Video: 'Wounds of War': Treating the enemy

By Robert Bazell Chief science and health correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/2/2007 5:56:09 PM ET 2007-03-02T22:56:09

With almost no warning, three Medevac helicopters touch down at Camp Speicher near Tikrit, Iraq. The medical staff — reservists from a unit based in Boston — quickly determine the men, all Iraqis, are hurt badly.

Two of the Iraqis were seen placing an IED at the side of a road. They had a car full of weapons and video cameras to tape the explosion.

"He's got some open wounds, he has some ortho wounds, and he needs an X-ray," says a doctor as he evaluates the men. "The fourth guy has some back wounds."

It turns out the other two Iraqis were bystanders, caught in the middle when an American helicopter opened fire on the insurgents.

"I need two units of blood!" orders the doctor. "He looks like he has lost plenty of blood."

The worst of the cases — one of the insurgents — goes immediately into surgery, where in less than an hour doctors administer 30 units of blood.

"Right now, we have had five major traumas come in," says Eric Shrye. "We're down to our last 10 percent of our blood supply."

The call goes out at the base for volunteer blood donors, and within minutes dozens of soldiers line up. Brian Suam is at the head of the line. He says it doesn't matter that his blood might be used for insurgents.

"A human life is a human life, sir," Suam says.

The other casualty arrives by ambulance — an Iraqi policeman shot in the head.

Dr. John Allerding leads the team struggling to save him.

"Hold up, guys, his pupils are fixed and dilated," he says.

But this time a human life cannot be saved.

They start to cover the body with a blanket.

"Do we have a chaplain available?" someone asks. "Thanks, everybody. Nice try."

Though the team did all it could, Allerding says it was tough.

"The Iraqi policeman is one of our allies, one of the good guys," he says. "He's one of the guys that is trying to help us do what we can do over here, so I feel a sense of loss with him."

By the afternoon, with the other four Iraqis stabilized, the staff finally has time to take a deep breath and celebrate nurse Lisa McCullough's birthday. Her 29th — and the end of another bloody day in this war.

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