Friday, February 29, 2008

One more month down... woohoo! Only 10ish left, but who is counting?

The big news, of course, is the moustache's for March. We have already had more than a few people drop out of the contest due to the fact that they look absolutely horrible. But I am staying strong and going for the 15 March deadline, no matter how bad I look. It is a measure of dedication to a cause to suffer through with it, but I am willing.

As most of you have probably heard, things have continued to quiet down a little throughout the country and thankfully Mahdi Army has extended their cease fire another 6 months. Hopefully this lull in violence will be a lasting thing. It is interesting that with the decrease in violence we are seeing more and more medical problems in the ER - it is almost starting to feel like a small ER back home - aside from walking around with the M-16 thing.

I recently had to fly a patient to the Air Force theater hospital about 20 minutes from Baghdad in Balad. It was quite an experience. I have flown plenty of patients in helicopters before just always in civilian helicopters, and never wearing my full ballistic armor and carrying a weapon. The Blackhawks go a heck of a lot faster and a lot lower to the ground then the helicopter back at UMass. The flight there was focused on the patient, so didn't really get to see the surroundings so well. The trip back took a little longer with a few stops along the way which gave me a perspective of what is actually surrounding the IZ and Baghdad itself. From the sky at night, it really looks like any other small city - lights on everywhere. Major difference is that the roads were not filled with traffic at night - quite literally only convoys of trucks and military vehicles moving around after curfew. Flew over "The Mother of All Mosques" - which was a really impressive site. This is an internet picture that I stole to give you an idea of what it looks like. It is in about the same stage of construction as in the picture because all work stopped during the initial invasion and now most of the construciton supplies have been looted.

Unfortunately it was at night, so no real pictures from the trip back (flashes aren't really appreciated by the pilots in their night vision gear). On the way back, we stopped at a few of the outlying FOBs to pick up patients -- made me really appreciate where I am deployed to, compared to pretty much everywhere else. Being in a real building, with streets, and even trees is world's away from these other outposts. Definately helped put things in perspective for me.

Some of you may know my friend Gary Dufresne - he recently got back from Iraq after 15 months long months over here with 1st Cavalry Division. If you come across him, please buy him a beer and have one for me - you can put it on my tab. PS - Gary you were right, Taji is a dump.

Also just got a tour of the new US embassy over here - of course no pictures were allowed, so picture if you will a small college with sandstone buildings, surrounded by 15 foot walls and patrolled by heavily armed Peruvian contractor guards. That is essentially what it looks like - with an indoor pool, gymnasium, cafeteria, helipad, fire control center - you know, the usual stuff of a college campus. They haven't moved into the compound yet - I am sure it will be quite busy when they do move in.

Other than that, passing time in the usual fashion - running in monthly races - and actually finishing them. Playing games of world domination and of course continued training to maintain our flexibility.

Hope you all are well. Until next time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

VD day

Well Happy Valentine's Day! The pics are... The best part of Valentine's Day - is that February is now halfway over. If you don't count the rest of February, and then subtract out R&R, then can't count the month I come home - well then there are only 9 months left for me here in Iraq. That is countable on two of your own hands. Slowly chipping away...

Not all that much new and exciting here recently. The weather is warming up a bit, actually a pleasant 70 most of the time right now. From what the preventive medicine people tell me, the perfect breeding time for the next season here in Baghdad - the bug season. I can't wait. Maybe I will get some exotic disease from one of the bugs and become famous by having some rash published in some journal somewhere. Dare to dream.

We have been passing time in the usual fashion here - working, gym, sleeping, hippity-hop. Yup, hippity hop races through the ER in the middle of the night helps to pass the time, and our patients quite enjoyed the spectacle we were making of ourselves - one even joined in a race. I was unfortunately defeated in the first heat (cheated out of it more accurate), but I am not bitter as a good time was had by all.

Some of our docs here were only here for 6 months and just rotated home (not me obviously). Sad to see some of them go, not so sad about others. But it is another marker of the progress of time. The good part, though, is that in the transfer, we inherited some bicycles form the outgoing docs. So yes, put on your kevlar helmet and mount your M-16 - we went combat bicycling around the international zone. It was fun and we will definatley do it again. Besides, it does save a lot of time in getting to the PX and back.

We haven't seen anymore straws in bladders - for all of you guessing on how it got there, the soldier said he didn't know - but there is only one way for it to get there... I have gotten to see a few interesting medical things that you don't get to see back home in the past few weeks. Including a little girl who just flew to Boston on the tab of some charity to be treated at Shriner's burn hospital for 50% burns basically from her navel all the way down the rest ofher body. Hopefully she will make a good recovery and have some semblance of a happy life.

As a means of gratitude for some work that we did - one of those Special Forces medics that I talked about on the last email brought us an entire cooler filled with fresh'ish' steaks. We were able to hobble together a grill and 'acquired' some charcoal and had ourselves an old fashioned cookout. It was even complete with beer - well non-alcoholic beer. Something was definately missing without that alcohol part.
Meanwhile back home, the girls seem like they are doing well.

Sara sang me the entire alphabet last night and Naomi is now walking around and popping out some teeth and says 'Hi Daddy' on the phone (or hi doggy, can't really tell). Amy is hanging in there.

Last, but definately not least is the news of Moustache March. All the guys (and capable women) in the ER have decided that we will have a hairy upper lip for the month of March. That way we can all look like hillbilly pedophiles together. At least no one can grow a mullet... Stay tuned for the updates as they develop.