We flew in to Germany this morning on the C-17 that regularly shuttles the U.S. wounded from the battlefields of Iraq to the Army's regional medical center here in Landstuhl. Injured soldiers rest in gurneys stacked two or three high while teams of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists offer care at 37,000 feet as good as most hospital intensive care units. It is quite a sight. The cargo bay of the huge jet is configured so that the medical teams can care for someone on a ventilator, give continuous oxygen, monitor vital signs and intervene when necessary. Last night as the plane hit choppy air, some of the wounded who were conscious groaned loudly in pain. The nurse gave them additional sedating drugs. A man with intestinal damage was continuing to bleed internally, so he got a blood transfusion in the sky.
To lessen the chance of a strike from a rocket, the plane takes off in the dark from Balad Air Base with no lights on. It accelerates far faster than a commercial airliner, slamming inexperienced passengers in seats along the side against one another. All passengers are instructed to wear body armor for the take off. It is one last reminder of the dangers of Iraq. For me, after spending seven hours next to all those injured soldiers, no reminder is needed.
Later today we caught up with some of the wounded whose care we are following from the outlying hospitals in Iraq all here to Germany and then on to treatment in the U.S. The 21-year-old I described yesterday is doing fine. His face looks awful, but he will heal. There are many others who will not do so well, despite the efforts of the best-ever military medicine.