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Volunteering in a war zone

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scot Parry
  • 332nd Expeditionary Logistics
Ever since I heard that I could volunteer at the base hospital I've been interested in taking advantage of the opportunity. I enjoy helping people and because I missed my family, I thought it would be the perfect way to fill this void. In fact, there were three of us from the Load Planning Office who attended the hospital volunteer orientation on May 19.

The orientation was designed to give us an idea of the areas we could volunteer for. By the following week we began getting our days off from work and so I started volunteering May 23rd at about 10:30pm.
That night and into the morning I helped organize the linen room in the Intensive Care Ward (ICW) and received basic training for taking patient's vital signs.

In addition, I received training on carrying patients from the helo-pad. The next week I spent my time trying to find out when and where I could be the most helpful.

Finally on June 7, I went into the ICW at 5:00 a.m. and found out that the 5:30 a.m. shift change could get quite hectic. Critically injured patients are taken to the Intensive Care Unit to prepare for surgery and to recover after surgery. Once they become stabilized, American soldiers are often sent to the Continental United States or to the hospital at Ramstein, Germany. A few of the American patients and many of the Iraqi patients go into the ICW to completely recover to the point where they can return to active duty or
simply go home.

Since that day I've tried to put in four to five hours every Monday morning. On one occasion I assisted in the Operating Room by pushing the patients in and out of surgery and standing by in case any of the surgical team needed anything. On another occasion I helped prepare a patient to move from ICU into ICW. The nurse and I needed to remove all of the tubing from his nose and from the IV in his arm etc. I also took part in giving a critically injured patient CPR. The doctors and nurses in ICU were involved in several attempts to revive her after she flat lined. They included me in the final attempt to revive her but unfortunately the patient did not survive. The patient was then prepared for the morgue and cleaned up in the sterile room.

My experiences at the hospital have taught me a number of things. First of all, I have learned that no matter how safe I feel at Joint Base Balad, the United States is at war with Iraq. I think that sometimes it is easy for people to forget that simple fact.

Secondly, I have learned how important it is to know first-aid and to be ready to use it under stressful situations. I am grateful the nurses and doctors were around to assist me with the CPR process but there may come a day when I will need to help someone on my own and I now feel more prepared.

I have also learned that sometimes we all in the world share the same universal needs. In my capacity as a load planner I don't get the chance to speak with many of the locals. But at the hospital I've had the chance to meet some wonderful people from Iraq who in many ways are just like me and my family.

Tech. Sgt. Scot Parry is assigned to the 48th Aerial Port Squadron, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.