Air Force colonel spends a year treating Afghan wounded

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Colonel Susan Bassett is back home again, in familiar territory at Keesler Medical Center, talking with and giving advice and direction to a mostly young nursing staff.

But for all of 2008, it was much different. Back then her workplace was in Afghanistan. It was a small hospital, but her's was a big job.

"My particular mission was to work with the Afghan, about 70 men, the Afghan medical army officers as they stood up their new hospital in Kandahar. So yes, I did have a very particular mission that put me in close contact with Afghan people 24 hours a day."

When not treating patients, Bassett said teaching was the top priority.

"We gave out absolute boatloads of hours and hours of education, as well as role modeling and diving in and just assisting them when emergencies and things came up."

The brutality of war hit home when a bomb hit the city of Kandahar, sending Col. Bassett into action.

"Out of those 60 injured, we received 48 of those in our little 50 bed hospital. And I can assure you that not a single one was what we called walking wounded," Bassett recalled.  "They were absolutely deviating, horrific kinds of wounds.  That was true throughout the entire summer, all of the bombing."

Walking down the halls of the Keesler Medical Center is unlike walking down the halls of a small Afghan hospital that Susan Bassett worked in, but it gave her a new appreciation for all that we have here in America.

"They were not used to nor did they look for any single piece of furniture," Bassett said.  "They had cushions on the floor and they felt they were living in grand style.  No refrigerators, no stoves, no electricity very often, none of those things that we so take for granted."

And Colonel Bassett will never take for granted the aid and comfort she gave out for one year.

Colonel Bassett also feels that after her time in Afghanistan, male members of the medical fields in that country came away with a better understanding and respect of the nursing profession.

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