Sunday, November 24, 2013

Combat Doctor

Combat Doctor:

Life and Death Stories from Kandahar's Military Hospital

By Marc Dauphin

Published by Dundurn, October 28th, 2013

Marc Dauphin is a Canadian ER physician and Army officer, highly skilled and very experienced indeed, who in 2009 went to Afghanistan and served a full six month tour of duty at the military hospital at Kandahar where he and his team were responsible for treating some of the most severely injured soldiers and civilians. He was the Canadian Officer Commanding and carried an enormous amount of responsibility on his shoulders.

The Role 3 multinational hospital had a superb reputation and produced the most remarkable survival statistics that have ever been recorded in a combat or a civilian hospital; 97% of those injured who were admitted to the hospital with recordable vital signs survived due to the outstanding medical and nursing care they received there.

It was a hard, gruelling tour of duty for all the staff; although there were lighthearted moments, the staff were pushed to their absolute limits - and beyond them - by the constant, almost relentless influx of wounded, and they way they responded is utterly jaw-dropping. Surrounded by  enemies who sent rockets thudding into the grounds at regular intervals and who showed no respect for the Geneva convention guidelines that medical staff should not be attacked or fired upon during the course of their duties, they put their own physical safety on the back burner and concentrated on saving those who were brought to them, regardless of nationality or age, civilian , military or hostile status.

They treated children and adults who had trodden on concealed explosives, Afghan soldiers who had managed to shoot themselves, suspected terrorists as well as soldiers who were  so badly wounded it seemed that it might not be possible to save them; all were treated by the staff with compassion and respect, under the most stressful and dangerous circumstances imaginable. It would be prudent to add that this book contains incredibly evocative and very detailed descriptions of what life was like in the hospital as well as of the medical procedures that were carried out to save people's lives; it makes for compelling albeit sometimes stomach-churning reading.

The last part of the book tells of Dauphin's return to the safety and civilised world of Canada after his tour of duty, and how difficult he found it to adapt. Not surprisingly, he was found to have PTSD after what he had seen and endured, and his recovery took a considerable length of time and he was changed forever by his experiences.

A superb book and one which inspires me with the utmost respect for the medical teams who work in combat zones. Thank you, Dr Dauphin, for sharing your experiences.

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