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Tuesday, July 6, 2004
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Berger Hospital emergency medicine director doubles as medical commander in Iraq

By Katie Poorman

After serving in the military for 16 years and having been deployed overseas seven times, one would think that Col. Brett A. Call, D.O., of Amanda, might have seen it all. But Call, deputy commander of medical command for the Ohio Army National Guard, had never stepped foot in a combat zone -- that is until January 2004.

"I had no idea what to expect when I went to Iraq," said Call. "It was the first time I'd ever been in a combat zone where there was actual fighting happening." Call, the medical director of the emergency medicine department at Berger Hospital in Circleville, said although he had been well prepared as a doctor and soldier to handle just about anything, mentally he just didn't know what he was getting into.

Call, a 1991 graduate of Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine, is one of seven OU-COM graduates being deployed to Iraq. The other six -- Terry Johnson, D.O. ('91); Patrick Callender, D.O. ('95); Christopher Coulson, D.O. ('01); Gregory Hill, D.O. ('86); Tracy Ringo, D.O. ('00); and Timothy Wagner, D.O. ('94) -- plus four other physicians also are members of the Guard's medical command.

While in Iraq, Call, Callender and Wagner were in charge of setting up the medical camp for the physicians who would come after them.

"My task was to get everything set up so it would function basically like a trauma center," he said. "We had all the modern stuff there: digital X-ray, bedside ultrasound and EKG machines. Virtually any diagnostic tool that we needed we had at our disposal at the clinic."

These luxuries weren't present when they first got there. "We had to negotiate with different people to get the things we needed," Call said. "Being that far forward in an area, you don't usually have much equipment available. But because we were so isolated, we asked for it, and they allowed us to have it."

Among the unanticipated things he encountered, what surprised him the most was the number of foreign nationals in Iraq. People from Sierra, Jordan, Egypt and other countries were there as civilians working on the base, he said.

"More than half the people we treated were civilians or foreign nationals. That surprised me. I figured in a combat zone we'd treat mostly just soldiers, but in the bigger bases, it isn't that way, apparently."

On May 13, Call returned home to his wife, Lisa, and their four children. "The first thing I did when I came home was hug my family," said Call. "I obviously missed them the most. We had a welcome home party a few days later."

Not only did Call miss his family, he also craved a tasty baked potato. "The food I missed the most was baked potatoes," he said. "They didn't have any over there."

Call described the food that he ate as similar to what we have in this country.

We had grilled cheese sandwiches; a short order grill where you could order hamburgers, hot dogs or brats; spaghetti; fish; pork chops, roast beef and barbequed ribs; rice and potatoes usually with each meal; and mixed vegetables. We also had a surf and turf every Friday night with lobster tails or shrimp and steak, which wasn't as good as you get here but it was steak; ice cream for dessert; and a fruit and salad bar. The troops are well fed.

"I just wanted that baked potato."

Katie Poorman is a student writer with the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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