Hello from Iraq!
Setting here waiting for March to get here so I can go home. Every day is one day closer. That is, if they let me go home in March with the rest of the CSH. Of course, since I’ve only been here since August, they might make me stay here till August (that would be one year for me…) But I’m counting on getting home in March. So denial is a big river in Egypt. Hey, isn’t Egypt some where around here? So much for the 179-day deployment like it said on my orders which sent me to this place...forgot to read the small print, I guess; “according to the needs of the army”. Which is right next to “and other duties as assigned” and just before my personal favorite - “BOHECA” (Bend Over Here It Comes Again).
Someone asked if we get medals for saving lives, for doing what we do. For the attention we give our soldiers, for helping them through that first moment, when they realize they are hurt, that perhaps life as they knew it was over forever and they have to face learning a new way. A way which is forced upon them because a person decided to place an IED in the path of their HUMMWV. How scared must some of these kids be? I mean they have no choice, no chance to be brave; just living forces them to evolve. I guess no one asked a caterpillar if it wanted to become a butterfly either. We see our soldiers at their worst and most vulnerable. And at their best. And we send them on, to Germany, to the States; and we rarely see the butterflies that emerge.
Medals? The answer is usually "no". We don’t get medals. Especially in the Nurse Corps. We are merely doing our jobs. And there is no one person doing that job. It’s a meshing of system and talent and caring. We don’t get paid enough to do what we do, nor will we ever get the recognition some of us deserve, except as a group, or the occasional PCS (Permanent Change of Station) medal that we’ll get for the year we put in here.
The government has even decided NOT to make a separate campaign medal for Afghanistan and Iraq – just a generic “gee, I was stationed in that region at one time” medal. It won’t matter if you happen to be here at the beginning, dodging bullets and mortars and IEDs, (Improvised Explosive Devise), being afraid to go on a convoy; or here in 2 years when the PX has a beauty salon where you can get your hair done, a manicure, then stroll downtown in your civilian clothes to shop at the market which has grown outside the main gate. A time where you can just pick up a phone and call home, or get your mail delivered within a week.
No we don’t get medals. It’s our job. Something we do everyday. It a job of choice too – we all chose this profession, most of us will retire from this profession after a lifetime of care and putting people back on their feet.
OK, off of today’s soapbox.
So what’s been happening? Well, I found the new CT scanner. In the dark. On my way to the outhouse. Yup, ran into it. I’m surprised that I don’t have more bruises. I’ve got to remember to use my flashlight to sweep the area around the hospital at least once a night to see what has changed while I was asleep. I still don’t like to use my flashlight – I’d rather sneak in the dark. And it is dark now – new moon, start of Ramadan (we all had to take a sensitivity training class on Ramadan). Most of our Iraqi patients are fasting during the daylight hours – even though patients have dispensation and don’t have to fast. We had to adjust medication times to accommodate this and had to negotiate medication times – a lot of the oral meds can be given after dark, and the couple that can’t will be taken with a sip of water which IS allowed. Those that can get up pray to the east (yes, we provided them with prayer rugs – only cost about $6.00 each) – I must admit I have a couple – make for nice bedside rugs – a very secular thing to do I guess, but it keeps some of the dust out of my bed.
Yes, there is an increase of terrorist activity – but it seems to be being done by Syrians – mostly against the Iraqi people. I mean the Red Cross/Crescent bombing just killed Iraqis – No foreigners. They are trying to scare us. Well, we are still here and will remain here.
I got an email from one of my friends at work – a son of another friend from work was hurt here and she wanted to know more. Unfortunately at first I was given a wrong name. When I got the right name I realized the son HAD come through here – victim of a mortar attack. He was here less than a day before he went to Germany. I really wish I had known that was him. He got good care here, and was sedated for the entire time, but still, I felt I could have done something more. Like hold his hand for his mother. But then don’t they all have Mothers? Sounds corny, I know, but we do look after all the Mother’s sons and daughters.
SO, how does that make me feel about our Iraqi EPWs, many who are here due to rather recent attempts to kill one of us? Talk about ambivalence!!! I still hope we can teach them a better way.
I guess. Fun being a nurse at times, huh?
I want my mamas and babies back!!!! (ed: Maj. Pain is a Midwife and Nurse in gentler times)
Yesterday was a day off, so I decided to clean/rearrange my little personal corner of the tent. So I beat the rugs, and swept the month’s worth of dust out, (gee, some mouse droppings too), put my footlocker on the other side of the cot, and I was done. Took all of 30 min. Now what do I do? I ordered a freestanding wardrobe from Wal-Mart to put my uniform and hanging stuff in (got tired of the stuff hanging around my little space, garroting myself on the 550 cord when I moved around in the dark), turned out to be HUGE. Fortunately some of my tent mates were getting blasted by the air from the powerful AC unit we have in our tent and asked if I wouldn’t mind if it was used as a barrier between their cots and the AC unit. No I don’t mind! So it sitting across from my cot, it’s not taking up space in MY little corner & its serving a useful purpose.
Funny how the incredible amount of dust on everything doesn’t bother me any more. I’m getting used to tan socks, and tan sheets, and tan shoes. Gave me a good idea for Halloween – going to go as a camouflaged ghost. My sheets are already tan, all I need to do is add some brown splotches and it’ll look like the DCUs.
It’s hard to believe that this is the middle of an agricultural area; it’s so dry and dusty. Nothing much growing here. There are some willow and palm trees growing on this old air base, but they are all obviously planted and used to be irrigated when the Iraqi air force used this place (this airbase was abandoned in 1995 or 6). We are slowly getting the water flowing again, and some areas are being watered – they are greening up and we have some bushes with flowers! Pink and white. Nice.
Funny comment of the day – Physician wanted to take an OR patient to have a cat scan – yes, the same CT scanner I ran into. (Meow – just can-t keep those cats out of the x-ray iso). Took the patient on over (patient is still sedated so needs a vent to breathe for him). Got him into the CT area, realized there was no vent in the CT area. Someone went running for one and got it set up. Physician comes out very annoyed – “usually all I have to do is order the ct scan!” – he was upset things weren’t automatically there…that he had to order a vent! – Well, HELLOOOOO you are in an austere environment! No, we ARE NOT equipped like a medical center!!! We make do. And, yes – you have got to think about what you need for your procedures – do not assume it is always available just as you like it.
The Air force is still trying to make us move. They want to park their C5s on this plot of land. The C5 Galaxy is a little, tiny jet – about as long as a football field, and about 6 stories tall. Its cargo compartment is about the size of an eight-lane bowling alley. It can carry 2 Abrams tanks, or one tank and 2 Bradley fighting machines, or 270 troops, a whole CSH or two, etc. Like I said – little tiny plane. Bring your GPS if you visit one and don’t want to get lost.
Can you imagine the noise of that little baby landing across the street from us? Especially since it usually lands at night? We need more earplugs!!
I cant imagine this hospital moving – The material of the tents are already deteriorating due to the heat and sun – then to add the strain of tearing it down and putting it back up. Normally the life span of these tents is one year – than we get new ones – at a cool $20 million. We are moving anyway in March, into a hard stand (a real building) – can’t we wait to move till then? The building we are moving into is the old Iraqi air force hospital. Unfortunately one of our bombs got kinda close to it when we took over this area and kinda damaged one side of it – so its got to be repaired, and made bigger. OK, want everyone to cross your fingers that we stay here until the hard stand is ready!!!!! PLEASE!!!!
Dead critter count – 16 mice in one day in the commander’s tent/office area. Hmmmmm. What does that say about that area?
Still got the one running around in my area – at least I think it’s the same one…cute little rodent. Except it left its droppings in my coffee cup. Ewwwwww. Its days are numbered!
Odd injuries – OK I told you about the jackal bite, how about the guy who came in with an infection from an insect bite on his toe – he DID shake out his boots before he put ‘em on but the beetle just hung on and stayed put. BIG beetle. Which then bit him as it got smooshed. UGH. Then there was the guy who sat on his Gerber (knife); "What wound did you get in the war daddy?"! His face remained terminally red.
Then there was the guy who managed to shoot himself in the foot. Round went between his toes. Foot OK ruined his boot. Another one who was very red in the face. Or the guy who came in for a psych eval, escaped from us in one of our own 5-ton trucks. (Yes, he got caught and brought back into us – in restraints).
We get lots of blood alcohol levels done – for a country that is supposed to be dry, these soldiers still somehow get drunk. Although I have to admit there IS a rumor about some of our younger nurses partying in hanger 22 (it seams to be the hot spot of the base…).
Then there was the man who put a nail through his hand…he got nailed (c'mon – you all knew THAT one was coming….).
The wind has kicked up blowing dust and makes our hospital really sway and creek. The sides billow in and out, and the material crackles. I hope we don’t blow away… I wipe down my desk every night, and expect a fine layer of dust on it by morning – this morning I’m sure it’s be quite thick. We have Halloween decorations up which are swaying in the wind – makes them even more eerie....BOO!
This wind does not help my cold and cough. Ever have a cold in a place you cannot get soft tissue? My nose is so raw –I’d KILL for some puffs plus! Found the softest roll of toilet paper I had and am using it exclusively for blowing my nose. I want my Mommy….
Took out a clean uniform today – put on a clean one about once a week – when I have to start chasing the dirty one around the tent I know it’s time for it to go into the laundry. Unfortunately, the new one really didn’t look much cleaner than the old one. We contract out the laundry service to a local laundry – rumor had it they would clean and FOLD the laundry – heretofore you got your laundry back stuffed in your laundry bag – sometimes dry, sometimes not. Well, got my first load back – semi-dry and sure, they DID fold some of the t-shirts – around the unfolded ones! And they stuffed an extra sock into the bundle – an unwashed, nasty smelling dirty sock in my clean laundry!!!! My uniforms still have splotches on them (I mean other than the splotches they are supposed to have…) On top of this we are allowed to turn in only 20 pieces per week. Now think – 7 t-shirts, 7 pair of socks, 7 undies – already at 21, and didn’t even count towels, sheets, PT uniform pants and socks, etc. So am still washing my own clothes. Including rewashing my DCU top to get the ring around the collar out. (those dirty rings, I need some Wisk)
Well that’s all for now guys take care, and enjoy your Halloween.
Love, Major Pain