26 July 2007

Doc_K

Modern Day Cyclops
Verified Military
Joined
Jun 5, 2008
Messages
51
Location
Ft. Sam Houston
It was my first mission after returning from mid-tour leave. We were to head to Rustamiyah to link up with a supply convoy full of water, MRE's, and a couple of generators for our patrol base and then escort the convoy to and from our patrol base. Easy enough.

I remember zoning out as I looked out of the window of our gun truck as we waited for the convoy to make its final preparations before we rolled out of the gate.

I can't quite explain what I felt. The easiest way to explain it would be to say that I had an unsettling feeling in my gut. It was the sort of feeling I'd gotten as a kid when my mother would say, "Just wait until your dad gets home!" The feeling brought about my a certain, assured conviction of impending doom. Something bad was going to happen that day.

But what could I do about it? I could only do what I'd been doing already: my job. I steeled my resolve, knowing that the best and only course of action I could take against the unknown is being prepared to face and do whatever it is I had to in order to get my guys back home.

About ten minutes after we rolled through the gate, some insurgent would ruin my day.

It wasn't like any other time we'd been hit. There was no earth-shattering explosive sound that roared like some defiant monster. No, this sounded like somebody had simply set off a large firecracker inside of our truck. Just a really loud *POP.*

My head rocked. Smoke and dirt filled inside of our vehicle to the point to where our views of each other were obscured.

For the shortest moment in the tiniest fraction of a split second, I had no idea what had happened. It was such an odd feeling that I have trouble explaining it. The confusion and misunderstanding didn't even last a couple of seconds. It was just in the immediate time following the blast that my mind simply had no idea what had happened. Almost immediately, though, that confusion passed as I realized we'd been hit.

My left eye simply felt as if it had shut against my will, as if it had just ceased worked altogether. I yelled to Sully, our TC, that I'd been hit.

"I've been hit! I can't see out of my left eye!"
"Hang on, Doc! Gardea(our driver), push through! Get us to that IA checkpoint!"
"I'm hit!"

Not too far ahead of us on the MSR was an Iraqi Army checkpoint. Gardea floored it, and we closed the distance quickly.

I looked down.

Blood. So much of it. It was flowing freely down my face and onto my armor, my rig, and down to the floor. Little specks of pink, twisted matter decorated the crimson flow. I recognized them as tiny bits of flesh. I needed to get an idea of just how bad it was. The best I could do was probe my face with my hand.

I reached up. Dreading what my fingers would report back to me, I gently touched the left side of my face. Warm, sticky blood coated my fingers. I could feel where the flesh had been brutally torn and burned.

We had reached the checkpoint. Before Gardea could even put on the parking brake, Sully was out of his seat and rounding the truck to get to my door. He eased me onto the ground behind the truck, taking advantage of what cover the truck could offer. I remember looking up at him, his head and upper body outlined by the sun.

Somebody asked me where my aid bag was. I remember being distinctly angry that the person was asking me such a stupid question. I always kept the bag in the back of the Humvee, either across the seat from mine if it was empty or stuffed between the two back seats. I mean, come on. The bag was huge and due tot he fact it was in ACU print, it didn't exactly blend in with anything. Surely, the guy could find it on his own.

In any case, I spit out a mouthful of blood and gave him directions to the back of the truck.

"Sully, how's my left eye? Is it gone?" Honestly, I don't remember what he answered with. I only remember his facial expression. It was that expression people get when you ask them a question, and the answer is something they just don't want to tell you. That confirmed it.
"Fuck."

I've never been one to use profane language. Sully would later tell me it was the first time he ever heard me cuss. When I'd see all the guys again, a lot of them would make the point of saying something along the lines of, "Sully told us you cussed, man! It must have been bad!"

As Sully began wrapping my face with Kerlix, I heard the heavy beat of at least a couple of 240B's rocking. Were we taking fire? I began hearing the popping report of a few M4s, too. I began worrying that we'd taken more casualties. What if we had taken more and Sully had simply told me not to worry about it because of the mess I was in? What if somebody died because I couldn't do my job? That fear began to consume me.

In short order, we were back in the truck. Sully was driving. Why was Sully driving? What happened to Gardea The gunner was firing his M4, which I found odd. Why wouldn't he be using the 240B?

Later, I'd find out the 240 had been destroyed in the blast. And, in the confusion of the moment, Gardea had some how ended up in another gun truck.

Luckily, FOB Loyalty was literally just up the road. A307, our faithful gun truck that had already been through so much(including taking a Bongo truck head-on at about 30 mph or so--that was fun, but another story for another day :) ), roared down the MSR. I spat out mouthful after mouthful of blood. I don't remember much of what I said, but people would later tell me that I kept asking how everybody else was doing.

We arrived at Loyalty. Sully began yelling, as did the gunner. What was going on?

The gate. They wouldn't open the gate. I joined in the angry chorus of demanding entry.

Great, I thought. Is this how I'm going to die? Right outside of a FOB because some club-footed, slow witted moron hadn't opened the gate in time?

..Death. Really?...Aw, man. not here. I didn't want to die

I wish I could say that I was some brave hero who looked head-on into death like some fearless warrior and made peace with it. Sadly, I'm not. And I didn't. I remember asking God to spare my life. I told Him I didn't want to die, and I asked him to let me live. Actually, I didn't ask. It was more of a begging action.

In any case, we got into Loyalty. I don't remember exactly what happened, but Sully tells me ended up ramming the gate.

I found myself being carried on a litter into the aid station.

"I'm a medic(as if that gave me some sort of authority over these guys). Can I please have some morphine for the pain?"

Fast forward about twelve hours or so.

It was like I was climbing out of a pool of molasses in a thick, foggy haze. The anesthesia they had used during my operation was still in my system, so to speak. The earlier events of the day replayed in my mind as I recalled where I was. It felt like it was all part of some terrible nightmare. I hoped it was....I gave in to the dark warmth again, letting the darkness take over my mind as I made myself go back to sleep. I simply didn't want to deal with what had happened. Not right now.

Eventually, I did wake up completely. I slowly took stock of my body. I had all of my limbs, so that was a huge plus. At the time, my memory of the events was spotty and foggy at best. I was in a C-collar. My face was heavily bandaged. So much so that I couldn't even see out of my right eye. I also realized I had an ET tube in my mouth, and I was starting to gag. I managed to get the attention of a nearby nurse, and with the help of an ancient form of communication known as "writing," I was able to inform him that I was going to throw up. A doctor came in and they prepared to remove the tube.

"Okay, exhale strongly on 3.."
"1...2...3"

I wasn't really thinking about what was going to happen. I mean, I knew they were going to take this thing out of my throat, but I just really wasn't paying much attention to how. I just wanted it out.

And out it was yanked. A mixture of dried, partially congealed, and fresher blood came up with it in what must have been an impressive showing. I coughed violently, expelling those same bits of gore from my throat. I asked them if they knew if anybody else had been injured or worse. They didn't, and this only made me worry more.

In due time, they'd also remove the c collar. After a while, I realized I had to pee...That's when the oddest thing happened. As I lay there, I felt myself just being...relieved? I immediately thought the worst.

Aw, crap. I've been paralyzed. I've lost control of my bladder some how. Oh man.

I lifted the sheets of the bed to see what yellow havoc I had wreaked on myself. That's when I saw it.

The Foley catheter. Basically, it was a hose that had been inserted into my junk. For a moment, I stared in shock. The hose was just...it just...IT DIDN'T BELONG THERE!

They wheeled me into a nearby room for two until it was time for me to be flown to Balad. At first, I didn't recognize the other guy in there. My glasses had been destroyed, after all. As it turned out, Goodwin was in this same room!

Goodwin had started out as the gunner in our truck for this mission, and until now, I had no idea that he had been hurt.

I immediately asked him if anybody else was hurt. When he told me it was just us, it felt as if a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The relief I felt at hearing this news was amazing. That's when I knew that everything else would work out just fine.

Goodwin's left hip had been peppered by very small bits of shrapnel, and his left wrist had been shattered. He'd eventually get metal rods inserted into his wrist.

My injuries: left eye enucleation, facial fractures to the left side of my face around that area, including a completely shattered orbital floor, burns on that same area, and a little bit taken off my left nostril.

The rest is history, really. Or just another blog entry in the making.
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
SOF Support
Joined
Sep 8, 2006
Messages
15,915
Location
Not Afghanistan
I've sat here for the last ten minutes trying to think of something to say and I have nothing profound except "thank you."
 

Doc_K

Modern Day Cyclops
Verified Military
Joined
Jun 5, 2008
Messages
51
Location
Ft. Sam Houston
Hey everybody. I really appreciate reading all of your comments. It means a lot to me. :)

I do want to say, though, that there are a lot of people out there who have done and sacrificed far more than I have(and some of those people are on this board). I've been given a second chance at life, but a lot of other people haven't.

Being at BAMC is a very humbling experience, to say the least.
 
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