Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Enemy I Failed to Save

The dust still hadn't settled, but we pushed through the objective.  Almost immediately the bodies were reality evident.  Some were clearly dead.  A man just to my left had a whole side of his intestines open to the air.  The grey sausage like links open to the air.  To my left a man was face down in trash, his red shirt the only thing that really broke him out as anything more than the trash that tended to pile up in the central squares in these towns.  To my right three men were dead.  Torn apart.  One has a hole in his head that looks like someone just scooped his brains out, next to him there is a man whose shoulder is almost ripped out.  His arm sticking up at an angle he shouldn't be able to manage normally.  the third man has his ass sticking in the air.  I don't even bother to turn him over.  I can see his face is almost completely gone.  there is a fourth man.  He is not moving, and there is asphalt all over his face.  He looks looks to be dead though he doesn't have anything horrendously wrong with him. 

There is a corner gate with two men inside.  One is wounded, and one is dead, his white man-dress stained with red, though there are only small wounds in evidence.  For a moment I imagine some stray bit of detritus that had entered his body and bounced around destroying his organs, before he even realizes he's a dead man.  But no.  He probably knew he was dying, though he did not have to stay long.  It was almost merciful.  The man who was wounded was trying to make the sign of friend, rubbing his two fingers together, and pointing to me, then pointing to himself, before rubbing his two index fingers together in parallel. 

I look to my CO.  He might be an innocent.  He might have a grenade on him.  I shrug.  Do you want me to save him?  He nods.  There might be a few words said, but I go to work anyway.  I know I'll need my aid bag, but for right now I start pulling from the pouches on my vest.  I put a tourniquet on him, then realize he needs two more.  Both legs and one arm.  I also look at his abdomen, which had several holes in it.  I feel behind him but there are no exit wounds.

I treated him and he kept trying to sit up, I kept having to push him down.  He would look at me still trying to make the sign for friend.  I told him to sit down and shut up so I could save his life.  I really did want him to live, despite the fact that just a few minuets earlier, the assholes outside the gate were shooting at me.  It was at this point that someone said "hey you know the guy laying outside?"

"The dead one?" I said not bothering to look over as I rolled Kirlex around this guy's abdomen. 

"Yeah.  He's not so dead."

"Hang on."

I finish wrapping up the abdominal wound, then get up.  I take off my gloves which are covered in blood and toss them into the square.  One more bit of detritus in this place wouldn't be noticed at all.  As I pull out a fresh pair of gloves an NCO stands near me. 

"Hey Sergeant, I'm putting my weapon down, if he moves, pop him quick."

"we're in the open here." he tells me.

"I can't move him."

One look into his eyes shows me that this man isn't going to live.  His pupils are wide open.  I feel at his neck, his heart is racing, and his respirations are these rapid deep snores, though quiet, it's not a good sign.  The NCO walks off as I start to cut his clothes away to find any wounds I might be able to patch.  To my surprise there aren't really any wounds.  I do a quick blood sweep, looking for where the blood loss is coming from.  I can't find it.  Which means that he's in shock from internal bleeding. 

"You're going to die my friend" I tell him.  Its a statement of fact but I try to tell him as gently as possible.  He snores in response. 

"I'm sorry."  Its funny.  This man was with the group that less than half an hour before was trying to kill me, but here I am trying to comfort a dying man that can't even hear me.

I patch a small wound on his abdomen, and call for a stretcher.  As I check his pulse his pulse has dropped drastically, but I can see his jugular starting to stand out.  I don't have my BP cuff with me.  I can't tell his blood pressure.  I don't even have my stethoscope on me.  I put my ear to his chest as much as i can with my helmet.  I listen to a breath with my ear.  His lings sound like they're both working just fine.  No he doesn't need a chest tube, at least not for a pnumothorax.

That means he is probably getting an increase of inter-cranial pressure.  He was going to die soon if he didn't get to a hospital.

"I can't help you man."  He grunts.

He takes a few deep breaths.  Maybe he knows.  Maybe his mind is already gone.

I call for a stretcher.  I get help from the RTO to get him on the black canvas stretcher.  We lead him on an LMTV.  I went back inside the courtyard to load the guy sitting there in a soccer jersey.  He's still trying to make the sign of friend.  Still trying to sit up.

"Yeah.  I know.  We're all friends here."  I put the stretcher next to him.  I have to stand over his dead friend to load him up.  As I lift him up, and we take him out to the waiting LMTV I muttered to myself  "all evidence to the contrary." 

I take one look at the man that I had tried to help outside.  I feel at his neck.  His pulse is gone. 

"Goodbye."  I said to him.  "See you around." 

I never learned his name.  I don't think even now I could learn what his name was.  The war doesn't end with this death, nor with the deaths of my fellow soldiers.  You have to take it as it comes.

As I turned my back on the scene of enemies that had been torn apart, I tried to remind myself that I can't save them all.  Still, even though he was an enemy, I count that as another loss.  Medics hate to lose. 

Its funny though, looking back, I kept losing, but I never gave up.


Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for trying to save him.
Others might not have tried !
Please keep up all your good medical work and the blog.
Hope and pray it all ends soon.

(Hello from New Zealand)