Fighting for Their Lives

"Anyone who has ever taken care of someone who they were close to, someone they've worked with, and they've actually had to then work on them — it's a different ball game. Totally different ball game," White said. "Even though you attempt to focus on injuries like you do on 8,000 other cases you've done, when it's somebody you know, that you really know, and you know they're counting on you to save them, you know it's a different ball game."

The relentless pace in the hospital rarely allows for a moment of reflection. Back down in the emergency room, White treated another Iraqi child who had been brought in by the U.S. military. The 2-year-old had been accidentally scalded with boiling milk two days before.

Her mother took her to Iraqi doctors, who bandaged her wounds but then sent her home. A massive infection had now set in. Despite a team of doctors and nurses working to save her life, their efforts proved no match for the infection that overwhelmed her little body. White wrapped the body in a blanket as the devastating wails of the baby's mother filled the hallways.

For White and his staff, the death does not offer a moment to pause. Already there is news that several "walking wounded" soldiers are on their way, expected to arrive in minutes and fill the trauma beds of the emergency room. Some of the soldiers do indeed walk into the trauma center, but some of their injuries are life altering. The mouth and lower jaw of one of the soldiers has been reduced to a gaping bloody hole. Another has deep gashes in his legs and groin. Whatever encouraging statistics there are from the surge that point to fewer deaths and fewer wounded, at the combat support hospital they never stop coming.

But for the men and women who work in this hospital, there is some solace this day with the recovery of a young girl from a potentially deadly scorpion bite, and knowing that the staff has done its best to start Little on his long path to recovery from devastating injuries.

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