking of mice there is one running behind my chair – bold little thing – tried to crawl into my computer bag. I’m afraid his days are numbered. I wonder if this was out air-assault mouse?
Got in a very lucky soldier tonight – shrapnel wound to the neck – managed to miss everything but the voice box – even ten he was talking after the attack, so not too bad. I called his wife for him (he couldn’t talk after his surgery – we had to place a tracheotomy. So I told her what happened and she spoke to him – she said it was hard that she couldn’t hear him talk. He is going out to Germany tomorrow – then back home – he’ll be fine.
Dad and Patty sent me a wonderful box. Among other things, it had a flying pig in it. A flying pig. Which is now gracing our hospital entrance area, flying around. Sign behind it “…when pigs fly”. Maybe we’ll get to go home now?
- Major Pain