Thursday, June 01, 2006

Marine Docs

Today I went to a Marine field hospital, and ended up riding with them
as they looked for injured people in Klaten. We went from local
hospital to hospital looking for patients who needed surgeries. A
team of 7 highly trained combat surgeons rode in a convoy of 5 IOM
vehicles. No patients to be found. Everyone was baffled. The TNI,
Indonesian military, had called the Marine commander in the morning,
and said that there were 7000 seriously injured and 1500 likely
injured out there somewhere. No one seemed to know where they were.
"We need food," the first clinic manager said. "Not doctors." The
commander explained that they could leave antibiotics and rubber
gloves, but didn't have any food.

I ended up being a asset to the team, because they were short on
translators, and I was able to relay driving directions to our driver.
He was really grumpy. He didn't know why we were out in the middle
of traffic looking for wounded people. He wanted to go home. He
didn't want any of the military rations for lunch. I ate my Mexican
mac-and-cheese with my hands. He thought that was very funny.

We passed through a lot of villages which had been reduced to
construction waste. I thought about how much they looked like the
piles of building materials we used to haul off when I worked for a
construction company in North Carolina. Yeah, 30 seconds. It's
really hard to wreck a building by hand. We did that a few times to
make way for additions or start a repair. Hard work. Crow bar,
hammer, pull, haul, chuck. I just think of all the calories a crew of
10 people burn doing that kind of work. Mother Earth shudders for
less than a minute and ten thousand concrete houses just lay down.

Near the end of the day, Commander Carlos Godinez got a call from the
base camp. A patient he'd seen the day before was in very bad shape.
We arrived at the hospital as 25-year old Ctsiti Nuriyoni was wheeled
in on a gurney. She was heaving – at something like 32 breaths per
minute – and rolling her eyes. Godinez noticed yesterday that she'd
been laying on a sidewalk near a hospital for four days with a tube
coming out of her chest. Someone had put the tube in to help her
breathing, but the staff wasn't able to attend to her after it was put

A wall fell on her during the quake and crushed her ribs into
splinters like crackers in soup. Her husband arrived soon afterwards
and told us their newborn baby died in the earthquake. He hadn't told
her yet, because she'd been to ill and didn't want to make it worse.
I noticed a bag of pink fluid dangling from the gurney. Looked like a
bag of Nestlees' Strawberry Quick. I asked Godinez what it meant.
"Infection," he said. "That fluid was clear enough to read a
newspaper through yesterday. She needs a bigger tube put in - right

But they didn't have a bigger tube. So he called the mobile hospital,
which is in the middle of a soccer stadium in Bantul, and asked for a
tube. It took an hour to arrive.

He thinks she's going to be okay now. But Ctsiti's condition was
preventable. She's the kind of patient that's slipping through the
cracks everywhere. She lasted for four days without drawing
attention, and it almost killed her. A broken bone can be fatal after
four days. Now it's a few days after 200-thousand people were crushed
and evicted from shelter. News interest is dropping, but the
suffering is just about to put on a new mask.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

However do you decide what to leave in, what to leave out?
All metaphors intended.

Doug P, of Haunted Mansion fame, told me today that the Portland Phoenix plans to do an article on the Mansion. Having just read Trish's entry, I heard about the Phoenix with mixed feelings; tried to convey to Doug, who is not a shallow guy, that the Phoenix was so beside the point sometimes. But then everything can be beside the point at times.
Your work is very much to the point and I thank you for it.


5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Beth!

I leave the leavings in and out to editors.

But really, you just learn what they want and infuse it with as much humanity as possible. Usually there's time for just a few details to help make the people real. I think the sound of people's voices also conveys a lot without description, which is why I love radio so much.

I remember listening to the radio at your family's camp - Hitchhikers Guide and even a radio play version of Star Wars. I've always loved the medium. Listening - it's wired directly to the imagination lobe. Watching is very nearly the opposite.

As for the Mansion piece in the Phoenix, I have to say it makes me smile. If they need a quote, I could tell them it's still just about the best job I've ever had.

I'm not sure I agree it's besides anything. I'd rather see such stories in locally owned media, but that's a pretty fine point. I think the story of the mansion is an important confluence of culture and human study. If written the right way, it could really say something about fear, about why we like to tickle it, and about the weirdness of amusement park culture.

I'd like to hear what the folks at the Salt Institute would do with the Haunted Mansion story. Now that'd be something to sit down and listen to.


10:11 PM  
Blogger kopisusu2 said...

Hey, I listened to Hitchhikers and Star Wars too! Also Washington Capitals hockey games. Whenever I need to feel nostalgic, I play the NS&T bank jingle in my head - they sponsored the Capitals broadcasts. All those nights awake past bedtime, with my ear pressed to the radio.

Radio rules.


1:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chad - just listened to your VOA story about tetanus. What you're seeing and experiencing continues keep me hooked - like when we slow down to gawk at a car accident on the turnpike. Great to hear your voice!!!


8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Chad -- so good to hear your voice on the latest VOA broadcast. Very professional. Your writing is wonderful, as always. You're doing such important work -- and so well. My own anxiety level about your safety has decresed significantly and I feel so privileged to read and hear your excellent coverage of these events.

Interesting path you've taken re your imagination.
Remember "Murder on Blood Hill"? Your third grade (and probably earlier) brain must have been preparing you for the Mansion...and for the extremely scary and terrorizing stories you made up to tell your poor little sister and Adam (which I didn't find out about until they became adults). I wonder if your imagination could possibly conjure up anything scarier than what you're seeing now -- somehow, I doubt it. So proud of you. Love, Mum xxoo

11:23 AM  
Blogger crawdaddy said...

Hey, I'm a radio fan too!
Listening to my dads cast off stero with the knob that had snapped off so I had to use needle nose pliers. Dr. Demento, lots of bad In the Studio with Red Beard, Flashback on Sunday Mornings, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, Prairie Home Companion, Alice's Restaurant at Thanksgiving...
Good stuff.

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7:29 AM  

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