30 July 2005

Back to Work!

Dear Friends,
Hello and I hope this finds you all happy, healthy, and well-fed! It’s been a while since we got back from Iraq and I just wanted to catch up with everyone.
I’ve been back at work at Wilford Hall and have had quite a few operations to do in the past two weeks, compared to my usual pace on the pediatric surgery service. In just 12 short days, (ten of them vacation, yeah!) the pediatric surgery service will consist of only me, myself, and I! I’ve had great support from the surgery department to try to make sure we keep up full-coverage for the kids of our fellow service-members in the area.
So it’s been a little busy, but that tends to be the trend, summers, for pediatric surgeons. School is out, and no time is more convenient for Junior to have an elective procedure done with minimal disturbance to his or her progress in school. Also, with all those summer activities, injuries are more common. It has been a comfort to be home and also to get back to my stateside job of taking care of children exclusively.
I feel a new-found appreciation for so much about being home. So many things I took for granted in our daily life are much more precious. I enjoy meals more. Getting my boys out to go swimming or launch model rockets is more important that paperwork or finances. Seeing up close the uncertainty of life in Iraq, I feel thankful and fortunate to enjoy the freedoms, liberties and safety that make our country so great. I’ve always held the fighting men and women keeping our military strong in high esteem, but I feel a greater respect and appreciation for the sacrifices they are making day after day to keep us all safe. Additionally, seeing our generation’s war first hand reminds me of the bravery of generations past that got us where we are today.
I’ve been able to keep in touch with some folks who are in Balad now. They are working strong and steady to save the lives of the injured who cross their threshold. A colleague called from Balad last week to discuss the case of a nine-year-old child with a gun shot wound to the abdomen. He and his team did an amazing job patching up the damage inside. As the temperature in Iraq has climbed even higher since we left, I don’t envy them! They are keeping the B.A.D.A.S.S. traditions alive in proud form. I find I’ve been addicted to news reports of Iraq since coming home. Whenever I hear of an attack, I start calculating numbers of casualties, expected injuries, and anticipated time of arrival at Balad. It is good to see some encouraging reports describing progress on the new Iraqi constitution.
Before leaving I operated on a girl with a tumor on her neck. I kept in touch with the Army colonel who had found the girl and had made the arrangements to make her surgery possible. After this girl returned to her hometown, the Army colonel was able to locate a specialist to treat her enlarged tongue. I was so relieved to hear that she had found some help. I had left Iraq uncertain what would happen to the girl and the news was a weight off my mind. This girl had been in my prayers and the prayers of many others. It made me think of the Scripture passage stating that God feeds the birds and cares for them, so surely he will care for us. I may not be powerful enough to provide everything that girl needed, but through the hands of others, God is.
That brings me a new challenge I face. You may recall that I operated on another girl in Iraq with a congested liver. She did marvelously and recovered quickly. Her father has been kindly sending me emails in broken English, describing how she is active and eating well. Unfortunately, her recent blood tests seem to indicate that that her liver failure was not reversed by the operation. I had my worries about her, since I usually perform that operation on two-month-old babies. At her age of 18-months, there was only a one-in-five chance that the damage could be reversed.
So now, looking to the future, it seems that she will eventually need a liver transplant to survive. That task seems nearly impossible to me, and is the reason I tried the bypass of the congested liver in the first place. It is almost too much to wish for a transplant to be possible. But even though I can’t do it alone, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Already I have received the kind offer of a surgeon in Boston who will help her if I can get her up there. Also, an Army major and an Iraqi physician in Iraq are trying to arrange things on their end. So I ask you to please keep this little girl in your prayers, and also to pray for me that I might somehow be able to get this done.
Day after day events show me how blessed and fortunate I am. I am thankful for the privilege I was given, to care for our soldiers, and I realize that it is probably the most important work I will do in my lifetime. But I’m not finished yet, and now it is time to get back to work.

Be mellow, love life and have fun!


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