Thursday, September 29, 2011


Internet and phone calls are hit or miss for Matt and I. He'd had a rough day and I tried to be a listening ear, but the phone connection was very muffled and I couldn't understand him. So this is what he wrote to me in an email:

It was a bad day today. We got a call that five American soldiers were being brought in after an IED. Two of them died on the way, another one on arrival. One was clinging to life with a hole cut in his neck by a medic so he could breathe. I took him to the operating room and pumped blood freshly taken from his fellow soldiers. He was bleeding so much I had to refill all the blood in his body twice. I squeezed breath into him by my hands because his lungs were too damaged to ventilate by machine, while I watched the surgeon squeeze his heart in the palm of his hands until his heart started working again. His heart stopped and started a few more times until he was stable enough to be evacuated to the big hospital in Bagram, where his nurse says he is still alive but in critical condition.

There is a custom here among the medics that you only pass on follow-up news if you have something good to tell. So I'm hoping to get an email or phone call, because if I don't I'll know what happened.

I am not allowed to tell you the name or show you the face of this brave soldier. Instead I have attached a picture of his blood on my boots, which I somehow don't have the heart to clean off until I know he is going to get better. But more than likely he will give every drop of his blood for our freedom and safety. Please keep him and his family in your prayers today. I could use a few too if you have time.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Insights from Homework

Maya had to write a story about her greatest goal for her homework assignment.

My Greatest Goal

My greatest goal is to become a mother. I want to do this because I want to make a family. I would like around five kids; two girls and three boys. To learn how to do it, I would watch my mom and learn from her. I would ask her questions. I expect to reach this goal because it is possible to find a man who can love me and help me. Of course I would love him and help him back. I think it would be fun to be a mother!

(Picture of her future family)

I guess Matt and I are doing something right if she has this kind of view of what family life is like. I especially love that she knows she deserves a man who will love and help her and that she will do the same for him.

She only deserves the best!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


It was "Last of the Mohawkans" night on the porch of Forward Surgical Team Ghazni. Most of the men have concluded in much easier to have very short or no hair during deployment, and there's really no one to look good for (there is also no way to smell good for anyone). So we all shaved the sides, watched Last of the Mohicans together on the porch, and had a BBQ (as I'm sure we wouldn't have been let into the military dining facility). We shaved the rest after the movie, so right now I'm cue ball head, next week I'll be tennis ball head.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Operation Enduring Tedium: Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan

Here is a view of my B-hut from the outside. Note the spilling sandbag decor.

This is the view from inside. The bare wood motif complements the rustic atmosphere of the local culture.

Three anesthesia providers from Travis Air Force Base in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In the middle is Ryan Gibbons who is with me at Ghazni, on the right is Jason Bolt going to a different base to mentor Afghan anesthetists. With his last name, of course they sent him to a base divided into Camp Lightning and Camp Thunder.

These are our mean faces. Aren't we intimidating?

This bunker is where I got to enjoy my first few hours at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Spent more time in the bunker than in my bed that first night. The smells are best left to the imagination.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Soccer Season

Luke is #10 - to the left in this picture.

It is soccer season for this family. We lucked out big time on practices being at the same time and park - otherwise I had no idea how I was going to get my kids to practices. Luke's team is bright orange and so they named themselved the Smashing Pumpkins. (It's kind of funny to cheer for them because the name is a mouthful so I usually just shout the second word. "Go pumpkins" sounds a little too sweet.) Luke is one of the bigger/older kids on his team so he gets to be the strong player. He's a natural defender and loves to stop the ball and boot it away from the goal. He'll usually turn and give me a thumbs up afterward. He's had a turn playing goalie at the last 2 games and not one shot has gotten past him. So fun to watch him play!

(Blue jersey = goalie) Here he is throwing the ball back out into the field.

His team won this game 3-0!

Maya's team is named "Fury United". Her coach is absolutely fantastic. He's got the right balance of competitive nature blanced with wanting them to do their best and praising them for it. He teaches them so much about the game and is quick to encourage and praise their efforts. Maya loves the team she's on and always has a fantastic time. She tends to be a natural defender as well, but her coach is moving her around trying her out in more offense positions as well. Here are some pics from her game yesterday. They won 7-0!

Maya is number 6

It's hard to watch games and keep 2 boys entertained. So I brought out the big guns - video games. They only get to play these on Fridays and Saturdays.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Middle Earth and the Middle East

Now that I have arrived at my Forward Operating Base (FOB) I am known as a FOBBIT- someone at one of these little outposts that never leaves and is kindof isolated from the larger bases. Suits me fine. I have a great team of people I work with and we cared for our first patients today. It was an honor to provide care for the soldiers here, and I feel a clearer sense of purpose in my being here; I can't decide what armies of nations decide to do, but I can be here to help when people get hurt.

And even though I carry two firearms and live in a war zone, Jen still manages to kick more butt than I do. Way to go, Hon! They should unleash you on the Taliban and show 'em what Shock and Awe is all about!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Body Combat

This is something I've been wanting to do for 2 years now. I had a chance to do it 2 years ago, but Seth was a few months old and Matt still had a crazy schedule - it was just too much at the time. I've been kicking myself ever since. Body Combat is my absolute favorite class at the gym. It's a cardio class at the gym that focuses on Boxing, Muy Tai, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, Karate, etc. The music is excellent and I love that this classes focuses on technique and form. I always come away drenched!

So I moved here and took the initiative to get trained. Matt has supported and encouraged me every step of the way (along with my good friend Becca who got me addicted to all this gym stuff in the first place). I got my primary group exercise certification and CPR cert last February. Then I went to my gym and talked to the group x director (who already knew I was interested). You can't get trained to teach combat unless you have a gym to sponsor you. So I kept my eyes out for Combat training to come somewhere near me. Combat (a Les Mills class) training is 3 nine hour days of working on combat: learning the prechoreographed release, working on form and cueing and teaching 2 tracks. It's exhausting and I'm so glad I did it! I did the training in August driving a little over an hour each way every morning and night to get there (listened to the combat music to learn my stuff during that car ride). Matt was deployed, but luckily I have fantastic friends who were ready to watch my kids for me. I passed the weekend. As you teach your assigned tracks, they assess you. Lot's of people get a "pass withheld" which means there is something specific you need to work on before you can start working on your video, but I PASSED!

So now I'm officially hired as a group x instrcutor. I'm set up to team teach with the instructors there. I team taught my first class this morning! (That means that I taught the 1st half of the hour long class and the regular instructor taught the back half.) I had a great time doing it, and I am exhausted!! Here's a pic of me trying to look tough after the class.

So now I'm just working out kinks and settling into being in front of the class instead of in the class. Can't wait to tape the video and get it behind me.

Here's a pic of the girls I trained with back in August.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Forever Changed

(This is how I still picture the NY skyline in my mind. When I fly home and the towers are no longer there, NY just doesn't look complete.)

Most adults can pretty clearly remember what they were doing the morning of September 11, 2001. They can remember when they first heard of a plane flying into a tower.

For me, this was a day my life was changed in more ways than one.

I was attending BYU in 2001 and Matt and I had been married for a little over a year. Matt was at work that morning. I had woken up and hopped in the shower. I always have the radio on while I get ready in the morning. After I turned the water off and was getting myself ready, my brain registered that the radio DJ had said a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I grew up in NY about an hour away from the city. My high school friends were now attending college in the city. Parents of my friends worked there. So I was horrified and confused as to how a plane could crash into the tower. Then they mentioned a second plane had crashed. That's when it hit me: This was no accident. I had to sit down. I can still remember the feeling, the shock. I still get that same pit, that same dropping feeling in my stomach, when I see pictures and hear stories of this day.

I had classes to go to, so in a daze I continued to get ready and head to campus. Everyone was walking around shocked. Every TV on campus was surrounded by students watching the news. No one could look away.

I'm greatful that my family is safe, and that I didn't know at that time that my dad was coming home from a business trip in Boston (where one of the planes had taken off from).

The rest of the day was spent watching everything unfold on TV. I had no idea there were these terrorists out there, that our country could ever be in this kind of danger.

Despite the overwhelming news of this day, my brain, my body and my emotions still knew that my life could be changed in another way. The tragic day could not push out the thoughts that my family was about to change. Matt was half asleep on the couch watching the news while I took the test. He had no idea...I was pregnant.

This was also the day that I found out I was going to be a mother. I told Matt - probably not the best time. Information overload for him, I think. It took him a day or two to register this announcement. So far, the best and the worst day of my life.

When this all happened, Matt was in the process of applying to medical schools. Before this happened, he already had an interview set up at USUHS (Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences - the military's medical school). His interview was October 4th. As soon as 9/11 happened, I was very reluctant; reluctant for him to fly on an airplane; reluctant for him to join the military. I knew our country would soon be at war. (A real fear that made me scared to bring a child into this world)

Needless to say, Matt went, was accepted to the school, and that is the path we have followed. Maya was born a few weeks before Matt left for officer training camp and joined the military. Four years of Medical School, four years of residency, and now a year under his belt as a staff physician. Matt is an anesthesiologist in the Air Force, currently serving in an Army spot, deployed to Afghanistan - 10 years later.

Lots of emotions, lots of changes. My heart goes out to all the families who directly lost someone on that terrible day. My heart goes out to all the families of service men and women who lost a loved one while they were fighting for freedom. My heart goes out to all the families who have spent far too much time separated from their loved ones who are serving overseas. My heart is with my husband. I love you so much! Take great care of the soldiers and civilians who come under your care. Take care of yourself and please come home to us. We miss you so. Thank you for serving our country.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hotel California

The military demonstrated a sense of humor when they named the barracks we are staying at. Hotel California, like in the Eagles song, is a place where "you can check out anytime you please, but you can never leave..." Basically, you show up every night at a tent to see if you leave the next day or not.

For those wanting to arrange travel to this less-than-one star slice of heaven, you can find it near Manas airport near Bishkek in northern Kyrgyzstan. The nice thing about all of those names is you can say them even if your jaw is wired shut. Who needs long vowels anyway?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Let the countdown begin!

So I'm officially deployed now, although it doesn't feel like it. I'm hanging out in Virginia on a naval base until Tuesday. I was going to blog yesterday, but that was the day I left home and frankly I didn't have anything positive to say.

I'm doing a little better today. I went to church at the chapel on base with my friend Ryan (we work together at Travis and he and I will be the only two anesthesiologists in Ghazni). It was the first time I had seen anchors, propellers, and sextants worked into stained-glass windows, let alone next to scenes of the Nativity and Ascension. But it was an uplifting sermon.

I've been counting my blessings a lot, especially since I began reading Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. It's one of those books I that I've always told myself I was going to read, but never got around to it. It is about a psychiatrist who was taken into a prison camp during WWII. He writes more about ideas and perspective than the depravations of being a prisoner, but he details it enough to make me realize I have no excuse to feel sorry for myself.

One passage in particular rang true to me. He talked about how all of your profession, achivements, friends, home, etc are stripped from you and you are left to define yourself in different terms. He noticed that both with himself and others, all other realities crumbled except for the love of one's spouse- he just knew instictively that could never be taken away. I never had to starve in a Nazi work camp, but I did get to partake in the cullinary delight of the military's packaged meals and crawl around in muddy sand. I mosly just thought of Jen, and how she would always be there for me. Unless Fabio moves to Vacaville (just kidding, honey!).

By the way, I outshot the cop at the shooting range most of the time. I'm pretty much a trained killer now...not!

Did Matt forget to wipe his mouth after a meal? Should someone tell him that he has sawdust on his upper lip? Oh no, my firends, that is his first (and probably only) attempt at a mustache in his life. Dont try to see this with with your iPod; put your monitors on Hi-Def, and behold the horror.

For 35 years, I have avoided being coerced into any kind of mustache-growing event. While at Combat Skills Training, I was accused of "not being a team player" because I was the only one in my platoon who did not participate. You can see why.

The Kids