Thursday, 28 April 2011

Summary of the day:

-Storms with thunder that rivaled the Artillery range

-Peaking down suspicious holes for Cobras

-A Blackout in the office while I was by myself that took out the lights, computers and phones

New story to add though:

Tonight, after the blackout I had a contractor, obviously upset, come into the office and request the status of a message. His family had been injured in the tornados and his home was destroyed. His family was currently at the hospital after having been in a Red Cross shelter and he was trying to fly out tonight. The Red Cross was trying to verify the situation with the doctors, but only one caseworker was handling all the military and disaster calls at this chapter in Alabama and I advised him it might be some time before we saw the message ready for delivery. But he had just flown in from an outlying FOB and had no place to stay so I told him he could wait in the canteen until his message came in. Together we watched the news coverage of the tornados as he worked with his family in the States to have the doctor call the Red Cross to provide the verification instead of the one caseworker trying to track down the doctor. We waited about two hours before his message came in and when it did I delivered it verbally straight to him so he could take his message and case number to the PAX terminal to try and get on a flight tonight. Before he left he came around the desk, hugged me, kissed me on the cheek and gave me the most sincere thank you. That is why I love this job.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

So less than an hour left on my shift tonight, with the crackles from an electrical storm hanging over the mountains, I hear a voice weakly calling “hello? Hello?” into the office from our back door. I get up and make a move to the door as it swings open and in shuffles a soldier with blood dripping from his hand. He is sweating bullets and tells me he needs to sit down because he's so dizzy. So I pull out the chair at our second desk and run to get him some water as he drops his head to the desk. I ask him if he thinks he’s really going to faint and he says the water is helping. I ask him what happened and he said he was putting his helmet together and a screw went through his finger. I ask him if I can see his finger to assess if I need to take him to a hospital. He’s says he doesn’t think he can look at it so I tell him to close his eyes and just hold his hand out so I can see it. Gently I removed the paper towels he used and while I could see it was a good sized rip, it was obvious he wasn’t going to bleed to death on my floor. I told him to keep drinking the water and keep breathing deeply. I went over to see if we had anything better to use for bandages and I kept him talking to me the whole time. As he was telling me about what had happened it dawned on me that I probably should take him to the hospital for evaluation since he told me that it was a jagged rusty screw with WD 40 on it that went into his thumb. Sounds like maybe a tetanus shot to me! I was also worried about how woozy and sweaty he was so, better be safe than sorry. I quickly called another red cross station to cover our emergency message queue since I was the only one in the office, and together we walked to the car through this crazy lightening storm with the purple sky flashing like a strobe light every few seconds.

When we arrived at the hospital I took him in the emergency entrance since he had never been there before. Once we found a nurse, I made a move to head back to the office and as I turned to go he says “Hey wait… I don’t know how to get back!” Poor guy, apparently he was a transient trying to get to an outlying FOB and didn’t know the base. So I asked the nurse if he would have access to a DSN phone and she said yes, so I handed over our business card and said “I’m up all night, just call if you need a ride!” Once back at the office, I was just up and running again when an NCO from the soldier's unit came in and said, “I heard you took one of my guys to the hospital!?” I confirmed this and he said he would head over now to stay with him and bring him back. So I guess the whole thing worked out, but a bloody guy stumbling in in a electrical storm? Always something out here...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Quite the start to the day over here in Afghanistan, picture this… 15 min into my shift. I have just accepted an emergency message to work on and deliver, Ingrid is on the phone with someone who is trying to start a message on their uncle (which we do not do except with extraordinary circumstances) and one of our volunteers is in the office sorting through the at least dozen packages of abandoned mail that we picked up from the post office yesterday. As you may recall we have been accepting the abandoned care packages from the post office and shipping them out to the Forward bases, many of which do not even have a base exchange (any kind of store). Then iIn walks a contractor from Flour, agitated and in a hurry saying he needs to know exactly where to put our new books shelves… err bookshelves? Since Ingrid is on the phone I leave the case and go outside to realize that he is trying to deliver two 3x5 and 5x5 bookshelves for a joint project with the Green Bean coffee and the Pax Terminal to our tiny office instead of their respective locations at the Green Bean and Pax Terminal. Since I am not the lead on the project I couldn’t tell him where they needed to be taken at the other locations, but he is insistent that he is dropping them off here. As the situation escalates I go back inside and ask Ingrid if she can deal with the bookshelves and I will take over her call. So pandemonium ensues and she tries to figure out the shelves while I try and convince the person on the phone that we cannot pass this message for a non-immediate family member. Amidst all this, the volunteer is quietly trying to attract our attention. Since I’m preoccupied on the phone she finally manages to snag Ingrid from the book shelf debacle (which the guys are preceeding to unload onto our back porch…and mind you three men are struggling to move them).

The volunteer motions to Ingrid what she’s found in the box and suddenly a new sense of urgency settles over the room. Ingrid picks up the other office line, looks at me and asks, “Are you almost done there? Once I make this call we are going to have to evacuate right away.” Errrrr WHAT?! I distractedly manage to finish the call, peer over the desk and into the box…inside is a pale army green ammo box with the word “Pressure Release Valve – Do Not Open”. The thing could not have looked more dangerous if it had the words “bomb” written on it. I quickly started gathering my things from the office as Ingrid called the MPs and they told us to evacuate. We called the Baghdad station to cover our messages and then we proceeded to assemble our team and alert others out and about in the camp that they needed to evacuate.

Fortunately, we did not have to wait as long as we did with our other evacuation before the verdict came back…the box contained radios. Delightful! So after an hour’s fun, it was back to the office to set up shop again (and I suspect that will be the end of our accepting the abandoned mail!) and then Terra and I left to run some errands for the day. We went to the PX and picked up our pressed uniforms, some charcoal for a small BBQ we want to have, did some window shopping at the jewelry store and then headed to the post office to pick up the day’s mail. Once we arrived we realized that the shopping cart we had ordered to carry items around the hospital had arrived so we had to haul that mamma jahamba to the truck. Easily the best part of the day was the care package from my boyfriend that survived it’s multi-ocean trip from Scotland to the U.S. then back across the ocean and through the Middle East to Afghanistan. And still the Cadbury eggs made it! Because the APO label on my mailing address is technically a US address all my mail, no matter where it comes from in the world will go to the U.S. first before coming to me, hence the multi-trans Atlantic crossing.

Knock on wood things are quiet at the office now (and relatively uneventful – apart from the fact that I went to smell the new conditioner I bought at the PX…and ended up squirting it up my nose :-)

All in a day’s work I guess?!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

It is Easter Sunday!

This morning I woke up every early to volunteer with the Afghans at the Egyptian Hospital. I was all excited because I had received several donations of beads and jewelry making supplies and I had spent the week dividing the beads into individual bags which also contained a necklace length and bracelet length piece of plastic string. My teammates and I had plans to teach the kids the words for “jewelry” and “necklace” and “bracelet” and “bead”. When we arrived at the Egyptian Hospital however, we pulled up to find no cars outside and the place deserted. We jumped out and just peeked into the open courtyard area where everyone normally gathers but the place was a ghost town, and honestly, out here, when places are deserted like that? You relocate…quickly. We asked the Egyptian guard on our way out of the facility and he said that it was cancelled today and tomorrow, but as to why we can only speculate.
Because we found ourselves with some extra time and we were in the area we decided to head over and visit Sgt Timmy, the Combat Stress pup. Playing with Timmy was phenomenal. When we approached the Bhut where the Freedom Restoration Center is located, the door was standing open so you had to sort of come around it to look into the entry way and there was Timmy, front paws hanging over the first step, head resting on his paws. He gave us the world’s greatest dog greeting (FRIENDS! I love you! Where have you been!? Have you come to play with me?) and somehow life gets simpler and happier and lighter. He spent the entire time eating our water bottles till he had gone through everyone's and left a mess of saliva dripping squashed bottle all over the deck :-)

We stayed about a half an hour before heading back to our festive office. We had been stocking up on Easter candy and spring decorations to make it look like the Easter bunny came over night and given the combat environment, I think we did pretty good! Since then I confess I have looked at the Country Living magazine mom sent me about 10 times today because it’s full of all these gorgeous green photos of plants and grass and professional dyed Easter eggs and it reminds me of Easters back home in the States.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Today I met our new volunteer at the hospital so that he could shadow me on a hospital visit. We had met a few weeks prior, both of us volunteering on a Medivac. After hearing about the work we did, he was very interested in helping out at the hospital as well. Today was a quiet day at the ward with only two patients who were asleep. There was far more activity in the ICU, where two of the three patients had been hit by an IED and were both missing their legs. We spoke briefly with the third solider who had a gunshot wound, but mostly today we chatted with the staff and did our best to provide them with an outlet to discuss their work, which really does take its toll.

After the hospital I picked up Ingrid and together we went to pick up the post which we had been tipped off the day before was going to be excessive…and that wasn’t a lie! There were at least a dozen boxes for the office and the team members (Mom sent more fudge and Easter candy whose weight in my stomach is keeping me trapped at my desk). The highlight of the mail today was easily the abandoned mail. We open the abandoned care packages that we receive from the post office to ensure that we are not shipping forward something inappropriate… like bottles of beer! Alcohol is against General Order #1 in theater and grounds for some serious repercussions. Because it was abandoned mail the Red Cross was completely innocent in the whole ordeal but the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the post office had to come over and document and take pictures. And the best part…? It had been shipped by a police department back in the States! The irony of the whole thing was pretty hilarious, and we managed to ship forward 5 care packages to outlying FOBs which was great.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The last few days have made for some fun at the Red Cross! On Sunday we hosted a Pizza Party for the ICW staff at the hospital. The Intensive Care Ward is the area where patients who are not critical enough to warrant a bed in the ICU but still require round the clock care, stay during their time at the Joint Command Theater Hospital. We work quite closely with the staff at the Ward, because these are the patients that we primarily visit at the hospital, typically conscious but unfortunately stuck in bed, often times with debilitating, sometimes life changing injuries. The members of this staff work so hard on the medical care of these soldiers, but also find themselves in the difficult position as the people the wounded turn to for moral support. That is part of our goal in visiting the patients is to provide a bit of relief for the hospital staff.

Yesterday also proved to be an exciting day at the Hospital as I was invited to watch a Purple Heart Ceremony. I happened to be in the right place at the right time as I ran into the military press representative who asked me if I’d like to watch. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the ceremony was not exactly what I had imagined. It was very informal and took place in one of the hospital hallways, but at the same time, because the General was presiding, all the military personell were at their most formal. It also wasn’t quite as I pictured because the two soldiers who received the award were obviously still suffering from their wounds, but they were doing their best to be as professional as possible for their ceremony and their General. Mostly though, I really had to actively stop myself from crying ( I was the only woman there and I would have shot myself if I’d actually lost it) but I couldn’t believe how emotional I found the whole experience. I couldn’t help but find the ceremony representative of all the soldiers I had seen and met since the start of the deployment who had lost their arms or their legs or their hands or their hearing, and I found myself wanting to cry for them and for the two who were being honored that day.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Early this morning was the Bagram Air Base "Shadow Boston" Marathon. Exactly 367 runners signed up to participate and our team decided to help out and volunteer. We were assigned to work the finish line which ended up being a really cool spot to cover because the course was three laps around the base so we got to help out with times and see all the runners throughout the race and the finish. Unfortunately because Friday night/Saturday morning is our busiest day of the week we had to take shifts to volunteer to ensure the office and message queue were covered. Because my shift ends at 11pm it made sense for me to take the first shift from 1:30-3:00am but that meant that I only got to see the preparations and the start of the race before heading back to the office to put in some overtime so that everyone could participate. One of the coolest things about the race was the start because they actually coordinated with EOD (Explosive Ordinance Division - Hurt Locker anyone?) to have a controlled detonation to signal the start of the race. I didn't end up getting to bed until 6:00am and then it was back to the office by 2pm. It's shaping up to be a mercifully quiet Saturday, the highlight of which was a postcard from my youngest nephew. I also had a semi-awkward/entertaining moment when I went to the hospital for a visit and when I entered and introduced myself to one guy in ICU he goes "Ma'ma you kind of caught me at a bad time. I'm trying to pee at the moment!" Whoops! I couldn't have known he had a catheter in but I offered to leave the room all the same!

Friday, 15 April 2011

When I came into work this morning I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had been tasked to make dozens of Easter goodie bags for the troops from donations that we received. This cheery and somewhat mindless activity was definitely needed after the night we had last night at the Red Cross.

Many people do not know this, but in addition to passing Red Cross messages on behalf of families amidst an emergency, the Red Cross actually acts somewhat like a 911 emergency call to prevent suicides. Technically we refer to these “messages” as SPAs - Suicide Prevention Action. Essentially, if a deployed servicemember is communicating with family back home and expressing suicidal ideations, the family can call the Red Cross and initiate a chain of events to intervene and protect the servicemember. Our Red Cross station in Bagram will get a direct phone call from a station in the States briefly explaining the situation as well as the soldier’s personal information so that we can accurately identify both the military command and the servicemember. Once the correct command is located, we call and ask to speak to the highest ranking officer in the unit, whereby we explain the situation and ask that command locate and secure the servicemember, hopefully before any harm comes to pass.

Last night was just such a night here at the Red Cross, although circumstances were made even more precarious due to the fact that the entire computerized message system was inoperative at many stations around the world, including all the deployed stations. We had not had access to the system for two hours when we got a call from National Headquarters advising they had a SPA for us. Fortunately I was still in the office after my shift because my co-worker took the phone call from National and stayed on the phone with them to receive the information while I called the unit and spoke to the only night solider in the office who had never handled a suicide prevention action before. I talked him through what he needed to do while National was relaying the information to Kami who was relaying it to me while I was relaying it to the command all in an effort to ensure that this servicemember was located, secured and given help.

The worst part about SPAs however is the waiting…after we’d passed the information to command they act immediately on their end to get in contact with the servicemember’s actual unit and then to the servicemember himself. This leaves us at the Red Cross office on edge waiting for a call back to hear if we made it in time. I waited another two hours at the office to hear back from command, but by 3am they still could not give us any information and I was exhausted.

Although suicide prevention action is nowhere near as common as the regular emergency message we pass, every now and again a SPA comes through that jolts you into a actual life or death situation where your actions maybe save someone's life and provide them the help they need.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

So today was a productive day. I got up very very early by my schedule to head first to the Egyptian Hospital and then to the Joint Command Theater Hospital to have a previous sports injury checked out since it's been flaring up when I workout. Unfortunately there was a mis-communication with the car and my team member did not arrive back in time with the car for me to visit the Egyptian Hospital so instead we decided to go to the Post Office together, before heading the the US Hospital. Surprisingly there was no mail (we've been averaging 5-10 care packages a day) so we went to the hospital to check out "Sick Call". This is basically where anyone who works on base and has an ailment on base can come to be seen by a doctor. The interesting thing about today is that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the Afghan clinic day which means those Afghans who need more specialized treatment from a doctor are screened for security precautions and then brought to this hospital for more extensive treatment. So my teammate and I awaited amongst maybe two dozen Afghan men, women and children for my turn.
After my appointment I was pleasantly surprised to learn the the pharmacy system at the hospital is computerized so all I had to do was to swipe my ID card with the pharmacist and get my prescriptions! Then it was back to change into my uniform real quick for the start of my shift. My team leader and I went over to the Base Exchange for a little while to pick up supplies for the office and the sodas that we need for our first Intensive Care Ward pizza party on Sunday. We wanted to do something for the staff of the ICU Ward so our office got approval to buy pizzas for the to give them just a small thank you for everything they do.
Now I am back at the office and it is thunderstorming outside. The smell of the rain hitting the dust is distinct only to Iraq and Afghanistan. I've never smelled this earthiness anywhere else and it's times like these I really feel like I'm far from home.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Quite the start to the day over here… was awakened at 10:30am, still my “night”, by my team leader advising me to get dressed, walk out the BHut and turn left… the camp was being evacuated due to a suspicious package. Now wide awake I threw on whatever decent clothing I could find and stumbled out the steps. I headed left where I found some 40-50 people standing at the back of our camp, one of many that comprises the military base. Ingrid guided me over to the shade since it was like I had been stun gunned by the sunshine - with no natural light the BHut is always pitch black. I asked what was going on and she could only tell me that EOD had come into the office telling everyone to evacuate. Our other two team members had been out on errands at the time and ended up trapped on the other side of our camp.

We ended up settling into a bunker since it was cooler in the shade and somewhat away from the crowd since I was still half asleep. We were outside almost two hours before we were told there would be a controlled detonation in 5 min…meaning they were going to blow up whatever they found. Within minutes there was a popping sound and everyone started to move back into the camp but soon it became clear we weren’t going anywhere. Another suspicious “something” had been identified, and it was another half hour before another explosion went off. And this time the boom was big. Then we were given the all clear. We still have little information about what really happened and likely will not, but it was still quite the Good Morning Afghanistan.

I managed to get another half an hour of sleep, before I was back up and trudging to the shower latrine…only two find the water stunningly cold. I managed to just stick my head in to just wash my hair before it was back in the office for work. Then approximately 2 minutes into my shift we got a call from the post office advising there was an enormous amount of care packages that needed to be picked up NOW because there was no room for any new mail. So Ingrid, Terra and I went to the post office and schlepped almost two dozen boxes out to the car. From there it was a quick trip to the PX to turn in our uniforms for pressing and pay for a new month of internet (I’ve only been here a month??? ) and then back to the office where I have been fighting sleep since this morning!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Very cool package received for the canteen today... a shipment of Dari and Pashtun language books on tape. We've put them out in the canteen and I've picked up one of the Dari ones to try and learn more than just the word "No" to use at the Egyptian Hospital :-)

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Today started hours earlier than normal for me with a visit to the Egyptian Hospital to volunteer with the Afghan women and children. The day was cold and dreary, with almost constant rain so when I arrived at the office, my teammates were debating about going, but I was like “Heck no, I just got up 3 hours early! I’m going!” So another team member and I drove over to the hospital which seemed to be bustling with its usual chaos despite the rain. The Afghan women surrounded us as they typically do, asking for shoes and socks. It is such a difficult position to be put in because we know that there are shoes and socks available to the women and children so often times when they are asking for these items it’s because they need them for family or to sell. So they wear just sandals to the hospital which on a cold, rainy day like today really pulls your heart strings because you can tell the children are suffering, but at the same time the rational part of you knows that in some sense they are trying to take advantage of your generosity. It is such a difficult line to tread.

My team member and I played with the kids and corrected their English lessons. I brought a sparkly strip of stickers as a reward for finishing their work which was a huge hit and I am definitely going to look into having stickers sent over. As usual they played with my hair and today I also brought a small bottle of nail polish which went over well. I would like to see more structure to their lessons since some are far more advanced in English than others, but unfortunately with only volunteer resources this is very difficult to arrange.

After the Egyptian Hospital I had a little bit of down time before I went to a volunteer meeting about the shadow Boston Marathon that is being run here in Bagram next week. My team members and I have volunteered to work at the start/finish line so I went as our representative to get the details. Then it was back to the office where a unit came into the canteen and put on The Ugly Truth. I cut up another brick of mom’s fudge and brought it out to them and it was devoured 5 minutes into the movie. I meant to also share that the other day I put out a similar plate in the canteen and the whole thing disappeared… and I mean the whole thing, plate and all!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

So despite the predicated craziness today might bring, the day ended up being just as exciting, but for very different reasons! About an hour into my shift, I went to try and get my picture taken for the flight line badge. The building is somewhere over by the PAX terminal but it was so crowded over there with people walking all around I couldn't find a place to park let alone look for the building. I had to actively try and not kill the pedestrains with my new stick shift driving ability (ie disability). After giving up on that mission, I went for my hospital visit which was fortunately more rewarding than yesterday and I left today at least feeling as though I had made someone’s day a bit brighter.

Then it was back to the office, where we had the scariest incoming ever. We didn’t even hear the explosion, I don’t believe it was near us but the urgency and quite frankly, terror in the incoming “voice” is what unnerved me the most. It was quite the shot of adrenaline. Then Ingrid and I went to dinner at 6pm only to realize that we were supposed to be having dinner with the Jordanians at the UEA dining facility. We halfheartedly attempted to reschedule, but when the officer came over to get us he said that he'd arranged for us to have dinner with the Commander of the UAE camp! So! Dinner round 2!

It was the strangest, most interesting dinner. Their English was quite good (two Jordanian officers and the UAE commander), but still a bit tricky. Unfortunately for me, I had to turn down the food to accommodate my allergy which I think disappointed them, so poor Ingrid had to eat dinner round 2 for both of us. Then it came up how Islam technically allows for up to 4 wives (and both Ingrid and I were thinking mmm where is this going?), but they really just seemed to want to tell us about it and explain the practice. They were telling us stories of their villages where they know of men with 4 wives and up to 36 children. We were told one story about a villager who had 27 children come across some kids in the road when he was driving and he scolded them to go home to their parents…when they were his! But they were wonderful to talk to and it was so incredible to have the opportunity to exchange stories and experiences. Then after dinner we went back into the officer's club for tea. They were so attentive and hospitable that it was proving very difficult to leave. So after tea they took us to the commander's house where we sat in his outdoor gazebo and he offered us the most sumptuous looking fruit and we sat on antique couches and discussed the history of the Red Cross. This, in addition to the fact that the UAE compound is gorgeous by Bagram standards…it actually has trees and vegetation and greenery!

Wahoo! Government open for business...emergency preparations averted! Back to life as usual on a 24/7 deployment to a military base in Afghanistan :-)

Happy Saturday!

Friday, 8 April 2011

It has been quite a day over here at the Red Cross. The vibe on the base is distinctly tense and wary as everyone awaits the result of the government budget meetings, the deadline of which is midnight tonight in the States. As you may be aware, if the budget is not reconciled then members of the armed forces would continue to work without pay ( For us at the Red Cross, this means we may see a substantial increase in the number of financial assistance cases that we handle. Currently, if a servicemember needs a loan, his family in the States can apply through the military aid societies, but often a red cross message is initiated so that the deployed servicemember can give official concurrence on the loan. If this situation is not resolved by midnight tonight, our office is making preparations to assist in any way we can. This includes possibly working up to 12 hour shifts to support an increased case load if need be, as well as staying up-to-date on developments from the military aid societies. Depending on the outcome, I may have quite an update tomorrow!

On a different note, my wonderful mom sent over 8 bricks of homemade fudge which marvelously survived the ridiculous journey so I made up several plates full and brought them to the staff at the ICU Ward, the ICU and the CASF (which houses the ambulatory patients). The fudge was a huge hit since confections like that are pretty uncommon out here. I also had a really sad and somewhat disturbing experience in the ICU. There was a soldier who was awake, and was very seriously injured. He had lost both of his hands which meant I couldn’t hold his hand to express support, but when I moved close to talk to him it dawned on me that he had lost his hearing in the incident as well. Because he was lucid, he wanted to know why I was there, but because he couldn’t hear I couldn’t explain that I was simply there to support him. He was growing distressed that he couldn’t understand me and I was at a loss for how to communicate. This was one of those sad times, when no matter how much you want to help and no matter how good your intentions, I came away feeling that not only had I failed him,but I had almost made matters worse. Without language or human touch what do you do to express your compassion?

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Most hilarious donation in a care package...string bikini's for men! I wonder how long it will take for those to be snatched up! :-)

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Today my teammates and I went to the Flight Line Badge class to gain access to the flight line so that we can attend the Fallen Comrade Ceremonies. We were a bit late getting to the Pink Palace, the location of the class and the only physical building located on Bagram. It actually has tiled floors and indoor plumbing, ohh the excitement! Anyways, we wound up about 10 minutes late and the soldier who was running the class was already talking the students through the power point test. We began to think we must have been told the wrong time because they appeared to have already gone through the class portion and moved onto the test. Turns out, the whole thing WAS only 10 min long! Most expedient military operation ever!

Afterwards it was a quick trip to the post office to pick up mail, a long line at the Base Exchange to pick up our pressed uniforms and then back to the office. After about an hour at the office, I went over to do my hospital visit and today was a really rewarding experience as I was able to meet and speak with several of the patients who were on the inbound Medivac that I assisted with last night. They actually remembered that I was there and it was just nice to have a chance to chat with them and follow up now that they were stable and resting in the hospital. I also spent almost half an hour holding the hand of a very very sick soldier in ICU. He was heavily sedated and unconscious, he had been hit by an IED which had badly damaged his stomach organs and he was I septic shock. His body looked so miserable and the nurse said he could hear me so I stayed much longer than normal just so he wouldn’t have to be alone.

On a related note, we’ve been given approval to have a pizza party for the ICU staff and we are in the process of getting that event off the ground to honor their efforts which largely go unrecognized and unappreciated. It will also be nice to have the opportunity to social with the hospital staff because they often come across as unapproachable in the hospital, largely I suspect , due to the tragedies that they see everyday.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Looks like yesterday's madness has taken it's toll...fighting off whats fondly known as the deployment "crude" :-(

P.S. If you have not heard, this is big news out here...

Friday, 1 April 2011


Good. Lord. Life pulled one hell of an April Fools Day on us over here. Strap on your seat belts for this one...

My first clue that the stars were misaligned today should have been the fact that there was no hot water when I got up for my shower. The shower was so cold that my poor head was stinging from the cold as I just stuck my head in to wash my hair. I arrived to find the office in confusion, 20 care packages stacked up in all our free space, two boxes on my computer chair... and no computer! Turns out one of our two primary case work computers crashed this morning and had been taken to the Help Desk for repairs. This causes incredible havoc for us as our shifts overlap to prevent us from getting backed up on casework. First I tried to get our casework system to load on the Secret computer but that didn't work because apparently you can only visit government sites. Then I tried to do casework on my personal laptop but the program is not supported by the Safari browser. So okay, no casework! At least one of the boxes on my chair was a care package from my Momma! :-)

So I start to unpack the dozens of care packages piled up in our office. I managed to get through two boxes, before I hear a crack and then an earth shattering crash as the top shelf of our toiletry supply store gives way and sends a tidal wave of hundreds of shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen and insect repellent bottles all over the floor. A delicious lavender scented bottle of shampoo seeped half it's contents on the floor by the time I got to it... after an hour of cleaning! By this point we'd received a call that the computer was ready so I grabbed some comfort kits to do a quick hospital visit after I went to the Help Desk. Once at the Help Desk though, I was informed that no one called to say the computer was ready (yes, obbbbbbviously I hallucinated the call) so I was told to come back in half an hour. I zipped to the hospital real quick, and then back to the Help Desk where I am convinced they know nothing more about computers than I do. Nearly everyone at the office came out to help the Red Cross girl and every single one of them told me something different about the computer.

I left with the computer 15 minutes later thrououghly confused about whether or not the computer was actually fixed. Once back at the office the whole team had assembled to meet at 5pm for a Friday Night Pizza Hut treat. We attempted to hook up the computer quickly and low and behold, we can't get the ID card reader to work (necessary to log into our accounts). So after ANOTHER call to the Help Desk we're told we have to come back to the office to pick up a new reader.

At this point we decide Pizza Hut first so the four of us clamber into the car, with Kami and I sitting in the back with a huge Red Cross box of comfort kits smushed between us. We start the trip out to Camp Warrior laughing and chatting about how bizarre the day has been when we notice two soldiers standing in the street holding up cars. We pull up and Ingrid rolls down her window where we are greeted by an MP (military police) asking us where we're going. We all chirp, "Pizza Hut!" together and dissolve into giggles before he says, "And is everyone wearing their seatbelts...?" UHHHHHHHH. Kami and I look at each other....busted. Because we were in back with the box stuck between us neither of us had done our belts. The MP asked us to pull of to the side of the road. So we are all laughing nervously now and rolling our eyes as he approaches the car again.

He informs us that he is going to permanently seize and impound our vehicle.

We get silent and look at each other before Terra asks... "Is this an April Fools joke!?" We all burst out laughing, not BELIEVING what is happening to us today. He informs us no, he is dead serious. Then Ingrid super sweetly with eye lashes batting informs him that the car is essential to us because we have to be able to get mail. He pauses, looks at us carefully and then is like..."'re emergency essential?" We jump on it! I whip out my orders and ask "Want to see the copy of my orders?! You can see we are emergency essential!" At this point, he's found the excuse he needed not to be the asshole who seized the vehicle from the four red cross women. He says he'll give us a ticket which means two points go on the driver's Bagram license. Once he goes away to write the ticket, all four of us absolutely burst out laughing. Kami and I are laughing so hard we are crying. I am crying so hard I had to get a wash cloth out of a comfort kit to wipe my face and when the officer comes back, he says to me, "Ma'ma there's really no need to cry over this." Which just makes me laugh harder.

We finally get to Pizza Hut after driving the numbingly slow speed limit of 25 km, where with a few sweet smiles to the guy behind the counter, we manage to get our pizzas in 10 min, as opposed to the hour wait. By far the only success of the day. Then we headed back, I got dropped at the office to start doing cases on the one good computer, while the others went back to the Help Desk. They came back 20 min later with a Sergeant who spent the next hour trying to fix our already fixed computer. After many phone calls and sighs he managed to get everything working...except for the copy and paste feature which is absolutely necessary to casework. I did not discover this until he left however, so it is taking me twice as long to do cases tonight.

And to round off this crazy night, a soldier just walked into the office and told us his NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Office in Charge) told him to come to the Red Cross office and do an accountability check on us because there was an IDF (incoming - i.e. rocket, mortar, grenade, etc) which somehow we completely missed! Kami just looked up the lunar calendar and learned there is a new moon on Sunday... between April Fools and the new moon I hope life is back to normal by tomorrow!!!