It’s 6:55 AM and I woke up in a motivated frenzy; the iPhone alarm lost todays battle. My heart was racing; a light sweat coated my face which was cooled by a nearby fan staring at me. After a moment of indulging in my senses I was awake.
When I entered the FST this morning somber faces were everywhere. Overnight a helicopter in western Afghanistan fell from the sky for unknown reasons; 31 U.S. soldiers dead. This strummed a personal chord in every one of us. We are all individuals, but in this place we are one; not empty words, but a way of life. Togetherness is how we survive, excel, motivate, and dream. Losing one is too many, losing thirty-one, well? I don’t want to answer that. These were our earthly brothers and sisters, now divine angels. May they triumph within heavens gates, fulfill their dreams, and rise like phoenixes into forever.
We were called about an incoming trauma the minute we finished our morning report; ETA, 20 minutes. Initial details were sketchy but we got enough to formulate a plan of action. Joey T was the trauma surgeon on primary call today, but being the first trauma our FST has seen everyone wanted to play a part. Like a well-rehearsed play, all prepared their stations and readied for the unknown. As the orthopedic surgeon my role is secondary; life first followed by limb. The 3 general surgeons run the initial trauma resuscitation, and once the patient is stable I evaluate and treat associated orthopedic injuries. Initial reports were this soldier was involved in an IED (improvised explosive device) event somewhere about 100 miles from our location and were being medevac via a Blackhawk helicopter. Twenty minutes is an eternity when you are a “now” person; I’m not the only one here. If you are a surgeon, it is highly likely you are blessed with this gene. Like clockwork the furious pounding of a bird resonated through our building; an angel in the sky. Charlie Company (non-surgical medical asset) met the Blackhawk and transferred the soldier to our FST. The doors swung open, the soldier was brought to our resuscitation area, and Joey T and his team took over like a well-oiled machine. The soldier aka “Specialist” was clearing a route for future transport efforts with 6 other soldiers in a Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicle (MRAP) when they were hit with an IED; the other 6 soldiers suffered minor injuries. MRAP’s have saved thousands of U.S. and coalition forces lives since their implementation in 2002. Statistics speak volumes: 90% decrease in fatalities per a study in 2008. “Specialist” was stabilized and our surgical abilities were not needed today. Once our trauma evaluation was complete our commander Mike M gave him a cell phone to contact his family directly to let them know he was ok. It’s better for this soldier to let them know rather than someone else who will instill panic in the situation. “Specialist” was packaged up and medevac to Bagram for advanced imaging and a repeat evaluation.
Two hours later two more soldiers from the same unit were medevac to our FST. They were also involved in the IED, but considered more stable. We evaluated them and kept them in our 72 hour hold facility for reevaluation in the morning. If there are no changes we will return them to their unit for reactivation. One of the soldiers gave insight to the magnitude of the IED blast. Apparently the MRAP behind them witnessed the event. They were told that their vehicle was lifted 5 feet off the ground and overturned; they weigh up to 38,000 pounds.
The soldiers today were the lucky ones, and we all know the worse is yet to come; unfortunately. This situation and the many to come should be a reminder to every freedom seeking individual; we are at war. Our boots are still on the ground and we don’t know when we are coming home. This is not a movie that has a known end or a political time table; it’s real life, and it’s my life for the next 6 months.
“GOD BLESS” the freedom seeking souls lost today.
P.S. Melissa, Turin, Talon, and Myla; I’m thinking about you right now.