Friday, March 26, 2010

Just Saying Thanks Makes It All Worthwhile

I reflected a little this past week on some of the things I’ve done since joining the Navy 15 years ago. My roots are as an Emergency/Trauma nurse and I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the best doctors, nurses, and corpsmen in the country. As for the patients…that’s a different story. The biggest reason I moved away from nursing in general and the ED specifically, and chose to go to the Naval Postgraduate School for an MBA was because of the patients. They never seemed to be happy with the care we provided them (free care by the way) and complained and criticized much more often than they praised and thanked. So here I am full-circle, back into that ED role, only this time its 8,000 miles from where I started.

We’ve been on FOB Lagman about a month and have yet to take care of a US combat casualty. When we left Fort Jackson CDR Godinez said he would happy if we went the entire deployment and did not see any US forces; we’re off to a good start. The majority of patients we’ve seen have been Afghan National Security Forces (Army and Police) and local nationals. I don’t think I can put into words just how poor the locals are and how little they have. When we get one of them who is a trauma patient I feel guilty cutting their clothes off because it may be the only clothes they own. One of those patients last week suffered an open radial-ulnar fracture (he broke both bones in his forearm and they were sticking out of his skin) playing soccer. Remember, our sole purpose is to provide life and limb saving surgery. So, we did enough with what we had to clean his wound in the OR, but did not have the complex “hardware” he needed to realign his broken bones properly. After his surgery and recovery period I called for the interpreter (Lodin – maybe I’ll tell you about him in another post. He’s a local Afghan and he is a piece of work) because I wanted to make sure the patient was aware of the plan to transfer him to a hospital that was capable of properly realigning the fractures in his arm and make sure all his questions were answered. After Lodin asked the patient if he had any questions, the patient’s response was so long I thought I may be regretting asking. But, after he was through, I could see Lodin’s eyes begin to water and asked what questions the patient had. He told me he didn’t have any questions. He just wanted to thank everyone for the wonderful care he received and he did not think there was any way he could repay us.

I told you the first story so I could tell you this patient’s story and his is no different than any of the other locals for whom we provided care. They have all been so gracious and thankful so it makes it more enjoyable to be able to help them. They really have little else. It also helps me to better understand and accept what we are doing in Afghanistan on a much larger scale. I really believe its stories like this one that help us in our fight against the Taliban. Its a small piece, but an important one nonetheless. It demonstrates to the local Afghan population that we are here to help them and I truly believe most of them feel that way...I have to. I’m not much for politics or public policy and really had no opinion on whether or not we were doing the right thing by being in this country. It didn’t affect me directly, so I never really thought about it. After what I have seen so far, I’m on board.

So, now that I’ve got that out of the way, I got another care package from Judi this week. Here is a picture of one of the two Steelers shirts she sent me.

She always seems to know the perfect way to make me happy. Thanks baby!!!

JF3, sorry about your Panthers.

Take Care,



  1. John, thanks for this one, it brought tears to my eyes thinking about the impact you and many others are making. It takes some special people to get the "big picture" and you are definitely one of them. Thanks for all that you are doing.
    Oh yeah, I love the t-shirt. Wear it proudly!!!

  2. John, I have to say that I have been having one hell of day, but reading this reminds me to be thankful for what I have and not worry about what I don't and that maybe we all need to just deal with life and say thank you every day for the small things. Thank you for all you are sacrificing and doing. We all think of you always and pray for all over there with you. Take care.