Landstuhl Germany Where Americans Heal
Landstuhl Germany: Where
Americans Heal Their Wounds
*Landstuhl Healthcare US Army Europe
Sunday May 29, 2005
By MATT MOORE
Associated Press Writer
LANDSTUHL, Germany (AP) With its quiet, winding halls, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at first looks like just another community hospital. But it has become a front line in the Iraq and Afghan wars thousands of miles away.
The patients young soldiers with faces lacerated by flying glass and shrapnel from exploding roadside bombs, others missing a leg or arm shuffle by, heading for an appointment or checkup. At this military hospital, there is a constant stream of new faces.
An average of about 23 patients arrive each day most from Iraq, where more than 12,350 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have been injured since the U.S.-led war began in March 2003. The flow can spike sharply, as it did during the battle for Fallujah: 537 over two days.
Fighting in Afghanistan adds more patients. Since troops arrived there in October 2001, 455 have been wounded in action through early this May, almost all of them coming to Landstuhl with injuries and wounds not normally found in a civilian hospital.
In civilian medicine, "a blast injury is a very rare event," said Army Col. Rhonda Cornum, the hospital's medical director. "Unfortunately, it's a very common thing here.'"
It's not just common, it's a near daily diagnosis, said Cornum, a former POW in the first Gulf War who is wrapping up nearly two years as head of the biggest overseas U.S. military hospital and preparing to return to the United States.
There was a time, years ago, when Landstuhl had to justify its existence. No longer.
"Things have changed. We used to get as many trauma victims in a year from Europe and Africa as we now do a day," said Cornum.
Though major combat in Iraq was declared over in May 2003, daily attacks by a stubborn insurgency has kept the hospital, nestled among thick woods on a hilltop that overlooks this small town, busy day and night.
Troops from Iraq arrive with a host of injuries eyes damaged by roadside bombs or limbs shredded beyond repair along with maladies more common to a community hospital like heart attacks, hammer toes and kidney stones.
The staff doesn't expect a slowdown.
"This place is just not what it once was," said U.S. Air Force Col. Todd Hess, the chief deputy commander of clinical services.
He's spent nearly eight years at the hospital, and seen it go from having to justify keeping its doors open to becoming almost a household name. "We've been in Doonesbury and we were on 'The West Wing' last night," he said, referring to the comic strip and television show.
For the 300,000 military personnel stationed in Europe, Landstuhl has been the top hospital since 1953. It provides cancer treatment, birth and neonatal care, as well as neurosurgery and burn units. Stumble It!