28 December 2005

Horrid little day

Why is my hospital broken? I hate it that it took me 12 hours to do 3 hours of work today. All while my sons are home on school break. No need to look for more reasons to get free as soon as I can. As a resident, it was three days without sleep before I started to get irritable. Last night I worked to midnight and that was enough to give me a headache all day today, but not eating for 12 hours probably had something to do with it. And now I stew at home. Maybe tomorrow will be better. I'll play hookey.

17 December 2005

Briefly Free

Dear Friends,

It has been a long, long, LONG time since I've blogged. So here I am on the first night of my long awaited vacation, so I thought I'd dip in. I am the happy recipient of the kindness of a colleague from San Diego. He has aggreed to cover my service for a week while I take a breather. Since I have been on continuously 24/7 since August 10th, it is a welcome break.

Before hanging up the scalpel for a few days, I made the mistake of operating on two kids for elective procedures earlier in the week. I never like to step away when one of my patients is still recovering, but their families had repeatedly asked me if they could have the date. It was important for them to have the procedures done during the winter break. So, they are recovering in the hospital, and I'm doing my best to avoid thinking about them! At least I can rest easy knowing they are in good hands.

The book has done well, and we were proud to cut our first donation check to Fisher House this month! It was a modest amount, just under $200, but it is a start! They were kind enought to feature the book on their website just under Gary Trudeau's book!

Hope you all are well, and happy and healthy in the embrace of your families. Enjoy Christmas!


08 September 2005

Made A Difference For That One: A Surgeon's Letters Home From Iraq

Made A Difference For That One: A Surgeon's Letters Home From Iraq
How can such a short week seem so long?
Monday is usually a bumper day since we have academic lectures and meetings. This week, starting on Tuesday, I operated for about 14 hours and then Wednesday was a full clinic with a few extra walk in visitors to add to the fray. In the middle of that I had to run downstairs to operate on a one-year-old boy's lung. Then today started with an emergency call to operate on a newborn who weighed just about a pound. Don't get me wrong, this sounds like complaining, but I feel lucky that I get to do such a wonderful job. It is exciting and rewarding, and every once in a while it goes so smoothly that I feel like I'm getting the hang of the awesom and frightening job of tinkering with injured and ill children. I know in my heart that when it does go right, it is only through the God's grace and the incredible power of the body to survive such grevious illness. Anyway, all that hustle at the hospital leaves me longing for some do nothing time, and a chance to blog fits it perfectly.

I have gotten such generous words from the people who have been kind enough to offer advice to me and M. about the book. We are spreading the word a little here and a little there. It doesn't hurt to have Mom as my full court press agent in Connecticut hooking us up with articles and interviews.

Well it's back to the grindstone tomorrow, but for now I'm chillin'.

04 September 2005

Not just on the shelf, but on the table at R.J. Julia!

Dear Readers,

We have had a whirlwind of activity since we have received our first copies of "Made a Difference" But perhaps the most exciting develpment is knowin that we are on the New Books table at R.J. Julia Bookstore, the best bookstore in my hometown of Madison Connecticut. It is only through the untiring efforts of our publicist (Mom) that we achieved this success.

Of course, the most pressing issue, here, and across the nation, is the plight of the victims of Katrina. Thousands have arrived here in San Antonio and are being holed up at Kelly Airbase and elsewhere in the city. M. and the boys have been doing what they can to donate to the relief efforts and look for places to pitch in.

I had the good fortune of recieving the generous support of Safe Kids International, who donated up to 100 car seats, and more if we need them to the families who had to flee Louisiana and Mississippi to come to San Antonio.

I have upgraded the links so that there is a shortcut to the Peek Inside the book at iUniverse.

Take care and keep the victims of Katrina in your good wishes and prayers.

Be well,


22 August 2005

21 AUG 05 My first trip to Alaska

21 AUG 2005

The Book is Out!

Dear Friends,

Meredith took the letters I wrote home from Iraq, converted them from my freestyle grammar to actual English, and has published them with the press, iUniverse. We wanted to do something more for veterans and their families, so 10% of the cost of each book will go to Fisher House, a home away from home for the families of injured war veterans undergoing treatment at military medical facilities. Of course you all have read the letters already, but if you still want to do something for Fisher House, check them out at:


The book can be viewed at the publisher’s:


and it’s also on Amazon:


This past weekend I got to make a quick little trip up to Alaska. There was a 20-month-old baby there who had a severe case of pneumonia and required a lung bypass machine called ECMO to survive. Our hospital, Wilford Hall Medical Center, in San Antonio, is the only facility in the world that has long-range transportable ECMO so we were summoned to see if we could help him out.

As the surgeon, I had the easiest job of all. My purpose was to perform the procedure on his neck to connect the boy to the ECMO machine. Basically I flew 20 hours to do 20 minutes of work! The ECMO team of physicians and nurses did an amazing job of keeping the boy strong and getting him back to Texas safely. He is still in critical condition, but I see little signs of improvement now and then so I have high hopes for his recovery.

My patient, baby I., in Iraq has been up and down, but the last note I got from her father was encouraging. She had been troubled by a fever recently but it has gotten better and she feels well. Her father asked me when I was coming back to Iraq. He had difficulty getting her to be seen in an Iraqi facility, and was eager for me to return. What a surprise it is to me to find that I feel a tug on my heart to see Balad and this family again.

Today we held the Society of Air Force Clinical Surgeons Meeting. It was a great chance to get together with some of the wonderful people with whom I got to work in Balad. Each of the different specialties presented their experience to the visiting surgeons. It was great to see neurosurgeon Lee, who has moved on to private practice in Alabama. He was in civilian clothes and looked relaxed and happy.

M., the boys and I have been trying to take advantage of the gaps in my schedule to relax and have some fun. We’ve been going to work out, swim, and last night we hit the bowling alley! Every day I am thankful to be home and I don’t think I could ever take it for granted again!

Well, it’s not much to report, but life is happily calm and uneventful. I hope that you all are having fun and lovin’ life!

Your friend,


Here is the Astrocam launch at Ronald Reagan High School and an in-flight photo

Here we are loading up the C-5 for Alaska and then flying baby M. home in the C-17

19 August 2005

The book is out!

Finally the book is available!! We have even received M's author copies. Hopefully this does some good for the veterans' families through Fisher House.

Here is where the book is available:

the publisher, iuniverse


Barnes and Noble

and on ebay in a limited time auction.

Well, that's all for now, I'm exhausted!

04 August 2005

Vacation, gooood.

Ah, yes, as both the Commander in Chief and I know, vacation is good, even if it is a working vacation. Life is good, fixing stuff around the house, swimming with the boys, and cooking! Made some muffalettas today, delicious olive salad with black and green olives, basalmic vinegar, olive oil, salt, garlic and pepper. Work hasn't intruded too much. I've had several requests for operations, and since I'm already booked into September, it required a few emails and phone calls to make sure their appointments are set.
The final proofs are in, with the unexpected additional corrections, and final production starts soon! I really can't wait to see the book.

Eat well,


02 August 2005

Final Revision(s)

Hi Everyone!

Well, we have just submitted our final revisions to the final revision! Our representative at the publisher has been very patient with us. We've read the book over so many times that I couldn't believe that we found an error that had slipped through previous reviews. Ron told us that even weeks from now we might notice something we would want to change or a friend will point out an error, but you just have to go with it at some point.

Vacation is fun, but too many loose ends at work keep reaching me via cell phone and email. The pager is off, but I'm just going to have to avoid electronic devices completely.

Since I work in Texas, but cover a wide area of military members' dependents, some of my patients come from far away (Even as far as Japan!) Well, it takes a bit of coordinating to make sure that their operations go well, and I have been on the phone almost every day with a referring doctor who lives a few hours away. As long as the operation goes well, it is worth it.

As for my patient in Iraq, still lots of chit-chat and emails, but no major progress. Today the possibility was raised of using the opportunity to actually have a physician accompany her who could take back some of the techniques and skills to maybe start a program of liver transplantation in Iraq. That would be a fortunate and blessed thing if the troubles of this little girl might result in future patients having an easier time of it. So I'll ask as always, keep everything crossed and send your prayers.

Peace, out,


P.S. That's a photo of me and friend in a ghost town close to the Texas border

31 July 2005

Progress on several fronts.

Hello and Good Evening.

It's Sunday night, and once dawn comes, I'm on vacation! It's a thrill because after this vacation I am the only pediatric surgeon at our hospital! Well, I'm sure it will all work out okay in the end.

For Meredith's book, the author proofs are submitted, and after just a little more tweaking, typesetting and formatting, the book should be ready to print! I hope that it gives people a view of the fine job that our men and women in the armed forces are doing over there in Iraq.

As for my little patient with the liver troubles, We've got people on three continents working on figuring out how we can get her a new liver. Send her your good wishes and prayers!

Until later,


30 July 2005

Back to Work!

Dear Friends,
Hello and I hope this finds you all happy, healthy, and well-fed! It’s been a while since we got back from Iraq and I just wanted to catch up with everyone.
I’ve been back at work at Wilford Hall and have had quite a few operations to do in the past two weeks, compared to my usual pace on the pediatric surgery service. In just 12 short days, (ten of them vacation, yeah!) the pediatric surgery service will consist of only me, myself, and I! I’ve had great support from the surgery department to try to make sure we keep up full-coverage for the kids of our fellow service-members in the area.
So it’s been a little busy, but that tends to be the trend, summers, for pediatric surgeons. School is out, and no time is more convenient for Junior to have an elective procedure done with minimal disturbance to his or her progress in school. Also, with all those summer activities, injuries are more common. It has been a comfort to be home and also to get back to my stateside job of taking care of children exclusively.
I feel a new-found appreciation for so much about being home. So many things I took for granted in our daily life are much more precious. I enjoy meals more. Getting my boys out to go swimming or launch model rockets is more important that paperwork or finances. Seeing up close the uncertainty of life in Iraq, I feel thankful and fortunate to enjoy the freedoms, liberties and safety that make our country so great. I’ve always held the fighting men and women keeping our military strong in high esteem, but I feel a greater respect and appreciation for the sacrifices they are making day after day to keep us all safe. Additionally, seeing our generation’s war first hand reminds me of the bravery of generations past that got us where we are today.
I’ve been able to keep in touch with some folks who are in Balad now. They are working strong and steady to save the lives of the injured who cross their threshold. A colleague called from Balad last week to discuss the case of a nine-year-old child with a gun shot wound to the abdomen. He and his team did an amazing job patching up the damage inside. As the temperature in Iraq has climbed even higher since we left, I don’t envy them! They are keeping the B.A.D.A.S.S. traditions alive in proud form. I find I’ve been addicted to news reports of Iraq since coming home. Whenever I hear of an attack, I start calculating numbers of casualties, expected injuries, and anticipated time of arrival at Balad. It is good to see some encouraging reports describing progress on the new Iraqi constitution.
Before leaving I operated on a girl with a tumor on her neck. I kept in touch with the Army colonel who had found the girl and had made the arrangements to make her surgery possible. After this girl returned to her hometown, the Army colonel was able to locate a specialist to treat her enlarged tongue. I was so relieved to hear that she had found some help. I had left Iraq uncertain what would happen to the girl and the news was a weight off my mind. This girl had been in my prayers and the prayers of many others. It made me think of the Scripture passage stating that God feeds the birds and cares for them, so surely he will care for us. I may not be powerful enough to provide everything that girl needed, but through the hands of others, God is.
That brings me a new challenge I face. You may recall that I operated on another girl in Iraq with a congested liver. She did marvelously and recovered quickly. Her father has been kindly sending me emails in broken English, describing how she is active and eating well. Unfortunately, her recent blood tests seem to indicate that that her liver failure was not reversed by the operation. I had my worries about her, since I usually perform that operation on two-month-old babies. At her age of 18-months, there was only a one-in-five chance that the damage could be reversed.
So now, looking to the future, it seems that she will eventually need a liver transplant to survive. That task seems nearly impossible to me, and is the reason I tried the bypass of the congested liver in the first place. It is almost too much to wish for a transplant to be possible. But even though I can’t do it alone, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Already I have received the kind offer of a surgeon in Boston who will help her if I can get her up there. Also, an Army major and an Iraqi physician in Iraq are trying to arrange things on their end. So I ask you to please keep this little girl in your prayers, and also to pray for me that I might somehow be able to get this done.
Day after day events show me how blessed and fortunate I am. I am thankful for the privilege I was given, to care for our soldiers, and I realize that it is probably the most important work I will do in my lifetime. But I’m not finished yet, and now it is time to get back to work.

Be mellow, love life and have fun!


21 July 2005

crash course in web publishing

Since the book isn't out yet, put up a button to request to be on a waiting list. Heh! I don't think there will be as many advance sales as Harry Potter. Well, even if it sells a few, that's a few bucks donated to Fisher House. They have been really cool about it, letting their logo be used on the book.

Had a successful launch a few days ago. Speaking of a Frankenstein, The Alpha was pieced together with masking tape, and used a homemade 'chute of dental floss, rubber bands and a Target shopping sac. Had to fish it off the roof of a very nice lady's house in a retirement community, but it survived. Turns out her husband was an old AF flier and she loaned me the oversized umbrella she got while they were in Thailand to get the rocket down. Good people everywhere.

Surgery went well today, and I'm thankful for that. We finished teaching the ECMO course and all the labs went well so I'm thankful for that too. One of my boys is away and I miss him. The house seems so quiet with only one out of here.

Well it is all too tempting to write here when there are other deadlines looming.


18 July 2005

Finally Submitted!

This past weekend, M. submitted her compilation of my letters to iUniverse, the self-publishing site. I'm very proud of her and of how the book turned out with her editing and care.