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'Devil Docs' care for Iraqis too

CNN's Sanjay Gupta
CNN's Sanjay Gupta

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CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells of his journey from Kuwait to central Iraq with the 'Devil Docs.'
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SOUTH-CENTRAL IRAQ (CNN) -- CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is accompanying the "Devil Docs" of the U.S. Navy Medical Corps with the Marines in south-central Iraq, joined CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.

GUPTA: We are in the jump ward, so-called because it jumps ahead as the troops move forward, taking care of patients who don't need operations but may still have serious injuries.

You get a sense behind me how busy it is. It's like this 24 hours a day. Right now, there are about 16 patients, 10 of whom are Iraqis and six of whom are coalition force members.

Joining me is Dr. Ken Nixon. He's the doctor in charge tonight. He's the doctor in charge for many hours at a time. Thank you for joining us.

You're the first voice that a lot of these troops talk to when they first come in. What are they telling you? What are they seeing out there? What sorts of things?

NIXON: Well, they're meeting resistance out there. Those that come to us are those who have been shot, have gunshot wounds, primarily, sometimes from motor vehicle accidents, because it's dark and pretty dangerous out there.

Some fellows actually have been surprised from behind with maybe guerrilla-type tactics. But primarily gunshot wounds are what we see here. And we have a large [group of] general surgeons and all kinds of surgeons who can take care of those particular types of injury, take them to the operating room, give them all the medication.

GUPTA: Were you expecting to be this busy at this point?

NIXON: Not at this early stage. I think, really, we're being bombarded by patients every day -- and it's OK. We're ready for them, we're prepared, and we've been training a long time for this.

However, we thought we might see a larger number of the Iraqis, EPWs [enemy prisoners of war]. But we didn't think we'd see this many. But we're seeing both them and some of our own Marines. But we're taking care of them all.

GUPTA: As the next few weeks progress, what concerns you the most?

NIXON: Well, we just want to make sure that we don't run out of supplies and that we're not overwhelmed with multiple casualties that exceed the numbers of supplies and doctors and nurses that we have.

Right now, we can take care of at least 80, once we get our supply lines in. So hopefully we'll be ready for anything that happens.

We're also concerned about getting people medevaced to their higher level of care, because here we just try to fix them up well enough just so they'll survive. ... Some Marines we'll send ... back, get [them] back with their families.

GUPTA [to Dr. Nixon]: Thank you very much for joining us. Best of luck to you.

Wolf, we were surprised at how busy it has been. But the patients in here are getting very good care.

BLITZER: Are there more Iraqis who are coming in for the treatment or more American troops?

GUPTA: Definitely more Iraqis are coming in than coalition forces. The first couple of nights we were here -- the first operation, in fact, that was performed here was on an Iraqi who had a gunshot wound to the abdomen. There are several more Iraqis in this particular tent, which is a non-surgical tent.

BLITZER: So this medical unit is on the move all the time?

GUPTA: Yes, you know this is what is so interesting about this is that in the past a lot of these medical units did stay stationary for quite some time. These forward resuscitative surgical suites, they're called FRSS, the Devil Doctors everyone's hearing so much about now, actually do move forward. They're designed to be able to tear down in less than an hour, build back up in less than an hour, and be totally mobile so they can move with the troops.

This particular ward is called the jump ward. It jumps ahead continuously for that very same reason. This is sort of a new thing as far as medical care in the military. So far, I'll tell you as a doctor, it seems to be working very, very well. These patients are getting excellent care.

Of course, they do not stay here very long. The plan is to start of stabilize them and to move them back to the hospital ship USS Comfort or somewhere else in the rear.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.

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