Combat Outpost Khilagay, Afghanistan – 2011
It was December in Afghanistan and a faint dusting of snow blanketed the dirt of the outpost. But it was stifling in the tent housing the or, the heaters running at peak as the temperature outside dipped below freezing.
Faint Christmas music drifted in each time the or doors swung open to admit another casualty, transfer a patient to the neighboring recovery tent. Or when removing a body to the smaller tent set up as morgue.Just after breakfast a call came that the SEAL team assigned to the territory around the outpost had been ambushed in a small Afghan village. Three of the eight man squad were injured during the attack, as well as the young Afghan man… boy really… that served as interrupter for the team. More than a few of the friendly villagers had been hurt as well. Once the fighting ended, all the wounded had been evacuated back to the outpost for treatment.
Air Force Captain Holly Rowan’s forehead creased in concatenation as she focused on stopping the blood that spilled from the young Afghan man’s body. The organized chaos of the tent that served as the Forward Surgical Element (FSE) operating room barely registered as she worked. More of an irritation was the ever present flies that buzzed around her head and her patient. The Army nurse standing across from her shooed them away from the young man’s open wounds. A bead of sweat formed on her temple, gradually slipping down the side of her already damp face.
“Shit…” Blood splashed the front of her blue scrubs. “Get a clamp on that bleeder!” The medic next to her reached in and clamped it off.
“Got it, doc.” A soft southern drawl assured her.
“Vitals?” There was too much blood, too much damage. “Come on, kid…” Holly muttered behind her mask. “Don’t die on me…”
“Bp is seventy over forty, pulse irregular, respiration…” the nurse across from her broke off as a loud beep sound from the monitor. She shifted to glance at Holly. “We’ve lost him!”
“Shit…shit…shit….” Hands flying, Holly continued to work on the young man, “Hang more units of blood and bag him.” Her mind raced as it searched for a way to save this kid’s life. He’d been hanging out around the camp for the last two years, becoming a part of the daily existence in the dirt that was Combat Outpost Khilagay. The SEALs took him under their wing, giving him small tasks to do and errands to run before accepting him as a translator when meeting with the locals. Everyone in the camp seemed to adopt the bright, grinning young man. Aamir was only seventeen and she would not let him die.
Holly glanced up at the screaming monitor, seeing all the lines flat on it.
“No… no…” She hissed. “Come on… live damn it.” As if willing it to provide some hint of activity.
“I need more blood…” A hand settled on her shoulder.
“Enough.” Major Dawson, the post commander, spoke from behind her. “You can’t do anything further for him, Captain.” His tone was quiet but there was hint of steel in it. “We still have people that need our help.”
“It’s… it’s Aamir, Major.” He acknowledged her words with a slight squeeze of her shoulder.”I know, Holly.” Sorrow colored his voice, the use of her name offering his support. It was always hard to lose a patient, but when it was someone you considered a friend, the was so much harder.