This is a picture of the front door to the aid station at Camp Blessing.
I’ve been in Afghanistan for about five weeks now, the last two at a new base with a different battalion after one of my peers had to be replaced. I was moved to one of the infantry battalions at Camp Blessing, which is in a more remote and contentious area in A-stan. I actually find the life here much preferable to the last place I was at (Jalalabad). The weather here is a bit cooler, the aid station we occupy is a permanent cement structure that keeps the temperature cooler and more stable around the clock, and everything that I would need to do is within about 300 meters walking distance (aid station, dining facility, gym, laundry, bathroom). We see mostly local national children here and we get to do surgical procedures mostly on a daily basis. Lots of abscesses and skin infections with the occasional trauma thrown in. In the two weeks I have been here, we have had two mascals (more patients than we can treat at one time) although in both cases there were only two “serious” patients so both the doc and myself were able to manage them within our scope. We’ve intubated four patients, and put in four chest tubes (one guy got two). We’ve seen everything from shrapnel, to GSW (gunshot wounds) to MVAs (motor vehicle accidents).
We also see alot of kids with burns and other questionable blunt trauma injuries. It’s not uncommon for children here to be running around open fires with cookpots full of boiling water and other dangerous substances. Safety practices are essentially non existent so we see alot of stuff you wouldn’t see in the states. Personal hygiene is also not a priority here so we see alot of infections that wouldn’t normally occur in the US. I wouldn’t have thought it, but I find the work here quite agreeable. I normally prefer the steadiness of occupational medicine but there is definitely a different vibe to seeing people with true objective illness and injury as opposed to the typical sick call patient we see in the US. When you see a 6 month old kid with an eyelid full of pus the size of a golfball, it’s not even a question as to whether or not they deserve your attention. So many of the problems here are correctable with an intervention or two so it’s much more satisfying when you treat them and then see them get better. And they are almost universally appreciative for the help.
This is opposed to the typical soldier on sick call who has some sort of minor musculoskeletal issue that will only get better with time and a small amount of effort/common sense on the soldier’s part (which is often lacking). There are plans to get a new PA to replace the one that left and theoretically that would mean I get sent back where I was, but I am beginning to think it would be better to remain here. The work is real, the living is better, and time is going by faster while I’m here. Time will tell.