13 DEC Early to rise
I got enough rest yesterday in spits and spats. I snuck off for an afternoon nap. I racked in my hooch to the tunes from the Eric Clapton Crosswoods Festival. I returned to the hospital in the afternoon then headed back to the hooch around midnight. Just as I was opening my door, a formation of (redacted) Blackhawks and (redacted) Chinook helicopters flew overhead in a great hurry. They Chinooks really shake the joint as their double rotors beat out a deep bass tone that seems to be oozing up from the very earth.
I'm glad that I stole those extra hours of sleep because I was paged in emergently in the wee hours. When my pager went off, not only did I have the annoying daily disorientation of not knowing where I was, but I also didn't know if it was an emergent page or just the morning wakey wakey. Finally after fumbling in the dark I got the display to glow green and it showed me the code to proceed immediately to the ER.
I biked in wearing an assortment of PT gear and a sleep shirt, complete with helmet and reflective belt. I found Surgical Oncologist J. in the PLX waiting for me. He told me that he had called me in to take care of a three-year-old girl who had been shot in the belly. Her intestines were hanging out. The girl was one of (redacted) children who had been transported to our hospital. Some of our quiet professionals had raided the home of an insurgent in the city of (redacted). When the man shot at them, they returned fire. Unfortunately children in his home and a neighbor's home were wounded in the melee.
The child was waiting for me in the OR. We worked together for a few minutes to be sure we had the catheters we needed in veins, artery, and bladder. Each of us took a limb and hunted until we struck a vessel with a needle and were rewarded with a flash of red blood. Colorectal Surgeon J. and I opened her belly, removed the wounded, leaking pieces of intestine, and washed out the stool that had spilled around her internal organs. We left a large sterile dressing on her open belly and moved her to the ICU. Her mother squeezed my hand and held it to her face as she cried. She asked me if her only daughter would live. I could feel the warm moisture of her tears on the back of my hand. I told her I didn't know but I would try my best. I told one of my boys was about the same age. I took her to visit her daughter. She kissed her daughter's face before we had to take her away to the waiting area so the nurses could clean the child and arrange all of the tubes and wires she needed.
After we operated on all the children and dressed their wounds, we sat around drinking coffee and watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Running Man." There had been an interruption of email contact. When it was reestablished this morning, a whole bunch of messages came in together. I read my emails while the movie played in the background. A short time into the movie, we were called back for fresh trauma victims in the ER. Men had been blown up by an IED. They had tourniquets on their limbs and there was strikethrough of blood on the many dressings wound around them. We prepared them for surgery.
Each new injured child I see seems to rip the scab off a wound in my heart that won't let me rest. Today a boy came to the gate of our base. His parents were seeking entrance so he could get medical care. He had been run over by a truck a couple of months ago. He had been treated at an Iraqi hospital in the city of (redacted). He had pins in his body to stabilize his broken bones, and a colostomy so he could poop into bag on the skin of his belly. Since the operation, he had withered to an emaciated shadow of the boy he had been. Open wounds festered on his back an heels. His parents had grown frustrated with the Iraqi health care system and wanted us to care for him. I turned him away. We exist to provide immediate care after a trauma. This poor boy was at the stage at which we would send him to an Iraqi hospital for his long recovery. There was nothing we could offer him. It felt like crap to turn his family away. It was a bad day to be a kid in Iraq.
Tomorrow I'll operate on the girl again. We'll get up like we do every morning, ready for the newly injured who make it to our door.