Amid Sadr City Chaos, American Medics Tend To Iraq's Wounded

Amid Sadr City Chaos, American Medics Tend To Iraq's Wounded
April 25th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Amid Sadr City Chaos, American Medics Tend To Iraq's Wounded

Amid Sadr City Chaos, American Medics Tend To Iraq's Wounded
New York Times
April 25, 2008
Pg. 6
By Michael R. Gordon
BAGHDAD — Shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, there was a desperate wail at the back gate of B Company’s compound in Sadr City. A woman had been badly burned and her relatives were begging for help.
With little in the way of emergency services and travel hampered by blocked streets, nightly curfews and sporadic firefights, a steady trickle of Iraqis has been turning to the American soldiers here for medical care.
Medics who have trained for combat have attended to a seizure victim, an infant brought in by an anxious father and a boy wounded by gunfire. On Thursday, they cared for Samera Tula, who had been seared over much of her body when a propane tank accidentally exploded.
Providing care to Iraqi civilians and Iraqi soldiers “has been the excitement of being here so far,” said Specialist Joshua Bosley, one of the medics here.
Wednesday had been a relatively quiet day at the base for the company, which is part of the First Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. The American military, which moved into Sadr City to try to stop the rocket attacks on the Green Zone and help the Iraqi government establish order, had organized a clinic lasting several hours that was staffed by Iraqi doctors.
The American medics were available to help in case of an emergency but did not participate. The calculation was that using an all-Iraqi medical staff would build the confidence of Sadr City residents in the Iraqi government.
More than 300 Iraqis showed up. In many cases, the care consisted of little more than a two-minute consultation and the dispensing of a packet of pills. But the residents in this impoverished warren of the Thawra district were grateful to have received that much.
By midafternoon, the clinic was over, the Iraqi doctors were gone and the American medics once again were the only health providers in the neighborhood.
The medics have been working out of a Stryker armored vehicle that is specially configured as an ambulance. It is equipped with four stretchers, oxygen and medical supplies but no weapon system.
As a precaution against insurgent attacks that are sometimes aimed at ambulances, the medics have unbolted the distinguishing red cross from the side of their Stryker. They have also stopped carrying medic aid bags so they would not be singled out by enemy snipers. The medics carry M-4 rifles and M-9 pistols for self-defense, but are not outfitted with machine guns or other heavy arms.
Before the medics came to Sadr City a month ago, they spent much of their time attending to American soldiers with diarrhea and other ailments.
Being posted in Sadr City, however, has been different. In a month of fighting, the company’s medics say they have treated just two injured Americans, who were hurt when a roadside bomb exploded. They have spent much more of their time patching up Iraqi soldiers with gunshot wounds and other injuries and have responded to the needs of civilians.
American soldiers have been killed and wounded here: one was wounded in the face by a stray round just the other day. But Iraqi troops are deployed in front of American forces and civilians have sometimes been caught in the cross-fire.
Early morning on Thursday presented the medics with one of their hardest cases. A group of Iraqis gathered outside the seven-foot-high concrete wall of the American compound and screamed for help.
A Stryker vehicle blocking the entrance to the American base pulled back, and several Iraqi men and women rushed in with a pushcart covered by blankets. An Iraqi woman in a black abaya raised her arms imploringly to the sky and prayed for help.
The American soldiers were torn by a desire to help and fear that a suicide bomber might have set a nefarious trap. As the blankets were pulled back, however, the face of a woman emerged, her hair singed and her teeth ashen with soot.
The Americans got on the radio and asked the Iraqi Army to send an ambulance. Meanwhile, the woman was lifted onto a stretcher and taken to the medics’ Stryker.
Pfc. William A. Spencer Jr. and Sgt. Kevin Stine went to work under the light of Capt. Logan Veath’s head-mounted flashlight. Captain Veath cut the bandages while the medics started an IV.
As the medics rushed to treat the woman, trying to pull back the blankets that covered her, she struggled to cover up. The soldiers explained through an interpreter that this was no time for modesty. Some of her female relatives held their black abayas out from their bodies to create a screen against onlookers as the Americans wrapped her limbs in bandages.
But there was only so much the medics could do. The woman needed care at a hospital burn clinic. After 20 minutes, two Iraqi soldiers arrived from the front line to transport her to a hospital. There was no ambulance. All they had was an armored Humvee, and it would have to do.
A Humvee door was tied open to accommodate the long stretcher. The rear cargo compartment was opened and two of the woman’s relatives climbed in. The Humvee drove into the night.
As dawn broke, a father brought in a baby, complaining that the infant had vomited. Specialist Chad Gentry checked the infant’s vital signs and assured the man that the baby would be fine.
Private Spencer, 20, said he was glad to help residents but was surprised by his tour in Sadr City.
“I did not think I would be treating too many civilians,” he said. “I thought it would be military.”

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