If you look at only one story about the Afghan War this year, make it this one. An explosive Congressional investigation revealed horrific new details this week about a U.S. funded military hospital in Afghanistan that kept patients in “Auschwitz-like” conditions.
The investigation also revealed that Lt. General William B. Caldwell, then commander of the $11.2 billion dollar a year Afghan training program, tried to block the probe and ordered a cover-up.
There are currently two ongoing investigations looking into the Dawood Military Hospital abuses: one centered around the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, the other concerned with Caldwell’s politically-motivated decision to delay investigations into the hospital until after the 2010 elections.
What follows is a very disturbing look inside the Dawood National Military Hospital. It was compiled with sworn eye-witness testimony from the three U.S. Army colonels who blew the whistle on the scandal, as well as never-before published photos obtained by BuzzFeed.
The photos and corresponding descriptions were collected by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan.
The images below may be considered graphic.
Have you ever heard, or seen something funny in medicine that just cracks you up?
Here’s some actual unedited notes written by fellow physicians, on patients medical charts.
- Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.
- Exam of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.
- The patient stated that she had been constipated for most of her life until she got a divorce.
- I saw your patient today; who is still under our car for physical therapy.
- The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.
- The pelvic examination will be done later on the floor.
- Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.
“Two gun shot wounds,” the emergency medical technician says, breathing fast, the summer night pouring down his face. “One in the right flank, one in the right thigh.”
“I don’t want to die, doc,” pleads the victim, whom I will call Mr. Smith. His vital signs are stable.
“This is the trauma team,” I say. “We’re going to take good care of you, but we need to ask lots of questions.” I press my stethoscope to his chest. “Can you take some deep breaths?” I listen for the airy hollow of a punctured lung but am calmed by the hum of normal respiration, even as his alcoholic breath warms my cheek — or so I believe. He denies drinking, but this is one of those overnight shifts when everyone — motor vehicle crashes, chest pains, depressions, confused grandmas, even rashes — has thrown back one or two.
Once inside, we palpate Mr. Smith’s neck, chest, back, abdomen, and muscular extremities. “Does it hurt here, and here, and here?”
He doesn’t answer us. Now he acts annoyed and bothered. “Call my cousin,” he says.
“Sure,” I say, “after we make certain you don’t have an injury that needs immediate attention.”
“And you are?” he says.
I’d already introduced myself, but I know what he means: Who am I in the hierarchy? “I’m the doctor in charge,” I tell him.
“Good,” he says. “Go call my cousin.”
“First things first,” I say.
“Hey, douchebag,” he says, his voice hardening. “Call my cousin.”
I pretend the comment was what he might, on reflection, consider a regrettable slip of the tongue. But his head arches off the stretcher and his eyes meet mine. “Now, douchebag.”
I feel the heat of the trauma team’s averted gazes. I say nothing, but inside, I grasp at explanations. He’s been popped with two bullets. Maybe he’s scared, anxious, emotionally shocked. Or he’s a thug, a power-fiend, and now he’s vulnerable. He distrusts authority. Perhaps he is drunk, his tongue greased.
He refuses intravenous fluids, blood draws, x-rays. “Let us take care of you,” I say, proffering shared control, thinking he’ll soften up and participate. “You don’t want to die, do you?”
“I’m not afraid of dying,” he says, despite his plea on arrival. “Listen up, douchebag. Are you calling my cousin or what?”
I swallow hard. The ache in my stomach will ease somewhat when I find time to eat my tuna sandwich. But the frustration feels bottomless — untouchable and undeniable. “What gives you the right to talk to us this way?” I finally say.
He stares me down. I tear the blood pressure cuff from his right bicep.
“I’m not fighting you. Many patients are waiting to be seen. You’re free to go if you want.”
He stares at me. “I’m calling my lawyer!”
“Good luck. We’ll dress those wounds before you leave.”
This past Saturday, February 26, 2011, in more than 70 cities around the U.S., people danced at hospitals, at malls, in parks and in other public spaces — “As If Their Life Depended On It.” And, perhaps, it does. More than 200 hospitals in 95+ American cities are members of a coalition called Spirit of Women that every year, in February, hosts a Day of Dance for cardiovascular health in their community, demonstrating that better health can be fun and easier than we think. This year, a new dance was created in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office on Women’s Health, called “Make The Call. Don’t Miss a Beat,” that demonstrated the actual symptoms of heart attack and stroke in women. So quite literally, people could learn this dance to save their lives.
Listen closely, because this message is an important one: Good health is not always about depriving yourself and having to give up your favorite things. It can be about having fun. In fact, perhaps the most wonderful news in the proposed U.S. healthcare reform is the emphasis on prevention and pursuing better health through physical activity, both alone and with family and friends.
We know from countless research studies that social activity for people of all ages increases our sense of well-being, strengthens our immune system and even lowers our blood pressure. People who have suffered serious heart attacks are advised to consider social dancing as a way of rehabilitation to heath. According to Elliot M Antmann M.D., a heart specialist at Harvard Medical School and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, “dancing [has] helped heart failure patients to utilize their oxygen more effectively, thereby allowing them to exercise more without running out of breath.”
Dance as if no one is watching. Dance as if your life depends on it. Because exercise, like dancing, increases your longevity. Dancing helps you to celebrate the creative strength of your body. It can help you manage your weight, bone mass and muscle. Dancing is romantic, and we know through research that intimacy with physical contact strengthens the heart, releases feel-good endorphins and even produces the hormone oxytocin that emotionally bonds one human to another. Dancing increases our flexibility and creativity.
Isn’t it time for you stop worrying about what you look like on the dance floor and start dancing to stop worrying about your health?
What an incredible resource we have each and every day to improve our health and happiness. Turn up the music today and recall the classic Irving Berlin song: “Heaven…I’m in heaven. And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak. And I seem to find the happiness I seek, when we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.”
I’ll often use “pimp” in a sentence, and non-medical folks give me a strange look. So, to set the record straight:
Pimp, verb. — To question a medical person lower than oneself on the spot about a medical fact or truism to see if said person knows the answer, while showing how smart or dumb the person is in front of a group/person/patient.
- “Man, my attending pimped me mercilessly about acid-base disorders in my patient, when I’d only seen her for 20 minutes!”
- I cannot believe my intern started pimping me about physiology in front of the attending. He’s supposed to be on my side!
- It was great. My attending was pimping me about medication dosages and I got them all right.