Embroiled in controversy over the inadequate care given to military patients in Iraq, Walter Reed suffered yet another setback today when Pvt. fc. Jonathan Byrne revealed that a month ago while at a Walter Reed hospital, he--and not a doctor--had surgically reattached his left arm at the shoulder.
"Somebody told me to wait in a waiting room-you know the kind with the long, white elevated bed?" Private Byrne explained. "But after about three hours, no one showed up, and I thought maybe they had forgotten about me."
Private Byrne described walking out of the waiting room and over to a nurse's station, where the on-duty nurse then explained that no one had forgotten him-it was he who had made the mistake. "She asked me if I had seen the two-hundred-page photocopied document on the counter--the one next to the bottle labelled, 'DIY Local Anesthetic.' I said, 'Yeah, I think I noticed that.' So she said, 'Well, then honestly, sir, I don't know why we're still having this conversation.'"
Private Byrne returned to his waiting room and found the document on a counter top where the nurse had directed him. After skimming through the first few pages he realized he was reading detailed instructions on how to reattach his arm. "All I needed was fishing line, duct tape and a bowie knife," he explained. "It was real handy because fortunately they were all things that had already been issued to me by the Army. Otherwise, I'm not sure what I would have done. The shelves in that room were pretty bare."
Byrne remembers that it was at that moment that he realized that most of the furniture also looked like it had been lifted from local Iraqi hospitals. "I think I saw something that said, Property of Baghdad Children's Leukemia Wing."
In all, the surgery took about fifteen minutes. "It wasn't too hard. I got a badge for sewing in the boy scouts," he explained. But did it hurt? Byrne said that due to an anesthetic injection that was fifteen times higher than called for in the do-it-yourself dosage, he felt relatively little pain. "In fact, I was standing three feet away from a car that exploded at a checkpoint bombing a couple days after my surgery and I still don't feel anything," he observed. "I guess that was about three weeks ago now."
When asked if he felt like he'd been mistreated, Byrne replied, "Well, the on-duty nurse was kind of mean. But I probably should have been more observant of the stack of photocopied instructions about how to reattach my arm that was just sitting there on the table right in front of me." He added that he was also "pretty lucky" that he knew how to sew.
Private Byrne has another four months before his tour of duty in Iraq is over, and will continue his service in Anbar province. What is the first thing he'll do when he gets home? "I'm going to get the gangrene around this fishing line in my shoulder checked."