Saturday, January 8, 2011

War Stories

Twice this week I encountered patients whose medical issues stemmed from the US government's use of Agent Orange in the 1960's and early 1970's. The United States military used the herbicide/defoliant, Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, spraying it on many of the region's heavily forested areas in order to deprive the guerilla enemy fighters of cover. However, the chemical, nicknamed for the orange barrels in which it was transported, eneded up being extremely toxic and had other unfortunate effects on the soldiers and the Vietnamese civilians. Agent Orange has caused various cancers, neurological and skin disorders, and devastating birth defects.
One of my patients was a Vietnam veteran who was having major cancer surgery. He did great. The surgeon thought he got all of it out, so chemo will be minimal if even necessary.
The other patient was actually the grown son of a Vietnam veteran. He had been born with a relatively mild form of spina bifida, as well as some pretty serious urological problems. At almost 40, he is still undergoing procedures due to these issues.
Amazing how a policy decision about a chemical decades ago is still affecting these veterans and their families.

On a lighter note, one of our neurosurgeons tends to mumble. He is from the deep south, so with the drawl and the mumbling sometimes he is tough to understand. He rolls his eyes and says "You girls" (the nurses are always "you girls") when we ask him to repeat himself. I love to read his H & P's, though, because he often includes interesting little personal details about his patients. I was looking at one yesterday and realized the dictation voice recognition software might have been thrown off by the doctor's manner of speaking. It read

"Patient is a World War Two veteran. He suffered multiple injuries while invading Iceland in the Pacific"

Now my historical and geographical knowledge isn't the best, but something about that just isn't right.


  1. Sad what we do in war.

    I love my older patients and their stories. Too bad I never have the time to talk for more than a few minutes.

    Iceland? That is funny. Was he in Vietnam?

  2. I used to work for a VA hospital, encountered a lot of agent orange victims. Vets are a special group.

  3. My dad is a Vietnam Vet and I swear my sister and I have skin discoloration on different parts of our bodies, which we were told could've been from Agent Orange.
    That's pretty funny about Iceland, I'm not to keen on geographic locations either but it made me smile.

  4. Well, history has it that the British invaded Iceland in May of 1940 because of their neutral stance which was irritating the Allies. The transfer of power to the USA took place July 1941. The German Uboats sank quite a few of the Icelandic fishing vessels so the British helped to train the Iceland Coast Guard.
    Was the guy originally Brit? That would make sense then.....

  5. Cartoon Characters, your knowledge of history is outstanding! I had no idea that Iceland was even involved in the war. I believe from his accent that the gentleman was born American, but you never know. Thank you for enlightening me! I love history and always want to learn more :)