Saturday, February 24, 2007

"I Was A Doctor For The Taliban"

Remember the recent uproar I caused with my Medscape post about surgeons? (careful, there are over 100 comments there now, and quite a BIT of temper--you might want to rent a HazMat suit before you read some of them --Ed) Enlightened by the insight I gained from some of the comments posted, and driven by my own curiosity (as well as the crowds of angry surgeons chanting outside my door --Ed) to learn more about this profession I adore, I decided to attend another talk given by Mr Philip Henman, an orthopaedic surgeon from Newcastle who had been a combat surgeon during quite a few conflicts, most recently in Afghanistan before the latest war.

So after what seemed like four hours and five connecting flights, I arrived at Addenbrookes hospital on the outskirts of the city. Thanks to a bus timetable as reliable as US Senator Strom Thurmond's integrity*, I arrived at the talk late, but slunk in just as Mr Henman started talk, titled Combat Surgery: The Great Game from the Sidelines with a foray into his posting to Kuwait during the earlier war there, and how he coped with being a trauma surgeon on the frontlines.


He went on to describe his posting in Afghanistan before George W. Bush went trigger-happy into the region, and his medical work whilst the Taliban, the hardline Muslim government in power at the time, were still the recognised rulers there. Whilst his assignment with the British Territorial Army meant that his primary duty was to treat British servicemen there, the trauma unit he worked in couldn't turn away emergency cases being brought in from the battlefield, and these were mostly locals. So, in effect, he was a doctor for the Taliban. Back when they were still the good guys.

Read my latest post about what Mr Henman said over at Medscape. It describes how, from a combat surgeon's point of view, the conflict there was very different from what was reported in the media. A great example was when he had a conversation with one of his patients, a benign-looking man playfully holding a flower in his mouth when his photo was taken. This man also just happened to be the local Taliban commanding officer. Confiding in Mr Henman, he told him that all the Taliban wanted to do was to start from scratch, rebuilding Afghanistan, and once that was done, all he wanted to do personally was to settle down and open a hotel.

It was an enlightening talk, not only because of the unique view of the battlefield from a surgeon trapped in the middle of it (in an absolutely horrible-looking army camp complex, might I add) but also because Mr Henman gave us some insight into bullet injuries and landmine blasts, complete with gory pictures and actual bullets fired in the war. Do read the post over at Medscape's The Differential and leave a comment if you like it. (Careful though, there are already some comments there, and just a BIT of temper, so you might--- heyyy waitaminute. I'm getting the oddest sense of deja vu now. As if I've said something similar before... --Ed)

*(come on. Dedicating your life to denying human beings basic rights on the basis of a little melanin in their skin, then losing it, banging one of them and plopping out a baby? Disgraceful. They don't make racists like they used to. --Ed)

13 comments:

dan said...

dude.. shouldnt that be kenny instead of kyle?

DundeeMedStudent said...

dan-
no as it is kyle who says the you bastards line.

Dr K said...

Very interesting post. It reminded me of a talk I went to by a British army surgeon. I can't remember where he'd been posted but he said that most of his workload out there consisted of local civilians with landmine injuries, locals with general practice and minor injury type problems who had no access to healthcare before the field hospital arrived and local women with obstetric problems.

Congratulations on getting into the britmeds as well!

zewt said...

i guess the media all around the world are being twisted to serve the purpose of certain parties... sad huh. will we ever know the truth.

The Angry Medic said...

Dan: Uh...what DundeeMedStudent said. I don't watch South Park. Should I?

DundeeMedStudent: Thanks for clarifying mate. Never found the time to watch more than a few episodes of South Park. Should I?

Dr K: Aw thanks! You helped a lot with that BritMeds post with your reply. I'm keeping that one in mind.

Combat surgeons are interesting folk, aren't they? I didn't think they had much impact on the local populace (apart from aiding their own soldiers) but from what you said, and this talk I attended, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Zewt: That's true...such is life, dude. All we can do is to not watch FOX News :P even the BBC is more unbiased than CNN nowadays.

Anonymous said...

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Dan said...

yeah, but it's kenny who gets killed..

singh, you should watch the chinpokomon episode of southpark. it will remind you of kuhan.

ash said...

lol - so its no just me then!

The Angry Medic said...

Anonymous: Goodness. Dissident doctors turning to spam? Now I've seen everything.

*shoots self in head*

Dan: Hahaha...I love the way they dream new ways up of killing Kenny. Especially in the 'Kenny commands the armies of heaven' episode. Now THAT was creative.

Sid Schwab said...

I spent a year in Vietnam while my wife organized war protests at home. (I felt very supported, by the way.) I recently read some letters I wrote home, and was impressed with my prescient words: the war is a mistake, is making more enemies, is being continued because those in charge don't want to admit a mistake. All politicians, I also said, seem to stop believing in democracy as soon as they get elected...

Nevertheless, I frequently feel like volunteering in Iraq somehow or another. Nevermind that it's the worst thing the US has ever done, the worst mistake by any president, ever: the people dragged into it need care.

And as I hope you know, whereas I took some exception to parts of the other post, I'm among those gathering at your door in admiration. I come to praise, not to bury...

zewt said...

let's continue with grey's anatomy then...

The Angry Medic said...

Dr Schwab: Oh yes, I know you had issues with the other post, which were completely valid (and well written, if I may say so). And I'm honoured that you dropped by WITHOUT a scalpel (or a hatchet) in your hand this time :)

I can empathise completely with you wanting to go to Iraq. I might have done so too if I were in your place...all that political bollocks is irrelevant to medics when our job is to provide relief in the field. Very noble of you.

Zewt: Continue with GA? How do you mean? You want me to put up another video and spoil it more for you? :)

(Speaking of which, the series has taken QUITE a twist recently. You need to catch up, man!)

zewt said...

i watched till meredith got drowned... hehe

twist is always good...

heard george is a gay in his real life.