Two times a year the Afghan National Army hosts an 'annual' medical conference in Kabul. I am attending the fourth such event. The conference is more like a report from each of the Corps Surgeons and Regional Hospital commanders to the Surgeon General. The presentations were in powerpoint and were to be given in a rigid statistical format. English speaking mentors had earphones with translation available. A lot was lost in the translation though. It really makes you wonder how good the translation of speeches at the UN or similiar organizations are. A small mistranslation can so many times lead to a significant problem. Normally I do not wear weapons or body armor to medical conferences, but this was a unique conference.
The only American to speak was the Surgeon for the Afghan mentorship command. I would tell you the acronym, but I am not even sure I understand it. Besides it will change next week anyway. My point is that it was an Afghan run and operated conference. I can tell you that it is frightfully boring to listen to poor translations of speeches for several days in a row.
We also had a 3 hour breakout session of mentors. Most of us were US, but it was good to see our British and Canadian brethren there as well. There was some good information and a fairly clear priority of work for our organinzations. I wish I had been presented this information 3 months ago, since without any guidance from higher HQ our team has forged our own way. Some of this effort appears to be wasted since a countrywide solution to several problems is being enacted without our knowledge. As much as we jested about the Afghans squabbling amongst themselves about details, we are just as guilty of this charge. Nonetheless it was enlightening to hear the guidance and plans of our lead mentors.
The conference took place at the Afghan National Medical Hospital. The 400 bed ANA hospital is the crown jewel of the Afghan Military Medical system. Many of the team that I trained with at Ft Riley work to mentor the health providers at this facility. I believe the facility was originally built by the Russians during their time in Afghanistan. If so it is a testament to their building skills. It stands proudly as the largest and most intact of the buildings in the area. We had lunch atop the hospital every day. The veiw was a little hazy, as can be expected in Kabul, but dramatic nonetheless. The eight stories of stairs were also a challenge for those of us coming from closer to sea level elevations. It was interesting to hear about plans for cardiac catheterization labs when I know that they just recently have started using vital signs in their Emergency/Triage area. Like many of us I am sure that the newest best sounding equipment or procedure is more apetizing than taking time to master the basics. I am sure they could get as good information on the cardiac status of their patients by having them climb the stairs to the top floor. The Afghans as a institution also live so much in fear of addiction to narcotics that they are loathe to treat for pain. I thought you might enjoy the "No Spitting" sign located in the hospital.
Kabul itself is first and foremost a big city. I can envision a combination of Mexico city and Denver. I saw kites flying in the winds, dancing just as you might imagine they would. I saw tremendous traffic. But unlike many big cities there is still a cordial manner of the people you would not expect in a war zone. While I returned from the conference today an excited beautiful young child come up to me while I was in my scary looking body armor. She politely greeted me and put out her hand to shake mine.
I had the opportunity to see several friends here in Kabul. While over at another Camp I had the good fortune to meet up with a Brother Rat from VMI who is one of my oldest and best friends JPP. Thankfully we had time to catch up on our lives and families. While there are many who are complacent in their preparations in Kabul, he most certainly is not one of them. I also ran into another of my VMI BRs while walking around this camp. Then there was the bonus of seeing all of my Ft Riley classmates who are all doing quite well.
I am thankful for the opportunity to come here and experience a little bit of Kabul, but I admit I am ready to go back up North. I am after all a small town person and delightful as it can be Kabul is not a small town.