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imperialism & war

12,000 US casualties

Unreported conditions and morale at main US trauma center in Germany
'Casualty Fatigue' at Iraq War Trauma Center
ABC News.com August 8, 2004

- It looks like that opening scene from the TV comedy M*A*S*H. But Hawkeye and Pierce, Radar, and Clinger don't exist here.

These are real doctors and nurses at the Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany, facing horrors seldom seen by the American public - already over 12,000 battlefield casualties from Iraq.

Their patients speak with tension in their faces. Not even the pain killers can stop all of the throbbing of their injuries. I am amazed that they want to talk about what happened.

"Some shrapnel went through my eye," says Staff Sgt. Daniel Beaty.

Another injured soldier, Cpl. Jeff Swaser says: "The shrapnel came in through my side, punctured my lungs, fractured a couple of my ribs, and broke up into little pieces and put holes into various organs."

He even manages a smile, a combination of sneer and laughter that he had escaped death.

They are all cared for by 1,800 doctors, nurses, and other staff who day after day after day are faced with broken bodies and broken lives. And the sight of each new wounded soldier seems to open up an emotional wound.


"You walk in and your see young kids blown apart," says Col. Bernie Roth, who works in the intensive care unit. "Sometimes half their brain is gone, arms gone, legs gone. It's hard, it's really hard."

'It Tears Your Heart Out'

Lt. Col. Peter Matsuura is an Army reservist who gave up his private practice in Hawaii for three months to help out at Landstuhl.

"It's hard to see these kids come in, and it tears your heart out," he says while operating on a badly injured leg. "I thought I saw a lot of trauma when I was in training, but there's nothing compared to this."

And living with this means there is a price to pay for those who care for the wounded. Military psychologists have a name for a little-talked-about illness.

"We call it compassion fatigue," says Lt. Col. Sally Harvey, a U.S. Army psychologist. "It's the cost of caring day after day. Our staff experiences many of those same emotions that our patients do. Some people can get depressed, can feel overwhelmed. It's very much akin to what we call battle fatigue for soldiers who are out there on the front lines."

Yet, many doctors and nurses who suffer compassion fatigue do not seek formal treatment. Some may fear that a record of psychological stress could hurt their chance of promotion. Most just seem to feel they can't take time off from their patients.

Maj. Kendra Whyatt, a U.S. Army head nurse, says she, like others at Landstuhl, deal with it by just getting on with their work.

"I joined the nursing profession to take care of those in need," she says. "And that's what I do. That's what I enjoy doing. If it stresses me out I can't tell you how, and if it's tiring me out I can't tell you how - I just do it ... just do it."

Others find it more difficult.

"We have to deal with very difficult things," Col. Roth says, "like young kids who just lost their arm, and being understanding when they're mad, or calling up that mother of a little girl whose brain is irreparably damaged and is never going to be the same again."

'Cost of Caring'

Another doctor, Lt. Col. Larry Lepler, has just made such a call to a distraught mother back in the U.S. He is fighting back tears. I ask him what kind of emotion he was dealing with on the other end of that phone line.

He pauses and takes a deep breath.

"Ah, the mother was crying. It's difficult for me," he says, his eyes watering.

"None of us are going to leave here the people we were when we came here," Lt. Col. Harvey adds. "There's a tremendous cost of caring."
Now 08.Aug.2004 11:24

if

someone lied to place these troops in Iraq isn't that a crime? Wouldn't a civilized country try to convict them?

Boo-Hoo 08.Aug.2004 12:36

Boo

They bled and died IN VANITY
to support white male supremacy
Racist rapist oil war losers
Jack booted and DU polluted

o 08.Aug.2004 13:24

=

told ya.the police lie to hurt dissenters.especially brutal to black man who speaks up.told ya so world.

It's high time 08.Aug.2004 15:12

Ding dong

They are lucky they are not Iraqis who have to tend to their wounded with less resources. And the victims in Iraq are children who didn't asked to be bombed, maimed and slaughtered. These are the faceless ones whom the US said from the start are not interested in counting.
The people of Iraq have had to put up with the murderous US government, whether it was Bush (1or 2) or Clinton, through sanctions, war and bombing for years.
It is high time the US and its stooges were out of the Middle East.
Lets build a movement to get them out now, regardless of who is in the Whitehouse

Don't blame it on our soldiers 08.Aug.2004 15:53

alex

Don't our Army.. It's the leadership.

The real scary thing is wondering how many more little timmy mcveighs this war is creating... Tim McVeigh was a
decorated Gulf War 1 hero.

Alex 08.Aug.2004 19:14

What

are you saying, the troops are only following orders?

what 08.Aug.2004 22:23

me

I think it's more along the lines that our soldiers are victims of the war too. True, Iraqi victims of this whole mess are even worse off, but the real criminals are the ones who started this whole clusterfuck. A hundred years ago the british empire was doing the same damned thing. The Big Game was what the ruling elites called it.

It's the pestilance ridden bastards in power who never have to see the faces of those they kill or sent off to die that are responsable.

It seems that Americans and Iraqis bleed the same after all.

Me 09.Aug.2004 08:34

It

appears that what was unacceptable at Nuremberg is A-OK if it is an American doing the murder. Why do you think following the leader reduces the blame?

Me 09.Aug.2004 08:42

Justin

"It seems that Americans and Iraqis bleed the same after all". Hardly Iraqis aren't here killing US, they haven't lied to invade our land and mass bomb our cities. Every American not outspoken against this war is aiding in the murder.

Leave those people alone, get the troops out of other peoples countries and solve the many problems americans have made here, for themselves.

Its not glory, its not honor, its not duty its just murder.

History of Hanover. 09.Aug.2004 23:43

historian

And what about "Green card" Mexicans who get drafted into the army, then are buried in mass graves in Iraq there, hmm? This is back to the cruel level of states rounding up populations and treating them as mercenaries, as commodities. Look up the History of Hanover.

Historian 10.Aug.2004 04:08

There is no draft

If you are saying "Green card" Mexicans are being kidnapped to Iraq and buried in mass graves they show desert and join the Iraqis, not work for their oppressors.