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from The Brightest Firefly by Dacia M Arnold

Baghdad ER

Baghdad ER






From October 2007 to January 2009, I was deployed for the first time to Baghdad, where I worked as a medic in the Emergency Room of Saddam’s former hospital, Ibn Sina. Though I had four years of army experience then, I was only twenty-two when I arrived and twenty-four when I returned. While others, like our head doctor, Todd Baker, chose to reflect on the experience immediately, I waited over a decade to look back at my experience in the busiest trauma center in the world. The lack of punctuation in sections of this narrative signify a stream of consciousness of the main character. I assure you, this story is fully edited and those omissions are intentional.


“Gilliam! Take thirty minutes and go clean up,” her shift leader commanded.

Dacia was dismissed from her shift after only working three of her twelve hours. She had not bothered to look down at herself since the first combat casualty rolled in missing both legs and another whose left side of her body clung to limbs by thin white threads of tendons and ligaments. Karen’s digital patterned army uniform was saturated with blood not her own. Her hands were clean, though, up to her wrists.

She walked out the door into the night instead of taking the shortcut through the well-lit air-conditioned hallways of the Iraqi hospital. She stopped at the gazebo where four benches faced inward at a large metal bucket filled with sand. It was midnight, and empty for the moment.

The sound of her Velcro pocket was muffled by the adrenaline still pumping through her body. She pulled out a pack of American branded cigarettes, dry and fragile from the desert climate. A brisk wind blew at her exposed neck, drying the sweat and blood and giving her a chill as she lit the end and took two long drags.

She stared. In the night, she looked at an object a thousand miles away in silence. Her mind blank but also running as fast as her heart was beating.

Her body was still, but her mind ran backward until she was standing at the head of the bed of a soldier, talking to him because he so desperately wanted to sleep but Dacia knew if he fell asleep too soon they would lose him.

What’s your name where are you from do you have someone special back home? Well, we’re gonna get you back there just hold tight and look at me focus on me listen to my voice. Wow, you have some very nice eyes y...

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