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November 06, 2010

Stealth Heroes

We had a great week, but it's time for a little motivation:

You all did some amazing things last week, and the nicest thing to be said about that actually came from Team Army. And... they have charts!

I have said over the last few days that even though Team ARMY was leading by long-shot in the Valour-IT fundraiser, we needed to keep our eye over our shoulder on Team MARINE.

Now I am not sure how they did it or who they pulled out of the woodwork to donate for them, but I think Team MARINE has set a record in the amount of money raised in one day.

Team MARINE essentially doubled the amount donated in their Team’s name in one day from what they had raised since the start of this friendly competition on Oct. 28th.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am proud of them and glad to see so many generous people open their wallets for Valour-IT, but come on people TEAM MARINE!!!

Each year Valour IT hosts a friendly interservice competition to see who can raise the most money the fastest for a very worthy cause. This year, Army crossed the $15,000 finish line first but it fills me with pride to see what the Marine team has accomplished - and that, after we'd already lost the competition.

But I don't want to see us rest on our laurels, because the number of wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines is growing by the day. Marine team member MaryAnn Phillips writes about a weekly conference call between doctors, nurses and medics at hospitals in Afghanistan, Germany, and the United States:

The week, the assembled group of over 80 people review the cases of the 13 critical patients treated the prior week. Nine of the patients will have permanent disabilities: Two lost one leg; two lost a leg and a foot; two lost both legs; two lost both legs and a hand; and one was paralyzed from the waist down.

The conference is run by Col. Brian Eastridge, a 47-year-old trauma surgeon with 23 years in the Army. He grew up in Damascus, Md., graduated from Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He now heads the Joint Theater Trauma System, which organizes trauma care in both wars.

Over five deployments, Eastridge has seen the entire arc of worsening wounds and increasing survival that has marked trauma care during the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Dressed in brown camouflage battle dress, he sits halfway around a large U made of wooden tables. Around him on the walls are idealized scenes of Afghan life painted by a local artist - a girl leading a caravan of camels, children being taught arithmetic at the base of a tree, kids flying kites. Eastridge runs the conference with somber efficiency, offers comments sparingly and addresses his listeners mostly by location-"Kandahar," "Landstuhl," "Walter Reed."

The rapid-fire reports are dense with medical jargon and anatomical description. It's a narration of one disaster after another, and of how things were kept from getting worse, and made better, by skill, speed and attention. It's the aural equivalent of watching a dozen high-wire acts in which some people are rescued mid-fall.

Here's just one.

"Dismounted IED" injury is jargon for wounds caused by a bomb or mine that are suffered outside a vehicle. The soldier had tourniquets placed for partial amputation of both legs. One liter of a special IV fluid was given in the helicopter, and the patient arrived at the Kandahar hospital in and out of consciousness and in shock.

In the operating room, surgeons temporarily tied off the arteries going to the legs and repaired a tear in a major vein. There was massive damage to the area between the legs. One leg was amputated at the knee. In a second operation the next day his wounds were rewashed and a finger, broken in the explosion, was fixed with external hardware.

That same day the soldier was evacuated to Bagram, where his wounds were washed out and the pelvic region was re-explored. A "foreign body"- the speaker didn't say whether it was dirt, metal or something else - not seen in the first operation was removed. He suffered a collapsed lung after surgery, which was fixed.

He stayed there two days before flying by critical care air transport to Landstuhl.

Seven days after suffering his wounds the soldier arrived at a hospital in the United States. He had another collapsed lung, and pneumonia. His right foot, initially thought to be salvageable, wasn't healing and the surgeons planned to amputate it at the ankle. He had further surgery to his abdomen and numerous operations to start repairing the missing floor of his pelvis.

"This was one of the biggest pelvic injuries I've ever seen," said one of the surgeons in the United States. Eastridge later said he hears that a lot from surgeons in the United States who haven't been deployed yet.

This was not an uncommon case.

The other day I mentioned "stealth heroes" - people who quietly go about the business of doing what needs to be done. MaryAnn is one of those stealth heroes. The amazing folks who pushed us up over our $15000 goal this week - including a few who went all out with some stunningly generous donations - are stealth heroes. These people will never know the feeling of public recognition, but then that's not what they were after.

It's easy to forget that only half a world away, Americans are engaged in a life and death struggle against an enemy that thinks nothing of throwing acid on women and girls, killing children, hiding among civilians. It's hard to fight soldiers who won't even stand clear of the innocent. It blurs the lines that have stood for centuries, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between friend and foe, combatant and non-combatant.

And make no mistake - we're suffering horrific injuries as a result of our refusal to stoop to their level.

It continues to amaze me that this war is being fought by soldiers younger, in many cases, than my sons. We ask much of these young men and women, and when they are injured fighting on our behalf, we owe them our thanks, our respect, and most importantly our support.

Government does a lot, but government cannot solve every problem. We need to step into the breach.

Will you help?


Posted by Cassandra at November 6, 2010 08:46 AM

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