27 December 2008

Loss of a Colleague

Today was a long day. I spent most of it in the hospital struggling to get intravenous access on two very ill children. When I stumbled in the house around 2200, I was feeling pretty tired and sorry for myself. Then I learned from M. that Dr. John P. Pryor, a surgeon from New Jersey had been killed in Iraq on Christmas Day. Suddenly I felt very fortunate and a little embarrassed for complaining about such mild troubles.

Dr. Pryor was a Major in the Army Reserves and it was his second tour in Iraq. He was killed when a mortar struck near his quarters in Mosul. He was 42 years old. His service in Iraq wasn't the first time he answered the call. He also reported to the World Trade Center after the bombing in 2001.

Here is a link to a column Dr. Pryor wrote for the Washington Post in 2007 that demonstrates his dedication better than I could ever describe it.

He isn't the first US doctor to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Dr. Mark D. Taylor, 41, of Stockton, CA died 20 MAR 2004 when a rocket struck his position near Fallujah.
(Source: Military Times)
He was helping others take cover when he was killed. It was his second deployment to Iraq. He had written in a letter home, "I can't think of a finer thing that I'd rather be doing than taking care of our soldiers."

Dr. Brian D. Allgood was an Army surgeon killed 20 JAN 2007 when the Black Hawk helicopter in which he was travelling crashed northwest of Baghdad.
(Source: West Point)
He was a West Point graduate and was described as the top military surgeon in Iraq. He was 46 at the time.

Dr. Roselle Hoffmaster died in Tikrit on 20 SEP 2007.
Her cause of death is listed as non-combat injuries. She was in internist trained at Brooke Army Medical Center. Dr. Hoffmaster, who was 32 years old at the time of her death was only two weeks into her first deployment to Iraq. She had volunteered for her assignment so that colleagues with small children could stay home.

I didn't know these doctors, these fellow citizens who gave faithful service, I just know that I got to come home alive and they didn't. There is no reason for it and I will never understand it. I am thankful and humbled by the immeasurable sacrifice of these individuals and their families.
Lest we forget, our burden cannot be mentioned without remembering that Iraqi physicians have suffered far greater losses. The Red Cross estimates that more than 2200 Iraqi physicians and nurses have been killed since the war began in 2003. In the same time, more than 250 have been kidnapped. At least 20,000 of the estimated 34,000 pre-war physicians have fled the country.

Although the trying conditions of war have highlighted the most heroic qualities in some, it also brings to light the the most base and hateful characteristics in others. Dr. Louay was an Iraqi physician who would volunteer to help whenever the Kirkuk hospital was overrun with incoming wounded. He was also a member of a local insurgent cell. He administered lethal overdoses to 43 injured Iraqi policemen and soldiers in his care before he was discovered. His despicable actions are a betrayal of medicine and humanity, but are unfortunately part of the face of war.

When I consider his treachery, the first thought that comes to mind is the dedicated nurses at the Air Force Theater Hospital who would toil for hours administering their gentle healing art to injured insurgents, some of whom would spit and curse at them.

So I have no excuse to feel tired or grumpy. I am thankful for a challenging day at my little hospital in San Antonio, and I am even more thankful for the chance to return home to the embrace of my family. I will never take for granted that I got to take that long flight home upright in my seat, and twice at that.

23 December 2008

A child's life improved

I wanted to send good news about the child of a dear friend.

M. is 7 year-old-girl, and she has suffered the effects of sickle cell disease for her entire life. Six weeks ago, she underwent transplant of bone marrow donated by her younger brother. She has made an excellent recovery and the transplant has cured her sickle cell disease. You can read more about it here:


Her mother is a Ugandan-American who works tirelessly to care for seriously ill children in the PICU. We have taken care of many children together. I am very impressed by her dedication to make children's lives better. In addition to the good work she does in the hospital, she has also founded an organization to help the many children with sickle cell disease in Uganda.

I've posted the organization's website before on the blog, but here it is again:


15 December 2008

A great American

In sharing these thoughts, Dena Yllescas is showing great bravery. I pass on her very moving words.


CPT Rob Yllescas
Back in Nebraska
Posted: 13 Dec 2008 10:22 PM CST
Sorry it's been a couple of days since I last wrote. I've been EXTREMELY busy and also extremely tired!!! The Memorial Service was really nice. I have to say that the roll call they do is the absolute worst. For those of you who don't know what this is, they call out Rob's name 3 times. Of course, each time he doesn't answer. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind this is, but all the memorial services I've been to do this. It just makes it that much more real that he's gone. These past couple of days have been emotionally exhausting. The house, the service, and yesterday I got the Army Times and Rob's picture was under the section "Human Toll". Every week I got the paper, I'd always look at this to see how many soldiers were killed that week in Iraq and Afghanistan. To see Rob there, killed me. Then yesteray I spent all day with my Casualty Assistant Officer on Ft Hood going to different offices for benefit information. I was gone from 8am to 3:30pm. When I got back to the house, my friend who's a real estate agent was there and we got our house put on the market. I then had a couple of more friends stop by. Later I still had to pack up a few more things to take back with me to Nebraska. I took a bunch of Rob's t-shirts, jeans, dress shirts, and acu's. One of Rob's aunts said she would make a quilt from Rob's t-shirts and another friend said she knows someone who will make teddy bears out of his jeans, shirts, and acu's. I figure this would be great so we can still have his things near us without having to put them all in boxes or get rid of them. That's the hardest for me. Right now I can leave our house and come back to Nebraska. But when the house gets sold and I move into a new one, I have to figure out what to do with his things. I can't bear to get rid of them because it's part of HIM and there are so many memories. But I can't bear to look at them all the time either because the scab constantly gets torn off. Now that I'm back in Nebraska knowing that this will be my new reality, things are starting to set in. I MISS HIM SO MUCH. My world as I know it has turned upside down. My whole adult life I've only known the military. I've been married for 8 1/2 years with 2 small children. Rob was an amazing father and husband. He helped me so much. My family will be wonderful and will help me out with ANYTHING I need, but my best friend, husband, and father to my children is gone. And I have so many emotions running through me: sad, scared, angry, uncertain.... I just have to hold on strong to the fact that God will get us through this. I pray every night for Him to help me be the mother our girls need me to be to raise them solely on my own so they can grow up to be happy, confident, christian women. And what helps me so much is knowing how many family, friends, and perfect strangers are supporting the girls and I and giving me those words of encouragment. I know that we will never truly be alone. I thank God every night for all of you who are wrapping your arms around us. More than ever, I can't thank you enough.

10 December 2008

[Fwd: CPT Rob Yllescas]

I am reposting Dena Yllescas' very touching words below. I am repeatedly reminded of the strength of our individual troops. I am blown away by the strength of their families.



Posted: 09 Dec 2008 09:57 PM CST

Yesterday was Rob's funeral. It was beautiful. Again, the Patriot Guard showed up holding flags outside the auditorium and a bell was being rung. During the service they had a 16x20 photograph of Rob in uniform in front of a flag. I looked at it most of the service. That picture made it feel like he was right there. They played a slide show before and after the service. My friend Nancy is going to put it on here when she gets the chance so everyone can see it. She did an amazing job. Thanks, Nancy. After the service we went to the cemetary. The police were in front with the Patriot Guards on their bikes, then Rob, and then more Patriot Guards leading us to the site. It was so surreal that the 21 gun salute and presentation of the flag was for MY husband. I still can't believe he's gone. Even though I was there when he passed away, to me it feels like he's still deployed. So many people were there. It's just unbelievable the amount of support. I know that the girls and I are going to be ok because there are so many people that care. Afterwards we had a dinner and I was able to talk to some people who I hadn't seen in years who had traveled so far to say their final goodbyes to Rob. When I left the dinner, I was by myself. I drove up to his grave site. He had been buried and a flag was placed on top. Everything is so final. As much as I wish I could go back and undo the past, I can't. It's the most helpless feeling. But I know he's looking down on us and that gives me comfort. My brother called me and said that before they left town, he and his wife drove past to see Rob with their almost 4 year old daughter. She said "daddy, I see Rob flying away." Aaron said "What did you say, Megan?" "I see Uncle Rob flying away in the sky. He's with Jesus." Amazing. Later that evening, some friends of mine from Ft Hood came over to my parents. Their husbands are in Rob's unit. I swear, only fellow military wives can lift eachother up after the day we had. It ended up snowing. Well, before long one of the wives was making a snow angel and then we ended up in a full fledge snowball fight. When we were done, we sat in my parents hot tub and talked for a couple of hours. It was some much needed stress relief and I thank you for providing me that ladies. Tomorrow I leave for Ft Hood. They are doing a memorial service for Rob on Thursday and presenting the girls with a scholarship. I'm not taking the girls with me because they've been gone too much and Julia needs to get back to school. I'll be back on Saturday. It'll give me a chance to bring some more things from the house back to Nebraska.

There were several news stations that covered Rob's funeral. Here are a few links:

(I think those are right...I was doing them off the top of my head!)