Physicians' Life-Changing Experiences Helping Children In War Zone Iraq

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The new issue of Physician License & Practice Today magazine features the story of Maj. Philip Spinell, MD, a Pediatric Intensivist from the San Antonio Pediatric Military Center who found himself deployed to Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division stationed in Baghdad. This account portrays the world of combat pediatrics in Baghdad where the hospitals shake and rumble often from being fired upon by mortars and rockets.

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After many months of in-patient physical therapy and dressing changes for his skin grafts, Kuri was finally able to return to his home. His father sent me a picture showing Kuri in June of 2006 - he is walking well without contractures or venous congestion in his leg.

The new issue of Physician License & Practice Today magazine features the story of Maj. Philip Spinell, MD, a Pediatric Intensivist from the San Antonio Pediatric Military Center who found himself deployed to Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division stationed in Baghdad. This account portrays the world of combat pediatrics in Baghdad where the hospitals shake and rumble often from being fired upon by mortars and rockets.

Emergency medical personnel raced through the Emergency Department doors with an 18 month-old boy that was covered in burns and struggling to breathe. The car he and his mother had been riding in moments before had burst into flames when it accidentally collided with another car. His mother, who had shielded her little boy from with fire with her body, died before rescue workers could reach her. The infant, Mushtak, had severe inhalational injuries and 30% body surface area burns. As a Pediatric Intensivist I was called to assist in his care. We worked quickly to intubate, debride, and fluid rescicitate Mushtak until he was stable enough to transfer him to our Intensive Care Unit.

Tragically, hundreds of Emergency Departments across the United States see pediatric cases similar to this one everyday, so why is Mushtak's case notable? It's notable mostly because the car accident occurred not in Anytown, USA, but in war-torn Baghdad, Iraq. And Mushtak was resuscitated not in a typical American emergency room, but in a United States Army combat support hospital filled with military medical personnel, where some were dressed in military fatigues, or camouflage desert scrubs and some armed with 9 mm pistols. Welcome to the world of combat pediatrics in Baghdad where the hospital shakes and rumbles often from being fired upon by mortars and rockets.

"Even in moments of the military's peaceful intentions, children were sometimes accidentally hurt. Eight year-old Kuri was accidentally run over by a large, tracked vehicle when the Ukranian Army was handing out chocolate in his village. Kuri sustained multiple pelvic fractures, severe urethral transection, and a complete degloving injury of his right leg. At the combat support hospital, his fractures were externally fixated and skin grafts were placed on his injured leg by Dr. Adam Hamawy," says Maj Spinelli. "After many months of in-patient physical therapy and dressing changes for his skin grafts, Kuri was finally able to return to his home. His father sent me a picture showing Kuri in June of 2006 - he is walking well without contractures or venous congestion in his leg."

When I accepted an Army scholarship to support my medical school training, I knew that I may have to one-day deploy to a war zone. That's a choice I do not regret for even a moment. I will always be grateful for the honor of providing care to innocent children injured during war and to the soldiers who have sacrificed themselves to serve our country. While my deployment as a combat physician in Iraq was sometimes frustrating and depressing, it was ultimately a life-changing experience of which I will always be proud. (View the story in its entirety)

Today Publishing LLC, founded by a small group of physicians and residents, was created and designed to be a relevant, cutting edge resource for medical students, residents and fellows, as well as physicians in practice. The company publishes two magazines which focus on providing content to maximize a career in medicine Physician License & Practice Today, A Vital Resource for USMLE, COMLEX, Residency & Beyond and Pre-Med Today, A Complete Medical School Admissions Resource.

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