“Trauma call, trauma call,” announced the hospital speakers at the Air Force Theater Hospital last month.
The call sent a flurry of staff toward the ER where we commonly see patients of all kinds: U.S. service members, civilians and even enemy combatants. No matter who arrives for treatment, our doctors will scrub the same way, ER techs will prepare the same homemade blankets, and nurses will lay out the same delicate instruments.
I’ve seen our staff work on our service members, and I’ve seen them work on enemy combatants. Each time I see the latter, I’m reminded of Jesus’ commandment to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
This trauma call would bring at least two wounded. One patient, a U.S. soldier, had a bullet lodged in his head. The other patient — as yet unknown — entered our ER with a tourniquet skillfully applied to his leg wound.
Since the soldier was critical, he was immediately treated by a trauma team.
The Coalition traumas arriving during the past six months had a 97.7 percent survival rate. They have that opportunity for life because our medical staff is willing to attempt what seems impossible. They define the words “heroic efforts” as they push beyond the limits of civilian medicine.
In this case, our soldier sustained an injury that would cause most stateside hospitals to initiate comfort measures and ready the family for a death.
Not here. Not this hospital. Not this staff.
The soldier was wheeled out of the ER and into the operating room where our neurosurgeon searched for the bullet. When she found it, she announced what she likely knew before surgery: The fragmented bullet made surgery impossible. The soldier would not make it.
At that point, I was summoned to a place I’d never been, the OR. I put on a mask and entered the room to see the remnants of this heroic effort: tubes, IVs, bags of blood, bandages and pharmacological equipment and monitors strewn about the room.
What I’ll remember most are the bloody footprints made by a harried staff.
“Chap, he’s not going to make it,” said our trauma doctor, Air Force Maj. Joseph DuBose. “Can you say a few words?”
My audible prayer was short, but my internal prayer had as much to do with our reaction toward the person in the OR next door as it did this man.
For you see, the staff knew the man in the adjoining OR, the one with the bullet in his leg, had likely caused this carnage. Now that man was receiving the best medical care possible from the same people who were grieving the loss of a fellow service member.
You learn a lot when you care for your friends, but you learn a great deal more when you care for your enemies. As I heard one of the doctors say, “This is Geneva Convention 101,” in reference to the requirement to treat wounded combatants.
Jesus summed it all up in the Sermon on the Mount: “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘hate your enemy’?
“I’m challenging that,” Jesus flatly stated. “I’m telling you to love your enemies. . . . If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.” (The Message, Matthew 43-44a, 47)
This trauma team didn’t settle for “run-of-the-mill.”
And just so you know, neither did the fellow soldiers of the soldier who died; they were the ones who skillfully applied the life-saving tourniquet to the enemy combatant.