Health & Medicine

Dispatches from a military hospital in Afghanistan

This hospital at Camp Salerno in Eastern Afghanistan serves all the U.S. military bases in the region and also treats local patients. U.S. care givers and doctors rotate in shifts here and many are recent arrivals. This Major got here about a month ago. He says on his first day we had five come in right away, and it was a good way to get my feet wet. The first one was an IED, but there were some children who came here also who found a bomb in a lake. It hits you when you have kids at home, he says. Others at the hospital had been here before. This General Surgeon said two years ago, when he first served here, the hospital was something like the TV show �MASH,� whereas now it looks like a first-world hospital. He says last time he was here there was a lot of humanitarian efforts and those have had to be curtailed because the pace of the hospital has gone up so much, but comparatively, the amount of trauma victims has also increased. This surgeon is used to be out among the population more but that's not possible here in Afghanistan because it's too dangerous. She works as a missionary in Africa when not in Afghanistan. The hospital commander says the crew is happiest when the hospital is busiest�that the people like doing the job they were trained to do. this nurse talks about how most of the crew are big talkers and wisecracks�he doesn't know whether that's a coping mechanism or not. This major arrived here only at the end of September and during his first day, he treated two American soldiers, only one of whom survived. The commander of the hospital also remembers that soldier and remembers telling the other solider that his friend had died. That day, many of the crew also experienced a first: one of the casualties that came to the hospital was from the other side. This doctor says we don't treat them any different in terms of providing care, but there are some special precautions in the way of extra guards. He says he thinks that speaks to the professionalism of the people here, but you can never put out of your mind which side they were fighting on. This doctor is in the middle of another surgery, operating on an Afghan soldier�a bullet left a small hole in the man's leg.

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