HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » Editorials & Other Articles (Forum) » Twenty Citizens’ Worth Of...

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 10:36 PM

Twenty Citizens’ Worth Of Blood Flowed Through Him: A Medic Confronts The Open Wounds Of Afghanistan

This was originally written for Deadspin's Blood Week, but shit happens and we're running it now.

A 20-pound jug of homemade explosives will take off one or both legs somewhere between the knee and hip, perhaps breaking the pelvis and shattering vertebrae as the shockwave travels up through the skeleton. After our first Marine was wounded this way—let's call him Patient Zero—he was stabilized by his squad's hospital corpsman and flown to the trauma center, a British base that abuts Camp Leatherneck, the hub for Marine operations in southwest Afghanistan.

At the time I was running a forward combat aid station as a general medical officer to a Marine Corps infantry battalion. Standard protocol is to gather the casualty's disembodied limbs and tissue as best you can and place the material aboard the medevac helicopter with him so it can be destroyed in a dignified manner. But explosions have a way of defying protocol, as I learned later that day when Zero's cardboard box arrived at my aid station.

The plan was to send the box to the crematorium at Camp Bastion, but I first had to know if the contents had been violated in transit. I opened it. Inside was Zero's disembodied lower leg retrieved—after he had been choppered away—from the roof of a house near the blast. There was a boot like mine and a sock like mine and an ankle like mine. That all made sense. But what followed from there was all wrong. Rising from the ankle was a disastrous stump: The fibula was a muddy jagged tusk; the tibia was a series of chunks, none larger than a domino; both were swaddled in shredded layers of gastrocnemius, tibialis anterior, and a swishing flap of cold, flaccid fat and skin. Other little pieces were there as well, none larger than a quarter. I noted the contents, sealed and signed the parcel, and assigned a senior corpsman as its courier to the ovens at Bastion.


Young Americans are still losing legs, hands, eyes, testicles; still burning, bleeding, or exploding to death nearly every day in Afghanistan. My brother once hypothesized that the American public would not realize the scope of the war until a confusing number of young amputees started walking American streets. I think he was right. When you inevitably meet one of the million troops who have served abroad in the last 10 years, perhaps even one of my patients, he or she will walk with some measure of tragedy that does not happen on accident. Someone was out for blood. Someone wanted this.


and the US just keeps creating more "someones out for blood." 100 years from now the US war on terrorists will still be going on...it's designed to never end.

0 replies, 693 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Reply to this thread