Some noise caught Max’s attention, causing her to look around towards the roof tops. She must have shouted over whatever it was, as suddenly many of the soldiers fled for cover. Shouldering her bag and she towed the injured man. I watched as a mortar landed farther down the road. Its explosion shook the ground as fire erupted in the ruin of the building nearby. The group moved quickly to their vehicles, frantic to get out of the enemy’s range. The flames grew as the wind picked up, sending smoke and sand through the city.Kneeling over her patient, I watched as Max returned to her work. Her hands moved quickly from her bag to the soldier. Shielding the sand from her eyes and taking a look around, I shook my head at her. All the dust was going to make it very difficult to keep his wounds clean. Someone shouted to her, gesturing frantically to the truck. Hauling the man into a nearby building with the help of a fellow, the soldiers peeled off the street. Each step I took seemed to make me less and less confident of what I was going to see.
This was another soldier that wasn’t going to make it back. Sand and unsafe conditions were proving to be a good cause to this man’s death. Stopping just in the doorway, I observed Max treating him with what supplies she had. I don’t remember how, but suddenly I was standing behind her—my hand by her shoulder in some sort of comfort. There was no way she could feel it. How I wished I could just hug her.
“Max… Stop. He’s not going to make it,” I said. My voice just echoed in this endless void—my words would never reach her ears. As if on cue, she started to work faster. Dropping her current treatment, I watched her give him CPR. The man’s body shook violently several times as he was rolled on his side. Blood almost poured from his mouth in a steady stream. Tugging to tighten any form of a tourniquet as she could to somehow slow the bleeding Max continued to work as quickly as she could.
The soldier shuddered and coughed a final time as his last breath left his lungs. His body went limp, Max just stared at him in her arms. This was not the first death she had encountered. Other soldiers had died in her lap or on her medical table as she tried to treat them. To her it slowly became a fact that treating the soldiers out here was either life or death. Each day she lived, Max felt as if another combatant was in a line of steadily dying men. Looking down at her hands, I watched as Max wiped them off on her pants, disgusted that another life had slipped through her fingers.
Lying down the body, she closed his eyes and sat back. Her face was freckled with blood and her uniform drenched once more.