Saturday, March 11, 2017

Earn This

Webmaster note: There are several stories that are quite moving making the rounds on the Internet. As moving as they may be, unfortunately, some turn out to be bogus. The following essay is NOT one of those. It is genuine.

After reading this essay by Dr. Ellison I did a search and also found the following testimonial as to the veracity of the story. 
It is by Robin Juhl, Captain, USAF (retired)
    Since I work at a San Antonio military installation, I was able to quickly verify that the lost generation is indeed written by the doctor to whom it's attributed. So said the secretary of the Brooke Army Medical Center Emergency Department, at (210) 916-5512. According to this nice lady, the good doctor is now working nights at Wilford Hall Medical Center. She has already fielded more than one call on this.

August 2001
"Stephen R. Ellison" Earn This
(2008) Another source - this article:

Earn This
By Captain. Stephen R. Ellison, M.D. USA

I am an Army doctor specializing in emergency medicine in the emergency departments of the military's only level one trauma centers. Both are in San Antonio, and we care for civilians as well as military personnel. San Antonio has a large military retiree population partly because of these two military medical centers.

As a doctor training for my specialty, I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous. It's easy to become jaded by long hours, the lack of sleep, food and family contact, and the endless parade of human suffering passing before me. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work. Many times it's a victim from a motor vehicle crash. Sometimes it's a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed.

However, with a large military retiree population, ambulances often arrive with a nursing home patient. In the past, I've caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what these citizens represent.

Then I saw the movie Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks. I was touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage in the first 30 minutes, but by the sacrifice of so many soldiers. What touched me most was the final scene. The elderly survivor at the graveside asks his wife if he has been a good man. I realized I had seen these same men and women coming through my emergency department not realizing the magnificent sacrifices they've made. The things they did for me and everyone else who has lived on this planet since World War II are priceless.

When the situation permits, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences—they never bring up the subject without an inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of recounted experiences in the few minutes allowed in the emergency room. These brief encounters have introduced me to some incredible individuals I am honored to have served in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

There was the frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic trying to start an intravenous line in her arm. She remained calm and poised despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. (She was what we call a "hard stick.")

As the medic made another attempt I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She said simply, "Auschwitz." Many later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic for his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering.

Then there was the long-retired colonel who, as a young U.S. Navy officer, had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, he cut his head in a fall at home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high-priority emergency patients.

Still spry for his age, he asked to phone a taxi to take him home, only to remember that the ambulance had brought him without his wallet. So he asked if he could make a long-distance call to his daughter who lived 70 miles away.

With great admiration we told him he could not, as he'd done enough for his country; the least we could do was get him a taxi, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was my shift wouldn't end for several hours and I couldn't drive him myself.

I was working the night Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez came through Emergency for the last time. He was very sick. I was not his doctor, but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick he didn't know I was there, but I'd read his Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

The gentleman who served with Merrill Marauders, the soldier who lived through the Bataan Death March, the Omaha Beach survivor, the 101-year-old World War I veteran, the former POW held in frozen North Korea, the former Special Forces medic now with non-operable liver cancer, the former Vietnam Corps Commander - I remember them all. Though I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women.

I am angered at the cutbacks implemented and proposed that will continue to decay their meager retirement benefits. I'm amazed at those who can turn their back on these individuals who have sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. And there are later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties won with such sacrifice. It has become my personal endeavor to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing people when I encounter them in our emergency department. Their response to these heroic men and women makes me think that perhaps not all hope is lost when it comes to the next generation.

My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation and this nation knows not what it is losing. Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. 

We should all remember that we must "earn this."

Captain Stephen R. Ellison, M.D. is a resident physician specializing in Emergency Medicine in the joint Brooke Army Medical Center - Wilford Hall Medical Center Emergency Medicine Residency in San Antonio, TX. He served as the initial company commander and program director for the new Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center, Ft. Bragg, NC prior to the start of his residency. He currently resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Marta and his two children.

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