The Lived Experience of Chief Nurses in Military Operations Other Than War -- M. Turner

Essential Themes
- Caring
-- Compassion

Compassion went a step beyond the usual expressions of caring. Authentic personal connections that formed in the normal course of events reflected a balance between compassion and reason. The individuals involved were not necessarily patients but during this period of time shared in this incredible episode of the human drama which was unfolding. Unique circumstances also brought forth an imaginative awareness and a desire to do more.


The second day a land mine went off and they brought in a guy.....He was one of our troops. He was an American and his buddy said "Well he has a little... His daughter was born today... Was supposed to be born today. And we're going to try to find out and maybe that will help him." And this was the most important thing to him, was finding out and trying to give this guy this news, and of course at that time of day we couldn't call back to the United States because it was in the morning. So the Marine Corps somehow found a phone and had him call back. And, of course, the baby was born, he came over and he told the guy. And whether he heard him or not... This guy... It was just such a relief just to watch this guy. I guess he had been talking about his kid all day ..... that guy went out air-evac the next morning, first, they took him to surgery, did the escharotomies,and we sent him out and we sent a nurse out with him.


In a way, especially the third country nationals (TCN's), we felt kind of bad for them. ...we knew that they were hired. And they basically were hired, from what I understand, for a year. And they were not paid anything until the end of the year. And they were guarded. So wherever they went... Like they would go to clean the toilets... Wherever they went, they had to have a guard with them, an armed guard.The host government paid them so we had no control over what was happening to them at all. They were somewhat amazing.


They had been on maneuvers and they were playing with the machine gun and this guy killed his best friend, shot him through the heart, and he brought this guy to us. ... I mean the guy was really dead but we decided that we could do something. We took this guy and did open heart surgery. Dr. W. did open heart surgery in the E.R. there to try to save him, we didn't, he died.


But at the same time that was happening,..... One of the French troops was decapitated and they brought the body in first and then they brought the guy's head in. And so we were in the middle of trying to take care of those burn patients and everybody was really busy and somebody came in and said "We need to identify this guy and we need to get a... To see about a... We need to do a dental examination. We can do dental examination." We had this dentist there who was really good. So they took the head and set it on the x-ray table, away from the body, and x-rayed the head. ... The next day, we took him out and put him in the Refri-Unit, first time I had ever saw one of the Refri-Units, one of the refrigerators that they have in the dining hall used to put people in. So we put him in this unit and put the head in and everything else. We were very careful to make sure that every part of it... This was really interesting for the whole time we were out there... Just made sure that every piece of that person was together... Somehow we just didn't want to leave anything laying any place. So we got him together and we had a funeral. We actually had a funeral. It was one of the most beautiful things. It was very touching. All the services. Everybody that was in camp, all of the services, all of the foreign nationals, all the troops came over and we were... They were standing in front of the ATH and they left from the ATH. It was one of the most beautiful, touching moments of the... That I have ever seen. When they started playing the music and everything... You didn't have to say, "You need to stand at attention," the whole... Everybody... All the services just automatically stood up and stood at attention. And then everybody saluted the coffin, You didn't have to say anything. Everybody just did it. It was automatic. And they put him in a helicopter and took him off and... All of the troops were standing around and they were watching this helicopter until it just completely went out of sight, didn't even see it... Couldn't even hear it anymore. But nobody moved. It was a really good experience.


Probably one case that I really, really remember is when... When I went out to the hangar to see how it all worked, there was an elderly gentleman who had white hair who was having chest pains and the story that we were able to get from the interpreter was he had to leave his whole family and he had seven or eight kids. He didn't know when he was... He did not want to get on that plane but pretty much was "If you don't get on the plane, you're going to get killed" and so he didn't know when he was going to see his family or when he would see his kids again, he really had real mixed feelings about being there.


We had many missions that we started flying ,taking prisoners of war and we took a lot of them out to Jetta. And we took patients that had been horribly injured and took them out to Jetta. I remember... You know, when I mentioned the one patient we ventilated... I remember a nurse ventilating a patient for 12 hours while we flew him out to Jetta so he could be out there with his family and then they could terminate the ventilation and let him die there with his family. So we had lots of missions with the prisoners and saw the same kind of professionalism, compassion, from our crews as you would see towards our own soldiers. Just tremendous caring. You could see that nursing coming out in those folks once again. Yeah... The caring.


I got to know the Canadians. The Canadians were going doing humanitarian relief efforts up into the hills. And so I talked the Colonel into letting us go. I told him, I said "You know they really need help up there and we are all nurses and..." We had trauma but it wasn't steady, it wasn't every day. So I said, "You know, these people who go up there and we could do a lot of stuff. We have all these vaccinations and everything. We can go up and help take care of some of the people up there..." He said "Yes. Only thing is you have to have an armed escort." So we went out with the Marines or the Army.


Well to make a long story short, the patient expired. We brought his wife in to be with him. She was at his bedside. You know, he was brain dead, they disconnected the ventilator, did all those kinds of things and it was a real emotional time for the folks in the air-evac community because we had really worked so hard to try to save him.