25 DEC 2007 Bahu dores
Christmas in Iraq came bright and clear. I'm back on my bike after a short break and trucked in today. Like a bad, bad safety pup I forgot my helmet, but wore my green tuke (The PX was all out of regulation black). The morning started full of cheer. I wrote a letter to my sister, and that made me think how lucky I was to have such wonderful people in my life. I had been so cynical and disappointed about spending Christmas here that when the day actually arrived, it felt far better than I had imagined.
There were several maintenance operations to do, so I signed on for two. After changing into scrubs, I played Santa's elf. A friend's wife had sent me his gift in the mail a few weeks ago, so I placed it in his stocking, and asked the chief of the OR to direct him to the stocking when he came in. After my improvised Christmas device had been set, I hit OR 4 to wash out burns and shrapnel wounds on all five of a man's extremities. Once his wounds were dressed, I switched to OR 1 where Colorectal Surgeon J. and I reconnected a man's intestines then washed the stumps where his legs used to be. Every time we moved him, we found more wounds so I ended up stripping burned skin off his back, cleaning the wound over a broken bone on his right arm, and washing a small puncture on his right. He did well.
After surgery, I found that my elf efforts had paid off, and my buddy was quite surprised. It was good to be a part of that. It helped make the day seem a little like Christmas.
We had another football tournement on the helipad, but by the time I got out of the OR, the surgeon team had already been double eliminated! Besides some lost skin and an Achilles strain, there wasn't too much damage. We all loaded up at the DFAC and headed to the rooftop lounge to enjoy Christmas dinner together. The day had started around 40deg but the direct sun made it much warmer on the roof at noon. We sat at picnic tables and reclined on the chaise lounges. The new OR5 on the roof even has a breakfast nook!
The beef here has broken my heart time and time again, so I thought I would never risk my emotions anew. However, the prime rib looked so tender and succulent, that I decided to be a cockeyed optimist and throw caution to the wind. Boy was I happy I had. The Balad roast beast was the best I had ever tasted here, and only about one third gristle. I've looked at prime rib from both sides now. The tiny shrimps in the shrimp cocktail were a nice touch. They made me think of finishing shrimp leftovers from the big Christmas Eve seafood dinner back home. We laughed at movie quotes and some bedded down their meals with a cigar. A thin column of black smoke rose straight up from the burn pit in the clear still air and didn't molest us. We were well fed and in good company.
I got to catch a movie with Nurse R. He and I went to see Beowulf with digital Angelina Jolie. She was just like a Barbie Doll, but evil. Is that redundant? We laughed that we would remember Christmas 2007 by that movie. Amazingly, the tales of his Italian Christmas dinners back in Pittsburgh actually outdid mine. When he described how he and his father would make their own sausage, I hailed his victory.
Back at the hospital, two children presented to the ER. One had shrapnel wounds to his head and bleeding in his brain. He was hustled off to the OR for a marathon with the neurosurgeons, ophthalmalogists, and craniofacial surgeons. Another girl came to the gate after a kettle of boiling water spilled down her back and arms. She screamed as we held her down to start an IV catheter and scrubbed off the yellow sagging blisters of burned skin. I swirled a bottle of water outside the OR and watched my Christmas cheer dissolve.
I got to wish M. and the boys a Merry Christmas. They were very good and let her sleep all the way until 0700! I got to hear the tale of each gift opened and how many parts they had put together. The dog threw up on the floor. I could close my eyes and I was there. But only until I hung up the phone. At least I didn't have to clean up after the dog! I'll be happy when I do.
Merry Christmas, Enjoy the ones you love.