Capt Maria Ortiz

Sept 25, 2007

Today started really slow. It took me 50 minutes to make a 15-minute trip just to get to the hospital. Traffic was terrible.

Most of the morning was spent sorting, folding and preparing phone cards for patients. I was invited to go to the in-briefing of the new patients. This is something that I have never done before so I jumped at the opportunity.

We first went to where the patients are now being offloaded from the buses. The emergency room entrance is under construction, so unless a patient is critical they do not unload there right now. The first bus was for those patients that could walk. These patients can be everything from sports injuries to female problems. The second bus started to unload with litter patients and I was standing about 30 feet from the back of the bus and could see all them. They all looked in good shape and were looking around. I was wondering what each patient must have been thinking as they were welcomed by the chaplain and then by their liaison, then nurses and then off into the hospital. Some were only on litters because the trip was more comfortable for them to travel that way and so they were moved to wheelchairs once out of the way of others being unloaded.

As I was standing there the first patient had a handmade quilt covering him. The second patient had an Army wool blanket. Then the lump in my throat grew and I had to swallow very hard. It was not because the patient coming off the bus was on a lot of machines or seriously wounded. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at and why the emotion. Then it hit me. One of our thermal weave blankets came off with a patient. I had been there to see the full circle of our love and the warmth of the patient. I am glad I was standing by myself and the liaison that had invited me had moved to help his patient because the fourth patient off the bus was covered by another of our thermal weave blankets. I see our items go out of the WWMC since LHCP has started, but to know that these blankets left Virginia and went into Iraq and Afghanistan and had made their way back to LRMC with a patient was a new feeling for me. A patient’s warmth is very important and we did it with the help of Standard Textile. We have another 2,800 pounds being delivered on 10/10 and Karen is shipping more blankets out right now but we need your help with shipping costs, so please remember that even if it is $1 it helps to get those blankets downrange to these wounded.

I went back to the WWMC afterwards and thought my day could not get any more emotional, but as I helped a young female medic with some items she kept saying yes ma’am, yes ma’am, no ma’am. You know when you have that gut feeling that something is just not right. I knew it about her. I kept close to her and started talking softer about the items that she might need. Some you can joke and tease with. Others you have to be soft spoken and others you have to be mom with. Then it then happened. She just stood there, saying nothing and then the tears and of course a hug from me. We just stood there and hugged each other for a very long time. There were some other volunteers in the WWMC and I was hoping that one of them would volunteer a tissue but after a couple minutes one of the chaplain’s assistants came in and I turned to him while still hugging her and asked him if he could get us one. We went outside and talked. I noticed that she had a bracelet on for one of our contacts that was killed in action. I was looking for my connection with this patient and there it was in small print on her wrist. I told her that I knew Capt Ortiz. That she was one of our contacts at the CSH for shipping supplies. That I was sorry for her loss. She said she was there when Maria was brought in and that she had worked with her and that she was a good person, woman and nurse. She told me that she was at LRMC due to a back injury and she hurt her back by pulling a fellow troop out of a humvee. We talked a long time and I continued to let her know that she could not help her troops if she did not take care of herself first. After a while she was some better and we finished her bag and I walked her to the bus stop. We sat there a few minutes more and then the escort from Saturday came up. I asked him if he was going the same place she was and he was so I introduced them both and gave him the duty of making sure she got there ok. He is now the experienced one and she has someone to rely on and he has someone to be able to talk to also.

I worked 10.5 hours today in thanks to Judy O’Dell and her contribution to my trip.

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