Memoirs from a Deployment

4/22

Today has been extremely long and cumbersome.

We have been in country for a little less than a week. It's a bit of a commute to the hospital -A little over a mile to be exact. I tell myself its like walking to work back home.

The past three weeks were spent training with our British and Danish counterparts in a hospital exercise meant to simulate the military hospital we are assigned to in Afghanistan. The days were long, and the nights were spent carousing at the local pubs. It was one of the best times of my life. I mean, when you combine pints of beer, massive amounts of fried potatoes, and cute British soldiers to flirt with, what's not to like?

While we were there, the Boston marathon bombing took place. All of a sudden, our situation, and the reason as to why we are here as soldiers, became real again. No matter how much fun we are having while training or how much everyone around us claims that things are winding down and we should have a quiet summer, the fact is we are still at conflict.

The trip to Afghanistan took almost three days. Even in the dark, I could tell that our base was a small bustling city that never sleeps; a far cry from the primitive settlements that I had experienced in Iraq ten years prior. 

We took a few days to get settled into our barracks and adjust to the time difference. Tensions have started to arise and attitudes have begun to come out. No one is on their best behavior anymore, and small things like invasion of personal space and consumption of personal time are making people cranky. Generally, I try to be laid back and keep a positive attitude, and I can usually fool people even on my worst day. 

Today, however, was our first full shift at the hospital. The ICU wasn't particularly busy, just a couple of Afghans who had been hit by IED blasts. It would normally have been an easy day but we butted heads with the UK from the moment we began our shift. We barely knew where any supplies were, which sucks when your patient extubates himself ten minutes into the first shift.  Also, it has become painfully clear that the US and UK have some very different nursing methods. It's very hard to set aside our evidence based methods of patient care and adopt someone else's protocols. Ah well, it's only the first day. Hopefully within the month tensions will subside and we will all be able to care for our patients harmoniously.

Then there's the issue of our patient population. As a nurse, or any healthcare provider for that matter, we are sworn to provide care no matter the circumstances. I never thought that would bother me until now. Our patients today were just Afghan locals, and although I gave the best care that I could, it was difficult to not have a completely biased opinion about them. What am I going to do when I have a detainee? I used to pride myself on being able to separate myself from issues such as these. A few months ago, I had a patient back in the states that had a history of incarceration for homicide and I never thought twice about it. Maybe it's the years I spent caring for the soldiers in the wounded warrior ward that makes me a little sick to my stomach now. I have seen firsthand what the Taliban is capable of.  Now I'm supposed to save them?

Part 3 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a soldier