10 NOV 2007 Support for Iraq
Good Evening, friends. I'm in the MWR social use computer room in the hospital known as the Wounded Warrior Lounge. For the non-military, MWR stands for morale, welfare, and recreation. We have about 20 computer terminals with Internet access and six voice over Internet phones. It is a great place to catch up with family and friends back home. We can use web cams to see our families and to be seen. It does so much good to hear the voices of loved ones back home. In hard times, it lets us connect with family to make plans and solve problems. Like much of the military, there is no privacy. I hear one friend telling his little girl that he is proud of the drawing she did. Another tries to figure out with his wife how to make payments on their home. Another argues with the caregiver for her child back home about how she is taking care of her child. Like it or not, we share these problems together. There is nowhere to go to cry in private. When you can't celebrate a new birth by hugging your parents, you hug the troops around you. Proud fathers call colleagues over to the computer screens to show off their babies.
The stress of distance magnifies the true nature of our relationships. A good marriage weathers the separation because the distance makes you realize that there is nothing, nowhere in the entire world that you ever want except to be with your sweet baby. For a bad marriage, the time apart lets problems and ill will fester. Couples realize that they actually prefer not being together. An unresolved issue with a child over behavior or custody becomes a nightmare. It is easy to feel like we have been checked out of the game of life over here. The world continues to spin back home, but we have no influence any more. Your enemies use the time to their advantage and strengthen their position while you are 7000 miles away. Competitors at work slime their way into your turf and climb ahead of you unhindered. We cannot leave issues at home or work unresolved when we leave because they will become an unchecked cancer while we are away.
So, you limp along here and look for a chance to do some good. A few weeks ago, we operated on a lady who had been shot when she travelled with a group of women on a bus. She had bullets in her leg and her abdomen. We unwound her black robes to fully examine her for injuries. She had a towel wrapped around her chest, tucked in so that it formed a snug tube top. Like many aspects of women's garments, this confused me. I was looking for wounds, so I jumped to the conclusion that the towel was associated with a wound. I asked translator Y. to inquire if it was a bandage for a previous wound. Without even asking the woman she told me that it is hard for some women in Iraq to get bras, either because of poverty, displacement, or danger in travelling to purchase them. In lieu of a brassiere, many wrap a towel around their chest for support.
I'm stepping way out of my area of expertise, not to mention boundries of propriety and good taste, but it would seem to me that a bra would be more comfortable than a towel. I've been told in no uncertain terms long ago that my initial instinct that wearing nothing would be most comfortable for ladies was a severely flawed male misconception. Honestly, though, I don't think I would wear a bra if I had breasts. Well, when I grow older and my metabolism slows, perhaps I'll get the chance to find out. However, beyond my initial braless theory, my informal research seems to indicate that the bra is preferable to the towel by most women I encounter. Perhaps through the lack of an internal monitor that exhaustion brings, or maybe because of my chronic condition of foot in mouth disease, I voiced this opinion to my coworkers in the operating room. One of the nurses told me that she too had thought the same thing. She had been brainstorming for some way to give bras to the women we treat without offending them. Well if the only obstacle was a reluctance to appear offensive, there was no better troop for thejob than me!
I had but to mention the idea to my mother in casual conversation, and she mobilized an army of her own back home. She said that it was no effort whatsoever to get the women in her community to give up their bras for a worthy cause. If only I had such persuasive powers. I was curious if my younger brother had somehow been involved in the motivation. One friend of my mother was able to secure a very generous haul of bras from the kind ladies at her women's health club. Now the whole idea might seem bizarre, and that I'm making light of this, but the campaign was borne out of a desire to help. I see so many injured Iraqis with disrupted lives and there is no other human response than to want to help them. I'm not alone; so many kind Americans send clothes, games, sports equipment, blankets, and anything they think might ease some of the pains of war suffered so acutely by civilians caught under it's treads.
A few days ago, I received the box, plain brown, no indication of its delicate cargo on the surface. I sliced into the tape to discover that it was packed full of bras of every imaginable size and color. There were frilly ones and formidable ones with solid bulwarks for cups. Bras are rather compressible so the box was packed full to the point of high density with the numerous donated undergarments. I asked my mother to keep it on the down low that I was soliciting underwear over the Internet. I'm no doctor, but I don't think that most parents look for that characteristic when they are choosing a pediatric surgeon. I was quite sheepish about this unique care package.
Have I mentioned that we have little privacy here? Mail call is a public event. We run informal competitions to be the troop getting the most and best care packages. It isn't considered nosy at all to ask your fellow surgeon "What's in that box?" After the recipient has had a few minutes to sequester their favorite delicacies, it is even acceptable to dip in and grab a cookie or a packet of beef jerky. We brothers are all in this together, and what is mine is ours. So in spite of my wish to quickly hand off this delivery to the nurses on the ward, it just wasn't feasible to to avoid sharing the nature of the contents with my flightmates.
I delivered the box of bras to the patient ward. The nurses enthusiastically accepted the box and told me they had no doubt that our patients would gladly put the donated lingerie to use. They took the box to the closet that stores donated clothing. Since we have to cut away the clothing of trauma victims, and often their clothes are caked with mud, blood and gobbets of gore, Our Iraqi patients frequently need to choose a change of clothes from this storeroom. I am proud to report to the generous donors back home that now there is more choice than a towel or ilagination. Some missions are difficult, but that doesn't stop me from stepping up.
Now what I'm about to say is extremely important. I understand that our great nation is filled with an optimistic, good-hearted people who will heed the call and do anything they can to help others in need. I don't know how many read this update so it is very important that I communicate to you all that I do not need any more bras. Please resist the urge and do not send me your bras. We received such a generous shipment that we are flush for bras for the foreseeable future. In fact, I know of one other cache that is already on its way and that will cover us quite nicely for quite a while. I don't think it would be too many boxes of bras sent my way before it would earn me some questionable nickname that would be stubborn to shake. It was embarrassing enough that I was my dorm's condom rep freshman year.
Thank you for listening and thank you for always being so generous.
I'm off to sleep, because the next call night is coming fast, and there's no preventing it from being as sleepless as last night was.