Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I wrote recently about Captain Jeff Joyce, the anaesthetist who looked after me along with other members of the USSF 932nd Forward Surgical Team in Sulaymaniyah.

Jeff and I have been exchanging e-mails and he's sent me a few happy snaps for the family album of my operation.

I opened the e-mail reluctantly, wanting to see the photos and yet at the same time not wanting to. Needless to say, the whole experience was the most traumatic few days of my life. I wasn't sure just how traumatic re-living it through photographs would be. I had visions of some kind of delayed post traumatic stress disorder kicking in.

In the end, good old journalistic curiosity got the better of me. I clicked "open" and the pictures popped up on the screen.

A couple of them aren't pretty, although it's difficult to work out exactly what's going on. I found myself squinting and tilting my head, trying to pick out what the surgeons are up to amid the blood and gore. Even so, I feel strangely detached from the photos, as though it's not really me that's being operated on. The whole adventure is such a blur -- it's like it happened to someone else.

If anything, I find the photos comforting. Until now I've been trying to turn the fragmented memories in my head into something approaching a convincing whole. A blood stream full of drugs and adrenaline makes that difficult. The pictures enable me to say "yes -- this really happened. You didn't make it up. It was horrible but it's over -- you survived."

And so, for your viewing pleasure, here they are:

Photo: 932nd Forward Surgical Team
Photo: USSF Operating Theatre
Photo: Operation 1
Photo: Operation 2

I'm going to ponder the pictures a bit longer and write about them for my BBC News Online column this week.


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