Army Hospitals Continue Caring For Kids In The War-Zone
February 8, 2008
I found this article very interesting, because I know how hard our Troops try to do what they can to help the children of Afghanistan and Iraq. Throughout the history of American forces in combat, there’s always been the inclination for the Troops to go out of their way to take care of and protect the innocent… the children. I’ve seen countless photos of our Soldiers holding an injured child in their arms, with tears running down their faces. In our country, children are important and our inclination is to protect them. A smile or touch from a child, can melt the heart of the most battle-hardened Soldier. The newest generation of American Soldier is no different than those before them; they’ll do everything humanly possible to save the life of a child.
In a recent study that was just released, during the early years of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, US military hospitals cared for a large number of injured and ill children. Today, they continue to care for children who arrive at their hospitals.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are unique in the face that there is no real front line or battle zone and that often puts children in danger of being struck with stray bullets, as well as other combat hazards. In Iraq, with the medical system collapsing, or nonexistent, families are taking their wounded and ill children and family members to the US military hospitals for care, even with the more convential childhood illnesses.
“I took care of children burned from a kerosene heater, regular car accidents, other injuries secondary to the conflict itself,” said study co-author Dr. Phillip Spinella, who served as an Army doctor in Baghdad in 2004 and 2005.
Some of the routine things that military doctors see when children are brought into their facilities are children wounded by rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. The study was published in February in that months issue of the journal of Pediatrics. It is based on Army hospital data from December 2001 to December 2004.
Army medical personnel continue to treat the children of Iraq, when they are brought in to their hospitals. On February 1st, for instance, two young Iraqi burn victims and a young Iraqi boy who had abdominal injuries and an amputation were treated at the Air Force Theater hospital at the US airbase in Balad. Balad is located about 50 miles North of Baghdad in Diyala province.
“The majority of our patients at any given time are Iraqi nationals,” Air Force Major David Norton, who runs the intensive care unit there said via email. “With respect to children in particular, we see far too many. Iraqi children, through no fault of their own, are forced to grow up quickly and are oftentimes the unfortunate victims of an adult world.”
In the United States, our tendency is to protect our children. It’s no different when our Soldiers are in Iraq and dealing with Iraqi children. They pour their hearts and souls into helping save the lives of the injured and ill children that they treat. According to one nurse at the hospital in Balad, often the intensive care unit resembles a pediatric unit because of the number of children who are being treated there.
All researchers in the study are current or former military doctors. They wished to quantify what they were seeing, thus they began analyzing the data and discovered that children made up approximately 4% of the admissions and approximately 10% of the bed-days in the US military hospitals during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the three year period of the study, more than 1,000 children were admitted to US military hospitals.
Dr. Eaman Algobory, an Iraqi medical officer in Baghdad with the International Office for Migration said that by caring for the children, it creates an enormous good will among the people of Iraq. He likened it to an angel touching the hearts of the Iraqi people, as he described the effect on the Iraqis who experienced the US Army’s medical care of their children.
“American Soldiers in the field, if they see any child hurt, automatically they will try to protect them and evacuate them and try to save his life. This is well known on the street,” said Dr. Algobory.
Very few military doctors and nurses who are deployed are pediatric specialists. However, recognizing the number of children that they come into contact with, the US Army Medical Command has adapted to what the study authors called the “increased load of pediatric patients.” The Army is doing everything possible to ensure that their deployed medical personnel are able to appropriately handle the influx of pediatric patients they might see during a deployment. The Army now offers training in pediatric trauma, to the hospital staff, prior to their deployments. They have also addded child-sized equipment and liquid antibiotics to hospital supplies. Doctors also have access to pediatric specialists by telephone.
“We’ve been able to overcome the difficulties,” said Spinella.
The study was unable to determine how many of the children who were treated during the study period, had combat related injuries, as opposed to childhood illnesses and other injuries you might see in an active child. Data gathered was based on hospital codes and the reseachers did not review patient charts. The average length of stay in the hospital was 4 days. Most children treated were between the ages of 11 and 17. 45 patients were infants younger than 1 year old.
There is no doubt in my mind, that as long as children continue to be brought into American military hospitals for care, whatever the reason; that these children will continue to receive topnotch medical care. They’ll receive the best.