September 11, 2009

Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 9/11/09
Stationed in: a civilian military hospital in the U.S.
Milblog url: From Our Perspective

It's September 11th again. Another anniversary to get through. This year I am afraid too many people have forgotten. The races I have run in years past, the walks I have participated in to honor those killed and to remember, did not transpire this year. For whatever reason, no one put anything in place. Each year the events designed to remember become fewer and fewer. In a city directly impacted by the horror of this day eight years ago it doesn’t seem it should be possible. Maybe the only ones who remember anymore are those of us with memories of our dead, with images in our heads which we cannot escape no matter how hard we try. 

We discharged a young Marine last week. He was flown back from the war zones after having seizures in theater. It turns out he has a brain mass; a cancerous, inoperable tumor. He’s 26 years old and has only months to live. We sent him home to enjoy what time he has left with his family and his wife of less than a year. I have seen that very same situation played out more times than I can count. They return home from war, and instead of the violence of combat it is the destruction of cancer that will kill them. 

I had a bad moment recently. The family of a war wounded had decided to withdraw care and donate his organs after he was determined to be brain dead. They took him to the OR and with his family present removed his breathing tube and turned off the life-sustaining medications.  While the goodbyes were being said in surgery I was answering phones in the unit. One phone call was from a woman demanding to talk with the transplant coordinator, who was in the OR. The conversation went like this:

“I need to talk to her, so connect me to the OR.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that. They are in there with the family and I’m not going to disturb them.  I can take a message and have her call you back."

“Hmmpf. You don’t understand, we’re supposed to get the liver and I have a doctor who needs to know if he has to come in.”

“Uh. . .  excuse me?”

“We’re coordinating the reception of the liver and I need to tell the doctor when it will arrive. So you need to tell me something or let me talk to the transplant people.”

“Look lady, what part of  'They are all in the OR, the patient, his family, doctors, nurses and the
transplant coordinators, and are waiting for the patient to die' – do you not understand? I will not put you through to the OR. I will not call into the OR room to talk with her. You will wait.”

At that point she must have realized she had offended me (ya think?) and quickly disconnected. Later when I saw one member of the transplant team I said to him, "You tell the coordinator I need to talk to her now!” 

“No problem, Ma’am."

Shortly thereafter she appeared. “You needed to talk to me?”

“I’ve always been a supporter of organ donation," I told her. "I’m a donor myself. But my interaction with that woman from recipient services is enough to make me sick. This patient is not just a liver. This is one of our soldiers and he has a name!  He deserves to be treated with the respect he has more than earned. He gave his life for this country and to demean him by calling him ‘the liver’ disgusts me. Quite frankly right now all of you are nothing but a bunch of fucking vultures circling and I want nothing to do with you! And if I had anything to do with it that woman would not get this soldier’s liver.”

The coordinator let me rant, apologized, and promised to investigate. 

I later found out that this soldier’s liver could not be transplanted, and I’m sorry to say I did derive a feeling of satisfaction from that.

Often our family conferences are an effort in futility. No matter how many times we explain the situation, they just do not get it. The family members simply do not want to understand that their son or husband or brother is brain damaged, many times irrevocably. That IED blasted away part of his personality and he will never be the same. They look for answers where there are none. They want their brother, who lies comatose with no movement to his arms or legs, to be able to walk down the aisle at their wedding in seven months. DAI – diffuse axonal injury – in most cases, is a death sentence. Or life in a coma, the person they used to be only a memory. God, it's exhausting seeing these patients. It’s so depressing to watch their physically fit bodies waste away as they lie in their mindless sleep never to awaken.

I struggle with caring for someone deployed to OEF. Although I’ve known him for several years he decided to tell me of his interest three months before he deployed. Three months which were mostly taken up with deployment train up, our friendship/relationship or whatever it is brought down to once-a-week or once-every-other-week IM conversations via web cam. Thank goodness for modern technology, but it doesn’t seem to help much. I see a tired face on the other end of the computer screen and I worry. I see the casualities of these wars every time I walk into work and I do not want him to become one of them.

I sent him a care package, and one of the things I included was the Flag of Honor I had been given several years ago. Carefully stored in a dresser drawer (the memories associated with it are so painful I can't look at it), it lists the names of every person killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. I told him in a letter of my involvement that day, I mentioned my friends killed and the horrors I saw. I told him I wanted him and his unit to have the flag, as it was my way of saying "I appreciate your service and your sacrifices."  I haven’t heard whether he’s received it yet, my stomach knots with anxiety over his imagined thoughts at this impromptu gift.

I do not know how to handle this. 

I’ve never done this before.



Your posts are the reason I keep coming back here. While waiting for your posts I have read some remarkable stories, but none with the heart and passion of yours. As an old soldier I know your gift to your friend and his unit will be welcomed and honored. Regardless, calm your thought's wonderful lady, your heart and service to our military is more than anyone of us could ask of a person.


I think of you on September 11 now and of the other survivors of that day, along with the lost. You live on a precipice built from that day which is far more dangerous than any mountain peak. Thank you for the post. I agree with Stan that your friend and his unit will be honored by your gift, however painful its existence has been for you. They will put its significance in its proper pigeon hole so that they may carry on their service day by day.

Thank you for continuing to serve our war wounded with courage, respect, and feeling.Many of it appreciate it more than you can know.

Thank you for remembering those who perished on that terrible day. I certainly hope that our "president" does not get his health care passed. My wife works as a PT in health care and told me this morning that they will eliminate amputee rehab, so everyone military and non military will not receive the necessary therapy. Thank you for serving, thank you for speaking your mind. Ted

Thank you for personalizing one of the most tragic days in American history. I worry how long it will be before people start forgeting what September 11th means. I still remember where I was and how the day unfolded. But how many generations away are we from never knowing the truth?

Wow. True heroes like those of September 11th are shamefully forgotten until little things like these happen. Kudos for having the courage to defend the soldier with the donated liver. He had the courage to defend us in our time of need; It is only a small sense of gratitude to defend him now.

RN Clara, bless you and all those you care for. I'm about to enlist and hope that I don't have to end up with you looking down at me one day, but I know that if I did that I would be in the best possible hands.

I still can't get over this. It's incredible the sacrifice these people make for us and the fact that so many take them for granted is disgusting. Its been a week and this same post drew me back in. God bless these soldiers!!!

Hello RN Clara, Ive not posted before so I hope this goes through. You ARE doing what you should do. Think, write,express wherever and whatever bothers ya.. You aint the only one who is scared for them.. Thanks for keeping cool in a 'hard as hell' job......

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