Thursday, November 15, 2007

Little Doodah

I occassionally come across a story that touches my heart in such a way that I have to share it. I came across such a story today. I came across the story of a 5-year old Iraqi girl named, Roossel. Her father calls her Doodah. Below is a letter to Greg I read at The Thunder Run from his brother, Joe.

Every day you see local nationals working around base. They come from all over the area and help us build or rebuild on the base. Some of them work on water lines, some build fences and some, like Doodah's father, drive trucks that haul supplies or materials.

These guys are happy to do these things, happy to be employed. It is a sign of growth and stability that the country is growing and becoming a place where they can live a better life. Not everyone is happy about the changes though. Bad guys are still here and still try to intimidate or kill us and the Iraqi people that do not want to help them.

When I read of stories like Doodah's, I am glad to be here, doing my part to rid this country of bullies and help the Iraqi people live better lives. I believe everyone should hear Doodah's story and then tell her father you do not want us here.


Dear Greg,

Returning from patrol this evening, we were flagged down by some Iraqi Police who shouted that they had a wounded civilian who needed aid. I walked over to the IP truck and looked in the back seat. There was an Iraqi man, probably 35 or so, holding a pre-school age little girl wrapped in a blanket. I could not see any blood, but when he saw me looking the Iraqi man (who proved to be the father of the little girl) pulled back the blanket to reveal severe burns on her neck, chest, arms, and stomach. I shouted for the medic, who came forward and started treating the little girl, a 5-year-old named Roossel but nicknamed Doodah by her father, in the back of the truck. Her father said that Al Qaeda gunmen had chased him to his house because he drives a gravel truck which delivers gravel for the US forces, and that he fled the house thinking the Al Qaeda guys would follow him. Instead, they took a large pot of boiling water and poured it on Doodah. The man took her to the Iraqi Police, but they knew that her case was hopeless without US medical aid, so they stopped the next US patrol they saw.

We took control of the father and little girl and drove the 10 minutes to the nearest US medical facility. We called ahead, and the doctors met us at the door. Several of our soldiers followed me in, all pressing forward in concern for the little girl. We had to search the father before we could get him into the facility, but after that he stood at the head of the stretcher while the doctors worked. I could tell by the low tones and sad looks that the story wasn't good. Once they removed her clothes the burn wounds were horrid; several soldiers turned away from the scene. They called for an air MEDEVAC to take her to the CSH, then set out to stabilize her for movement. The doctors and nurses called her Doodah and told her what a good girl she was while they worked; my interpreter repeated it all in Arabic. One hand was burned severely, but the other was unharmed and when I touched it she closed her hand around one finger and stared at me. She never made a sound the entire time the doctors worked. The senior doctor said she had third degree burns over 30% of her body, and that she had a "better than even chance" with US medical care. My interpreter passed this to the father, and he nodded through tearing eyes.

When the helicopter came our medic and I carried the stretcher out and put Doodah on the flight, then sat her father down next to her. He looked scared - probably his first helicopter flight. The flight medic pulled back the blanket for a quick look at the little girl, then gave me a long glance, then a thumbs up. I stepped back and the bird was gone. The whole incident had taken 20 minutes.

We're trying to track Doodah in our medical system, and will try to get down to see her if she lives. Several soldiers have volunteered stuffed animals and other toys for her, and I hope we can deliver them once she is able to enjoy them. The doctor said that, if she survives, she has a long road to recovery ahead. My hope is that I can send some pictures of her from the recovery room in a few days.

It is hard to explain what this type of experience does to you, or how it helps you to see your enemy with a clarity that is hard to achieve from reading the papers or watching the news. But it makes me that much more determined that the future of the little Iraqi girls like Doodah cannot be left in the hands of people who will poor boiling water on a child.


Greg's brother sends an update:

Thanks for the notes.

Doodah is recovering well and expected to live, although Iraq lacks the cosmetic surgery capability of the US and will likely be scarred pretty badly. Regulations require military hospitals to transfer local nationals to Iraqi hospitals within 24 hours, but they are making an exception for the girl and plan to hold on to her until they can be confident that the worst danger of infection are past. We went to the CSH to visit her yesterday and took some stuffed toys and crayons. I took the medic who initially treated her.

We're hopeful that she will come through this okay.