Its 3:56 A.M. and my Afghan cell phone sings. In a stupor I climb down from my bird nest and answer the phone. On the other end my son Turin is sobbing asking me to come home. My wife informs me he has been crying for a period of time prior to his bedtime; upset he did not have his “daddy time” on Skype today. I try to soothe him but it is in vein. It seems these episodes are increasing, but with no way to alleviate the situation my heart remains torn with no healing in sight. Times like this makes me feel this adventure is for soldiers without connections back home. The stress of a father being separated from his kids is great, sometimes overwhelming; this wound will only grows with time. I hang up the phone, pray for strength, and try hopelessly to regain sleep. I love you Turin, you’re always on Daddy’s mind.
Sleepless hours roll by and it’s now 7 A.M., my iPhone alarm sounds out like a drill sergeant; I don’t want to wake up. I just want to lay here drowning in my emotions from the night. I eventually find the strength and prepare for another day.
Today at morning report I lectured about “Splinting and Casting”, to the medical personnel on the base. I feel confident my lecture will be useful to their daily skills here, and if just one soldier benefits I’ve succeeded. There will be many more in the future. We also learned our VIP guest will be visiting us tomorrow and not today.
The clock struck 11 A.M. and all hell broke loose; two traumas at once. We were given a 30 minute ETA and told the first was an MVA and the second an IED. ETA’s are worthless in theater trauma as they both showed up in 15 minutes; it’s “go time”. All were Afghan national soldiers (ANA), and the IED victims faired the worse. The Special Forces showed up with the IED soldiers and were immediately on me to assist. The relationship between the ANA and our Special Forces (SF) is more than skin deep. They navigate them through thick and thin and facilitate SF missions. Their relationship is mutualistic, close and absolutely necessary. My adrenaline took off once I examined them and all three ANA soldiers had fractures, two of them surgical. There were a lot of associated injuries which took priority, including significant head injuries. Once they were stable enough I took them back to the operating room one at a time. With the help of the SF medics I fixated their unstable fractures, washed out lacerations and sutured them. After my surgeries were complete and they were stable we packaged the soldiers up and called Baghram to schedule a “Steel Angle” for medevac. This was our true first trauma challenge and I can say with honesty three people’s lives were saved today; hopefully tomorrow too. The fourth soldier who was involved in the MVA was stable from the start. At the end of all the resuscitation efforts we learned his name was “Saddam Hussain”; we laughed. It’s not every day you can say “Saddam” was your patient.
Our team is coalescing much faster than I anticipated. It’s real gratifying to see individuals work as a team. We are all pieces in the larger puzzle, each as important as the other. A lot more challenges will come but I feel confident we can overcome them.
I’m going to bed. Talk to you tomorrow.
P.S. Turin got his “Daddy Time” via Skype and was very happy.