A visit to Ward 57, where wounded soldiers slowly heal

Aug 6 2011 - 10:36pm

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Charles F. Trentelman
Charles F. Trentelman

My friend Rebecca Ory-Hernandez visited Seth Pack recently. He's the Ogden soldier horribly wounded by a bomb in Afghanistan.

Seth lost part of one leg, had the other shattered and suffered massive internal injuries. He will be in Walter Reed Medical Center, or its successor after it closes, for months more.

He is one of 44,000 wounded, 1,200 amputees and uncounted thousands with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD from the wars we're sending our kids to fight.

What's life like in that ward? Rebecca visited because she is a friend of Seth's mom, who is at her son's side. I asked Rebecca to give us some impressions from her visit.

This is hard stuff, but it's real. When I ask for donations to Operation Ward 57, the volunteer group that works to make the lives of wounded troops and their families easier, this is who you help:

"The elevator doors open. I am face to face with a young man in his 20s. He is holding an IV cart with the one hand that he has. A quick glance shows that he has no legs, and one arm is missing.

"I look him straight in the eyes, say, 'Hi!' and smile. He gives me a big grin and says, 'I've got to get downstairs and get a coffee.'

"I head to Ward 57, orthopedics. The floors are very shiny, and the staff is bustling around smiling. Everyone is in camouflage fatigues. We are the only splash of color in the sea of white and beige.

"Seth's mom comes around the corner, and we greet with a hug. She looks tired ... really, really tired. Pale and thinner than the last time I saw her.

"I think to myself: 'I am not going to cry. I am not going to cry.'

"I am ready to see Seth. I go into his room, which appears to be a converted closet. The space is so small that there is only room for the bed and two small chairs. Seth has one arm over his head and gives me a faint smile. I thank him for his service and tell him how much it means to me and to my family that he was so brave.

"I tell him this without crying. I tell him that, in all sincerity, his service means more than I can say. He thanks me. His mom gets teary. It's OK. Time to focus on healing now.

"Seth looks remarkably good for the trauma he has been through, mentally and physically. His cheeks have some color, his circulation looks good, and his eyes are clear.

"Seth talks about what he might have for supper. Roast beef sounds good. I know he's not eating. He looks like he might weigh 120 pounds, way too thin. His intestinal tract is unhappy with the combination of anesthesia, pain medication, antibiotics and other meds.

"Seth is concerned about thanking everyone. I think how well his mom raised him, for him to be considering others while in this condition. I'm feeling pretty helpless because there is so, so much that needs to be done for my friend's son, and all I can do is bring little gifts. Heavy sigh.

"As I exit the hospital things are just as busy as ever. In the parking lot, I notice two cars waiting for my parking space. It's like Christmas Eve at the mall, every day. There are so many soldiers coming back from the war hurt, with limbs that were blown off.

"I think about how they made the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us can enjoy our lives.

"And I cry."

Want to help wounded soldiers? I'm still collecting. Make a check out to "Operation Ward 57" and send it to:

Charles Trentelman

c/o Standard-Examiner

P.O. Box 12790

Ogden, UT 84412

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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