A Chance in Hell

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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN For the weight of what the surgeon is about to do, it seems like it should take more than a few snips. But just like that, in two easy squeezes of the scissors — three or four seconds maybe — Lt. Cmdr. Kirk Sundby severs the thin stretch of tissue connecting Eddie Wards calf and thigh, and the soldiers right leg is no longer his. Sundby, a Canadian orthopedic specialist, turns to a Dutch army nurse who is standing by with a large red plastic bag. They place the leg inside, the boot still on it. "Anything else?" the nurse asks. Sundby drops in a stray, 5-inch piece of femur. Broken and jagged at both ends, its been stripped clean of flesh by the upward force of the blast. "Thats it for now," he says. The nurse nods, then sets the bag on the floor near the door. The half-dozen doctors in the room survey whats left. With no skin to contain it, the pile of loose muscle that is the end of Wards thigh is spread out wide on the table. Before it can be packed back inside, it must be thoroughly cleaned. A surgical technician passes Sundby a bottle of saline. With one hand he pours it over the mess of flesh, and with the other he begins massaging out all the dirt and grass that the explosion blasted in. Three others help, picking out bits of rock and gravel as they go. "This is one of the dirtiest wounds Ive seen," says Navy Lt. Joelle Annandono, an orthopedic physician assistant based in Bremerton, Wash. Several bottles of saline and iodine later <b>…<b>

 


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