Whew, I must be getting old! It just isn't as easy to make it through a call night. Last night was my first time as the SOD, surgeon on duty. I was lucky to be following around surgeon J. who has been at it for four months straight so I had an easy reintroduction to Balad surgery. Yesterday morning I got up early. I was jittery because I was nervous about my first night on call, even though I had made it through so many nights on my last deployment. The injuries we see here are so far beyond anything I have treated in hospitals in the United States. The new hospital at Balad is in a building, so it doesn't have the familiar muddy, dusty, noisy tent feel. (This is actually a good thing, but it made me feel like I'd never worked here before.)
Very quickly we were in the operating room taking care of a man who had been shot in the back, shattering his pelvis and causing internal bleeding. Having something to do with my hands quickly dispelled any uncertanty. Surgeon J. and I cleaned his wounds, and we were pleased to find that he didn't have any major internal injuries. After a few more procedures and some rehabilitation, he has a good chance of recovery and being able to walk.
It didn't let up after that. We were in and out of the operating room until after midnight. Some of our patients could have been rolling into an emergency room in Texas: motor vehicle crashes, a man burned by lighter fluid at a barbecue. Others suffered the severe injuries that I only had seen in a war zone: rocket propelled grenade injury to the head, multiple AK-47 rounds shattering the bones and arteries of the leg. Surgeon J. and I called in our colleagues: the ophthalmologist, the orthpedic surgeon, the neurosurgeon, and many others as the need arose. The team worked quickly, getting the patients in and out of the operating room as fast as we could close them up.
Around two in the morning, I was limping on swollen ankles, my throat was sore, and I could barely keep my stinging eyes open. Back in the day, I could go months spending every other night in the hospital, and still somehow manage to drive home! The years have softened me. I will definitely have to get my endurance up for the months to come. I grabbed some snacks from midnight chow in the hospital cafeteria and napped through the wee hours during a merciful lull in the action. At six, the loudspeakers called us back to the emergency room to care for two detainees who had been stopped trying to plant an explosive device.
I am relieved to have the first night past me. My partners came to the hospital and I was free to head back to my hooch for some rest and a shower. My patients are recovering in the intensive care unit or on their way out of the country. Another day down and another day closer to home.
Y'all take care,