2nd Lt. Elizabeth Lopez
Multi-National Division –Center Public Affairs
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — The most important quality combat medics can possess is compassion; the nature of their jobs requires these men and women to witness and participate in some of combat’s most heart-wrenching stories.
Late in the day on July 21, at Patrol Base Yusufiyah, the aid station’s normal routine was thrown into chaos by the arrival of eight victims of a nearby mortar attack. Among the wounded were seven Iraqi children ranging in age from 3 to 12.
One of the victims, a 6-year-old girl named Tebarek, was placed under the care of Sgt. William Ludlow, a combat medic from Company C, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
Initial triage showed Tebarek’s left leg and abdominal injuries were so severe that she needed immediate evacuation to the 28th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad’s International Zone. The medics loaded her on a flight bound for the hospital and never expected to see the little girl again. This would not be the case for Ludlow and Tebarek.
About a week later, the Iraqi army senior medic at Patrol Base Yusifyah asked Ludlow to examine a patient’s wounds with him.
Ludlow, from Fort Smith, Ark., recalled his surprise upon entering the building.
“I saw this little, helpless girl lying there on the litter,” he said. It was Tebarek, who had been released from the hospital and returned to the care of her family. Not knowing where to turn for help caring for his wounded daughter, Tebarek’s father had returned to the base where Soldiers had treated her so well that first evening.
The little girl Ludlow saw before him was not in great shape. Tebarek had undergone several surgeries to treat the shrapnel injuries she sustained during the mortar attack. Risk of infection left her in desperate need of intravenous antibiotic medication, and it was apparent that her wounds needed to be cleaned and her dressings changed.
Seeing her condition, Ludlow immediately set to work giving Tebarek the care she needed. She was sent home that day with instructions to return to the Iraqi Army aid station for another round of medication and dressing changes.
The next day, an Iraqi interpreter brought Ludlow back to the Iraqi aid station. The American medic walked in the middle of an argument between Tebarek’s father and an Iraqi medic.
Tebarek’s father was adamant that Ludlow was the only person he would trust with Tebarek’s care. Touched, Ludlow treated the child just as he had done the day before. As he worked, Ludlow spoke to Tebarek’s father through the interpreter. He told him about the medications he was giving her and explained the procedures he used to clean and dress her wounds.
Tebarek’s father responded to Ludlow.
“Tebarek is your daughter now,” he said. “Do what you would do to your own daughter in order to make her well.”
From that day on, Tebarek’s treatment has been entrusted to Ludlow’s care. Having raised his own little girl at home single-handedly for four years, he takes this job as Tebarek’s other father very seriously.
As she heals, Tebarek has learned to enjoy her visits to the aid station, though they have not always been pleasant. One difficult visit was the day Ludlow had to remove the stitches and staples left over from her surgeries.
“She cried the entire time,” he said. “It broke my heart.”
To make the painful procedures easier for her, Ludlow and the other medics give her gum and candy, as well as Beanie Babies from a stash they keep on hand for Iraqi children.
Tebarek is well loved by everyone at the aid station. They cannot speak of her without smiling, and they often tease Ludlow about his friend. Ludlow ignores the teasing, but unmistakably delight fills his eyes when she is mentioned.
Tebarek still faces a long, slow road to full recovery, but Ludlow and the medics in Yusufiyah remain dedicated to providing her the best care.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
2nd Lt. Elizabeth Lopez