Kirkland Doctor Returns from Duty in Afghanistan

Army Reserve Capt. Brian Heathcock, M.D., a member of the Kirkland Church, returned recently after serving 90 days at the 325th Field Hospital at Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, Afghanistan. As the only radiologist, he was on call 24/7 treating not only US and coalition troops but also injured local civilians, many of whom were injured by the many land mines (some 7.5 million remaining from the Russian occupation) throughout Afghanistan, even treating two burn/explosion victims who were injured while trying to make an improvised bomb intended to harm our forces. He recalls how hard it was seeing severely injured children, many from land mines, injured while playing or tending livestock, and how quiet, stoic and grateful they were for the help.

He describes the hospital as a series of tents with the operating rooms, lab and radiology department in metal containers. While the equipment was good, Brian learned to improvise and make do when lacking certain tests or resources or when supplies ran low. Since the temperatures often exceeded 100 degrees, the air conditioning was a blessing.

Heathcock described the living conditions as,“not too bad.” They lived in wooden buildings called B-huts, each with eight cubicles, one soldier per cubicle. They had air conditioning, hot showers, and good food. During his leisure time, he was able to read, watch DVDs, walk the six-mile perimeter of the base, and form some deep friendships with other physicians and soldiers.

There were Adventist services on the base, with attendance ranging from three to 11. “It was a blessing to have a church family so far from home.” They were even able to have a communion service, and, with a borrowed guitar, Brian led out in songs of praise and worship.

Happy to be back with his wife and three children, Brian said: “I feel that God had a purpose for me being there, and with His Help, I tried to be a friend and positive influence to my fellow soldiers in addition to providing medical help to those who so desperately needed our help.... I am honored to serve and be a part of defending our freedom and a part of a rebirth and rebuilding of a nation.”

March 01, 2005 / Washington Conference