Military Medical Team Makes the 'Toughest Call'

Radio dispatches let the trauma team know that they had one critical patient coming whose blood pressure was dropping and heart rate was dangerously high. But reports of the true nature of Moss' injury had not reached the closest medical facility at the Orgun-E base -- a former goat shed transformed into a rough field hospital. They were told it was "shrapnel injury." The aid station had two doctors, Maj. John Oh, a general surgeon, and Maj. Kevin Kirk, an orthopedic surgeon. At this point it wasn't clear which Moss needed most -- a surgical team or a bomb squad.

It was only when Oh started cutting away all the bandages that "Doc" Angell had delicately wrapped around the RPG that he saw what they were facing.

"It had fins coming out of the left side of his body and had a big bulge in the front of his right thigh," Kirk said.

Still conscious, Moss remembers the faces dropping in shock as they took in the sight.

Incredibly, both Oh and Kirk had drilled for this exact scenario, because the Army has a protocol to handle patients with unexploded ordnance in them.

"You're actually not supposed to bring them into an aid station," Oh said."And actually, he wasn't supposed to be flown with the other patients either."

According to the "War Surgery Manual," Moss should have been placed far away from other patients and operated on last. If procedure had been followed, Moss would likely have bled to death, but the doctors felt compelled to save him.

Then Pvt. Moss had another life-saving break -- Staff Sgt. Dan Brown, the explosives expert who spends his time disposing of bombs and captured weapons, was on the base. In his spare time, Brown had been watching an episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" about a patient with an unexploded grenade in him. In that story, the bomb technician is blown up. Brown was about to play a leading role in his own non-fiction drama.

Brown was shocked to see that Moss was still alive. Most of the time his patients are deceased. Brown confirmed that they were dealing with an RPG. Moss' life hung on whether or not they would remove the rocket.

Brown explained the different scenarios of what could happen. The worst case was that they would all become "pink mist" -- everyone in the room would be killed. But to identify how much explosive power they were facing, they needed an x-ray to determine whether the RPG's warhead was inside Moss. Their notoriously temperamental x-ray machine malfunctioned, and it wasn't until the third attempt that they got a decent image.

The doctors and Brown were relieved by what they didn't see. The deadliest part of the RPG -- the main explosive charge -- was not in Moss. But their relief diminished when Brown explained to the surgeons that it would still have enough force to kill Moss and destroy their hands.

At that point, Oh ordered everyone except the critical staff out of the aid station, the two doctors and three surgical staff remained. They all knew the risk they faced.

"I looked everybody in the eye and said, 'You guys understand what's going on here, right?' And I knew everybody heard me, but nobody said anything. They just kept doing their jobs," he said.

Oh told them it was okay to leave -- but nobody did. With no words exchanged, each had decided to risk their life to save Moss.

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