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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Emergencies
April 1, 2007

      Medical emergencies in Doa China are difficult to handle.  We have a room with a bed and a litter for seeing patients, some emergency medical supplies, and little else.  In a real medical emergency, we will have to call for helicopter MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) to a better treatment facility.

      We had a man bring his small son to the gate, asking for medical help.  The boy had been bitten on the face by a black widow spider.  Sadly, the boy’s mother had died a month earlier from a similar black widow bite.  “Doc” took the boy, treated the wound, and gave him some medication.  He gave some money to our interpreter to take to the local pharmacist for some medicine we didn’t have - it was pretty expensive, and the boy’s odds for survival were iffy.  Nevertheless, Doc promised to see the boy the next day, and held out hope for his chances.

      We talked about options for helping, but unfortunately they were few.  We have no medical facilities to send the boy to, and we cannot use MEDEVAC assets for civilian cases.  All we could do was hope for the best for him.

      We had a problem with our radio develop as well - we lost the ability to transmit.  Our radio could receive voice traffic, but we could not send voice traffic: no one could hear us.  We had to swap radios with the MP’s who are still with us in order to maintain comms (communications).

      Our satellite radio is our lifeline.  It enables us to talk to far-away FOBs, and is our umbilical cord to the rest of the Army.  There is no other means of communications out here - no TV, no newspaper, no civilian radio, no Internet.  Without our satellite radio, we are sitting ducks, unable to get supplies, get help, or receive orders.  It is as essential to our survival as our weapons, our food, and our water.

      We have had our share of commo problems here - we had a radio encryption update occur, but we had not been provided with the data to update before we left Waza Khwa.  We have been waiting for someone to bring us the necessary data, and have been communicating with our higher command on the old data, on a different set than most of the country.  Our higher command has had to operate and monitor two differing radio nets until this is resolved.  It’s a major issue - we are unable to communicate to MEDEVAC requests, requests for close air support, or any other emergency request outside our one link to our higher command on the old net.  It’s an incredible SNAFU, one that could put us at great risk if an emergency occurs.  As a Signal Corps NCO, I am amazed and confounded by such an oversight.

      Every day brings a new small crisis here.

-- Jeff Courter

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

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