On tonight’s broadcast we continue the series called Wounds of War. We are following some of the troops we first saw treated in combat hospitals in Iraq earlier in the year as they undergo treatment in the United States. I want to add a personal note here. The opportunity to cover this story in the detail I’ve been allowed has been, and I look forward to it continuing to be, one of the greatest privileges of my career. The bravery and sense of duty of our troops as well as the dedication and compassion of the doctors, nurses and medics who care for them far exceeds anything I could have imagined before I witnessed it all personally.
Of course know there are problems. In today's dispatch of my regular column appearing on MSNBC'com's health page, I detail the twin curses of the enormous numbers of brain injuries and the lack of preparedness for the long-term care of all sorts of wounds that so many veterans will require. The system is simply overwhelmed. I also point out why former Senator Bob Dole, who is co-chair of the commission set up to address these problems, should have the motivation to make things right. We’ll be watching. I look forward to following these soldier’s and medic’s stories for the duration of the war and long afterward
We have the very exciting news tonight about progress in the embryonic stem cell field. This work holds the chance of creating these amazing building blocks of life without destroying embryos. It is important to note that hasn't happened yet. This work is in mice only. The step to humans could be easy or difficult, but the scientists won't know until they try it.
Many of you have been seeking further information after our broadcast story Monday night on the implication of new research that suggests up to 100,000 breast cancer patients received drugs that did nothing to combat their cancer, but put them at risk for heart failure and leukemia.
Here is an analysis piece I have written for MSNBC.com that delves further into the subject.
Click to read
Tonight, as we continue our series the "Wounds of War" about U.S. medical care in Iraq, we'll tell the amazing story of a 5-year-old Iraqi girl who came close to death and got a second chance at life due to the efforts of some very dedicated Americans. Two organizations played a big role in helping her -- the National Iraqi Assistance Center and the Shriners Hospitals. The Iraqi Assistance Center was set up and is run by the U.S. military to provide charity care to a few of the many in that nation who need it. For more than 85 years the Shriners have been providing care for needy children from around the world with orthopedic, burn or spinal cord problems. I urge anyone who wants to help to contact those organizations via their Web sites above.
Many will watch tonight's story and ask why the girl could not be transferred to an Iraqi hospital. Simply put, the Iraqi medical system is in shambles. In most places there is no such thing as rehabilitation, so in the overcrowded and understaffed hospitals it is, as one American doctor put it to me, "survival of the fittest." Many Iraqi doctors, because of sectarian killings and kidnappings or threats of them, have fled the country. U.S. efforts to help set up a functioning health care system have been plagued by corruption and mismanagement. In fact, earlier this month Deputy Health Minister Hakim al- Zamili was arrested and charged with funneling millions of dollars given for health care to insurgents. So as we share this one girl’s story tonight, I hope we remember the thousands of children injured in this war who get no second chance.
Tonight we begin a series on the treatment of the U.S. troops wounded in the Iraq war. In addition to the broadcast report, I wrote an article for the Health Section of MSNBC.com describing the overall medical care system in Iraq, and I blogged while on assignment and shooting this material. So I won’t write much more here today. But I want to take a little space to thank the people who traveled with me to Iraq. They take the risks and don’t get the credit I do. Craig White was the photographer, Susan Becerra did the sound and engineering, and Kevin Monahan was the field producer. Jane Derenowski and Maggie Kassner did not go to Iraq, but did a terrific job of editing in New York, as did M.L. Flynn, the senior producer. Thanks to these colleagues for helping me tell the story of the brave men and women who are so dedicated to treating the wounded soldiers of this war.
We flew in to Germany this morning on the C-17 that regularly shuttles the U.S. wounded from the battlefields of Iraq to the Army's regional medical center here in Landstuhl. Injured soldiers rest in gurneys stacked two or three high while teams of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists offer care at 37,000 feet as good as most hospital intensive care units. It is quite a sight. The cargo bay of the huge jet is configured so that the medical teams can care for someone on a ventilator, give continuous oxygen, monitor vital signs and intervene when necessary. Last night as the plane hit choppy air, some of the wounded who were conscious groaned loudly in pain. The nurse gave them additional sedating drugs. A man with intestinal damage was continuing to bleed internally, so he got a blood transfusion in the sky.
He's a 21-year-old soldier and amazingly upbeat considering that the right side of his face is peppered with shrapnel and there is a slit in his right eyelid. His vision is blurred, but fortunately he is not blind. His other injuries include a fracture of the bone in his right forearm so bad that the bone was sticking out of the skin and there is possible damage to his carotid arteries.
His story is, sadly, a very common one here at the Air Force’s hospital in Balad, the hub for transporting wounded U.S. soldiers to the Army hospital in Germany and then back home for treatment in the states.
We're at a U.S. Air Force base in Balad, Iraq, 50 miles north of Baghdad and a world away. The 332d Air Expeditionary Wing has assembled here an enormous force of people and machines that looks to me anything but temporary.
One of the unit’s many missions is the transport of injured U.S. troops “out of theater” to Germany and then on to hospitals at home. Tonight alone, the five beds in the emergency room and the two operating rooms have turned over again and again as waves of wounded U.S. troops and Iraqis arrive by helicopter or airplane. I’ll have lots more to say about the amazing care here online and on Nightly News soon, but back to Balad.
We’ve just visited Camp Speicher near Tikrit -- Sadam Hussein’s hometown -- as we continue reporting on medical care by the U.S. military. The tent hospital here is now staffed by the 399th Combat Support Hospital (CSH – or “cash” in military speak.) This is a reserve unit out of Boston, mostly Massachusetts folks, followed by many from Ohio and several other states. They tend to be older and less military in their bearing than their full-time Armed Forces colleagues, but they are certainly no different in their fierce dedication to patient care.
We heard this Sunni area was quiet now. It certainly was not during our visit. Many Medivac helicopters landed — some with warning, others with none.
In this past week I have seen a lot of horrific wounds and heroic attempts to save lives. I've been with the 28th Combat Support Hospital, the military's trauma center in Baghdad's Green Zone. But yesterday a case almost overwhelmed me emotionally. In the afternoon, two mortar rounds fell a few hundred yards away near the U.S. embassy. Loud speakers and sirens announce "a lockdown" of the heavily fortified area. People are not allowed to leave buildings. It proved a good call; a third round came in minutes later. Then a huge car bomb exploded just outside the Green Zone's gates. The tension level in the hospital rises immediately. Will there be casualties arriving? Within minutes a U.S. Army Humvee speeds to the gate and soldiers carry in a bloody and mangled Iraqi girl. I would guess her age to be 6 or 7 years. The doctors, nurses and technicians immediately start working on her with the same furious intensity they summon when a U.S. soldier arrives. "Two amputations and chest perforations," one of the doctors shouts. They rush her immediately from the emergency room to surgery.