Something worth fighting for
By Army Staff Sgt. Pat Caldwell
103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
Ahmed plays soccer with Air Force nurse 1st Lt. Stephanie Allen outside the Joint Base Balad U.S. Air Force Hospital. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Pat Caldwell) (Released)
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (3/22/11) - In Iraq, there is often the known and the unknown and sometimes the two merge and overlap so that even the clearest scene is marred, obscured like sand pushed over a road by a hard, hot wind.
Ten-year-old Ahmed’s tale, though, is straightforward and horribly simple.
One day in November, Ahmed’s father bought a car. He asked a man to take the car to fill it with gas. Ahmed wanted to go along. So his father said go ahead.
Somehow gasoline spilled over Ahmed. No one, not even Ahmed, is sure how he came to be soaked in gasoline.
When the man tried to start the car there was a spark. The car erupted and caught fire. Ahmed was engulfed in flames.
Ahmed said he can remember crawling out of the vehicle and running. Running on fire, and, of course, he recalls the pain as his skin became ash.
Two nearby men grabbed Ahmed. One covered him with a shirt; another man pulled his coat over Ahmed’s scorched body, and took him home.
His family traveled to Baghdad to seek help. At a local hospital the doctors were firm with the family. Ahmed was burned too badly, and there was nothing they could do.
The family took Ahmed home to his village northeast of Baghdad, and there, in a farmhouse with no electricity, Ahmed began to die. A local nurse arrived and treated Ahmed as best she could, but offered an option as final hope – take him to the Americans.
So the family packed Ahmed up and drove from his village north, through central Iraq toward Joint Base Balad.
Hard decisions prove easy
When Ahmed was admitted to the hospital he suffered third-degree burns over more than 54 percent of his body.
“He was the most seriously burned kid to ever survive coming through an Air Force Theater hospital,” said Air Force Maj. Todd Bafus, surgeon.
One thing was crystal clear when he came into the hospital: He was dying. Not slowly, but all at once.
“He was black. He was knocking on death’s door,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Frances Robinson, a critical care technician at the hospital.
Ahmed’s chest, back, arms, face and portions of each leg were scorched. He was placed on a ventilator.
“We thought he was going to die,” intensive care unit nurse, Air Force Capt. Lani Cuebas said.
Hard decisions had to be made. To keep the boy or send him home. There were other issues to address. The priority was always wounded American servicemembers. Going back home for Ahmed, would mean death.
“We thought, ‘how could we make this kid get better? We got to try,’” Cuebas said.
So Ahmed stayed, and then the real fight for his life began....
This story ends with:
Maybe all that really matters is a group of American medical personnel did what they were trained to do. They went the distance and saved a little boy from death.
For a brief moment in a country ravaged by war on a base far from home, a small group of Americans made a difference.
This is yet another of those stories that demonstrates the humanity, the decency of our troops. You probably won't find it on the front page of the msm, but you can read it here.