03 June 2010

Landstuhl caregivers discuss stress and honor of job

“You’re safe. You’re out of Iraq. You’re in an American hospital. We’re contacting your family.”

- Maj. Angela Muzzy, Landstuhl ICU Nurse

Landstuhl caregivers discuss the stress - and the honor - of caring for our wounded warriors in this article from Stars & Stripes.

During busy times, the hospital sometimes resembles a scene out of the television show “M*A*S*H,” [Dietician Col Joanne] Slyter said, as gurneys carrying wounded soldiers roll by in every direction and doctors dart in and out of surgery.

The hospital reserve units are made up of mostly nurses, who come from a variety of backgrounds and sometimes are years removed from bedside care, said [Capt. Rogelio] Alonzo, assistant head nurse for the hospital’s medical and surgical ward.

Nurses from large metropolitan hospitals often have little trouble adjusting to the volume of patients and gravity of the injuries that Landstuhl handles daily, Alonzo said. But others find themselves in an environment that is difficult to prepare for, he said.

Alonzo recalls holding the hand of an Army staff sergeant in his 40s who lost sight in both eyes after a makeshift bomb exploded near him in Baghdad last year.

“There is nothing you can say to make him feel better,” Alonzo said. “Sometimes just being there and letting them know that you’re there for them is the best thing.”

Maj. Angela Muzzy, a nurse with the 349th reserve unit who works in the hospital’s intensive care unit, delivers the same basic message to her patients, no matter if they appear coherent or not, she said.

She tells them: “You’re safe. You’re out of Iraq. You’re in an American hospital. We’re contacting your family,” she said.

And when she is not helping soldiers deal with severe injures, she concentrates on dealing with the carnage she sees by praying, traveling on her days off and talking with people trained to help nurses with job-related stress.

“And I spend a lot of money at the PX [post exchange],” Muzzy said with a smile.

Recurring images of burn victims and amputees still remain for Muzzy, a professor of nursing at the University of Arizona. But that was a price she was willing to pay for the “most honorable nursing job I’ve ever had,” she said.

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