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[personal profile] basric


I thought since I was already out of Trauma with my last entry, I would stay out with the U.S. Trauma Team for another entry. We were called to convene with the search and rescue teams to go to a small village in Mexico. This was the rainy season and an entire village had been covered by an avalanche of mud, trees, and jungle debris.

This was not our first rescue mission to Mexico for mud slide disasters but it was the deepest in the jungle we had ever gone. We gathered at our usual air force base in Texas. The search and rescue dogs surprisingly were with us since we traveled with Special Ops. Team for protection in a massive army helicopter.

We sat down at daybreak in a wide grassy meadow. I had the narcotics pack and as I jumped to the ground a hand shoved my head down and pushed me from beneath the deadly blades even then rising back into the sky. A soldier jerked my pack from my shoulders and before I could protest I found myself with a vest velcroed covering by back and chest that felt like it weighed as much as I did, then the pack was replaced. All of this happened is about sixty seconds.

A soldier, my soldier, my protector, turned me to face him grasped my straps and pulled me nose to nose, “I am responsible for your safety. You do what I say when I say it without question. No, just nod.” I nodded. He turned me and we got in line to follow the muddy path through the jungle. Rain fell in a steady stream. We crossed a rickety bridge with muddy water that rampaged several feet below. Two hours later saturated by the nonstop rain we arrived at the mudslide.

Our army had been there before us because massive tents were erected. Now we were in our element. We all had jobs, were good at them and in thirty minutes everything was set up to receive victims. I even managed to change into dry scrubs when a wet vest was dropped over my head and was fastened.

“You are never to be without this vest.”

“It’s wet. Now I’m wet,” lesser men had quailed at the look I gave him.

He just waited impassively until I sighed loudly, “What you say when you say it.” With that he plopped a helmet on my head.

The Mexican Army had not as yet reached the sight to assist, according to our guys a major bridge collapsed. We could expect no assistance from that front. We were alone.

Our soldiers were out digging through the mud, in previous slides there were hundreds of Mexican volunteers; however, this village boasted four-hundred and eighty-one residents and forty four of those were men who had been out on a hunt. They had returned and were also digging. The huts at the very base of the slide were flattened, most had been empty but two had elderly couples that were killed instantly.

With the three teams of recuse dogs at work, it wasn’t long before we began to get victims. Although the weight of the mud pushed the roofs down there apparently left enough space for victims to lay and wait for rescue. For six hours victims were brought to us, triaged, treated and released.

One of the rescue teams stood to go back out into the mud. The vested dog and her handler looked as weary as I felt but the headed back into the mud. “Her vest,” A nurse held it aloft. Where was her army guy? I sighed, grabbed it and ran after her. I just helped her fasten it and stepped away when I was hit in the back by a baseball. I dropped face down into the mud and as I tried to lift my head from the sucking muck, I was crushed by the weight of a 250 pound Special Op. all muscle and another fifty plus pounds of his gear. I was pushed deeper into the mud. From a long distance away I felt the dim pain of my left shoulder as it dislocated. A big hand curl around my face and lifted it clear for the rain to clear my face of mud. But my lungs had seized so I couldn’t draw a breath.

From far away I heard the pops but it wasn’t until the barrage of gunfire I understood what it meant. My eyes sealed by the mud were rinsed clear by the rain but by that time I felt the decline of my heart, the beats two, one, then nothing. I was clinically dead. I was told later my Special Ops. lifted me in my vest and the extra mud weight and carried me inside.

I was down fifteen minutes, I floated in darkness and bathed in peace until a bolt of lightning streaked through and replaced peace with searing pain. I’m not sure what was worse, being ripped from the peace into chaotic pain or the humiliation of being naked in front of people with which you work.

Some idiot removed my medic bracelet so I was given morphine which stopped my breathing again, but this time someone knew my medical history. And the doctor administered Narcan the drug which takes any narcotic from ninety to zero. Next I had the pleasure of the ball joint of my shoulder jerked back into its socket without pain medication, which my liver refuses to metabolize, I slipped into blessed unconsciousness. My x-ray showed I had a T-4 disk fracture and was not life threatening. So, I’d suffer with it until a return to the states. The Hematoma from shoulder blade to shoulder blade caused me the most pain in movement.

When consciousness returned some thoughtful person had gowned me and I had been pushed into a corner out of the way.

Everything buzzed around me, and I knew they were short-handed already. So with my right arm I sat, pain from a fractured T-4 disk in my back radiated between my shoulder blades with every breath. First, I swallowed three aspirin and 1200mg of Advil. I found a pair of scrubs and with little use of my left arm as possible managed to dress myself. I gritted my teeth as I snapped the top. I slipped unnoticed to the front of our busy tent where a woman was brought in who had delivered her baby in the cramped three by three space as the strength of her hut withheld the mud from her. She had snapped the cord before the afterbirth delivered and tied the cord, instead of it expelled by the uterus it remained inside. While our OB/GYN used a hand for a fishing expedition, Meanwhile, none of the nurses had been able to start an IV on the newborn.

While I truly hate working with children for my own sanity, I have worked N.I.C.U. and I learned how to place an IV in a newborn’s scalp. It hurt me like hell but I got it in with a small butterfly needle and IVF's with vitamins infused easily. The baby latched on to momma with a little encouragement.

I turned and walked into my Special Ops. who in turn walked me to the back and sat me down and plopped down beside me. He handed me a bottle of water. “Stay.”

“So,” I said to my guard, “You’re a Green Beret.”

“I am NOT A HAT. We are Special Ops.”

“I thought every branch had a Special Ops.”

“Every branch has its Special Forces; we all are experts in our own fields. You won’t find a Navy Seal guarding your asses. They are specialized forces with specialized missions. Even the Air Force has four branches but they are like the CIA of Special Forces. They do Intel work and training behind enemy lines. Just as Army Rangers have their expertise.”

“My apologizes.”

Suddenly he heard something and was up and gone. I made it to the front of the tent to see our Special Ops. as they faded into the jungle like ghosts. I looked around and almost all they victims had been seen most with bruises and a few broken arms. The husband came for our last patient the mother and his new son. The translator tried to get them to listen about how to take the antibiotics but he grabbed them and his arm around her waist, his son in his arms they hurried away. We automatically began to pack everything quickly into our packs,
Suddenly the Special Ops. returned, “Whatever isn’t packed stays. We move out now.”

“Wait, the tents, the refrigeration units.”

“Doctor, before the rebels sent a weak force thinking you were alone; women for their men, doctors to ransom and all your medications. When they did not return, they have now sent a strong force only four clicks away. We don’t move, we’ll be in a firefight and unable to guarantee your lives. Its time to run for your lives.

The sun was out now. Before the rain had been miserable but now the air was steamy. I live in the South so I know what humidity is, this wasn’t humidity steam rose from the ground and vegetation around us. Drenching our skin with thick sweat.

We scrambled through mud and breathing laborious, every time I felt myself slide his hand was there to steady me. Running was strenuous because the mud sucked at our shoes. I ground my teeth against the agony of my back and shoulder; however, I thought about how bad being hit with a bullet against a vest had hurt, then how much worse the pain of a bullet piercing skin and organs would be. That kept the discomfort bearable as I ran.

We came to the rickety bridge but now water rolled inches over the fragile planks. A rope passed back and wrapped around the medical staff but the Special Ops walked across on their own. My turn came and I felt his hands steady on my waist and though the dirty water and the occasional branch pulled at my legs and feet I never felt fear with him behind me even when my feet lost traction, he had me and settled me back on the planks.

We’d fled a hundred or so yards when an explosion rent the air. I didn’t need to be told our guys had blown the bridge. Still we didn’t slow. My breathing was hitching as I tried to breathe through the agony in my back. He stopped me and allowed others to pass. He removed my pack swinging it up over his shoulder with his own pack. I had no voice to protest. I forced myself own through the greyness at the edge of my vision because I knew if I fell he would carry me. I thought he’d saved me enough. I would do this for him.

A massive helicopter waited rotor swirling above. I was tossed inside followed by two other nurses. My Special Ops sat in the open doorway one foot hung out I assumed on the rung below. There were others, too, their weapons at the ready. We lifted up and banked a hard left and I marveled that the men at the door didn’t topple out to the ground.

We flew back to Texas. I had surgery in Houston where titanium replaced my thoracic disk. I would need some rehab back home. Never spoke of it to friends or family. Just said I fell. I took my rehab in mornings after work.

Overall we saved the village with a loss of only four, and they were casualties before we arrived. I never got to thank my Special Op. so if you write in LJIDOL or read it, thanks you are my hero.

People do not understand my calling. Even I don’t complexly understand my obsessive need to care for these disaster patients even at a danger to myself. At one time my husband understood, being s narcotic cops and doing undercover work. Amy girls were never left alone. We had a wonderful Nannie that filled in if our careers took us away at the same time and the girls loved her. So now only necessary people are told when I leave after the flack I got for Haiti and Chili.

At least this disaster had a happy ending and no dealing with politics. The true heroes are our military men and women who protect us using themselves as human shields to protects civilians. Bless them all.
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September 2013

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