War Photographer Diaries – Zoriah: Return to Baghdad ER

After nearly a year I have returned to the Baghdad ER, now the US Army 86th Combat Support Hospital.  Still the busiest combat hospital in Iraq, and most likely the world, it is home to some of the military’s best doctors and medics as well as an unending stream of some of the most horrific battle casualties imaginable.
Zoriah Iraq War Baghdad Er Trauma Ied Mine Explosion Doctors
  Working in Baghdad ER requires a constant presence by a military public affairs officer and this year my guide is Captain McKinnie.  One of those people who you instantly like, McKinnie was kind and humorous, and addicted to JellyBelly “butter popcorn” flavored jelly beans.  Stopping every few of minutes to pull a couple out of her pocket, at one point McKinnie picked a dropped jelly bean off of the ER floor, shouting out “THREE SECOND RULE, THREE SECOND RULE!!!!!!” then popped it into her mouth and swallowed.  It takes a lot to shock me, so she deserves some sort of medal.  Unfortunately, the rest of the day was not so amusing and pleasant.
  A flurry of commotion coming from the trauma ward means that something is going on.  We rush in to find a ten-year-old Iraqi boy on a stretcher with his organs hanging out of his stomach, which is severed from his mid-chest down to his pelvis.  He has no pulse and a doctor is administering frenzied, yet deliberate, chest compressions, while five or more other doctors and medics perform different duties.
Zoriah Iraq War Baghdad Er Emergency Trauma Medi Surgery-1
Zoriah Iraq War Baghdad Er Trauma Ied Mine Explosion Medic
  After several minutes they are able to stabilize the boy enough to transfer him upstairs to surgery.  We follow along and spend the next hour in the surgery ward as surgeons remove the boy’s organs, setting them aside as they dig large chunks of shrapnel out of the boy’s body.  For the time being they must ignore that fact that one of his hands is also missing and focus on the more pressing injuries.
Zoriah Iraq War Baghdad Er Trauma Ied Mine Explosion Blood
  Finally he is stabilized and shrapnel is, for the most part, removed.  We find out from the boys uncle, who is obviously quite close to him and visibly distraught, that he had been out playing on the street when he stumbled on a land mine or improvised explosive device (IED.)  The doctor’s efforts were noble and both Captain McKinnie and myself were impressed that they were able to save the boy.  We take a deep breath and head out to get lunch.
Zoriah Iraq War Baghdad Er Trauma Ied Mine Explosion Boy-1
  After lunch we return to the ER to find the young boys uncle hanging out of a window screaming, crying and rocking back and forth.  The nurse looks at us and shakes her head…they boy died shortly after the first surgery and they were not able to bring him back.  As everyone stood back, watching the man sob, I put down my camera and held the man as he cried. I sat next to him with my arm around his shoulder, as he spoke in Arabic, rocked back and forth and hit himself in the face.  I could feel the boys dried blood on his shirt…the reality of being back in Iraq had become terribly clear.

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