Waking up early Saturday morning in Bagram I felt good, despite predictable jet lag that had us both wide awake a zero-dark-thirty. Exercised a bit, wrote a blog piece. By midday chow my sinuses began to ache - they were acting up for a couple of weeks prior to coming in country. Exposure to a fog of dust - much worse than we experienced in our spring embed - irritated them further.
It struck us that in the spring the mountains surrounding the high plain on which Bagram and Kabul rest were dramatically visible. Now they are obscured almost completely by a fog of talcum-quality dust. You see Soldiers running and riding bikes in this stuff and have to wonder if the benefits of exercise are obviated by the potential damage of inhaling this stuff. Last embed we were told by a straight-faced medic that "only" 17 % of the dust contains fecal matter. Great news!
My mid-afternoon when we stopped by ISAF public affairs to pick up our photo ID badges and travel orders, my face and jaw began to throb. So we stopped by the hospital, saw a doc, and picked up prescriptions. One great thing about being embedded is that the military treats you less as a visitor and more like one of their own. While embedded housing - whatever may be available, meals, transportation, and emergency medical are taken care of.
The Air Force runs most of the hospital operations at Bagram and a female lieutenant colonel examined me and wrote up a script for antibiotics, decongestant, and expectorant. After that it was lights out. I lived in and out of my B-hut (plywood board housing) bunk for the next two and a half days. Couldn't eat more than a little cereal for the first day or so, and finally felt good enough on Monday morning to risk a hot breakfast.
Very fortunate that early on Avery still felt okay and was able to bring things for me. She crashed on Monday morning, with similar symptoms, looking like the onset of bronchitis, something she has had repeatedly in the past. Got her in to the hospital late Monday afternoon and now she is on an antibiotic regime. Welcome back to Afghanistan. Kinda pathetic not making it out of Bagram, but if you have to get sick, it's better here than further downrange where medical personnel are scarcer.
This is Tuesday morning and we both have residual pain and are still weak. The idea of lugging body armor, helmet, and two rucksacks across an airstrip is still pretty intimidating. Hope to be better in 48 hours so we can make the Thursday flight to Gardez.
Meanwhile, we're hanging in there and appreciating the antibiotics as they begin to kick in.
The book "Warrior Police" by Gordon Cucullu and Avery Johnson will be published by St. Martin's Press in 2011. This blog contains background notes, informal interviews, and photographs gathered during the Afghanistan research phase of the project... click here for a little more background on this blog, and enjoy!
- ▼ October (7)