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02-28-07, 05:13 PM #1
TQ Surgical responds, treats truck bomb casualties
Physicians and hospital corpsmen hustled through the hallways at the Camp Al Taqaddum surgical facility Feb. 24, some with bootlaces still untied after responding, at a moment’s notice, to an incident call. They maneuvered through the hundreds of servicemembers from around the camp who were now filling the halls, waiting to donate blood or assist hospital staff in any way.
The afternoon had progressed with relative ease until shortly after 4 p.m. That’s when the unit received a call on their radio, informing them of a blast that occurred in northern Habbiniyah. The call’s estimate warned them to prepare for mass casualties, the numbers uncertain but surely high.
“It got kind of hectic about 10 minutes after the call when the first ambulance came in,” said Cpl. Robert S. Talbot, a squad leader for the detachment’s security platoon, 2nd Maintenance Battalian, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “I started helping unload the patients.”
The blast did not discriminate, killing and maiming men, women and children. It came from a suicide truck bomb loaded with rocks and ball bearings near an Iraqi police station, a school and a mosque where Iraqi civilians were exiting after evening prayer. Reports indicate that the blast killed 31 Iraqis and wounded another 75.
“They decided to take a few Marines out to Habbaniyah. They were going through the rubble of the mosque to recover victims,” explained Talbot, a Chicago native.
A corpsman with Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq who participated in the search described the scene.
“It was chaos,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Franklin J. Weaver, an Alamogordo, Texas, native. “They were running around screaming and crying, covered in blood. The explosion pretty much annihilated the entire block.”
Weaver and the other servicemembers transported Iraqis from the site to the surgical facility. Many were then transported to higher levels of care. Most injuries consisted of broken bones and wounds from shrapnel and fragments.
Patient after patient, hour after hour, the doctors and corpsmen treated the wounded with the help of servicemembers from different job fields and services who flocked to the facility to assist. Twenty-three troops donated their blood to help the victims.
A 46-year-old Iraqi man on a stretcher was bleeding internally, sustaining injuries to his abdominal area and right arm. Marines and sailors carried him through the triage area in the lobby, past an Iraqi man and his wife cradling their crying infant and into Operation Room 3, the doors closing behind him.
On the other end of the building, corpsmen and doctors continued to provide treatment, but experienced an overload of patients requiring transportation to a higher level of care.
“Are we going to get these patients out of here soon?” a corpsman asked a doctor. The doctor was unsure.
In OR3, the 46-year-old man had been anesthetized and prepared for surgery, with a catheter and breathing tube inserted.
“You can get started when you’re ready,” a corpsman called to the surgeon from the sink.
Cmdr. Theodore D. Edson, a general surgeon and the chief of surgical services with CLR-15, 2nd MLG (Fwd), made an incision down the length of the man’s stomach. Edson and Lt. Cmdr. James Christopher, another general surgeon in Edson’s unit, began to search for any internal bleeding in the man’s small intestine.
A sailor with a clip board poked his head through the door. “What’s the patient number?” he asked.
“2191,” said Seaman Andrew T. Hunter, an OR technician with the unit.
The corpsman wrote it down and walked down the hall, where a senior chief petty officer rushed into the room to pass some crucial news.
“We got a bird,” he announced, referring to the CH-46E helicopter that would be transporting patients from Taqaddum.
Marines and sailors in the building responded to the announcement.
“One, two, three,” a group of Marines said as they lifted a stretcher carrying an 8-year-old Iraqi boy. They made their way out the door and others followed, forming a long line of stretchers headed to the aircraft.
By this time, patient 2191 was more than an hour into surgery. Doctors Edson and Christopher were working to stop the bleeding they found in his small intestine. The doctors also came across a badly damaged segment of intestine which they removed and stitched back together.
Hunter wiped the sweat off Christopher’s forehead with a towel as the surgeon continued to operate. “Thank you,” Christopher said.
The man’s heart rate was now stable, near 75 beats per mintute. Prior to surgery, it had topped 120. He was one of the many patients who would require transportation to Baghdad or Balad for additional treatment.
Outside OR3, servicemembers continued to assist the hospital staff, joining the doctors in their hustle through the halls, retrieving gear and information. A Navy lieutenant junior grade and Marine master sergeant sat on the floor and played tic-tac-toe with an 11-year-old Iraqi boy. Another Marine was told to stay with a group of children for the rest of the night.
“I had to keep one of them awake because he had a head injury and if he went to sleep he might not wake back up,” said Cpl. Julia K. Venegas, an intelligence analyst with 2nd MLG (Fwd).
A hospital bed was now being pushed on wheels through the halls toward OR3. After a little more than two hours of surgery, patient 2191’s bleeding had been stopped. His abdomen was stitched shut and his body checked once more to ensure no injuries had been overlooked.
The man was regaining consciousness now and moaned after the doctors removed his breathing tube.
“He has a lot of pain,” Edson said. The doctors put a cast on his possibly broken wrist. He was hardly conscious.
The doctors and corpsmen gathered around the patient’s bedside and grabbed onto the sides of his blanket. “One, two, three,” they counted before lifting him to the bed. The man moaned as they set him down and moaned again when they adjusted his position.
He was taken to the Post Anesthetic Care Unit, where he awaited transfer to a hospital in Baghdad.
This man was one of 10 to receive surgery and one of 50 to receive treatment that night at Taqaddum’s surgical detachment. Six were fully treated and released the same night.
“There’s no doubt we made a difference,” said Weaver. “A lot of lives were saved.”
Due to the efforts of medical personnel, only one of the attack’s victims died at Taqaddum surgical facility. This was not the kind of night the staff asked for, but it was certainly one they were trained for and one few are likely to forget.
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