“Breathe”: What It’s Like to be a Special Forces Medic
by Aaron Smith
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Training takes over, I need gloves!
Where the fuck are my gloves??
Hands slippery with sweat struggle to put them on,
Too hard, Too Hard! Try another pair…
They’re too small and I’m too sweaty.
Get to work.
Bare hands now, slipping down into the ditch;
Two pairs of eyes, white with horror
Stare at me, pleading, screaming
Smell now, the smell of blood and dirt and burnt flesh.
I’m a medic! Medic! I’m here to help you.
This is my work. This is my job. I know this.
One man, the first man, start with him.
His charred body is leaking dark red blood,
His arm mangled, and bone, like a shattered white tree
Sticks out among the wreckage.
Bandage, no, tourniquet then bandage,
Don’t get sucked into the wound,
You know better.
Chest is bruised and bloodied, pneumothorax?
No time to check, chest seal will have to do.
Check downside, always check downside.
Hey buddy, I need to roll you over on your side okay?
It’s gonna hurt for a second…
Screaming, good, I know he has an airway.
Chest seal on downside wound, don’t forget to reassess.
Any other life threats? Not right now.
Hey brother, I’ve seen this a hundred times, you’re gonna be
I’ll be right back to you, gotta check your buddy.
Crawling through the ditch, stay low, stay LOW!
Can’t feel the old pain in my knee now,
The adrenaline is kicking in.
Low moaning from buddy, my blood spattered hands are on him now;
Dark stain on his tattered pants,
Why is he curled over like that?
I need my trauma shears, fuck, they keep getting caught up on my kit.
Free now, need to see the injury…
Reminds me of unwrapping presents
On Christmas day at my mom’s house,
I wonder what she got me this year–
Okay buddy, I’ve seen this a hundred times, you’ll be fine;
Just hang in there I’ll take care of you.
I need ACE wraps and combat gauze, do I have
He’s blown open from scrotum to belly button,
What’s the best way to wrap this…
Oh man, that testicle is completely blown apart,
I don’t think he’ll keep it.
Alright, get your composure, you can do this.
Hey buddy, this is gonna hurt a bit, but I need to
Roll you over so I can wrap this.
He’s guarding that pelvic area,
Shattered Pelvis? If there’s femoral involvement
He’s gonna die on me.
Do the best you can, keep working.
I wish I had packed more ACE bandages.
He’s shot through the hand, pretty good
Bleed going on there. Tourniquet for now.
Keep working, stay low.
Tree line to the South erupts in hellish sound,
Tracers, oh shit they’re shooting at ME!
Get low, get LOW!
Little puffs of dirt next to my arm,
Like tiny brown clouds across the dirt
Dancing and whirling.
Hold pressure on that wound,
Gun is too far away to reach, pinned down.
Praying, you can do this.
Keep working, still work to be done.
Check back on other buddy, he’s okay so far.
Need to move these guys, NOW.
Shooting has stopped, eerie quiet;
Load these guys in that vehicle!
We can lift them in there together, hurry!
No gunfire, that’s a good thing.
Okay, I need to get back on a gun and
Familiar comforting sound of linked rounds
Locking into place.
My hands are covered in blood, but they’re on the gun.
I am ready for what’s next.
Keep working, there’s work to be done.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal January 17, 2019.