VETERANS DAY |
November 10, 2008
With all the talk of the elections, the economy, the housing crisis and the financial bailouts, for too many Americans the wars have slipped into nonexistence. I was sickened listening to the radio one morning this past week; reporters speaking with people waiting in line at various polling places found the most prevalent thought in the minds of Americans was the economy. What about our troops? Has America forgotten our sons and daughters who fight on foreign soil? Or their families who struggle silently alone?
For several weeks I have drifted south in a mire of sadness, depression and fatigue. War is what took me there, these wars most people seem to have forgotten. I walk into work and the war is clearly evident. It is heartbreakingly apparent -- from the patients lying in the beds, to the families sitting in the waiting rooms, to the returning nurses, medics and physicians whose battle has now become PTSD.
Weeks ago I attended a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. I watched the wife and children of the soldier laid to rest walk toward the gravesite. Tears flooded my eyes as my ears were filled with the sobs of his preadolescent boys.
Recently I cared for a patient, newly arrived from Iraq after being shot. He was a little confused, as most are. His behavior vacillated between somewhat normal and slightly inappropriate; furthermore I seemed to be the only one he listened to. When he flipped off a commanding officer he had just met I stood between the two and admonished him that I didn’t want to ever see that particular hand signal again. I then turned to the CO and shooed him out of the room before the dressing down could begin.
Later that day after hearing “Clara!” bellowed in a frantic, fearful tone, I hurried into his room to find him holding his IV tubing. He looked at me with panic-filled eyes and said “Clara! It’s a trip wire, somehow they got in here and wired me! I’m gonna die." Many, many moments later I finally convinced him it was not a trip wire and he was not going to explode and die. I then carefully moved the tubing into a position where he could not see it, and distracted him with the latest football scores.
Yesterday I listened to a medic talk. Recently returned from OEF, the only way he could sleep at night was with prescribed sleeping pills, and even then he still had nightmares. While conversing I mentioned a MASCAL* I worked as a medevac nurse, a bus accident on a highway. On final approach to the LZ I looked out the helicopter window to see bodies lying on the pavement. He said, “Yep, I seen that too, only on a dirt road and the bodies were all kids.”
Today another nurse called, one already suffering from compassion fatigue, who had put in for a transfer to another section where the stress was lower. Tired and distraught, she told me her marriage was falling apart, her husband had left, and she was in serious emotional trouble. I told her to go pack her pj’s, hop in the car and head over, promising a slumber party.
Today is Veterans Day. While I personally continue to fight against compassion fatigue and PTSD I will remain where I am, caring for the veterans of OIF, OEF and GWOT. I only wish I didn’t feel as if awareness of our troops has faded into nonexistence and that the wars we fight have been forgotten. You see we pay a heavy price, and for that price is it too much to ask America at least remember?
*MASCAL: mass casualty/disaster