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Coalition teams up, provides Medical Care

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 5/4/2004

Story by Lance Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr.

SUROBI, Afghanistan (April 14, 2004) -- Marines, soldiers and sailors, along with other coalition forces, conducted a three-day Civil Military Assistance medical operation here and at surrounding villages April 11-13.

During the CMA 723 Afghan women and 350 Afghan men were treated by the corpsmen from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; soldiers from the 325th Task Field Hospital at Bagram Airfield, and South Korean doctors assigned to the Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team, while Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment provided their security.

The CMA was part of the coalition's continuing efforts to accelerate the well being of the Afghan people. These operations occur frequently throughout Afghanistan and treating Afghans has become commonplace for Coalition medical personnel serving here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The operation was divided into two separate clinics co-located in the villages in Eastern Afghanistan. One clinic treated females while the other treated males. The clinics traveled to three different villages during the three-day operation.

Army Maj. David Ferris, operations officer, said, "The females won't go to male doctors because of religious and cultural differences. In order to better provide for the local population, we offer female doctors for the female patients."

Males are completely cordoned off from the female clinic area, with the exception of interpreters when female interpreters aren't available.

Army Capt. Heather Canzoneri, critical care nurse, explained Afghan women are commonly shy in the presence of men. "They were embarrassed to talk about their problems with men in the room," she said.

The Afghan females were treated for aliments such as worms and other common ailments and provided female specific healthcare. Prenatal vitamins and Tetanus vaccines were given to all the pregnant women who sought care.

Army Sgt. Janetta Scates, combat medic, said the female technicians accomplish things with the female population the males can't.

"We can treat the female patients the same way the males can treat the male patient," Scates said. Many of the local women wouldn't seek medical care from male doctors.

Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Thompson, leading petty officer of the battalion aid station, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, was one of the practitioners treating male patients during the CMA.

He saw patients with ailments including knee pain, kidney infection, eye irritation, and other ailments including cereal palsy, an incurable, debilitating birth defect.

"You come to terms with not being able to help everybody," Thompson said, adding modern medicine has its limitations. "There are some things we just aren't equipped to handle," he said.

The corpsmen did, however, successfully treat hundreds of patients during the operation. "Being a corpsman, you always feel good about your day's work," he said. "If you aren't busy, it's because everyone is okay. If you are busy, you are working to help and heal people."

Navy Lt. Samuel Turner, battalion surgeon, was pleased with the operation, stating, "we saw everyone who came for treatment. Not a single person came to our clinic and didn't see a corpsman."

Treating patients is all in a days work for the Navy corpsmen and Army practitioners. "Helping people that need so much doesn't make it so hard to be away from home, away from my family. What we're doing matters," Canzoneri said.

"I can see we are giving hope to these people. I see them smile; see them laugh. They see we're here to help; they see us rebuilding Afghanistan as a country. They know we want to make their lives better," Scates added.

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