Speaker: Born in Long Island, Gus Kappler, MD author of Welcome Home from Vietnam, Finally reads excerpts from his memoir of his experience as a trauma surgeon during the Vietnam War.
“My desperately injured patient was a grunt who, while patrolling through a small, recently used enemy clearing, spotted a piece of Styrofoam on the jungle floor. What does a typical 18-year-old do but bend over and pick it up? And predictably, the Styrofoam had been booby trapped. His was a major injury. This young man's prolonged surgery required 106 units of blood.
He survived the surgery, but he developed renal, that is kidney, failure. I accompanied him on a flight to Saigon's Third Field hospital for dialysis and was abruptly dismissed by their staff. I had poured my heart and soul into this boy. I was totally invested in and committed to his survival. Then suddenly I had to turn off the physician and compassion switch.
A week later, I was notified that he had died. Being unable to save a battered, wholesome 18-year-old patient, despite all your skills in the operating room, traumatizes one soul.”
Speaker: Dr. Annette Osborne COL (Ret.) devoted twenty-nine years of military service and has worked as a nurse for forty years both in the military and civilian spheres. Born in New York City, she is now the President of the National Association of Black Military Women. In her story, Osborne recalls the day she spent with the injured patient in this photograph and emphasizes the importance of caring for all human beings.
“I've been an Army nurse for almost 30 years. It's a little bit different military medicine when you're there, when you're seeing it, as opposed to the civilian hospital setting. It's definitely very different.
If you see the one that's in that helicopter, he was he was very afraid. You see my head is over him, but I'm talking to him. I am trying to comfort him. He had difficulty breathing. He had passed out. I saw when it happened, I was right there when it happened. I ran over. We got the stretcher, we radioed to a helicopter, got him in there and got him into the clinic.
And again, I’m leaning over him. I'm talking to him. He's not responding to me, but he can hear me. And so I'm talking in a calm voice: ‘You're going to be okay.’ They're scared. They're scared. They don't know if they're going to make it and if I can hold their hand just to hold their hand because they're afraid, that's what I'm going to do.
I don't look at anything else but this person needs our help. I'm not saying ‘Okay, well, he's Caucasian. I'm going to leave him there’ or ‘He's you know black and I’m going to leave him here.’ We don't, we don't look at that. Not in medicine. We do not look at that. We don't look at race. We look at the care that is needed for that particular human being. The word human being. We look at quality of care and quality of life.”