Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yoga in Ghazni

I have done a lot of new things here: build furniture, anesthetize cats, sleep 50 feet from a helicopter landing zone and now yoga. One of the nurses is very into it, and thought it would be relaxing, fun and a way to let go of some bitterness that sometimes happens when you spend several hours everyday in stressful situations and in company you didn't choose.

It was a lot of fun.

My favorite is the "tree" that you can see above. If you need to bring your focus in your own feelings, you close your fingers. If you want to send out some peace and tranquility to others, you spread your fingers. Mine were spread very wide and pointed toward the nursing dorms.

A Bomb in the Road, a Fork in the Road

We had our first pediatric patient today. A boy appearing to be about 8 years old (most Afghans do not keep track of their age) came in with his thumb and all of the skin on his palm blown off, and a military tourniquet around his arm. As they brought him onto my trauma bed, he looked up at me with stoic brown eyes, trying to be brave despite being surrounded by people with uniforms and guns cutting his clothes off. I tried to speak to him in a soft voice and got some help from our interpreter in reassuring him that we are trying to help him. He asked us, "Can you fix my hand?" We told him we will try.

As is always the case, we treat first and try to put the story together afterward. So once the kid was stable under anesthesia, our executive officer began gathering info from the medics and the "uncle" who accompanied him. Uncle is a term used loosely like in Polynesia, where any adult male family friend is an uncle.

Depending on which story you believe, this orphan boy was either pressed into service by the Taliban to make home-made explosives (which would explain the skin stains on his hands) and plant them in the road so they don't have to, or he was gathering scraps of wood for a fire when he uncovered a land mine (also possible; Afghanistan has the most mines per square mile of any place on Earth, and some of the Soviet and Italian models look a lot like Tinker Toys). In either case, I don't blame the kid for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I blame people who think it is okay to put bombs in the ground to hurt random people.

The orthopedic surgeon did the best he could to stop the bleeding, but said the child's hand will probably never be functional and most likely need to be amputated within the next few weeks. I wish I could give him his hand back, and give him a home and a family. But I can't. So I gave him what I could: a compassionate anesthetic, some clothes (from the Operation Desert Blossom shed), and a contribution with my other team members for taxi fare to Kabul Children's Hospital.

I don't know if he's too old to overcome hatred towards Americans or not. Will he grow up raised by the Taliban to make explosives, or will this be the event that makes him turn away from them? Will he believe the Taliban if they tell him he will be rewarded in heaven for killing U.S. soldiers and citizens, or decide he wants to find out for himself if a new government will protect him? Will there be anybody around to help him shape his future?

I don't know, but I am going to give Luke and Seth a big hug when I get home.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Crazy Hair Day

This post is a little behind, but hey - that's how I roll these days.

Every year the schools have a red ribbon week where the kids all pledge to be drug free. This year they had a rock concert assembly that the kids all loved. They have assigned days for the kids to dress up; ie, twin day, wear red day, wear your favorite team jersey day. They always have a crazy hair day. So here are my kids on crazy hair day. Maya went for about 6 pony tails along with a bunch of barretts and luke went for a mohawk. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Another project completed...

My biggest project yet: an entertainment center for our lounge. An oversize desk had been serving as the place to put the TV, Xbox, Wii, DVD player, and other random junk that people just throw onto unoccupied counter space. I am guilty at home of filling up table space with junk mail, bills, school reports, and random tools I forgot I even got out.

So now that I know the people who control the wood around here, and have collected a decent stockpile of tools, I'm pretty much spiralling out of control. People are talking about builing a gym enclosure next, and asking me to design it...not sure I'm ready for that yet, but after a couple of days break I probably won't be able to say no.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why is Kitty So Sleepy?

Animals are the Hillary Clinton of military bases. No one feels lukewarm toward them. Some hate the feral cats and dogs that wander the base, and some love them so much they sneak food to them and let sleep in their room. So the recent campaign to euthanize all the animals at FOB Ghazni has polarized the troops.

The issue came to a head last week when all the cats were collected (and no, you can't herd them) and lined up to be put to sleep. Unfortunately, it was on Sgt Fernandez' birthday, and she names and feeds all the cats, and referring to the one named Bella as "my daughter." As in, "I've got to check on my daughter and make her dinner," etc. So after the first cat was euthanized, there was a dramatic and tear-filled campaign to stop the killing. It was like "Occupy Cat Street." The Sergeant Major got involved, overruled the Infection and Vector Control unit, and the cats were freed under the condition they get fixed by the Polish vet. It was the Forward Operating Base equivalent of a Presidental Pardon. Huge deal.

In any case, Bella got fixed and needed her sutures removed a few days later. Sgt Fernandez was very anxious because her daughter would not hold still to let her remove them. I was joking when i said, "well, there is an operating room with an anesthesia machine not being used..." but Sgt Fernandez' face was so hopeful that I couldn't backtrack once it escaped my lips. Not after the birthday she had, which was ruined not only by "Feralgate" but also because we had to cancel the cookout due to rain, had severely injured patients come in, followed by a blow-up between the factions among the nurses.

Since I didn't help in the cat crusade, my gift to Sgt Fernandez was to help her get Bella's stitches out. So we went to the operating room, performed a "Final Time Out" to positively identify the patient (Bella), the surgeon (Sgt Fernandez) and the surgical procedure and site. I couldn't help but grin as I said, "and we're performing a removal of feline sutures...under general anesthesia!"

Then Bella got a mask full of anesthesia gas, made a sound like she was very angry, in heat, or both, and difted off to sleep until the sutures were out. It was my first animal anesthetic.

The Kids