Blood Brothers: Among the Soldiers of Ward 57

Michael Weisskopf, Author
Michael Weisskopf, Author . Holt $25 (301p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7860-2
Reviewed on: 08/07/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Paperback - 301 pages - 978-0-8050-8660-7
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Reporter Weisskopf, at 58, was accompanying a patrol in Baghdad in 2003 when he picked up a grenade that flew into his Humvee. This book relates the consequences, beginning with a detailed account of a medic's emergency treatment of Weisskopf's shattered hand, his speedy transport to an aid station, helicopter flight to a front-line hospital, flight to the trauma center in Germany and, finally, to amputee Ward 57 of Washington's Walter Reed Hospital. Readers quickly learn that amputees make up 3% of Iraq's wounded—twice that of previous wars—thanks to the Kevlar helmets and sturdy body armor that protect all but the soldier's limbs from otherwise fatal explosions. Besides recounting his own successful recovery from the trauma of losing a hand, Weisskopf adds stories of three American soldiers who also endured months of torment before adjusting to new lives, though they were not necessarily typical. Other patients mentioned in passing do very badly. Pain is universal; many amputees suffer numerous operations and take narcotics for years. Modern prostheses are ingenious but heavy and difficult to use. Readers with a low tolerance for inspirational stories will still find plenty of technical and medical details of one tragic, little-publicized consequence of the Iraq war. (Oct. 3)

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