Friday, October 26, 2007

Scouts Remember

Sunday, October 21, 2007

When $2.50 Can Save a Life

Anyone know what a seat-belt cutter is? I sort of did when I got a request from one of my medics for some. These are a handy tool that paramedics carry for cutting injured people out of their seat belts in car wrecks. It never ocurred to me that soldiers in combat zones wear seat belts, but it sure made sense that you'd need to get them off in a hurry when an IED takes out a vehicle.

PFC Stephanie M, a medic with the 3rd ID wrote me that "it would have been handy to one of those when she had to cut an injured guy out of his belts with her pocket knife". Or Sgt Steve F, with the HHT 3-7 CAV MEDICS who wrote that he and another medic cut a guy out of a burning humvee seconds before the stored ammunition started cooking off.

Yeah, I guess that's a challenge even paramedics back home could relate to.

I contacted the Chief Supply Company (, and when I told them what I needed, they special ordered and shipped 400 cutters to about a dozen units for me. At cost.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Army Medics running Burn Center for Iraqi Kids need help

Here is information about a group of American medics who are running a burn center for Iraqi kids - the only one in the entire country. These guys volunteer their time and the entire clinic is run on donations......out of a shipping container.

read the article here , and if you can help with cash or donations, there are instructions on what to send and where.

Humbled again,

Sept. 15, 2007

Smith Burn Clinic Impacts Local Youth
Story and photos by Sgt.1st Class Gary L. Qualls, Jr.
1st BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. PAO

CSC SCANIA, Iraq – Within the confines of a simple, compact shipping container, in the sweltering heat of Central Iraq and with threats of mortar attacks circulating, several combat medics work at scraping away the charred, useless skin of a burn victim.
The victim screams as the medics pick away near the sensitive nerve endings between her fingers. She kicks and cries “Agaf!” (Pronounced kah – fee by Arabics.) and tries to pull her hand away. The agonizing process makes even the strong-stomached cringe.
Several moments later, the victim’s initial treatment is complete. Time will tell if she will live or die. The medics only know that they have put all their sweat, conviction and compassion – with limited resources – into making a difference in their part of the battlefield.
The simple shipping container, called a connex, is the medics’ clinic, a burn clinic for children from 0 to 19 years old. The clinic was started by 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery, 34th Brigade Combat Team, Minnesota National Guard. It started out as a Family Practice clinic for the Iraqi people, but as time went on the medics saw more and more burn victims.
“It was like an epidemic,” said Cpl. Joey Barzeski, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the clinic, now run by 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The Iraqis’ kerosene stoves are unreliable and often explode, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native explained. Moreover, there are some natural cooking and heater accidents that occur as well as some cases of child abuse, he added.
The clinic – the only Coalition Forces clinic expressly for Iraqis in Iraq – is totally supported by donations from U.S. hospitals. They use a simple stock of supplies to treat their burn patients, including Xeroform, Medihoney, gauze pads, intravenous fluid equipment, some basic antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medicine and minimal medical instruments.
“It’s nothing, but it’s working,” Barzeski said.
With their confined work space, minimal set of supplies and innovation, Barzeski, with seven medics that rotate in and out of the clinic and an Iraqi interpreter, see from 4 to 15 people a day, increasing from 20 to 40 in the wintertime. People come from as far away as Tikrit to receive care at the clinic, Barzeski said. It’s a fast-paced, high-stress environment the young medic leader thrives on. Barzeski and his team have seen hundreds of patients since taking over from 1st Bn., 125th Field Artillery in June and the clinic enjoys a good success rate.
“We haven’t lost anybody yet that we’ve been treating at the clinic,” he said.
The combat medics also have some success stories to show for. For example, Genan, an 18-year-old woman, came to the clinic with more than 55 percent of her body burned, including many 3rd degree burns on her arms, legs and hands.
“She was sick, mal nourished, had no movement in her hands, legs and arms. Her fingers were fused together,” Barzeski said. “We thought she was going to die.
“She had gone earlier to the Iraqi hospital and they wanted to cut her hands off, but her mother refused and brought her here.
“Now (five weeks later) she’s past the window of doubt. She walks, plays with her kids, has good movement of her arms and hands and jokes with us during treatments. She’ll be able to do everything a normal person can do.”
Little Ali was another patient who came to the burn clinic in a bad way.
“His eye was scarred shut from a burn,” Barzeski recalled. “I remember how bad that kid was, but now he can use his eye. That makes me feel good. In the end, that’s why we’re treating them.
“We’re definitely making an impact here. Everybody leaves here saying nice things about the 82nd Airborne Division and the U.S. Army. We’re actually doing something. We’re making a positive influence. I know that. I can say this clinic is doing some good for the Iraqi people and I love it,” he said.
Barzeski is quick to credit his team for its successes, adding the guards that provide the security for the clinic also play a big role in its continued existence.
The interpreter who Barzeski calls “The Man,” saying that he is indispensable to the operation, agrees with Barzeski’s assessment of the key role teamwork plays in the clinic.
“We work as a team, like family,” he said, adding that he feels “I am doing something good for my country.”
Seeing the successes is the good part, but the pain and frustration of the job is the down side. The pain comes from seeing the long and agonizing recovery process patients must go through.
“You just have to put your emotions aside,” Barzeski said.
The frustrating part comes from having to turn away would-be patients from the clinic because of limited supplies, he said. Although the medical facility is a children’s burn clinic, people of all ages come from miles around with various ailments and injuries to be treated.
“Having to look at somebody and say ‘I know that you’re here for my help,’ but you can’t because you don’t have enough supplies. It makes me mad. That really eats me up,” he said.
Now there’s a question of whether the clinic will be able to continue because supplies have waned since when 1st Bn., 125th FA was here.
Barzeski ponders the possibility of having to cut the clinic’s age limit down due to the limited supplies.
“I don’t know how to keep this mission going on,” he said.
Barzeski and his team are banking on the hope that a way will be found so their toil and tears in striving to make a difference toward the outcome of this international conflict will be sustained.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

My Uncle the Medic- Enlisted October 5, 1942

Here's to my Uncle Harry, who enlisted on October 5, 1942. He is 84 and the last of my Mom's 7 siblings.

He was a combat medic, landed at Normandy, was in the Battle of the Bulge, helped liberate a concentration camp. Heard Patton give that speech, just like in the movie. Went through France, Belgium and into Germany until the War ended.

He drove an ambulance. One night, he drove with one hand while he held a bandage over a GI's chest wound with the other hand. He made it to the Aid Station, but not in time. I asked him how he felt about that memory. He said "I feel OK, because I did my best for him" and he smiled.

He is one of the kindest, gentlest most humble men I know. So many of the combat vets Ive met are like that.

Thanks, Uncle Harry