The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


December 28, 2006

Name: A Nurse
Posting date: 12/28/06
Stationed in: A Miltary Hospital
Hometown: Illinois

I have tried to write this post for days now and haven't been able to even start it. I guess it's partly because of what I need to say. I have decided to take a leave of absence from my job; my last day will be Friday. I will be working for a temp service for nurses, providing additional staffing at area hospitals in various units. It will be a change, and one I hope will help.

As the week has gone on, I find memories of patients and their families coming to mind, and I wanted to share one in particular. We had received a wounded soldier from the OR, and the longer I had him the more I felt that "gut instinct" kicking in. Something just wasn't right. He didn't respond as he should have, didn't talk, just looked at me with this wild, panicked expression on his face. I called one of the anesthesiologists over, and as we talked about what was possibly going on this soldier reached for my hand. I let him hold it -- I'm always letting strange men hold my hand  ;-) -- and it seemed to comfort him. Several minutes went by in which we still couldn't get him to talk to us, so we decided to try and reverse some of the medications he had been given, thinking he might be having an adverse reaction. It is so difficult sometimes caring for the wounded, because you don't know if their reactions are physiological or psychological or a combination of the two. Some days, the best you can do is punt and hope it all works out.

Little by little my patient seemed to come around, but still wasn't quite right. There were things I needed to do with his recovery and wound care, but when I tried to disengage my hand from his, he wouldn't let go. No matter how hard I tried, he refused to let go of my hand. No amount of reasoning, comforting or even pleading would convince him to turn me loose. Finally one of the anesthesiologists pried his fingers from mine. As the reversal medications took affect he was able to start speaking. He learned my name and started asking me to come close to him, to give him my hand. He called to me over and over again, saying my name, stretching out to grab my hand, coat, scrubs -- anything within reach, and I had to watch that I wasn't within touching distance. As time went by he became more and more agitated, kept yelling at me to come near the bed, to hold his hand. We (another RN and I) finally took him to the ICU as there was nothing more to do for him in the recovery room, and his yelling was upsetting the other patients. But he did not want to leave the recovery room.

If you can picture it, it was comical to see two nurses rolling this hospital bed down the hallway with the patient yelling, "No, I don't want to go. I want to stay with you. Where are you taking me? I'm not going, do you hear me? I am not going!" We tried hard not to laugh as people in the hallway came to a dead stop, turned around and stared at us. He kept yelling my name and asking me why I was treating him this way. As we rolled him into the ICU he looked at me and asked, "Why are you doing this to me?  Why are you dissing me?" He finally gave a huge sigh and then refused to look at me. I gave my report to the ICU nurse and wandered back to the recovery room.

When my shift ended several hours later I stopped by the ICU to check on him, and was told there was no change. I met and talked briefly with his wife, sister and mother. His wife asked me if I was the recovery room nurse, and when I told her I was, she replied, "He's been asking about you, and wanted us to go and find you."

The following day I returned to work. Halfway through the day the same ICU nurse came into the recovery room and said, "You've got to come over, he's back to his baseline." I followed him over and as I walked into my patient's room his wife said to him "Look who's here." He saw me and held out his hand, beckoning me to come closer. I walked to the bedside with a bit of trepidation, afraid that if I put my hand in his I would not get it back! Taking a chance I grasped his hand, and as I did he started to talk. He said, "I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what, and I didn't know how to tell anyone, and then I couldn't tell anyone. You were the only one who seemed to pay attention, who seemed to just know, and so long as you were at my side and I had a hold of your hand, I felt safe." The tears started to well in my eyes, and I told him, "You better stop, you're going to make me cry."

His hand tightened on mine and he said, "You are my  angel, you were there for me and I will never forget you." Needless to say at that point I did start to cry, the tears streaming down my face.

Over the weeks and months he kept in touch. Whenever I saw him he had to hold my hand and tell me he was glad I had been there for him. He was discharged from the hospital and headed home, and I did not hear again from him until this past week, almost two years later, when he called me. He told me he had been thinking of me, and his mother had asked him if he had talked with me and if he knew how I was doing. He said he felt he needed to call, so he did. We talked for 30 minutes, and after wishing each other happy holidays and him promising to keep in touch, we said goodbye.

I sat for a long time thinking about him, and about all the others I've cared for. I think I've finally been able to realize that I have helped them, that they do think of me, and while I may not hear from them ever again I did make a difference in their lives. 

Someday maybe I will be able to return to helping America's wounded, and I look forward to that day. In the meantime, thank you all again for your words of support and encouragement as well as your prayers. They are so greatly appreciated. To my fellow "bloggers", you are in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks for letting me share with you. Happy Holidays, and my heartfelt wishes for a healthy, happy and safe New Year.


There's an old saying - "Never under estimate the power of a woman." You have been awesome. Good luck in the future. Take care. It's been great reading your blog.

As someone who met air evac buses straight out of Vietnam in the 60's and who worked hospice for 11 years I understand where you are at. Give yourself time to heal then come back to help some more. It's a special gift. Best to you and your family.

Whoa. Trying not to cry.

Thanks so much for what you give. And give yourself the relief you need. I know too many many Vietnam nurses who lost it, for a little while or a long while.

If they cant handle it

dont Enlist!

Just to clarify a couple of things to you, Mr Nick. I am a civilian nurse, I never enlisted, was commissioned or signed on anyone's dotted line,it is also not a matter of "handling it". I have done this job, caring for wounded soldiers for almost 4 years now. Before that I worked as a trauma nurse/medevac flight nurse at a civilian trauma center for 10 years. You should try it sometime and see how well you do.

Don't listen to asshats like nick. I'm a part-time firefighter/EMT and commment like that only come from those who would never get "in the mix" and only act tough when they don't need us but cry and whine and scream at the smallets thing. God bless you and what you do! YOu have earned a break!

Excuse me, Nick... Who the heck are you to dismiss all that was said and done by that sentence? How easy it is to cut yourself off from feelings... I do not want unfeeling robots treating my family or myself or fellow Americans...This nurse knows it is time to leave... I give high praise to all that sacrifice their emotions in order to care for our wounded soldiers... Cvilian Nurse, do not ever ever feel you have to defend yourself to a dismissive person like Nick... God be with you while you take time to heal yourself... Thank you for the posts and thank you for reminding us of what our soldiers are going thru to protect us...

Im talking about the one who enlisted -
not the poster who is a CIVILIAN nurse!

Mr Nick, I feel the need to respond again. As the poster, a civilian RN,who has a Masters Degree in Nursing, had I been in the military I would have been a commisioned officer. Over half of my coworkers are both enlisted and commissioned and even they have a difficult time seeing the types of injuries and wounds we are seeing. You CAN NOT see the things we are seeing day in and day out and NOT have it affect you. Here is one question for you - How do you think you would respond to having your leg, arm, hand or both legs blown off by an IED then watching your buddies die because the helicopter can't get there fast enough. That is if they didn't already die from the initial bomb blast. I'm sorry but you show an amazing lack of compassion and understanding towards those that serve to protect your freedoms. The right to make those idiotic comments being one.

If I followed MORON BUSH
I should not be a baby because an IED blew off a limb or 2.

And you dont even address fact that that morons thought I was disparging the NURse!

Hey Nick,
Sorry to hear about your loss. I realize you and Saddam were pretty tight and you probably would have given him some slack. Fortunately for us idiots, you are still around to remind us that "stupid" is well represented.

I applaud you for what you have done, and I can understand that sometimes we just need a break. My daughter Helen was in the Honor Guard at Langley, and served as an Honor Guard member in Iraq. While this is certainly very different from your situation, her thoughts remind me of yours. She is tall, and has been asked to serve in the AF Honor Guard in DC. She refused. When I asked her why, she told me that even though she was proud and at the same time humbled by acting as Honor Guard member, she just gets too depressed sometimes. Taking part in the funerals just weighs too heavily on her after a while. As she said, just as a member of the Honor Guard at her base and Iraq, she had taken part in almost 50 funerals. And she had to take a break. Sometimes, especially when we care, we have to step back to save our sanity. God bless you for all you have done, and all you will do in the future.

Dear Nurse - good for you and thanks from us.

As important as the human contacts are to the healing process I wonder if the Army couldn't set up a way for the patients and you folks to keep in touch. For those who want to of course. The Marines have set up a special barracks at Quantico for Wounded Warriors where all the recuperees stay together and are commanded by one as another example of enlisting the emotions in healing. They just want us to think they're dumb. Though on another post nobody ever accused them of not being tough. ;)

Perhaps on your way out you could drop a hint to the command ? It could be something as simple as a milblog and forum for selected participants.


Vaya Con Dios.

Nick...I, personally, wish you would quit writing on this post... From what I have gathered reading these posts the last month or two, is this gives Pro-AMericans, most actually front-line, a chance to write about what is happening as they particiate in these wars, it gives me a better understanding of what they are going thru, and gives me a chance to "be there" and see the casualties of war... It also gives me a chance to let them know I CARE about what they are going thru... The things you write reeks of anti-American and hate. It seems to me you are taking advantage of (free speech) the very things you seem to hate... Yes, you are free to say what you want, and when you write, it reminds the "posters" of the type of people they are fighting in Iraq, but personally, I think you have chosen the wrong post to spew your anti-American views... I know you exist, I just don't want to hear from you... God be with our soldiers and all that give of themselves to care for them...

Sherry !
you are evidently one who cant read!

Whoa; let's not miss the point here. The guy went home.

If there is a god, may he hold you in the palm of his hand. You have done good things and helped others under very difficult conditions.

Nick... If you're still around... I obviously missed the fact that you were not saying the civilian nurse was an enlisted person, so I guess what is bothering me is, why do you think anyone that enlisted shouldn't complain if they have a leg or arm blown off? Or freak out cause they are in pain? Is that what you are saying?

Dear Nurse,
You have posted a truly beautiful and loving story. I hope you find what you have lost, or what you are looking for. You have a gift, and I thank you for sharing it.

It's not about Nick!!! It's about healing yourself before you can heal others. The world will beat a path to your face and bounce you around. You just have to know when to say when and you did. God bless you for all the comfort you have given over the years and thanks for sharing your story.

I've just discovered this site and...have to add to the discussion. When my uncle was about 18 or so, he played music in the hospitals for GIs wounded in WWII. The experience stayed with him always. Last year my grandson was stationed in a hospital in Iraq, seeing mostly the horribly wounded civilians, including children the same age as his own, and our service personnel. It was an horrific time in his life. I pray that you will realize that God's comforting hand is in yours.

My Mom was in the Army Nurse Corps in Okinawa and Korea during WWII. Later on she had to go back to work and was at Hines VA. When I was a kid I always asked her about the war, she was in like a MASH unit. She always had the same six stories.

At Hines she was on the orthopedic ward taking care of para and quadralegics. I used to go to visit her and hang out with te patients. I was in high school. At Christmas we used to go carloing through the hospital - especially her ward. The guys went through so much. You could see the pain they were going through and the sadness they experienced over what they lost, what their lives could have been, used to be. I knew they sort of envied our ability to walk around and move around . It's hard. It's hard to lose something you had and try to adapt so you can gain at least something.

It's really hard to see it. I got attached to some of the guys because they were in and out a lot. When I went to college I used to ask about them - by name of course. I was sad when I found out someone had died, but glad when I found out someone got to go home.

And Nick, I didn't particularly agree with the decision to go to Iraq, still don't, but that wasn't a decision the people serving there made or the people caring for them made. It's like anything else in life, you make the best of what life gives you and you always perform to the best of your ability.

I once asked my Mom what else happened in the war, because she was there for almost three years, only 6 thngs happened? She didn't say anything. Then I told her to watch The Killing Fields. She was at her house watching it and she called me and said her stomach was in knots and she was remembering things she hadn't thought of in 40 years.

She didn't share Nick. Some horrors are too much for anyone's mind to be able to handle. You have no right to judge anyone or their threshold for pain and suffering.

If you think it's so easy - why not volunteer at a hospital, not a military hospital since you have an aversion for the military, how any trauma center. I'd love to see how many lives wasted by drunk drivers, gunfire, stupidity and neglect you could handle.

My guess is - not much.

Nurse - God smiles on people like you.

Dear Nurse: having been wia twice during my time in Viet nam I discovered that Angels do exist, as julie said - God smiles on people like you.
be safe, Randy.

Nurse: you must be a truly an angel. I served Americas best for 24 years, and your experience demonstrated that you care. Please continue to take care of those who needs you and God bless you.

“The world is a dangerous place. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do any thing about it.” –Albert Einstein-
One of the modus operandi of all arm suppliers and dealers in the world arms market is to give "commission" or "corruption" indirectly to the decision makers.

Payment of corruption money are done very professionally so that it does not incriminate the arms supplier, These arm suppliers will pay any amount of commission demanded as long as they are not implicated as some of them are PLC.

In this case, it will not be uncommon for, Altantuya Shaariibuu to be a nominee conduit for receiving the large amount of commission for arms deals. Her name could be used as a nominee but the funds (money laundered in Singapore and Hong Kong) received actually goes to the sexist (MISAGYNIST/WOMAN HATER) Abdul Razak Baginda/NAJIB TUN RAZAK the UMNO (NATZIS/RACISTS) pukita cronies who share in the loot. Mongolian nominees are preferred by Russian suppliers as most Mongolians speak Russian.

This Altantuya Shaariibuu relationship with Abdul Razak Baginda was obviously more than “lover” and it is crystal clear she know more than she should.

So, her explosives disintegration with C4 type episode with directives from the top. NAJIB TUN RAZAK, Rosmah, Khairy & Scomi who are involved in arms deals are clearly involved.

Who are the UMNO (XENOPHOBIC/ANTI-SEMITIC) ministers who
are going to France, Spain, Italy, and Russia & South Africa to buy arms recently?

Who are the other UMNO (MASTERS of DEATH) pukitra ministers beside Najib Tun Razak, who have visited Ulaan Baatar in the last three years??? The long and endless list of Malaysia’s international laws and human-rights violations can no longer be ignored!!!
This is an international security crisis that will be lethal to human rights world peace and safety.
The International community must demand a multi-national investigation on to the ASSASSINATION of Translator/Interpreter & Business women Altantuya Shaariibuu along with the Malaysia’s illegal arms trade! Mongolia must break all diplomatic relations with Malaysia and state this case to the INTERNATIONAL COURT of JUSTICE alert and demand the United Nations Security Council to take action and that The United States’ State Deportment to also take action for this is a Human’s rights violation and a security issue that affects the United States directly. Malaysians must demand answers to what these anti-Democratic UMNO(NATZI PARTY) pukitra Islamist FASCIST(With connections to HAMAS, Hezbollah, AL-QAIDA and IRAN) are doing in the name of protecting the so called “Malay Race” ,”Islamic religion” and the “Nation” !
Why the U.T.K (THE “SS” MASTERS of DEATH/TERRORISTS), (NATZI) Army, who authorized SUPPLIERS of the malleable explosive believed to be "C4" (Composition 4). Bear in mind that Abdul Razak Baginda is a BROKER INTERMEDIARY/PROXY for those(ASSASSINS/EXECUTIONERS) HIDDEN TOP GUNS of the DEFENSE FORCE with the SUPPLIER (Specifically, the Malaysian Armed Forces). Therefore, it is a standard nature of forwarding of samples of their product in this case to be tested.
A fellow press friend of mine yesterday asked me which country, Malaysia or Singapore, is good destination to learn English. I advised her to study in Singapore, where I studied English too five years ago, a safe country that has strict rule of law. Malaysia is a country where an innocent Mongolian woman was shot to death and exploded into pieces by military-use C4 explosive fastened to her body. I will say this sentence to everybody asked me about Malaysia. This will be recalled for the people of Mongolia every time we think of Malaysia.

Malaysia is no longer a destination for Mongolians either to study or travel. I heard a number of Mongolians going Malaysia to study has been decreased a lot since last year when our beloved mother of two was killed in a jungle outside KL.

I have been to Malaysia actually, when I was studying in Singapore. I remember that when I was under passport control at the Singapore-Malaysia border, a Malay passport controller smiled at me and told me "Bat Khaan! Genghis Khan!” He said something to his fellow customs officers in Malaysian and told me "Welcome to Malaysia!” My first impression on the country of Malaysia had this wonderful start. I felt like I was the first Mongolian coming to Malaysia. We will not hear this nice welcoming from a passport controller of Russia now, a country what we believed as "brother in steel friendship" for over 70 years in the past under Soviet ally.

At that time, how can we know that a Mongolian woman will be killed in this country brutally and her entrance record will be deleted from immigration database!
Personally, I think these people, Baginda and his family, including the two police officers, are the most disgusting people on the globe as same as those terrorists who killed thousands of people on September 11, 2001 by using civilian airplane as missiles.

Who authorizes those people to use airplane as missiles? Who authorizes those people to use military explosives to kill an innocent woman?
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” –Edmund Burke-

What a ridiculous and disgraceful way to end what should have been a nice and very personal discussion. I hope you're still out there, nurse lady. I hope you're still helping and caring for people the way you are obviously capable, whether military or civilian. It is a gift not to be wasted.

I am so very glad you are there for the wounded. They broke the mold when you were made.

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