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.


Laurel said...

Oh, this news just breaks my heart, but thank you for allowing us to honor some of our military's very finest.

Bongi said...

terrible. just terrible. what an utter waste.

Chris said...

Each life lost is the world lost.

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Health Train Express said...


Thank you for bringing these dedicated physician warrors to our attention.
Physicians have always been known to be proponents of peace.

These are the ones dedicated enough to freedom and peace to have fought and lost their lives in this pursuit

Chris said...

Health Train Express, thanks for visiting. It is striking to ponder their loss, but I am sure that the appreciation shown by you and many others is a comfort to their families.