Saturday, February 9, 2008

Iraq: "Stop the war or you'll put your eye out"!

Yesterday, as I do pretty much every Friday morning, I attended eye rounds over at the University of Wisconsin Hospital on campus. Most of the time, the talks are about human eye issues rather than the veterinary eye disease seen in our lab. But I always learn something and if possible, I always get the blueberry muffin off the "treat tray".

This day was different. The speaker was presenting a talk on Eye Trauma. Now, I know that sounds strange that I'd be interested in this, but we do see a fair amount of eye trauma: dog bites to the eye, foreign bodies from dogs sticking their heads out the window, cat scratch, BB's, stick in the eye, ShiTzus, Pugs, to name a few.

So..........I was a bit stunned when the speaker, a human opthalmologist I've heard give excellent presentations before, said her talk would be mostly about eye injuries in the Iraq war. She gave a lot of statistics, intermixed with photos of mobile army hospitals, explosions from IED's, etc. I felt a bit frightened. She didn't say what her stance was on the war. Later, I almost asked her.

The numbers are scary. She looked at the period in the war of 2004 through 2005. I will try to accurately as possible reproduce the numbers. 1706 soldiers killed, 16,000+ wounded. Of those wounded, approximately 900 had "open eye injuries" where something penetrates or otherwise opens up the globe. Of the 900, 70 underwent enucleation (eye removal) and 6 underwent bilateral enucleation (yes, both eyes). The causes: 73% from explosions (IED's and such, usually from the compression caused by the explosion shock wave), 8% had metal penetration, 7% glass, 5% bone and 7% brick or rock.

She detailed the treatment procedure. Mobile hospitals at the scene, bigger hospitals in say, Baghdad, a possible side trip to a German hospital, then home to Walter Reed. She gave outcome statistics showing the success of this treatment. The vast majority of patients showed no disabling visual loss after 21 days. In response to a question from Poodledoc, she said the patients were not followed up any longer than that. From my vet work, I know that "nasty things can happen" in an injured eye farther down the road than 21 days.

She made the statement that things would be better if soldiers were more disciplined about wearing eye protection. Apparently the soldiers refused to wear them because as one put it: "they make us look like senior citizens from Miami".

And speaking of Miami, she pointed out that the army hospitals in Iraq saw the third highest level of trauma behind hospitals in Miami and LA. Huh? Is there a war on in those cities? She seemed proud about the reduction of disabling eye injuries since the first world war.

I walked back to the Vet School feeling very sad and wondering what the level of eye trauma and eye/vision loss was among Iraqi civilians, who don't get evacuated to state of the art hospitals....


Suzy said...

I like the subtle blaming it on the soldiers for refusing to wear eye protection. This is horrifying. One more horrifying chapter in the whole horrifying war.

poodledoc said...

Hmmm, I hadn't thought of it that way, Suzy. Maybe the trend is towards those bubble suits as depicted in the post. She did mention something akin to a face shield becuse wearing sunglasses when it's 120 degrees (ie, hotter than Miami) is uncomfortable. Or so it would seem.