Thursday, August 11, 2011

The General

Today we will have a special guest visit our FST:  Major General Patricia D. Horoho; the soon to be 43rd Surgeon General of the United States Army.  She also happens to be the first female ever to be nominated to this high position and in December she will be promoted to Lieutenant General when she replaces the current Surgeon General.   It’s not every day someone of this caliber visits an FST in the middle of a war zone, and we are honored. It is interesting to note she was a patient of mine at Fort Knox in the past so I was happy to see her on a personal note.  Her motivation for visiting our FST to gather information on how to improve the medical care of U.S. soldiers in the theater and what better way than to experience it yourself.  We will be performing a mock MASCAL for her to show the trauma evaluation we use so she and her team can critique the process and improve it. It would be even more interesting if we had an actual trauma for a real life experience but that’s a shot in the dark.  We all met early this morning to hammer out the details and to pick one of us to be the mock patient; Sergeant Marvin won. He was dressed up as a wounded soldier with fake blood, wounds and all.  Once we finished preparing our FST we were informed the General was 10 minutes away.  Sergeant Marvin was placed on a gurney, strapped in, and put into an ambulance which waited nearby for the call.  Poor Sergeant Marvin; it was hot, he was strapped to gurney and there was no General Horoho. Finally, after 30 minutes she made her way to the FST with at least ten staff members; we made the call and “Injured” Sergeant Marvin rolled in.  We quickly grabbed the gurney from the ambulance and brought him into to trauma bay; sweat rolling down his cheeks.  We went through our trauma evaluation, and of course I made sure there were orthopedic injuries; what else is important.  During the evaluation we were watched closely and asked many questions about the process we use, the training prior to deployment, and our opinion on a multitude of issues from improving patient care too how to improve physician retention.  I gave my honest opinions and moved on. I never got a chance to talk to the General other than “Hi, it’s nice to see you again”, but we had a lunch planned with her and the base providers so I planned on talking to her then.  Once we concluded the MASCAL we took a team photo with General Horoho and then disbanded until lunch.
It’s been two days since I hit the gym so Joe J and I planned on working out two times today to ease our egos.  I’m considering entering a bench press competition that the FOB is putting on in the next week so I need to keep the intensity up. Today I’ll test my strength to get an idea if I’m ready.  My workout went well and was able to bench press 275 lbs. 8 times; I only weight 180 lbs. so I’ll easily be 300+ for a competition.  My biggest worry is injuring myself, but that’s slowly falling by the wayside.  I’m still deciding.
After my workout I hurried back to my shack to get my ACU’s on for the lunch with the General.  I met the other providers then headed to the DFAC (cafeteria).  We got our lunch went to the “reserved” private room set up for the luncheon and waited for her to arrive. I was looking forward to talking with the General; at least until one of our sergeants ran in to tell me a trauma just arrived and they needed me.  I took a big breath, tried hard to smile, and headed for the FST.  Once I entered all eyes were on me; just like every other time an orthopedic issue is at hand, a blank stare of cluelessness.  This patient was a young DOD civilian contractor who fell 15 feet off a scaffold.  I evaluated him, reviewed his x-rays and diagnosed him with an acute hip fracture. I contacted Bagham for medevac and a Blackhawk was sent urgently for the transfer.  This is a great example where my role on an FST is frustrating.  I have all the knowledge and skill to definitively treat this patient but I’m limited to mostly emergent stabilization.  After the patient was stabilized the bird flew in and transferred the patient to Baghram.  Oh by the way, during my call to Baghram I learned the three ANA soldiers we sent them were stable and doing well; our team was inspired and confidence elevated.
The rest of the day was relaxed and I spent the time talking to my wife and children.  It’s remarkable, no matter what kind of mood you’re in hearing the voices of people you love can brighten your spirit. It get emotionally overwhelming as well, especially when my two and four year old sons tell me “I love you”. They never really said that prior to my deployment, but I’m kind of glad because it fuels me more than I ever thought here in Hell; I love you guys too.
Until tomorrow my friends.


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