A mass-casualty exercise EVERY SINGLE DAY
November 17, 2008 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Join Devin Friedman at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a city of broken men. During the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany has blossomed into the hub of one of the most amazing and miraculous wartime medical systems in modern history. Each week sees 14 flights into and out of the medical center, delivering dozens of war wounded from the battlefield and back out to the more specialized care centers back stateside; the rapidity of care and transit from the war fronts to stable medical care has decreased the mortality of serious wartime military injuries to just ten percent, from the high-20s/low-30s of previous wars. This is an incredibly nice look at the Landstuhl system from the perspective of a single planeload of injured soldiers.
posted by delfuego (5 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Powerful article, thanks for pointing it out.
posted by felix at 12:10 PM on November 17, 2008

It's an interesting and moving story, but the writing style really turned me off.

It's amazing how far battlefield medicine has come in the last five years... in the long term, I suspect the techniques developed at Landstuhl, Walter Reed, and Bethesda will be as much a legacy of the war as its eventual conclusion will be, if not more so.
posted by vorfeed at 3:58 PM on November 17, 2008

I really liked the writing style ... how would you rather have it written? (Sincere question.)
posted by krilli at 1:40 AM on November 18, 2008

Wow. Amazing how the place come into the spotlight. As a kid I was treated a couple of times there in the mid 1970s, one time for a 106 fever and another time for a minor speech disorder that's long since disappeared. My only real memory of the place is wings and wings of corridors... it's a big place.
posted by crapmatic at 7:39 AM on November 18, 2008

I really liked the writing style ... how would you rather have it written? (Sincere question.)

Here are some examples of what I didn't like:
"And then he feels the pressure of the plane accelerating down the runway, lights extinguished to protect against attacks, the plastic tubing connected to everyone tilting toward the vertical, and they’re up, the slurp of wheels sucked back into the belly of the plane, grinding through the dust higher over the dead earth that is most of Iraq, a few orange fires smeared onto the black."
"It involves cutting back (i.e., slicing off) tissue in a devastating wound, cutting away anything dead or dying, cutting back more than one might logically eliminate, so that it doesn’t get infected, so that healthy tissue has a chance to grow back, so you incrementally, incrementally, incrementally increase the chances of a full recovery."

This guy's style is very aggressive and idiosyncratic, and as such, the piece is at least as much about the author as it is about the story. This sort of style is fine for a novel or a short story, but when I'm reading reporting, I'm not really interested in the author. He's trying way too hard, and that distracts from the story, which is strong enough to stand on its own without his constant literary semaphoring. Most of the story is told in these giant chunks of alliteration/repetition/run-on, and there's no real reason for 90% of them. This sort of pacing is meant to build tension and a sense of being in the moment, but when it's applied to nearly the entire text, it's just distracting, and sets the reader up for a big letdown at the end. That goes double for a story like this one, where we already know the likely ending. "The soldier gets better, but who knows what will happen to him tomorrow" simply does not justify an epic buildup from page one, especially since the author's busy style distracts the reader from the emotional connection he or she ought to have with the wounded soldier.

In short, the writing here is just plain overdone, and I think it would have been a lot more powerful had the author been more restrained in his use of literary devices.
posted by vorfeed at 11:17 AM on November 18, 2008

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