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Sgt. Wells's New Skull
March 15, 2007 1:25 AM   Subscribe

Sgt. Wells's New Skull. In the epidemic of brain injuries coming out of the war, Army neurosurgeons had never seen someone survive such a devastating wound. But Brian Wells jokes that he just left part of his head in Iraq. Someday, he says, he'll have to go back and get it.
posted by srboisvert (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent article. There cannot be enough stories like this; the press's focus on the death numbers severely understate the human cost of this war. I'd also never realized that helmets save lives by keeping bullets in as well as out.
posted by gsteff at 2:00 AM on March 15, 2007


Terribly sad, and incredibly gripping.

.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 4:10 AM on March 15, 2007


Glad things worked out for Sgt. Wells.

I thought about posting something regarding Bob Woodruff's recovery, but that doesn't even come close to this.

If anything good is to come out of this mistaken war, medical advances might be one thing.
posted by bardic at 5:00 AM on March 15, 2007


Huh. I read about a SEAL who went face-first into a rockpile from 50 feet up after a parachuting mishap left him dangling from a high-tension transmission line; he had to cut away the shrouds and drop to the ground. He wound up having enough facial bone replaced by titanium that he allegedly had trouble going through metal detectors at airports afterward (although the guy retelling the story might've been exaggerating a bit).
posted by pax digita at 5:21 AM on March 15, 2007


Fantastic article. The way the author ended it was especially haunting.
posted by localroger at 5:52 AM on March 15, 2007


If anything good is to come out of this mistaken war, medical advances might be one thing.

That is exactly what I thought.
posted by sfts2 at 6:13 AM on March 15, 2007


Agreed, bardic.
Good read, srboisvert, thanks.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:36 AM on March 15, 2007


wow, excellent article. thanks.
posted by Busithoth at 7:56 AM on March 15, 2007


Soon all the apartments are cleared and searched, the men hustled outside to be interviewed. There are no gunmen here, no rifles.

Are there no female insurgent snipers?

With each pass, the platform drops .125 millimeters, another layer done. Again and again the laser passes over the resin. A day later, the model is finished. The platform rises and an exact replica of Wells's skull--with the same huge hole stretching around the whole left side--emerges from the vat.

This has got to be the coolest application of rapid prototyping I've ever heard of.
posted by Mitheral at 7:59 AM on March 15, 2007


From page 2 of the Esquire article:
Back at Fort Drum in upstate New York, where we were training for Iraq, we watched his combat acrobatics. He would jog forward with his M4 and dive into a somersault, pop up and fire three rounds into a target, barrel-roll to the left and fire three more, roll again, and stop on his back, firing upside down. Just like the video games. God knows he plays enough of those. Sometimes when he's on patrol, or moving in to raid a house, he sees an image of himself, as though he's at the controls in a first-person shooter.

But in video games, you respawn when you're shot in the head.
Interactive, repetitive propaganda at its best. If war games were truly realistic, would anyone play?
posted by cenoxo at 8:01 AM on March 15, 2007


With each pass, the platform drops .125 millimeters, another layer done. Again and again the laser passes over the resin. A day later, the model is finished. The platform rises and an exact replica of Wells's skull--with the same huge hole stretching around the whole left side--emerges from the vat.

This has got to be the coolest application of rapid prototyping I've ever heard of.


I have one of these-- a complete model of a skull made on the same type of machine-- on my desk at work, for real. It sits and grins at me all day.
posted by jokeefe at 8:25 AM on March 15, 2007


But is it a model fashioned by CAT scan of your own skull? Man I'd pay good money for that but not the $600 for a scan. Hmm, my father had a CT scan of his head don't last year, I wonder if he's interested in a unique Christmas gift.

I don't think the games would even need 50% realism. Imagine if in order to play AA (or any FRP) you had to wear an ankle like the home prisoners. Any time you died you'd be incapacitatingly tased 20 times at random intervals for the next 48 hours. Multiple deaths would stack the penalty effectively increasing the frequency (IE: die twice it's 40 in 48, die ten times it's 200 in 48). Ya, that would get people thinking at least a little bit that war isn't a game and toting a rifle isn't a "fun" career.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 AM on March 15, 2007


My son Robert knew Brian Wells. Robert was there when Sgt. Wells was shot. Everyone in Alpha Co. was amazed by Sgt. Wells' recovery. Robert would tell me I didn't have anything to worry about and give Sgt. Wells as his example.
posted by taosbat at 9:16 AM on March 15, 2007


Interactive, repetitive propaganda at its best.

Try reading the whole article instead of being an ass. What an amazing, sad story. Thanks so much.
posted by yerfatma at 11:15 AM on March 15, 2007


Wow, that was an amazing article. The advances in treating brain damage are truly phenomenal. It is nice to hear that at least some good work was being done at Walter Reed.
posted by sourbrew at 11:20 AM on March 15, 2007


Mitheral: I was thinking more of a VR helmet with one of those cattle-stunning captive-bolt guns attached. Get headshot? Bolt to the head!
posted by jtron at 11:37 AM on March 15, 2007


From what I've read about these types of injuries there's always the chance of a relapse, let's hope that this is not the case here. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that Wells and all those in and out of war who have these kinds of injuries have full and complete recoveries.
posted by mk1gti at 1:21 PM on March 15, 2007


That has to be one of the best articles I've read recently. Thank you so much for posting.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 3:17 PM on March 15, 2007


Mitheral writes "Are there no female insurgent snipers?"

Seriously. Haven't they seen Full Metal Jacket?
posted by mr_roboto at 4:02 PM on March 15, 2007


That's an amazing article, thanks for the link. I was struck by the background to the story as much as the medical miracle, especially throw-away lines like "I could have killed him, and no one much would have cared."

In response to a single sniper round, the US unit poured fire onto an apartment block occupied by families with young children, shot up a moving civilian car with their heavy MG, then returned to the neighborhood at midnight, kicking in doors and dragging terrified innocents out to be interrogated.

The soldier thankfully survived, received first-class medical care and returned to live in comfort and safety with his family. He'll probably get a pension and ongoing treatment, and hopefully make a good recovery. The poor bastards caught up in the middle get nothing - it's just another day for them. I wonder how many new 'terrorists' were created by that incident?

Yet another reminder of what a disaster this thing is for everyone involved.
posted by boosh at 5:50 PM on March 15, 2007


Great article
posted by gergtreble at 9:49 PM on March 15, 2007


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