17 October 2007

17 OCT Everyone needs coverage

Hi, Friends!

Ah whew! It is the early afternoon and we actually finished out scheduled cases before midnight for once! That's even with Vascular surgeon M. on call, but I won't dwell on the point because that would tempt the fates to deliver a influx of patients. I operated on two men this morning who had been injured a few days ago, but needed their wounds washed and their open abdomens reconstructed step by step. Before that, I started the morning operating on two youngsters with burns. Both have been with us several days. One is still severly ill and spends his days in the intensive care unit, hooked up to life support. The other is on the ward and is able to take a few hesitating steps, flexing his burned legs. We are encouraging him to eat more protein so that his body can heal his opened layers of skin. He has beautiful long eyelashes and large round dark eyes. His father has bronzed skin that wrinkles around his mouth an eyes when he smiles. His face is roughened with sun and age and he wraps his head in white. Whenever I visit, he gives me a thumbs up and looks to me inquiring with his creased eyes if his boy is improving. I return the thumbs up and say "Zien", for "good" one of the few Arabic words that my age-addled brain has been able to commit to memory.

Each day our crew sedates these boys and I scrub the dead material off of their burns. Today was a good day. I did not see masses of gangrenous skin threatening infection. The wounds seeped bright red blood as I scraped, signaling to me that there was healthy blood flow that might in time heal the skin whole again. They will not be well until I give them adequate coverage, a new layer to defend them against the bacteria in our environment and keep in necessary hydration. Soon I will place skin grafts, shaved off of their own healthy skin, to further their healing.

The boy in the intensive care unit is more severly burned over more than half of his body. There are fewer patches of healthy skin available to us to move over the burns. Just today we received a shipment of artificial skin substitute from friends at a military burn hospital back home. I called them for help in the middle of the night and they hustled to help us out. I am hoping that this artificial skin will help tide this unfortunate boy over and give his body a chance to recover from the initial shock of the injury. It take a huge effort from many of our hospital's staff to give these kids the care they need. I am in awe of the dedication and professionalism of my colleagues. I don't know the future, but as long as they stay alive, I'll do my best to get them coverage.

Some of you really responded to the story abut the military working dogs. Tara Parker-Pope of the NY Times emailed me a great story about stray cats in Baghdad called "Nine Lives: What Cats Know About the War".


 When I transported a patient to the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad a few years ago, I spent the wee hours waiting for a helicopter in the recreation room in the basement. Every few moments, a cat would come in the ceiling level window, make a mad dash for  a morsel of food to steal, then head back out. I didn't see any rats, at least!

I hear "Trauma call in the ER, times five" so I'll sign off for now. Time to fly M.'s flag.

Take care and be safe!



LTC Christopher P. Coppola, USAF
APO AE 09315-9997


DSN 318-443-2925


Holly said...

Wow! I've been reading your blog since Monday, Oct.15. And I'm hooked. I went back and read your archives.
Do you mind if I link you on my blog? I really want to let more folks know about you and the work you're doing.
I'm in North TX. I have a cousin currently serving in Baghdad with IIICorps from Ft.Hood. Yeah, Yeah, I know it's Army, but it's U.S. Army.
I also have a Niece currently going through Artillery training in Cali. right now with Uncle Sam's Misguided Chirrens. I imagine by Feb she'll be in the 'stan.
I really appreciate the work and sacrifice you and ALL our service men and women are doing. Your Families are in my prayers, too.

Chris said...

Dear Holly,

Thank you so much for your kind comments. Do also remember our patients in your prayers. Thanks go out to your cousin and niece for the sacrifices they are making for their service, and I hope they stay safe. I often treat the children of Ft. Hood troops so the place is close to my heart. Personally I think I'm lucky to live in the big city, not Killeen, but there are a lot of wonderful families up there! It would be an honor to have my blog linked to yours. Please send me yours if you would like a link on mine.

Best wishes,


bridgett said...

Dear Chris,

Thanks for your work and for doing what you can in a difficult situation. Iraq needs more star throwers.

Chris said...

Thank you Bridgett, I'll keep trying and I'm in good company.

Best wishes,