05 January 2008

5 JAN 2008 No whining here!

5 JAN 2008 No whining here!


Good morning, friends back home! Good afternoon, friends in this hemisphere! I was such a total loser whiner for my last post that I thought I would try to suck it up and be a little more upbeat today. The Chris Coppola machine, zero defects!


I actually am amazed at colleagues who can keep their happy face on day after day. They always smile and greet me with exuberance. It may be the end of a 12 hour shift, but they snap to their jobs with enthusiasm. They quip “Every day is a great day”, “It’s a beautiful Air Force Day” and tell me how they are “Living the dream!” I’m much more of a moody scratch. I will have up days and down days. But I’ve got my happy face on. Good sleep and acceptable coffee help.


Here’s why it is so hard. I came in today, and I learned that a troop had passed away. In the lethal explosion, this person had lost legs and most of the face. I’m amazed day after day how we can pull injured men and women back from the brink of death after they have suffered devastating injuries, but it may have been best that we couldn’t save this one. The troop was very young, the same age as many college students who are home with families or off partying through what remains of Christmas break. This brave young person instead chose to be here, serving their country. I know it makes not a lick of difference in the tragedy of death, but it eats at my heart with acid that I know this individual is dead before their family does. Why should this person be among us at the end of their life? Death is death, and nothing can sweeten it, but it shouldn’t be among strangers, thousands of miles from home. I’ve seen the warrior on the movie screen crave a good death on the battlefield, but not me. I want to die within easy reach of my family after having provided for them. I want them to know what miracles of happiness they have been in my life. They need to know that they have made my heaven on earth and there is absolutely nothing I could want at the end of my life but more life with them. But I forget; I’ve got my happy face on today.


The person with the cysts made it through elective surgery with shining colors! After a comfortable recovery at the hands of our skillful and professional nurses, and after a few nourishing meals, this person had their escort to (redacted). What a pleasure it was to take my time, placing a meticulous closure of dissolving suture and superglue to give a nearly invisible wound. No staples or sutures will have to be removed. No dressing was necessary. It was a nice return to the closures I try to give children back home. I’ve seen how the removal of a big sticky bandage can be more traumatic to a child than the surgery was. I avoid any possible fuss while the child is awake. I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician because I liked children, then I realized that I liked anesthetized children much more! The patient I operated on yesterday can tell all their friends so they can have incisions just like that one if they come to me. I’ve seen a nice patch of land near the river that would be the perfect place for a surgery center just off base. I could even take livestock in trade!


I did sleep well last night. I tried to watch “The Water Horse” at the Sustainer Theater, but the sound quality was so terrible that I couldn’t take it any more and walked out. And I thought it was tough to understand Scottish accents. This was more like Scottish accents with a mouth full of cotton. We are so hard up for entertainment that it has to be pretty bad to walk out of a movie here! I wanted to see it because my boys saw it yesterday. There is some abstract comfort in watching the same movie that they are, even if we are separated by 7000 miles. Plus it is good to hear the parts about which they were excited and then search for them for myself. It will be cool to sit next to them in the theater again. And it will be even better to sit next to my Sweetie!


Last night we heard about a boy who had burned his scrotum. He couldn’t get into the gate until today, so we examined him when he arrived in the ER. His mom said that he was six, but I was doubtful because he seemed too tall to be six and he lay very calm as we worked. Maybe he will be a different age tomorrow. Stories evolve here. He had mistakenly pulled a teapot of boiling water onto his lap. Most of his burns were on his thighs, but his genitals were also burned. I brought him to the OR to remove dead skin from his legs and penis while he was sedated. I stapled the artificial skin over his burned legs, but his penis and scrotum will need daily treatments. Burns are so awful and painful, but it was a relief to see that his don’t seem so deep.


I saw a great leadership technique in practice today. Many distinguished visitors tour our hospital, from NFL cheerleaders to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One of our new leaders conducted a mock distinguished visitor tour to make sure that he wouldn’t encounter any surprises. This faux tour stimulated the same behavior of a tide of personnel receding from the work areas as the tour swept in. I usually join the stampede, because it is hard to get any work done as you stand at attention until the coterie passed, but I chose to stick around. The new leader happens to be my trailer-mate and I was curious to see how he was going to conduct the dry-run of the tour. I’ve always believed that a leader must visit every corner of their domain. I thought that the dry firing of the hospital tour was a great idea. The hospital is going to be in good hands.


We had a cold rain today. As I biked in, puddles of black water splashed up and down my uniform. My knuckles turned white in the wet cold. Soon the mud will start to encroach on the hospital, our hooches, and the Caddilacs. Last time I vacationed in Balad, I started in January. Soon I will be completing the circle.


Well, it has been good to write to you. Now I’m an hour closer to home. I’ve tucked my patients in and have turned in my MBA assignments for the week. I’ve heard a rumor that another troop on base is blogging on WordPress as “Baladredux.” I can’t wait to check it out! It is amazing how so many people can examine the elephant and come up with a different description, so I’m excited to see their perspective.


Have fun, love life, and be mello!


Faithfully yours,




HollyB said...

this is your house, we've just dropped in to visit. If you want to be sleepy, or grumpy, or dopey, or happy, that's OK with us.
Whatever mood you're in when we come by is the mood you're in. You don't have to put on a happy face for us.

As for your coworkers, God Bless 'em if they really are happy all the time. But what are the odds, Doc? DOn't be Bs'ing a BSW.

Chris said...

Holly, so good to hear from you. And it makes it easier to have the support of a friend. Take care! C