Sunday, July 13, 2008

Courage, strength, and perseverence. I gotta warn you, this will be humbling.

Mark Campbell is an officer in the Canadian Army. Recently, he was WIA in Afghanistan, The following is copied from his post at explaining what happened and what is happening now. I have to say, this post humbled me, and at the same time, confirmed that I have a lot of work to do on myself. His attitude in amazing and inspiring. This is the quality of service personnel we have in this fight. We owe them all a debt I fear we will never fully understand, much less ever be able to repay.

Howdy Fellow LFers,

First and foremost, I'm still alive and kicking so no "memorial" stuff is required at this point. Second, many thanks for all of your well-wishes and associated kind words. All is as well with me as can be expected under the circumstances. I had a "bad day" in Siah Choy (Zhari District) back on 01 Jun, but it certainly wasn't the end of the world. Indeed, I am quite thankful that aside from the loss of both legs above the knees, I am 100% good to go. In other words, the same old me - for better or for worse!

To satisfy any natural curiosity, I was hit by a comd-detonated AP mine that initiated a complex ambush against the ANA coy that I was accompanying on a village clearance op. The blast threw me straight up and slightly backwards such that I landed just behind the blast seat on my back. I did a crunch and saw that both legs were gone below the knees. I yelled for assistance and managed to get a CAT around my left stump before attending troops took over my care under fire. Both legs were tourniquetted and I was extracted under fire to a secure location while the coy engaged the enemy under the very capable guidance of one of my coy mentoring teams. I remained conscious throughout, which turned out to be a PITA due to the incredible degree of pain I was in.

Three other members of my HQ were evacced with me, including my Med Sgt, who provided life-saving treatment to me while simultaneously treating himself for blast-related concussion. There was a running gun battle back to the designated HLS that lasted about an hour, followed by a 25-minute helo ride to KAF and 30 minutes of in-processing at the Role 3 Forward Surgical Hospital. By that point I was literally begging to be rendered unconscious via anesthetic, as the pain was totally out of control. That was by far the worst part of the entire episode - feeling every single second of the 2 hours it took to finally get some pain relief.

I underwent intial surgery at the Role 3 in KAF, and was then air-evacced to Landstuhl Germany. Once I was anethesized at the Role 3, I was kept unconscious for the better part of a week aside from a couple of occasions where they woke me up for various assessments and phone calls. I was intubated and kept in intensive care due to blast damage to my lung tissue which compromised oxygen processing. Once I regained consciousness, I remained in the Landstuhl ICU for a further 5 days before being placed in the general ward. My repat to Canada was delayed as a result of the lung damage, which impacted my ability to fly at altitude under normal pressurization. Eventually all was well, and I flew from Germany to Edmonton via Airbus and Challenger.

I have been in the Isolation Ward of the U of Alberta Hospital for just over two weeks now, where my wounds have undergone follow-on treatment. Initially the treatment consisted of debriding and irrigating the wounds every 2 days IOT ensure the presence of healthy tissue suitable for skin grafting. I still had a lot of dead tissue in and around my wounds as a result of the blast and the Afghan "super-bug" that I contracted. After a week of dressing changes and cleanings the surgeons were able to conduct the initial skin-grafts required to create suitable stumps for prosthetic legs. The donor tissue came from my upper thighs, which added a whole new level of discomfort. Morphine, Dilaudid, OxyContin, etc, have become my new bestest friends! Anyhow, as of today the docs assess that the graft on my right leg is 100% successful. The graft on my left leg is only 85% healthy, due to the fact that my left thigh took the worst of the blast damage and therefore requires the most reconstruction. If all goes according to plan, one more surgery this coming weekend will sort out the graft on my left stump and put both at 100% so that I can get on with healing and rehab.

I will remain at the U of A Hospital for a few more weeks to let my stumps heal, then transition to the Glenrose Hospital (still in Edmonton) for 3 to 6 months of in-patient amputee rehab. The length of my stay in rehab will depend entirely upon my personal rate of progress through the recovery programme. The good news is that the Glenrose provides cutting-edge/state of the art amputee treatment. There will be plenty of hard work, but | can expect to see maximum return on my rehab efforts.

The support and assistance that I have received throughout every stage of my injury, evacuation and treatment to date has been superb. As you can appreciate, there are still many unanswered questions that need to be addressed, but for the most part my immediate requirements have all been met. My family, friends, co-workers and the various institutional representatives have all been incredibly supportive thus far. My Wife of 18 years has been a rock-solid port in some pretty stormy seas of late. My friends, spanning 27 years of military service, have rallied around my family and shown their true colours. One could not hope for better friends, and I consider myself a very rich man for their company. Likewise, the various military institutions that affect me have been tremendous in their support, starting with a personal visit by the Canadian Forces Chief of Defence Staff (Gen Rick Hillier) and working down the chain through the Army, my Regiment (the PPCLI), and my unit (3rd Bn, PPCLI). I honestly couldn't ask for more in terms of assistance and support in dealing with my current challenges.

Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know that I am doing fine despite my recent set-back. Yeah, the Taliban bastards managed to wing me. They didn't kill me though - just slowed me down a bit. I'm a partial mobility kill, nothing worse. My injuries will heal and my mobility will eventually improve. I am pleased to say that this is much more than a large number of former Taliban can boast. We did some very good killing on the ops immediately preceeding and during my injury with an extremely high "exchange rate". No doubt the lop-sided killing has continued in my absence....

Life has thrown some new challenges in my path, but at the same time there are new opportunities to be exploited. I just need to figure out what those opportunities are and how they apply to me in order to chart a suitable way ahead for myself and my family. First things first though - for now I need to focus on mending and regaining my mobility. I'll worry about the long-term stuff later.

That is about all I have to report for now. Many thanks again for your concern and your individual well-wishes! That means a lot to me coming from such a distinguished group of BTDT fellow warriors.

Soldier on, no regrets!

Mark Campbell (aka "Stumpy") :Smile:

PS. Here's a link to a recent article with embedded video featuring my mentoring team on ops. The op occurred way back in April before the campaign season really ramped up. As a result, there isn't any kinetic contact. Still, the reporter manages to pretty accurately capture the typical mix of friction-induced stupidity and tactical success. A good intro for those not familiar with ongoing NATO efforts to professionalize the ANA. Enjoy!


DirtCrashr said...

Holy moly! He really takes the long view, I'm not so sure I could.

Haji said...

When I asked him if I could copy this, I told him how amazed I was at his positive attitude. He said words to the effect of "It happened, and now this is reality for my life. Ruck up, drive on. Complaining and being mad don't help". He inspires me and makes me feel like a lesser human at the same time.

DirtCrashr said...

Man, he knows how to EALLY embrace teh suck - I guess he has to in ways we just can't even imagine.

DirtCrashr said...


glin said...

Read this on LF but to see it again here... hard as woodpecker lips.