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.

THE IRONY OF SUCCESS |

January 05, 2011

Name: Scott
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog: The Sand Docs

Recently, an army special forces warrant officer was in an IED blast. Given his job, this was not his first deployment of the wars, but it was to be his last before retirement. In this mission he was sitting in the troop commander seat, meaning the front passenger. This seat is perhaps the most dangerous seat in a vehicle because it is the first to pass through the kill zone and is closest to the side of the road where the explosive typically is planted. His vehicle was the sixth in the convoy. The first five vehicles either missed the pressure switch or failed to activate it, but his was not so lucky. 

His unit was not taking the incident well. The warrant was well-liked and respected. They had set out to find the perpetrator but had had little success. Instead they might find only the impotent rage that comes after an enemy attack without an enemy to fight.

Body armor, no laughing matter

He arrived awake, with a single IV, and with tourniquets on three of his four limbs. He had the injury that has come to define the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: multiple limb amputations but no abdominal, thoracic or head injuries. In his case his legs were amputated at the knees and his right arm was fractured, dislocated and torn open. His body armor saved his life, but not his limbs. We make much about the success of medical care in the current war, but the jury is still out on whether it is our practices or the body armor that has improved survival rates. 

In surgery, the immediately agreed-upon priority was to try to preserve his right arm. Paul and Kat washed and packed the leg stumps while Dave and Ted worked on the right arm. They washed the wound, cleaning out gross dirt and debris, identified vital structures including the vessels, the nerves and the muscle tendons, and stabilized the fracture with a frame. Aric and I transfused more the 30 units of blood product. To what effect, we do not know. This soldier is now a double amputee and is at significant risk of becoming a triple amputee. If his arm does not succumb to infection, it has a chance to regain some function. He faces dozens more surgeries and years of rehabilitation. He was doing okay the next day at the hospital at KAF. We do not have word beyond that. 

One of the phenomena of the current war is the survival of quadruple amputees. It is not an exaggeration to claim that never, in the history of war, have quadruple amputees survived the battlefield. Before I deployed, I remember reading about Spec Brendan Marrocco, the first quad to survive, and marveling at his resilience. There are now three living quad's among about 1100 amputees from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One of the three, Marine CPL Todd Nicely, is from my home town, St. Louis. I am heartened to hear about their successes as they persevere through the ordeal of rehabilitation. Still, the devastation of the body that remains means that we might be able to save their life, but not the life they had. That is the irony of success.

Comments

these people,give more than their lives and their struggle will continue beyond the war,showed much courage,and courage to move forward and i would like to know much more than them, and their ability to fight, because i think they have much to teach,...

The rise in triple and quadruple amputees is something I see every day at work. As I look down at my patients I often wonder what kind of life they now have. Continue to be safe. My prayers are with you.
Clara

Thank you for your service, and for sharing this story. It is difficult, almost gut-wrenching, to put myself in your shoes and think about all that you see and deal with. Your sacrifice, and the sacrifices made by those you help is deeply appreciated.

God bless you, and stay safe!

I am sorry to hear about your fellow soldier's misfortune. It's funny how here at home we often only hear the occasional name of someone who was killed in action near my hometown. You don't realize the magnitude of it all until you hear real life stories from the front lines. I found this blog thru my english composition class at college. It has really given me perspective on what you and others are dealing with. I don't have any relatives or close friends currently serving abroad so I guess I am lucky in that way. I feel unlucky though, in that I didn't have a clearer picture of it all. Thanks for the post and others like yours, be safe and I will pray for all of you.

First and foremost thank you so much for your service. Back here in the states we go through are daily lives without a hint of worry. Oh, maybe we worry about the cold weather or the occasional car breaking down but we have no idea what it is to worry about an explosion just a matter of feet from us. It is so disheartening to hear that on his last day that something like this could happen. I am greatful that you have this excellent body armour but if we could only do something for your arms and legs. I can only hope and pray that he is able to go foward with his life in such a way to give him peace, love and understanding. Thank you for sharing and god be with all of you.

It is terrible that the Soldier was on his last deployment just prior to retirement, but ironically it is amazing that the Soldier lived. I am grateful for this and wish nothing but the best for the Soldier and a recovery to come soon. My heart goes out to his family. Stay safe troops.

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