Sunday, December 30, 2007

So my friend Ben (Hagan - Thank you very much) has set up this blog for me. I didn't realize the images I was sending were clogging up people's emails and really slow. So he came up with the idea of blogging - which, I admit, is a new one for me. I thought I would give it a try in celebration of the new year. If anyone is not able to view the blog, let me know, and I will email the pics to you. In the meantime - give this link a try.
It is a work in progress.
So to catch you all up, Christmas came and went without much of a hitch. Only one left to go... woohoo. Things have been relatively quieter over the past week. The hospital is still plenty busy with run-of-the-mill ER stuff - delivered my 5th baby this afternoon. Not really what you would expect from a COMBAT Support Hospital, but we have to take care of the people who show up at our door. The mood on Christmas was bittersweet as I am sure people wished they were home with family, but there were still some festivities to be had with the commadn group wandering around the hospital charolling and all. That's what happens when people have free time, they put on funny costumes and sing apparently. I would prefer to sleep.
The dining facility (or DFAC) was decorated in the same bizarre style as Thanksgiving - attached some pics of some of the decorations - Abe Lincoln appeared again, but no George Washington this time, maybe next year.

Got to do a little more exploring of the IZ, unfortunatly, I think I have exhausted all the places I haven't been yet and we still have over a year to go. Oh well, that's what movies are for I guess. There are several communications towers in the IZ with commanding views - made friends with the key holder for one of them, and my friend Dena (Family Practice doc) and I got to explore to the top. Well worth the 250 steps up.
Other than that, not much new and exciting to report here. Stil mostly enjoying the people I work with - really am lucky to have such a good team of people here in the ER. The surgeons get on our nerves - but hell - they are surgeons and get on everyones nerves. Besides, they rotate out in a little over a month - they only have to be here for 6 months at at time and they showed up 3 months before us.
So here are the pics for this latest instalment...

Convinced a couple of my goyim (if you don't know what this means - contact me privately) friends to come with me down to Saddam's palace for the last night of Hannukah. It was an experience having one of the 7 Jewish Chaplains in the Army lead us in Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel under a giant "Merry Christmas" which itself s surrounded by the words "Saddam Hussein" imprinted into every 50th brick.

Courtesy of my mother-in-law, the inflatable palm trees to decorate our relaxation spot on top of the hospital - also some pink flamingos. We got a little tired of trying to blow them up by hand, and decided to utilize some of the local... supplies... oxygen cylinders blow up palm trees nicely. A little bit of a fire hazard, but what is life without risks...

Ahhh... yes, the DFAC is decorated to clebrate the... uhmmm... The Bangladeshi interpretation of an American interpretation of Christmas. I am not sure what or who she is, but who am I to ask.


This picture is from that tower - looking out into downtown Baghdad. Immediately next to us is what happens when a few 500 pound bombs meet one of Saddam's palaces. Essentially the entire inside of the building has caved in with actually relatively little damage to the outside. In the distance is the river that is the natural boundary between the IZ and the "red zone", or the rest of Baghdad.

Finally - we get all sorts of cards from schoolchildren all over the country, which is really cute and entertaining as you might imagine. Usually letters of support or encouragement, but this one caught the eye of our staff and now holds a place of honor on our medication lockbox, for all to see...

Hope you are all well. Have a great New Year and thank you for everything.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Happy belated Hannukah!
I guess two weeks have gone by since the last update - time for the next. Thank you again for your emails... truly appreciated.
Things here are pretty much status quo. I have to admit I am pretty happy over a month has gone by. I try not to think how many are left, though. Only one more Thanksgiving and one more Hannukah away, though.
A few other docs and I have started to explore the International Zone a little more. We went to a hotel within the International Zone and had some local food - very good. Fresh hummus, lamb and chicken kabobs - we have been getting pretty sick of the dining facility food and were willing to risk the dysentery to try something different. Besides, one of the docs I went with is an Infectious Disease specialist and if he felt comfortable eating there, I guess I should also. We also went to some of the other local FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). They are based in various bombed out palaces and each have a unique flavor to them. One place has giant man-mad ponds that people (now US soldiers) fish in. Not that I would be willing to eat the catch of the day, though.
Got a tour from two people - first guy was head of all the guards for the International Zone(IZ), second guy was the head PA for the State Department here. Went to the top of the al Rashid hotel - the only hotel in the IZ. Actually out on the roof to get a view of all of Baghdad. Then down to the 'Crossed Sabers' parade ground where the speed bumps are actually dead Iranian soldier's helmets (some with bullet holes in the helmet's). Saddam was really lunatic. Took pictures imitating him firing his rifle in the review stand. The Iraqi government is planning on taking down the Crossed Sabers as soon as they can - as they are really a monument to Saddam's idiocy.
Hannukah here in Baghdad has been an experience as well. Forgot to pack my menorah - so one of the nurses made one out of syringes and needles (see the pics). It has beena point of conversation for many people who happen by the ER, especially when the candles are burning. The last night of Hannukah was spent down in the Embassy with a 6 foot electric menorah they had erected. There were supposed to be latkes also (traditional Hannukah potato pancakes), but the burner was 110 volts, and the only available outlets were 240. Oh well, maybe next year.
My frieds back at the clinic at Fort Monmouth also sent me my first Christmas tree ever (thanks Jose). It is actually a live tree and is one of the biggest hits this hospital has seen. You wouldn't believe the number of people who stop by just to smell a piece of home. They also sent decorations and ornaments that were put up on the tree and all over the ER.
So Baghdad is still Baghdad and Iraq is still Iraq. There has been an increase in our work recently due to a bunch of different things. The end of some of the local cease fires/pacts, and a general feeling of wanting to disrupt the holiday season and the return from the Haj which is taking place. A few days ago, a local oil refinery was hit with mortars - even though it was almost 10 miles away - the entire hospital shook and some glass actually broke. It woke me up 10 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off - and I really like my sleep.
Well back home Amy has had her hands full. Naomi just got over a week of gastroenteritis just in time for Sara to get Croup. I think both girls enjoyed Hannukah though and still have no idea what to do with all the presents they got - and they stil have Christmas ones coming.
I hope this email finds you all well and you are enjoying your holidays.
I have attached the usual pics - my friend Ben is trying to set up a blog for them so that you all don't have to download all the pics if you don't want on a slow connection. More to come.
Happy Hannukah and Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hey all, I guess it is time for another update for you all. Thanks again for all the emails, it is great to hear from home. Things here are pretty much the same. Still in Baghdad, still seeing some really sick and crazy patients. We have definately fallen into some type of routine here, for better or worse. The temperature, however, is changing. It is actually pretty chilly here now. Not as bad as back home, but enough to wear a jacket during the day, and to almost need long-johns at night if you are outside. Granted it only goes down to 40's at night, but it seems chilly when you start to get used to 100 degrees just a few weeks ago. The big excitement here was Thanksgiving. Not quite like Amy's cooking at home. Although we did have the usual Turkey fare including mashed potatos and stuffing. Our dining hall was weirdly, but nicely decorated with giant styrofoam creations of Bangladeshi interpretations of what American Thanksgiving is supposed to look like. An 8 foot styrofoam cut-out of George Washington, a 3 foot version of Abraham Lincoln shaking hands with people in Native American dress, a little weird, like I said. But I guess the thought was there. The food was probably made in the US last Thanksgiving, flash frozen and saved for the special day here this year. All of the docs in the hospital got together and brought the food in from the dining facility and had a nice little sit-down "dinner" out of styrofoam containers - complete with bottles of sparkling grape juice. At least it was a change from the routine. After the lunch we went out for a game of whiffle ball in the motor pool. Fun, until the local Iraqi's tried to get into the celebratory mood as well. They tried to have fireworks in celebration of Thanksgiving, but by mistake loaded mortars into their tubes and attacked the hospital instead of lighting up the sky. Luckily no serious injuries, but one of our orthopedic surgeons did take some shrapnel and a handful of other people had minor injuries. Just another reminder that we are definately not home, and that people around here really still want to do us harm. I am still getting to talk to Amy and the girls on an almost daily basis, although we haven't been able to get the webcam working. Amy has been sending me DVD's of home videos though to keep me happy. I know she appreciates all the support you all have bneen giving her, and I really appreciate it, too. Well, I hope you all are doing well and had a great Thanksgiving. Please continue to keep in touch. Jason

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hey all-
Time for the next update of my vacation in the middle east. Sorry ithas been a while, but thank you all for the emails. So we are prettymuch settled in to Ibn Sina Hospital. The 28th CSH (who we replaced)left at the beginning of this week and should be arriving in thestates within the next few days. It is a little scary to see howtired and burnt out they were prior to leaving, as I am sure it willbe a reflection of how we all will feel at the end of our 15 months.
Life in the International Zone (the Green Zone) is becoming more orless routine. While working we are kept pretty busy and luckily thetime passes by because of that. The off time is almost more painfulas there is a pretty limited amount of things to do, there are only somany times you can go the palace or buy bootlegged DVD's. Aside fromthe tanks and armor outside the hospital and the corrals of T-walls(the 10 foot high cement barriers that line the streets) - you canalmost be in any run down urban environment. Occasionally get blastsfrom IED's that shake the hospital - even though they are a mile ortwo away, but nothing within the confines of the International Zonefor several months other than the occasional random mortar round.When you stand on the roof of the hospital at night - it is veryweird, though, to watch out into the "red zone" of the rest of baghdadand see tracer fire and the occasional explosions. And of course thecontinual train of casualties reminds you that we are definately in awar zone.
Luckily, we are with a reaaly good group of docs and nurses and thereis a great sense of comraderie and support for each other. It is avery collegial atmosphere - excpet for the weekly Morbidity andMortality reports - but it is what you would expect from a bunch ofsurgeons.
I hope you are all doing well. And thank you again for the supportand emails to myself and to Amy. I know we both appreciate it.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Good morning- Just a quick update... Arrived in Baghdad a few days ago via just about every type of vehicle imagined... air plane, helicopter, armored bus... very entertaining. Got to land by helicopter on the parade ground by the "Crossed Sabers" and then bussed to the hospital from there. The hospital itself is pretty run down and dirty, but it is still a hospital. Luckily, things have quieted down here over the last month or so, and the people we are replacing are pretty burnt out and ready to go home. I can't really blame them and assume I will be feeling the same way in 15 months. Had dinner last night in Saddam's palace... what a whack job. Gold inlaid ceilings and doors, giant murals of himself, then the obligatory murals of him blowing up Israel andthe US. I am sure he is rolling in his grave knowing that a Jewish American soldier just went to the bathroom in his toilet. We have been spending most of the time since arriving, just learning our way around and how the hospital works. Will be working my first shift in the ER tonight on the overnight - should be a blast. I hope you are all well, and I will send out some pictures of the place in a few days.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hey all- Just thought I would do the bulk email thing another time - so... sorry. I hope you are all doing well in your respective geographic areas. For those of you don't know, I finally left for Iraq via Fort Campbell Kentucky and then Kuwait at the end of September. Leaving behind Riley, Sara, and Naomi for one overworked Amy to care for for the next year and a half or so by herself (she is so excited). Heading to Baghdad in a few days to work with the 86th Combat Support Hospital at a place called Ibn Sina Hospital in the Green Zone. If you are curious, they were the hospital that HBO did a documentary mini-series on a few years ago "Baghdad ER". Should be an interesting experience. Will mostly be taking care of US and coalition soldiers in the 2nd busiest trauma center in the world. Our patients also include Iraqi's (friends and foes) and some local nationals that the local hospitals cannot care for ( i.e. sick kids, things like that). Right now we are sitting in Kuwait, acclimating to the desert - and if you are wondering - it is a hot dry place with nothing here except sand, rocks and an occasional camel with a bedouin staring at us. There is literaly nothing to do, so luckily the USO is here and gives us some limited access to the internet and phones to call home on occaision. Tons of food (wednesday's are surf and turf with steak and alaskan king crab legs or lobster) and a really nice gym and rock wall. Go figure. It has been a bizarre experience thus far - literally everthing is trucked in on a daily basis - water, porta potties, fuel, food, KFC and Taco Bell, Panda Express, Charley's Steak and Potato Restaurant (really). And because of the contracting done, the servers at the dining hall and the workers almost everywhere are from all over the world so I was talking to an old man from Bangladesh as he was cleaning our showers and then discussed, what a veggie burger is with a 25 year old Fillipino. Very weird. We have no interaction with Kuwaitis, and in fact during the trip from the airport here, had to close the curtains on all the buses, so they would not notice us. Anyway, due to limited internet time, I will most likely continue on with mass emailing while I am here - please don't take it personally. I hope you are all doing well. My one political comment - Whether you support the war or not (I don't), we still need to support and take care of the kids that are over here risking there lives for us on a daily basis. Sorry, I had to say it. I attached only one picture of us ducking in a bunker during a report of a "suspicious package". As you can see we were all very worried... Take care of yourselves - if you are interested in the address to send a letter or anything - contact Amy. She will have it in about a week or so.