Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from Kabul

First, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving from Kabul Afghanistan. Our team took the day off from mentoring. Actually, we are taking a long weekend off from mentoring at NMH. Not only did we have an American Holiday, the Afghans are having one too. This weekend is another EID. The EID will end on Sunday, so it will be back to mentoring on Monday. Of course, we have lots of admin to catch up on over the weekend.

Prior to our team celebrating Thanksgiving together, we took some team photos:

This is the entire team Thanksgiving morning (Navy battle rattle with Santa hats)

Combat Nurse Mentors...

So, let me recap the past week. Last Thursday, was the President Karzi’s inauguration. We didn’t mentor on that day. In fact, our security posture was increased, so we spent the day on NKC. Everytime we were outside a hardened structure, we had to be in full battle rattle. That makes for a long day. There are many people here who don’t leave our little FOB. I don’t know how they do it. I get off the FOB at least 6 days a week for mentoring.

Saturday and Sunday were regular days of mentoring at NMH. I continue to do much of the same thing everyday, working with the OT nurses in the rooms and trying to help them raise their standards of care. Sometimes, it feels like I am swimming up stream. Everyday that ortho has surgery, I am discussing something with them. My biggest concern is to get them to only do one patient at a time in the room. I think I might have finally convinced them to do only one patient at a time. It wasn’t because it is what is best for the patient. The Ortho Surgeons want me to help them purchase some new instruments. I told them the only way I would purchase the gear is if they change their practice. They have told me they would only schedule one patient at a time after EID. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I haven’t ordered any new instruments.

Monday was another trip to NDS. It was rainy and cool. It is the first time we have had rain during the day. I have attached some quick videos of driving through the streets. The first one is on the way to NDS. We are heading down a one way street.

(The internet connection is not co-operating, so I will try to post the videos at another time)

The second video is on our way back from NDS. It is another one-way street, but notice how much heavier the traffic is. I am driving the lead vehicle in both videos.

Tuesday and Wednesday were more regular days of mentoring. Nothing special on those days either.

One last big item to report. Our reliefs have graduated from their training at Fort Polk and are enjoying some time off on their I-stop prior to making the journey here. I am guessing that we will see them here in a few weeks, then turn-over, then our journey home. Almost time to start the official countdown, but no solid dates yet…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I know I am a little late on posting to my blog, but I returned from a boondoggle out to Mazar-e-Sharif in the Northern provinces. I even have some pictures to post with this entry.

First, let me recap last week. We did make a normal trip to NDS. It was actually a clear, cool morning which is a rarity here in Kabul. The pollution is so thick that it is very rare to see the distant mountains. So, here is a picture of the snow-capped mountains, west of Kabul. This picture was taken last Monday. I haven’t seen the mountains since.

From NDS looking west

This is looking past NMH from NKC

This is supposed to be a picture of me in front of the snow-capped peaks...

Me as the lead driver trying to ease through traffic and pedestrians in Kabul

Other than that, it was a normal week of mentoring. There are always little things to work on and improve in the OT.

Friday was another violent day here in Kabul. The Taliban used a SVBIED outside Camp Phoenix a little before 0800. There were no American casualties, but there were injuries. You can read about it online. Here's hoping the Presidential Inauguration will be less violent than the actual elections.

Now, for the boondoggle...

Early Saturday morning, several of us left to go to Mazir-e-Sharif (MES) to visit the US Mentors there and help with some assessments of the ANA Regional Hospital there. It was a long trip. We spent 4 or 5 hours at KAIA before we finally left on a German C-160. We made a stop in Kundez, then arrived at Camp Marmal, which is the German base an airfield. The flight in to land was different. We wear our IBA & Helmets on the plane. When we are getting ready to land, it is like we drop out of the sky. The IBA becomes 200 pounds, it gets difficult to breathe and it gets hot. That is from all the G's we are pulling for evasive maneuvers to land. needless to say, there were multiple people using the air sickness bags. We arrived 3 hours late. We were supposed to get on a convoy to Camp Spann, which is where the US Mentors are located. The convoy was leaving as we were getting off the plane. We didn't know it was the last convoy of the day, so we had to spend the night at Camp Marmal in transient tents. Here are pictures of the German and international memorial:

On sunday morning, we got up early to eat breakfast and catch the convoy to Camp Spann. Well, Holly and I got bumped for a Canadian General and his entourage. There wasn't enough room for all of us so we got to wait another 5 hours for the next convoy. Finally, on Sunday afternoon we got a ride on the convoy to Camp Spann. It is riding in the back of MRAP's. I wouldn't want to do it everyday. It is an hour convoy. We had maybe one-half hour of daylight left once we got there. I know most of the mentors that are in MES, so we had supper together and swapped war stories.

On Monday, we had a chance to see the regional ANA hospital. It is a new facility, less than 3 years old. We helped the Chief Nurse there with some assessments, then it was time for lunch. After lunch, it was jump back on the convoy to Camp Marmal for our Tuesday flight.

We had an very early show time for our flight back to Kabul, 0510. We left about 2 hours later and once again stopped in Kundez. We got off the C-160 for 30 minutes or so and stood on the runway before getting back on and flying to Kabul. The evasive maneuvers weren't quite as drastic as the previous flights, but people were still getting sick. We had to wait around at KAIA for a little while until we could catch a ride back to NKC. We got back around lunch. It was a long trip, but well worth it to get away from Kabul for a few days and see more of Afghanistan.

It is almost time to begin the countdown for leaving here. Once our replacements graduate from Fort Polk, I will begin the countdown...

Until next week...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Overdue Pictures

Me, Andrew, Holly and DJ at Bagram (on the roof of the hospital)

The team sitting around waiting for the "All Hands" at Camp Eggers

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cancelled elections

Another week has gone by and it is time to post.

On Monday, DJ, Tim, Holly and I went to Bagram to see the US hospital. It took us over 6 hours to get there, even though it is only a 15 minute flight. We left early in the morning to catch a shuttle to KAIA (Kabul Afghanistan International Airport.) This isn’t like catching an airport shuttle in the states though. We ride on this shuttle in full battle rattle. It is about a 20 min ride to KAIA. We left before breakfast, so we had breakfast at KAIA. We checked in 2 hours before our flight, which was a Canadian C-130. When it was finally time to board, nothing could be carried on. We have to check everything and they put it on a pallet. When it was time for us to leave, we taxied out, and then got held for at least an hour. Our 15 min flight took us 2 hours. Once we finally arrived in Bagram, we had to wait on a bus to take us to the terminal, and then wait in the terminal until they released us. By the time we collected our bags and walked to the hospital, it was well after lunch. I don’t think I will ever complain about how long it takes to fly once I get back to the states. We spent the afternoon touring the hospital and talking with our respective peers so we could set up some specific training for our Afghan mentees. There is already a 2-week training program established at Bagram, but it is generic. We each wanted to set up specific training. 2 weeks is too long for the OT nurses to be gone from Kabul. We are already short staffed. I am trying to set up only a week of training, all of which will be spent in the OR. After supper, we spent some time at the USO, and then went to our rooms. We had temporary lodging near the hospital. We had to be back at the Bagram terminal before 0430 for our return flight. That was another “fun-filled” trip. It was a 6-hour trip to return to NKC. Our flight was on-time, but the 3-hour before flight check-in only adds to the experience. Once we got back to KAIA, we had to wait about 90 mins before we could catch the shuttle back to NKC. It was a 30-hour trip, for 3 hours of work. Needless to say, we all took a nap on Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday and Thursday were regular days of mentoring. I discussed with the nurses about rotating through the training program in Bagram. They all want to go for a week. I hope to be able to go with them the first time or two to help with the training and make sure it is appropriate based on their needs. I have been working with the nurses for 4 months now so I have a good idea of where their individual skills are.

Thursday is our training day in the OT. We work on one or two of the basic nursing core competencies, then have a meal of bolani. It is a tradition for the nurses and housekeepers to have bolani each Thursday before lunch.

I am sure you have all heard by now that Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has boycotted the elections so Karzi has been declared the presidential election winner. It is interesting to hear the nurses talk about it. They worry about whether or not if their way of life is going to improve or not and if all the corruption in the government will be stopped. I won’t jump up on my soapbox, but I hope the international community can put enough pressure on the current Afghan government to help them make sweeping reforms and changes. The Afghans need to experience something besides war and corruption in their lives.

I haven’t had a chance to download any pictures yet, but will post them in the next few days…