Recently, we have had several reporters from various newspapers here at the Role 3, however, we have yet to see many worthwhile articles on what we are doing here. I’m not quite sure if it’s because what we are doing here isn’t news worthy or because it’s not controversial enough. We recently had a soldier who was shot through his lung and, in order to save him, our surgeons spent 5 hours operating on him. They eventually determined that the only way to possibly keep him alive was to remove half of his lung. Amazingly, the patient survived the operation and came to the ICU afterwards. In the ICU, our nurses and doctors spent the next 14-16 hours, carefully monitoring and treating him, keeping him alive and waiting for a team from Germany to arrive with a special heart-lung bypass machine which performs ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. In the past, this device has been primarily used on neonates and children and seldom on adults. During ECMO, the blood is removed from the body and circulated through a machine outside of the body where the blood is re-oxygenated and then is infused back into the body. The blood completely bypasses the heart and lungs.
Here, at KAF, was the first time they have ever brought ECMO into the combat zone, so this case will make the medical history books. And if this patient survives, he will be a miracle. Unfortunately, the article (http://www.stripes.com/news/a-breath-of-life-u-s-medical-team-uses-new-method-to-save-soldier-s-life-1.122727) says that the team from Germany operated on the patient for 5 hours, when it was really our surgeons who operated on him before the medevac team even arrived. I know that I shouldn’t be upset, because the most important thing is that this soldier will most likely survive. I’m just frustrated because we have yet to have a really good article about what we are doing here despite so many reporters coming through.
I have also been dealing with another frustrating situation, one that is heartbreaking for our unit. I have been caring for a 3 year old Afghan girl for the past few weeks who was injured when her family’s vehicle hit an IED. Not only are coalition troops being injured by the Taliban’s IEDs, but so are innocent civilians. Unfortunately, this little girl suffered not only two fractured legs which now lie flaccid with large external fixators protruding out from her skin, but she suffered brain damage as well. She will occasionally open her eyes, but she does not focus on anything and she only barely lifts her arms in response to stimulation.
Despite this little girl’s poor prognosis for any recovery from her brain injury, we have done everything possible to make sure that she is comfortable and well cared for. Sadly, we had to send her out to the local Mir Weis hospital because there was nothing more we could do for her. We hope that she will receive the care necessary to prevent her death, but they have limited resources and the staff does not have the same work ethic as medical staff in our country (they only show up for work when they feel like it). There, patients are only fed if the family comes in to feed them and the family has to bathe the patients and do the dressing changes as well. The nurses provide very limited care and they do not always have the oxygen and tube feedings available that this little girl will require.
The Role 3 hospital here at KAF is a combat trauma hospital whose main mission is to care for the injured coalition forces. Our admission of these children and all the surgical procedures and nursing care that we provide is purely humanitarian in the hopes of winning the hearts and minds of the people. Which I believe we are doing, even if it is just one Afghan civilian at a time. The parents of these children are very grateful for the care that we provide. One of our translators was telling us that they are glad to have the coalition forces here doing what they are doing because the majority of the people really do want democracy. As more and more civilian casualties are reported daily and more and more children are brought in to our unit, I hope the Afghan people continue to feel that way.
I have signed up for another 5K run. There is at least one a month around here, because there is nothing else to do. This next one is to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday. As part of this run, each person is given the name of a Marine whom has lost his/her life here in Afghanistan since the war has started. I will be running in honor of 1st Lieutenant Trevor Yurista, a 33 year old from Pleasant Valley, NY. Yurista was a ground intelligence officer with the 5th Marine Regiment, 1stMarine Division out of Camp Pendelton, CA. He was killed Oct 27, 2008 by an IED. Just last month, an intelligence compound at Camp Leatherneck here in Afghanistan was dedicated and named after him. I am honored to be running in memory of this Marine.