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Sanjay Gupta: Chaotic day for 'Devil Docs'

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Correspondent

CNN Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta

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In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and newsmakers around the world.

SOUTHERN IRAQ (CNN) -- The "Devil Docs," the military surgeons I am embedded with, have been running nonstop here in Iraq today.

The 24-hour ward I'm in is divided into two sides: one side for the Iraqi soldiers, the other side for the coalition forces. Right now there are 16 patients, and several more patients are expected throughout the night. Ten of the patients here are Iraqi. Six are from the coalition forces.

It's been a very chaotic day, not only in the ward but around the entire medical camp. The day started out with a sandstorm, which brought things to a standstill. The storm actually knocked over a couple of the medical tents and contaminated some of the equipment. That equipment quickly had to be taken into clean tents and cleaned, and the tents had to be re-established.

The weather has cooled since. It rained quite a bit after the sandstorm, and it is somewhat pleasant outside the first time in a long time.

But also here at the camp, there was an "enemy breach" today -- Iraqi forces were reportedly seen within the camp's perimeter. That news certainly got everyone's attention. The Marines quickly set up an inner perimeter to hunt for any infiltrators or trespassers. The camp remains on a level of threat, but there has been no further activity.

In this particular ward, there have been many questions about the Iraqi soldiers and what happens to them. They are certainly interrogated by the intelligence agencies and translators are brought in to assist.

In a poignant moment, the first operation performed here came right after many of the Marines heard about the killing of four coalition soldiers by the Iraqi forces. One doctor said to me, "We are operating on their guys, while they're killing ours."

But despite how they may feel at times, they are very clear in terms of triage: It is medical triage, not political triage. The sickest patients, the patients who are most likely to benefit from an operation, they will go first, no matter if they are coalition forces or Iraqi forces.

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