One father told us he had a 1-month old baby with a pimple in its chest and was very sick because of this. My Corpsman, told the man to bring the baby to us. The man was gone for an hour.When we were done distributing the wheat, I told Fisher that we could not wait for the man to return with the baby because we had more villages to go to.
As we were walking back to our trucks we noticed a car return to the village. Fisher checked to see if it was the man and baby. It was. I told Fisher to conduct a hasty assessment. He came back to me and told me that the baby did not have pimple in its chest, but rather, the condition was much worse and the baby had no more than 2 days to live. Fisher told me that the baby had a fist sized hematoma in its chest and that it was causing tension pneumothorax in its chest, and ultimately was not getting enough oxygen, due to a collapsed lung.
In layman’s terms, there was a giant internal blood clot in the chest that was causing extreme pressure on the lungs, denying the baby to breath properly. The baby’s lips were purple, eyes were black, and was almost completely motionless. Breathing was labored, and the baby’s future looked grim.
I called a priority air medevac to extract the baby and take it to a U.S. hospital over 100 miles away. As the helicopters were en-route to pick up the baby and father, a violent and sudden sandstorm appeared from the mountains in a manner of seconds. The sun had just set and visibility, even with night vision goggles, was less than 100 meters. Most helicopters would not be able to land in these conditions. At this point, I began to pray that a miracle would occur in the weather that would allow the helicopter to land. If the helicopter could not land, I would have no way of getting the baby to the hospital in time. The weather did not improve.
The British air force pilots called me on the radio and said that they could not see my Landing Zone. The smoke that we usually would use to mark the LZ was invisible to them in this weather. My Marines emplaced Infrared Lights in the middle of LZ, and my drivers turned on their headlights. The helicopter was able to finally locate the LZ, despite the thick dust storm.
The Pilots landed. Four Marines stood shoulder to shoulder in front of the baby and father, forming a human wall, as the dust from the helicopter raced towards them. A British female crew chief or nurse yelled to the Marines at the top of her lungs “Give me the Baby” They loaded the baby and her father into the helicopter, and they departed for the best hospital in Afghanistan. I believe that the only reason why the pilot decided to land in the adverse conditions was because they knew that they were picking up a baby that was in very bad shape.
After they left, I explained to the family and village elder that the baby was on its way to the best hospital in Afghanistan, to be treated by the best doctors in the world. I told them that my Marines and I would be praying for the baby’s safety. They told me “In Sha Allah”, “God-Willing” the baby will be okay. They then told me to drive home on a different route because they knew that the Taliban was currently emplacing an IED on the road that leads back to our base.