Monday, January 28, 2008

Well, it is finally almost over. The month of January that is. It is bordering on the longest month in my life. It will be a great day on the first of February, for quite a few reasons, not the least of which will be the end of the mud rain. That is one of the more endearing qualities of this place, it quite literally rains mud. The water just mixes with the dirt in the air, on the buildings, and everywhere else. Just adds to the ambience. It also means that I am less than one year form coming home. We can actually count the days on a single calendar now.

Not all that much has been happening here. Things have continued to be a much more 'reasonable' pace in the CSH. As I am sure most of you have heard, most of the fighting has shifted to the northern reaches of the country. The other 'piece' of our hospital, which is up in Mosul, has been getting busier from their usual slow pace. As it stands now, I am scheduled to head up and relieve the sole ER doctor up there in a few months so he can go home on R&R.

On the fun side, we did get some 'range time'. We spend some time in the ER training Special Forces medics and keeping them fresh on Emergency Medicine kinds of stuff. (Don't read this part Mom and Dad) In return, they 'teach' us some things and give us, well unique experiences (you can contact me seperately if you want details). It was a lot of fun and a nice diversion from the usual daily grind. Other than that, the best entertainment is the daily 'chicken dance' by the ER nurses.

Things on the home front have been a bit more exciting. Naomi had her first birthday, followed shortly by her first teeth. The girls have been giving Amy a run for her money as you might expect. Though they've been having some fun - going to the PA State Farm Show, and of course getting tooled around in the new Cohen minivan.

I guess in the side of interesting cases - we did have one soldier who had some abdominal pain - and after finding a strange looking object in his bladder on CT scan - went to surgery and found that he had a full size McDonalds straw inside his bladder. The kid denied knowing how it got there - you can leave that part to your imagination. He did say that there were a couple of nights of heavy drinking that he didn't remember what happened. A great lesson to teach our kids about not drinking too much...

Other than that, not much new and exciting on this end. Other than the great letters and care packages. All of us in the ER appreciate the extra pounds we are putting on thanks to everyone back home. They are awesome and very appreciated.
I miss all of you guys and hope you are doing well. 11 months to go...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Is it still only January?

Happy January 16th!

Wow, time does seem to go slowly over here. It is hard to believe it is still January - except for the fact that it is colder here than it is back home - oh yeah and the snow. First time it snowed in Baghdad in 70 years. It didn't accumulate at all - but still, the white stuff came down on us. And as far as I know, nobody ate any yellow snow. Although, some people were caught running around like little kids - catching snow in their mouths. Although we did have one guy slip and fall on some blue "porta-pottie" ice.

I know Amy is happy to hear that I have almost run out of places to visit in the International Zone. No it does not mean that I will be visiting places in the 'Red Zone'. Just that I will likely not be doing much exploring around here - just 2 or three places I haven't been. Then I will have nothing to do but watch movies and read in my spare time. I guess that is not such a bad thing. Just boring. Although we do have some range time coming up - always good for a little fun.

To help pass the time, we have the occasional 'VIP' come by and visit for some reason or another. They tend to want to visit the ER and see how things happen there. Depending on how you view things - sometimes a positive/sometimes a negative. Entertaining when we get a sick patient in while a 3 star general and his entourage are clogging the entrance in the ER and a lowly Captain can yell at them to leave - I was pretty surprised when it worked, too.

The overall flow of casualties has continued to drop off from what we had when we first got here (with occasional spikes)- thankfully. Although we still have job security. A lot of people back home have been asking if we had received casualties from a few days ago when we lost 9 soldiers, but unfortunately we did not as most did not survive the initial blast. It was a blow for us to get the news of their loss, as even more a tragedy for their friends and family here and back home. Another horrible reminder of what we are here to do and the horrible price people are paying for us to be here.

If you area religious person - I can only ask that you pray for those they left behind, and offer thanks for what you have.

Sorry for such a downcast email, just one of those days.
Most of you know I am not really a sentimental type person, but one of patients gave me a copy of this poem and I thought I should send it out - a little out of season - but not to bad...

A Different Christmas Poem
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
Take care.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Happy New Year!

I know, I am a little behind and all. No excuses except not a whole lot to email about. Things have continued to slow down here clinically (about 30% less than what they saw last year at this time). Which is great, although there was a pretty bad attack yesterday where we lost another two young soldiers. It is interesting that now that clinically we have slowed down, the non-clinical (admin) people have been looking for things to do - making new policies, changing things around, just to keep busy and usually to the detriment of patient care. Fascinating that it happens even in Iraq in a combat zone.

Had our own little new years celebration at midnight on new years, complete with noise makers and non-alcoholic beer. Including 'beer' chugging contests and the like. I guess you make due with what you have. The celebrations in the DFAC where the same as for Christmas, so nothing new there to report.

Iraqis have a strange way of celebrating - they fire their weapons straight up in the air in celebratory fire. I guess they are so happy, that they forget that th rounds still have to come down at some point. For about 15 minutes following midnight, we heard quite a few weapons being fired. Followed by the sound of raining metal on the pavement outside and on the roof. We had been warned to expect it, so the hospital was actually on "lockdown" during the period to prevent anyone from going outside without their full IBA (Individual Body Armor). Unfortunately some of the locals didn't figure this out right away and well... back to work.

The pics above are pretty typical of our traumas, kind of like organized chaos. Actually runs pretty smoothly now - everyone knows their job and what needs to be done and just makes it happen. For the medical types, I can share pics of some of the injury at personal request. Not the kind of traumas we tend to see in the states.

For most of December, we had an AP photographer/reporter 'embedded' with us. It was an interesting experience - for one, because we could get as much information from her as she took from us. So learned a little about what life was like outside our little FOB, what the soldiers are actually going through and how the locals seemed to be reacting. It was also nice to be able to interact with a civilian in a normal manner, not have to worry about rank, and what position they are and all that. Anyway - her name is Maya Alleruzzo - and she has a fair number of pictures published (best way to find them is to look in Yahoo news images, and search for her by name - there are about 30 of her pics from the CSH published in various sources that pop up). Unfortunately/fortunately, I am too ugly for the camera and did not make it into any published ones, but many of our nurses, medics, and the two other ER docs did (Todd Baker and Marti Roellig). She gave us copies of all her pics that she took when she left and made a small collage that is below - I can send people the PDF if you can't see the collage.

The big excitement back home is that the Cohens are now a minivan family - much to my dismay - when I return I will be driving a blue minivan. Laugh all you want, but well, I would laugh at me too. But I guess it is practical and makes things easier for Amy. So we will blame it on her.

Anyway, just thought I would put the new years pics up - let me know if you can't get to them. I hope you are all well and having a great new year.
Miss you all - well, except you Yiram. Happy New Year.