26 February 2009

Medics to Maintainers

. One of our respiratory therapists used to do maintenance on F-16s. He has been taking some of us out to the flight line to check out the planes up close and learn a bit about folks who repair them.

24 February 2009

Pizza Hut in Balad


Wasn't too bad. Now I can say I've had it. Better for my waistline to wait until I have some folks to share it with me....or just wait to get home for thin crust.

23 February 2009

Deep Thoughts

Doing laundry is fattening.


Isn't it true that when you put on a pair of freshly laundered pants, aren't they always tighter than the pair you just put into the hamper? Both of my ABU pants are size 12S. But one pair is definately tighter than the other. I think this pair was mismarked and should have been a 10S. Maybe I'll lose some more weight and they won't be so tight anymore. I've already lost 5# since leaving the US. Now that I'm over this cold I should be able to workout more often. I'm trying to get out of my office and walk around the facility more - I used to get in at least 4000-5000 steps a day at Sunrise.


Got some bad news about a fellow dietitian back in Las Vegas. Could have been a lot worse but it's still very heartbreaking. My well wishes to her family & friends and for a speedy & positive recovery to all.

22 February 2009

Meet My Roommate

Typically she gets back to the room after I've gotten to bed, or she's already asleep when I get back from the Rec Center. And I get up before she does (my alarm goes off at 6a, she doesn't have to be at work until 8a). We work at totally different squadrons. So we don't run into eachother in the daylight....until yesterday. I was walking past the volleyball and saw her with her squadron, so I snapped a quick picture.

Meet Doris.

This morning we both woke up much earlier than we wanted. At 6:30a there was insistent knocking next door (guess someone overslept their shift???). And if you wake us up in the morning, you also wake up our bladders. Getting up for a hike to the bathroom = keeping me up the rest of the morning. On the plus side I finished a book and visited DFAC2 at breakfast for the first time - I'm not missing much (except omelettes to order, I can live without those for six months). So I have to wait another another week to get 8 hours of sleep instead of 6.

Deep Thoughts

Why do I miss taking hot baths?

21 February 2009

Alarm Red

When the air gets dirty - cloudy - wind has picked up the loose dirt, the chances of indirect attacks goes up.

I had just gotten back to my room after a late evening at the hospital (we had a mass casualty exercise) and then we got the Alarm Red. That means "Indirect Fire Attack" and we have to take cover. Remain under cover until "All Clear" is sounded.

20 February 2009


Looks like my cold has just about run it's course. Last night I went to bed sneezing and sinus congestion. This morning it was just a dry throat. Not a single sneeze today. No hot eyes, no headache, no postnasal drip. Minor little cough. I'm so much happier this is over. I hope it never comes back.

Man Love Friday, Again

Some of the highlights of the show today.

19 February 2009

Otter Pops!

Courtesy of enaxor (from unFiction)! These freezer pops are the only way to get popsicles into the hospital for our patients on clear liquid diets. And come this summer they may come in handy when we need something from another unit.

Thanks Rox! Your idea to double ziploc bag them was very very smart! The pink ones seem to leak the most often.

Deep Thoughts

Why do sneezes come in threes?

17 February 2009

Mail Call

So much fun to find boxes sitting on your chair. The chocolates are from Aunt Barb & Uncle Donald. The shower gel (along with boullion cubes & a travel checkers game) came from Rose (a friend on unFiction).

Thank you so much!!!

Trauma Call in the ED

We wait for the helicopters and pull the patients out on litters.

Inside it's controlled chaos. Everyone knows where to go and what to do, even with more than one patient at a time. A ballet in action, mezmerizing to watch.

We do amazing things here in Balad.

16 February 2009

I Hate Being Sick

They call it "The Balad Crud" and seems to hit everyone within the first month of arrival. Can last 2-6 weeks (from historical reports). Mine started on Friday with a sore throat and general "meh". It's now moved to coughing (got some sugar-free cough syrup at the BX on Sunday) and today hit my sinuses (sudafed & tylenol were added to the pharmaceutical mix). Took a nap yesterday afternoon (instead of working out). All that did was contribute to poor sleep last night (I'm sure the sudafed also affected me since that stuff usually gets me as wired as a couple of cups of coffee).

15 February 2009


One of the ICU murses is from Florida and there is a helicopter unit on the West side from a base near his home. The First Sergeant took a small group of us out on the flight line today. We got up close with a Blackhawks and I got some pretty cool shots including some Chinooks.

14 February 2009

A Visit From Cupid

Morale Committee fundraiser is the election of the Valentine's Day Cupid. You buy votes. This year the Trauma Czar beat out the OIC of the MCC and the NCOIC of Nutritional Medicine for the honor. Here he is delivering the stuffed animals, candy, balloon and greetings to the ICW.

(No, I did not get one, but I did send a couple that turned out to be well timed..both the recipients were having bad days and their gift showed up at very opportuned moments..the hugs I got later in the day were touching, I'm so glad I sent them).

Man Love Friday, Take 2

Heard another version behind the story of Man Love Friday. Presented in Morning Openers (instead of a clinical topic).

According to the Cardiologist, the reason is because of donated scrubs and laundry day. And this is a occurence in other areas of the Middle East theater of operations.

Scrubs are not something authorized for our hospitals (i.e. we cannot order them through military channels). They come to us from well meaning folks back home. So we get a mixture of solid color and colorful, fun themed scrubs. Years ago it was determined that scrubs are unisex. However, by the end of the work week, only the more feminine tops were left. This blossomed into the challenge of the folks wearing them and choosing the most ladylike options (we were even treated to a photograph of a murse in an old fashioned female nursing dress & cap from years ago). Today our male staff are still encouraged to make their Friday scrub top choice as feminine as possible (and we women are allowed to judge their success) - just not too tight.

All this was related to the medical staff the same morning our hospital commander wore a Gorilla Suit.

Deep Thoughts

People are hypocrits. Why do folks say "Hi, how are you?" when they really don't give a shit how you are....cause I feel like crap today (coughing, sore throat, general ugh) but ghod forbid I actually say anything like that....people are asking that question as they are walking past you...they don't really want a response.

(Okay, this was more of a mini-rant than just a Deep Thought. But it feels good to get it off my congested chest)

How hard is it to just say "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" or "Good evening" instead? Easy, I do that all the time.

Also, if you aren't going to come to a lecture, stop gushing over the topic when the flyer is being posted. From all the reaction the announcement I got about "For the Love of Chocolate" you'd think there would be 30 people coming to the talk. I had 4 the first session and 3 at the second. I hate hypocrits.

13 February 2009

Headlines: Iraqi police: Female suicide bomber kills 40

By Hamid Ahmed, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – A female suicide bomber attacked a tent filled with women and children resting from a pilgrimage to a Shiite holy city south of Baghdad on Friday, killing 40 people and injuring 60 others, said officials. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq this year and the third straight day of bombings against Shiite pilgrims.

The tent where the bomber detonated her explosives was located on a route to Karbala, where hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims will converge for an important religious ceremony on Monday, said a police official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Separate tents for men and women are set up along the road to Karbala to offer pilgrims food, drinks and a place to rest.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf confirmed the attack and said security officials were rushing to the scene, located between the cities of Mussayib and Iskandariyah about 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of Baghdad.

Mohammed Abbas, a medical official in Mussayib, said most of the dead and wounded from the attack were women and children.

Mussa al-Kadhem, a procession leader, said he was standing with other men serving tea to passing pilgrims when he spotted the suicide bomber walking in the opposite direction of the pilgrims.

Al-Kadhem said a "suspicious-looking woman" wearing a black abaya robe "and with her face covered came into the tent and sat down."

"As soon as some people asked who she was ... there was a huge explosion," he said.

In the aftermath of the explosion, witnesses said the pilgrims ran over each other trying to escape.

A man carrying his injured child wrapped in a red and yellow blanket, screamed at onlookers: "What is my son's fault? What did he do? What kind of belief system do these people have? Are they monsters?"

Hussein Faris, a 39-year-old from Baghdad who lost his wife in the attack and was wounded in the stomach, said people at the scene panicked.

"I was so terrified," said Faris. "People nearby stampeded, and many were hurt by that."

Sadiya Kadom, a 40-year-old woman from Baghdad, said she was walking near the tent at the time of the explosion and suffered injuries to her legs and hands.

"It was a horrific scene with dead and screaming injured people on the ground," said Kadom.

The attacks against the pilgrims appear to be part a Sunni extremist campaign to rekindle the sectarian conflict that nearly plunged the country into full-scale civil war two years ago.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt packed with nails among Shiite worshippers in Karbala near the revered Imam Hussein shrine, killing eight pilgrims and wounding more than 50.

A day earlier, at least 12 people were killed and more than 40 wounded in bombings in Baghdad that targeted Shiite pilgrims traveling to Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the south.

Iraqi officials have mounted an extensive security operation to protect the pilgrims, who will be celebrating Monday's end of 40 days of mourning that follow Ashoura, the anniversary of the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein.

He was killed in a battle near Karbala for the leadership of the nascent Muslim nation following Muhammad's death in 632. His death contributed to the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

About 40,000 Iraqi troops have been deployed along major routes to Karbala, and officials say security cameras have been installed near the Imam Hussein shrine to keep a lookout for possible threats.

Despite strict security, al-Qaida and other extremist groups have frequently targeted Shiite pilgrims during religious commemorations, which were severely curtailed under Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.

Last March, a female suicide bomber attacked Shiite worshippers in Karbala, killing at least 49. At least 85 people died in a suicide bombing in Karbala in March 2004.

The chief U.N. official in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, has said the attacks against pilgrims were "clearly designed to provoke sectarian tensions" that many Iraqis hope are in the past.

The number of female suicide bombers in Iraq has been growing. Last year, they attempted or successfully carried out 32 attacks, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures.

Also Friday, an old mortar round killed two young boys — ages 10 and 15 — who were playing in the backyard of a farm house in Musayyib, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of Baghdad, said a police official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

It's such a shame that countrymen kill their own. And we all know that these holy pilgrimages are a huge target for insurgents. More and more women are being used because no one will search them, and they wear loose fitting garmets.

Iraqi Culture

Never turn down a gift.

We have treated the son of a local Sheik. He insisted on bringing lunch. Roasted lamb, rice, flatbread, vegetables, and stuff I've never seen before.

11 February 2009

Headlines: More servicemembers fighting battle of bulge

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The percentage of active-duty troops who are overweight or obese has more than doubled since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, according to a recently released Pentagon study, with stress and return from deployments as the top reasons for weight gain.

For the study, military health officials reviewed servicemembers’ outpatient records from 1998 to 2008, using the Body Mass Index scale to determine which troops were overweight or obese.

For the first four years of the study, the number and percentage of overweight troops remained relatively stable, even dipping slightly in 2001. Since that time, however, the number of overweight troops has ballooned from about 25,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 in 2008, according to the review, contained in the January edition of the Defense Department’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report.

"In the past decade among active military members in general, the percent of military members who experience medical encounters for overweight/obesity has steadily increased," according to the report’s editorial comment section. "Since 2003, rates of increase have generally accelerated."

In 2003, the number of troops who were overweight/obese was about 1.75 percent of the active-duty population. Now, that number is 4.4 percent, or 68,786 troops. The biggest rate increase occurred between 2005 and 2007, when the percentage climbed from 2.9 percent to 4 percent.

Women made up the highest percentage of overweight active-duty personnel, with a rate of 7.2 percent of all servicemembers.

Other findings included:

Troops working in health care were the most likely to be overweight/obese, at 6.9 percent of the active-duty population of the field.
Air Force members had the highest percentage of troops who were overweight at 6.7 percent. Marines were the lowest with 1.2 percent.
The age group with the highest percentage of overweight troops were those above 40 at 6.6 percent. Not surprisingly, troops younger than 20 had the lowest percentage diagnosed as overweight/obese at 1.6 percent.
Medical personnel at the U.S. Navy hospital in Naples, Italy, say the report gives them an idea of where to focus their efforts in regard to the health of the military community, said Navy Lt. Kathleen Brennan, of the hospital’s Health Promotions program.

"[Overweight/obesity] issues are found throughout the military active duty and dependent population of [Naval Support Activity] Naples just by visually examining the community," she wrote in an e-mail. "However, we do not see as high of numbers of overweight and obesity as the non-military community."

Generally, the issue of overweight soldiers is a concern for the Army. But for troops and families in Europe, additional help is on the way.

In the coming weeks, "we are beginning a campaign to increase patient awareness of our wellness centers," said Phil Tegtmeier, a spokesman for European Regional Medical Command.

The Air Force in Europe was unable to reply to queries by deadline.

The DOD report concluded that the percentage of troops who are overweight/obese "is a significant military medical concern because it is associated with decreased military operational effectiveness, and both acute and chronic adverse health effects."

The result of the analysis suggests the military is significantly affected by weight problems similar to those facing young Americans, the report stated.

"‘Nutritional fitness’ should be a priority of military medical and line leaders at every level," it said.


Somethings I've noticed around here (at Joint Base Balad, Iraq).
1. There is very poor portion control at the DFAC; they want to serve you big pieces, you can get double or more of anything, desserts are available every meal (and ice cream),and there is plenty of soda & Gatorade.
2. Everyone seems to get boxes of candy or can easily find some from various places around the base that get those "any service member" boxes and they put out the candy jar (the Command hallway at the hospital is a minefield of candy boxes).
3. Plenty of junk food is available at the BX and the Shoppette, and there are fast food joints (Burger King, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Cinnabon, Subway) in various places around the base. So far I've only been to the Subway.
4. Not as many Army guys are hoofing it on patrols in full gear anymore. Many of them sit around for a day or two between "missions" (which is ultimately safer for them). While some workout at the gym (and there are a large number of folks who have made working out a type of religion for themselves), there are probably an equal number who sit around the rec centers watching movies, playing video games, or just socializing.
5. The conflict in the Middle East really showed how much the Air Force needed to improve physical fitness to keep up with the other services and this helped change our PT testing policies a few years ago. Previously in the Air Force, you worked out on your own and did a bike VO2 max test once a year. Now we have upgraded to testing our fitness with a 1 1/2 mile run, pushups & situps, and waist circumference. But the Reserves do not typically participate in the squadron physical training sessions three or more times a week that the active duty folks have. And there are many non-active jobs in the Air Force. Many that require skill sets so important, there are probably more 'waivers' for decreased fitness or increased weight than in the other services (but some base commanders are really cutting down on these).

On the flight over here, when folks found out I was the dietitian, I can't tell you how many said they planned to lose weight during their deployment. Both the hospital and the H6 Gym are offering weight loss/wellness competitions. I can't run outside (the air sucks and I can't use my headphones outside) but I am using the elliptical at the gym and have improved my pushups/situps this past month. I think I've lost a few pounds since I got here (my goal will be 10#, but I wouldn't be upset if I came home 15# lighter).

Weather Report: Breezy & Dirty

Yesterday the wind picked up. Blows the dirt around. Gives everything an orange/tan look and makes it a little gritty in your mouth & eyes.

Mail Call

"Mail reps to the back dock" or "Mail reps report to MCC" paged overhead starts folks salivating.

The most highly anticipated time of the day.

With the availability of internet and email the letters are few and usually just bills or solicitations from magazine mailing lists. But packages. We love those boxes. And every afternoon you wonder if today you get one.

Today I got a box from my husband! Click pens (cause I keep losing mine), TV Guides and Entertainment Weeklys, and the entire 10 seasons of SG1 on DVD! So much fun opening a box from the States. Like a holiday morning.

10 February 2009

Deep Thoughts

Every once in awhile I have to eat a PopTart just to remind myself why it's never worth the 200 calories each.

Blowing in the Wind

It wasn't a full blown sand storm, but it was pretty gritty getting to work today. Remind me to dig out the goggles from my suitcase.

The sky is brown, there's a thin covering of dirt on every outside surface (and I'm sure some got indoors), and we've all added a few minerals to our diet.

09 February 2009

Stay Hydrated

I did not win at bingo, despite there being half the usual number of players.

By request, I have proof of the ugliness that is me in the PT sweats.

We've been without our bathroom/shower cadillacs for two weeks now. Broken sewer or water main.

We have some portapotties (very useful at night since the next set of bathrooms are a 3 min walk). There's a saying around here, about willing to wear Depends to avoid having to get dressed in the middle of the night just to go. Or one can just stop drinking around 9p and be really dehydrated by morning.

There are plenty of 1 liter water bottles all over the place, so there is no excuse. I've been pretty good about getting down 3 of these a day.

Most of the time I don't use the Crystal Lite. Turns out they provide plenty of these packets in the DFAC (so I didn't have to bring any with me). But you have to remember to take some of the water out before adding the packet (this ICW nurse didn't heed that advice).

Deep Thoughts

If I'm living with a roommate, sleeping on a twin bunk bed, eating in a dining facility, taking showers in a trailer, and have to get up at a certain time each day - is this just like college?

08 February 2009

What Do You Do on Your Day Off?

After patient rounds and finishing a briefing power point - I finally made it back to the Beauty Shop for my $11 manicure/pedicure. Didn't get the pizza (no one at the register for 5 min and the minimum you can buy is a full medium - next time I'll bring a friend).

I did get a new area rug for my room (and took the old one outside for the walkway). Wiped down dresser and other surfaces with antibacterial wet wipes and washed the floor with wetswifter. I feel much better with a clean room (yeah, I know, konashark is going "huh???").

So now it's around 2p, I really should eat. The DFAC (Dining Facility) isn't open in the middle of the afteroon.
Fortunately we have a Subway Trailer right next to the Rec Center. The 12" Chicken will stick with me for the rest of the day (well, the chocolate bar tonight will just be my 'dinner' - hey, it's my day off and I'll eat what I want to!!).

Picked up my laundry (taking a break from wifi) and then back to the Rec Center where an AF Band is playing. Music from 60s - 90s with a little big band sound. Not too bad (especially with ear plugs). I took a couple of pictures (will insert tomorrow). Bingo later tonight! Maybe it's my turn to win? I expect to finish out my evening watching "Roswell" on DVD (I'm up to the middle of season 2).

Tomorrow it's back to Groundhog Day. To make it a little different, I have my first health lecture at the Rec Center for the wellness competitions (Monday afternoon, Thursday evening). We have Fit2Fight at the hospital and the Rec Center/Gym has B.A.M. (Balanced Meals + Active Lifestyle = Maximum Results). The topic this week is Behavior Modification.

Also this week at the hospital we are "voting" for someone to dress up as Cupid to deliver the valentines on Saturday. We vote with donations to the moral fund. $1/vote but you want to wait for "blue light specials" to get 20 votes for your $1 (or maybe even more). We have someone in our squadron we're voting for (this person is in 3rd place right now, so I'm saving my votes for the last day). Yes, there will be pictures. I also have to fix up my Valentines lecture "For the Love of Chocolate" I am doing on behalf of the Women's Clinic.

07 February 2009

CSH Run - Bringing Patients to Balad Trauma

We got a large influx of wounded today. The first group arrived via helicopter, the second flew in and were bused to the hospital.