Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Stan Part I

Life is an interesting thing. We live it every day and yet so many are always trying to find the meaning of it. Other people would never spend their time consumed by such poetic and wasteful thought. Life is just a way to get ahead or to end up on top. Either way, you walk out the door everyday living it. Sounds kind of redundant doesn’t it? Here I am just living life. For what is life if not to be lived? I guess it’s a circular discussion once you get right down to it. He believes in this religion and so it’s this way, he doesn’t believe and so it must be something different. Let’s all agree on one thing here shall we? We all have a right to life and to live it. I’m not talking about consequences of choices here either. Some do things in their lives that change that right to live life. Let us keep this simple in those regards. Mr. Jones down the street works an honest 9-5 with a typical 2.5 kid family. He has the right to live life doesn’t he? The same goes for you and me.

I know that I probably seem to be rambling about who knows what, but I promise you that there is a point. I am going to apologize up front because this is going to be a lengthy expression of the heart, but these thoughts keep me up at night. I just hope that getting them down on paper will release my mind. There are a couple of stories that prod these thoughts and emotions out of me. I’m not trying to be political in my telling of these stories, but they are my stories. My opinion is going to come through.

There was this little local national girl that was injured in a fight between Taliban, Afghan Army and us that came to our FST (forward surgical team). She was perhaps five years old maybe six. I say perhaps and maybe because the typical Afghan doesn’t really know their age. They just guess at it. She had been hit by an RPG that the Taliban fired errantly into her house. The explosion killed two of her sisters. She lost a leg, but she lived. This isn’t the only child I’ve seen come through our doors thanks to the Taliban that claims to be fighting for them. There was a young shepherd that lost both legs and an even younger boy that lost his life. If it wasn’t for our team all of them, not just the one, would be dead now. I’m not tooting my team’s horn or anything, but it’s the truth. I can’t say how happy I am to have the opportunity to help these people. We’ve saved so many lives here that I think it’s appropriate to feel good about what we’re doing.

You know, it’s a funny thought that keeps coming to me when I get to this point of the story in my head. It’s usually about midnight by this point, but it’s only 8:30 right now. My heads clearer so now I can address this funny thought. Many people who would read the thought bubbles floating above my head would scoff at this little story. If we weren’t in Afghanistan then none of these kids would need our help in the first place. There wouldn’t be Taliban killing children while trying to kill American troops. I’ll tell you why this is a funny thought. It’s going to get political though.

While preparing to come over here my unit was required to take some cultural sensitivity classes. What we learned was almost sad more than anything else. The doctors that were schooled under the Taliban government only received the education that our third year medical students receive. I’ve worked with third year medical students and I promise you that as a lowly Army medic I know more than they do. You can’t learn anything spending three years in a classroom about how medicine works, only about how it’s supposed to work. The rest of the schooling these doctors received was purely from the Quran. Am I saying that religion is a bad thing to learn? I spent two years of my life teaching nothing but religion. I would never say it’s bad. What I am saying is that the suppression of knowledge and learning to save lives as a profession in order to learn religion is wrong. What scholars and doctors were experiencing under Taliban rule was akin to what was experienced in the dark ages of European history. It was even worse than that though. A seven year old girl was hung for going to school. Mutilation of women’s genitals was common practice as was public executions if a woman spoke her mind. Free thought, education, even the right to live life was suppressed and taken away by this system. What I am saying is that it’s a shame that it took a terrorist network killing thousands of Americans before we decided to do something about the Taliban and their buddies. The reason why the thought from the previous paragraph is funny is because those that would say we’re at fault for the deaths of those children would be the loudest calling for us to put an end to the atrocities that were a daily event in this country.

All of this wouldn’t keep me up at nights if it wasn’t for the last tale to tell. I’ve struggled with how to put this part down on paper. So much of it swirls around in my head and I wonder at times how much I have a right to the feelings that I have about it. I guess the conclusion that I came to is that who has the right to tell a man what and how he can feel? Not even God takes that upon Himself and if you don’t believe in God than think of it as freedom of speech.

I don’t remember the call, but I remember standing around trauma bed one. This is the bed that the most seriously injured come to and in a war zone that can mean some bad stuff. This time the word is that it is one of those bad ones. A vehicles’ armor had been penetrated by an IED and it was U.S. Soldiers hurt. I’ve been in numerous traumas already. I’ve seen things that normally are only in books and movies. The point being traumas had stopped making me nervous. Those butterflies had been beaten and now I was a somewhat seasoned medic with a job to do. This time it was different though. I felt those butterflies again as soon as I heard that they had started chest compressions on one of the patients.

Somewhere in time somebody decided that trauma was sexy. Maybe it was the adrenaline or that morbid fascination people seem to have in blood and carnage. M.A.S.H. was a huge hit in its day and ever so manly George Clooney and ER were very popular. The thing is with those shows is that typically you get a close up of Clooney doing chest compressions with the sweat dripping down his face. Somebody yells, “CLEAR!” and then there’s the shock. Everybody stares at the monitor praying for that beep that says there’s a heartbeat. When there’s not Clooney calls for this drug or that drug in whatever amount. Tension builds and when it seems that all is lost we hear it. Beep, beep, beep. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and they start patting each other on the back. With all of that tension and sweaty close ups what’s not to love?

The sad reality that those in the medical world are faced with is that if it comes to chest compressions you’ve probably already lost. I can attest to that, I’ve done chest compressions on three people in my life and worked on a couple others where it was done. Out of all of those, not one walked out of that hospital. These are the thoughts that course through my mind as I can feel my heart begin to race. Those thoughts feel dirty and sick to me like death overtaking a once healthy flower in the face of winter. I should be positive. They’re American Soldiers and I’m an Army Medic. By some miracle we’ll save this guy I tell myself. No matter how hard I try there’s still a dark mocking voice that continues to taint my thoughts with reality. I can feel my throat and chest tighten. I continue to remind myself that I’ve done all of this before, but doubt nags at me like the beating sun in the heat of summer with no shade in sight. The world comes crashing into my inner struggle tearing all of these thoughts apart as the sounds of the approaching ambulance reaches my ears. I am a medic and I have a job to do.

I wish there was a way to paint a mental picture of a real trauma. The sights and sounds. It is a child’s breath away from sheer chaos at times and as smooth as a waltz at others. The concept is simple though. Everyone has a job and the surgeon leads the team assigned to that table. There is an airway to secure and IV access has to be gained. Wounds have to be uncovered and bleeding controlled. There are drugs to be pushed and bandages to be placed. Don’t forget to get that patient off of the litter and cover him with a blanket. When its severe trauma like this was, people are calling out for a hundred different things and you have to be able to do all of them at once.

The litter team came in at a near run through the double doors at the end of the trauma bay. There is no time wasted getting the soldier onto the bed and it all starts. I’m the right medic for this trauma and all I’m thinking about is that I’ve got to get an IV started on this guy. Somebody has already cut his shirt open and I grab hold of his arm. It’s warm to the touch… That must be good... I can’t see any obvious veins… this is going to be a hard stick, but there’s one IV in… “KC the doc said to start chest compressions”… why are we checking for breathing again… something about his eyes doesn’t look right… oh good, KC nodded at me so that means he heard… why in the world does somebody want to change the airway? If it’s in place let’s use the damn thing… good, he’s starting chest compressions… once things calm down I’ll get an IV started in this other arm… what is that look in his eyes… wow there’s a lot of blood on his legs. I need to get that uncovered… why are we stopping chest compressions? Doesn’t the doc know we already checked for breath sounds… what did the doc just say? He’s what? Gone?

Have you ever heard silence before? I know it’s a funny thing to ask. How can you hear silence? Might as well see clear right? I’ll tell you what silence sounds like, it sounds like death. In that trauma room standing over that soldiers’ body I heard silence. With a trauma bed with another soldier being worked on it perhaps 5 feet behind me, I heard it. With people calling things out and near chaos reigning there was complete and utter silence. That’s when I knew what that look in the soldier’s eye was. Sometimes our bodies are referred to as tabernacles of clay. Something built to house something greater. That look was emptiness. It was like looking into an empty container.

I still have work to do and it must be done. I’ll need to gather all of his personal gear and keep it together. We’ll need a body bag and the proper forms for the soldier’s body. I’ll need to get some form of identification off of him. My mind tries to run down a mental list as I numbly begin the process. Thinking that I have his dog tags I cut the tag tied around his neck. It’s not his tags and so I set it with his other gear for the moment. I find his tags looped through his belt loop and then tucked into his back pocket. I find it interesting since that is the way I carry my dog tags. It’s just more comfortable that way.

Not much longer after that our other soldier has made it into the operating room. He’ll lose a leg, but he’ll keep his life. I realize at this point that he doesn’t know that his battle buddy didn’t make it. We’ve reset the trauma bay in case more patients come. That is always a priority. The dead soldier’s body is placed in what we call a refer unit until we can start it on its journey home. The refer unit will keep it cool until then. I gather up the few things that haven’t been sealed in a Ziploc or in the body bag with the dead soldier. I find the dog tag that I cut off of his neck earlier and take a moment to look closer at what it is. “WC, May the Lord bring you back to me. BC”. I sat there and read it over and over seeing the initials of WC and BC stands out like a light in the darkness. I knew without having to be told that these were the initials of our dead soldier and the girl he left at home. My wife’s face flashed through my mind repeatedly as I sat absorbed in this moment. I was startled to realize that I was holding back tears and with some effort I was able to rip my mind and emotions away from the moment.

In this life we all endure hardships and joys. Nobody can sit back at the end of their days and say that they had no joy or no pain. The two emotions are tied to each other and are of an eternal nature. Joy is made all the sweeter by those painful experiences that we endure. We just have to hope that the joyful moments outnumber the painful ones. Most of these we will forget. They will simply become part of the collage of emotions and experiences that make up life. Some of them will never go away. They are seared into our minds like brands on the flesh never to be removed. Every now and then we realize that we are having one of these moments which only heighten the sensation being experienced. We even tell ourselves on days such as our wedding day or the birth of a child that we will never forget that day. I will never forget that day. I knew as I stood to get on with my duties that I had had a moment that will forever impact me, a moment to be remembered.

As I was saying earlier, life is an interesting thing. How often do we take it for granted? I’m not talking about our climate controlled houses or the cars we drive 2 blocks to the corner mart for a soda. I’m just talking about that simple right from before, the right to live life. When is the last time any of us feared just to walk across the street or to let our kids stand in front of the window? I can’t seem to recall ever having those fears. That’s actually part of why I’m here in fact, to keep those fears out of my country, my neighborhood, my family. I just hope that the lesson learned here sticks with me throughout the rest of my life. I hope that each of us can feel pain for what is happening a world away, but feel joy that it’s happening a world away.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Love these pictures Emily!

Thanks to my brother-in-laws sister we were able to get some pictures in the pretty leaves before they are all gone. Jonny discovered was so hard to get him to take a picture once he discovered they made a swishing sound! Oh, but he was so cute! I wish he would have given his big cheesy smile to the camera, but it wasn't a phone so I don't think he quite knew it was a camera. He knows that our phones take pictures, but he's never seen a big black one like Emily had! It was a beautiful day to take pictures. All of them are posted on my facebook page.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jonny's growing up

Hello everyone!!! Boy, I sure am terrible at keeping this blog updated. Julienne, you're my hero! We are all doing great. Since I know you all just want to see cute pictures of our little boy I'll keep this short. Jared is busy working with his brother-in-law, Brent, landscaping his parents house, remodeling mom's bathroom, helping with family reunions and camping, and being a wonderful father and husband. I'm not sure how he manages it all but he does a good job. I'm just having a blast watching little Jonny grow and learn everyday. We always get comments about how happy he is and how amazed people are that he just keeps eating and eating and will eat anything. (We try to keep the amount of dirt and rocks under control, though!) He's a hefty 26 pound 9 month old. I've heard that kids that are big like that generally don't develop as fast physically because there is just so much weight to move, but I think someone forgot to tell Jonny that! He's pretty much walking. I don't know what to count as his first steps because he's been taking steps here and there for a few weeks now, but yesterday he took 6 steps in a row and his balance just gets better everyday! He squats up and down up and down and doesn't even seem to get fatigued like the rest of us do when we do squats!!! Most of you won't get a chance to really see him book it across a room with his bear crawl. It's so funny! I'm so excited for all of you who haven't met him to see his cute dimples and fall in love with his funny personality!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Well, Jared and I finally got the internet up and running at our house so I can update this!!! Funny how we become all dependent on the internet! Anyway, Jared got home from his training on November 5th!!! Yeah for that! It was such a wonderful scene for us at the airport. Me with a 9 week old baby and Jared in his army uniform reuniting for good. It was really hard to hold back the tears. Jonny had just started to smile the week before he got home and he really began to respond when Jared started to play with him. Jared really can make him smile and giggle more than anyone can. I'm sure Jonny knew his Daddy was home because from that night on he's been sleeping better and had happier days. It's been so fun!

We are doing our best to enjoy each night we have together as a family because once January comes the new semester comes....night classes, night classes, night times! Gary knows this well, huh?! Jared has English, Psychology, Anatomy and Chemistry this semester. It's gonna be a pretty intense semester, but I'll at least be able to help with the Anatomy. All the science classes are prerequisites for the Army's Physician Assisstant (PA) program that we want to apply for. Apparently even the army's program is really competitive so we want to be as prepared as possible. I'm hoping to start up massaging again during some evenings and Saturdays. To build up my clientele I'm lowering my prices. If anyone is interested...give me a call and I'll let you know what the going rate is!

Christmas this year is really simple for us. That's what happens when you're still struggling college students with a baby. We all know that well! But, I think I want to always keep Christmas simple -it helps me to enjoy it more. Merry Christmas to everyone. We love you all!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hello to everyone! Since our lives have a tendency to change quite frequently we thought it would be nice to create this little page so we could let everyone know what's going on. Just for fun, we'll go back to when we got married so everyone can be up to speed.

We were sealed in the Manti Utah temple on the 11 of August 2007. Life hasn't slowed down much since that time. Jared immediately started school back up at UVSC (now UVU) full time working towards an associates degree in pre-engineering with a bachelors in civil engineering as the end goal. He was also working full time at H&H Engineering in American Fork. Between full time work and full time school he was a busy, busy man! I was working as a massage therapist in my own private practice out of my home and as a TA at the massage school. I enjoyed the work and the ability to control my own schedule! It was great! January 2008 is about the time lots and lots of major changes happened.

In January we found out I was expecting our first baby and of course enjoyed the sickness that came along with that! It made it really difficult to continue working on my clients so I began to refer them out to friends of mine until I would be able to do massage again. As you can imagine, when you lose part of your income it can make you reconsider the best way to finance your education and we had to look for new ways to pay for Jared's schooling. (Without having millions of dollars in debt at the end since I already had enough!!!) At the beginning of Feb we were driving up to Salt Lake and the thought of the military paying for school crossed my mind. I wondered why we hadn't considered that as an option. I didn't say anything to Jared about it, but a couple days later he was checking the email and received something from an Army recruiter about the reserve. He jokingly said, "I could join the Army." I said, "Are you serious?" He wasn't really, but I told him what I was thinking about two days before and he told me we could look into it if I wanted him to. He emailed Sergent Kopecky so we could look into it. We met with him a day or so later and liked all of the information he gave us. As we continued to look into things over the next couple weeks we decided joining the reserve was the direction we needed to go and by the end of Feb Jared had signed his life away to the government.

Soon after that I was feeling very antsy and needed more space and light in my living quarters. Just a couple months after that we closed on a condo that was in the boundaries of the ward we were living in. I love our little condo. Jared hasn't lived in it much since he left for basic training about a week after we moved in.

Basic training was not an experience that any of us would like to repeat, but Jared got through it with the best attitude I think anyone could possibly have! He was in Missouri for that and then went to Texas for his advanced training as a combat medic. This is where our lives continue to change. Jared really enjoyed the training he received in the health field and was very good at it so we began to look into what it would take to become a physician's assisstant (PA) through the army. The more we looked into that the more we liked it and have decided to pursue that as a possible career. Thier program is 2 very intense years of education but by the end of it he'll have a Master's degree from the University of Nebraska. It'll take us a while to get everything done to be accepted to the progam so things could change once again, but we're excited about the opportunties that are out there for us.

The most recent change in our life is the birth of our little Jonny. Timothy Jonathan Black was born Sept 6th 2008. He weighed 8 lbs 2 oz and was 19 inches long. He was a beautiful little boy from the moment he was born and I don't think I'm just biased - he really was cute! He only continues to get cuter as we get to know him! What a little blessing! Being a new mom is definitely a new phase of life for me, but I've never enjoyed anything more! Jared is still away from us until the beginning of November. I look forward to the day when I can erase that sentance from this post. I continue to be amazed at the sacrifices he is willing to make for our family and I think this is the greatest one - being away from his little boy. We love him for all he does and look forward to his return.

That's about it for now. I guess if there is anything else we need to post on here that you all would like to know just ask.