Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shoes for Dr. Rob

*Photo courtesy of Dr. Rob*

Okay, hear me out...

My husband's friend Rob is a doctor stationed in Afghanistan. Rob is also the dad of the cutie pie Fitzwilliam who graced the pages of my blog earlier this winter. In Rob's time in Afghanistan he has uncovered a huge need for the civilians over there. My lowly words will never do this dire situation justice so please read Rob's words as follows (he originally posted this on his Facebook profile:


Dear Friends;

Every so often my armor covered heart is still opened by a poignant experience. It does not happen often enough, unfortunately. During the course of medical and surgical training we grow very thick skin and a dark sometimes, sick humor that defends us against the insanity of what we see daily.

Back at home we easily retreat into the comfort of our own lives and leave the misfortune of the sick and injured at the hospital and trauma center. Here in the war zone the misery around us is amplified a thousand fold. When you take a country of dirt, where the people are dirt poor and add an endless war you’ve got the recipe for absolute misery. Many of you have emailed me expressing your concern for me, and well wishes of staying safe and coming home soon. I truly appreciate every word and every connection
to home. I cannot wait until that big bird flies me away to that country we all call home.

Truthfully though, my lifestyle here in Afghanistan is luxurious compared to my poor Afghan patients, even when I was living in a tent. These poor folks muddle through every day just squeaking by. Trying to find something to eat. Worried about reliable shelter as the harsh winter rolls in. Worried about something exploding nearby and killing their parents, their kids or themselves. Worried about some godless terrorist thug shooting them or torturing them because they accepted care at the American Hospital.

A couple days ago I had an experience in clinic that broke through my defenses and brought me a couple tears. I treated a young lady about six weeks ago for shrapnel wounds and fractures of her foot. She was injured with seven female relatives when her mud house became a no man’s land between a sizable force of Taliban and a group of US Army soldiers intent on destroying them. There was a wedding party being held at the house that day. Well, needless to say the house was destroyed and all the women injured and brought to us here at Bagram. We did a lot of surgery on their extremity wounds and the general surgeons saved several lives, although not that of the baby one of them was carrying. One of these patients is a very pretty young woman that I have to guess is about 18 or 19. She came to see me in follow up the other day in clinic. At home she’d be in college perhaps and concerned with making good grades or getting a date with a cute boy. Here she is just concerned with survival and the pain in her foot. She’d had some breakdown of skin over her healing wound and good wound care by her uncle had improved that over the last couple weeks. It’s winter here now and the snow and sleet was coming down that day. After treating her I noticed the shoes she was putting on. I use the term “shoes” lightly. They were a pair of plastic flip flops that were held together in a couple placed with scotch tape. I asked her and her omnipresent male guardian if she had any other shoes for the winter. They said no as all their belongings had been destroyed with their house. I could not help noticing that the guardian’s shoes were a very nice western made hiking shoe, nearly brand new (Merrel I think). So this poor girl had broken plastic flip flops to protect her broken foot from the harsh winter that had historically destroyed invading armies. I decided I had to try to get this woman some shoes. I went all around the hospital, checked with the Chaplin and followed a couple other leads. I had to tell my patient that I could not find any shoes, but I would keep looking while she was waiting for the bus that would take her to the gate later that afternoon. I had just about given up when a young Air Force Chaplin’s Assistant came into my clinic office with a nice, slightly used pair of leather shoes. At first glance I thought them about the right size. I went out into the waiting room, shoes in hand and delivered them to my patient’s uncle. It would have been very forward and perhaps insulting to him if I’d given them directly to his niece. He handed them to her and she put them directly on, a big smile spreading over her face. They seemed to be the perfect size. I felt like the Prince delivering a glass slipper to Cinderella. Imagine her delight to not have to walk through the snow and sleet that afternoon with her flip flops and no socks.

I thought a lot about the whole episode and concluded that I would try to collect some shoes. We routinely spend tens of thousands on medical care and surgical implants for these folks, yet we don’t have shoes for their feet. The problem is most prevalent in the women and the kids.

As we wade deeper into the holiday season I present you an opportunity to do something really simple, something that you can and should feel really good about. Send me some shoes. Send a used but serviceable pair of ladies or kids shoes or boots. Send a new pair of inexpensive but solid shoes, boots or sneakers. Send whatever pair you can. I’ll do my best to match them with the lady or child they would most benefit.

If you’d like to participate - send the shoes to

Dr. Robert Campbell – Orthopaedic/ Shoes
Task Force Med
AE APO 09354

Winning hearts and minds is an overused phrase from our government and military leaders. I hear it over and over and am often unclear as to what it really means. I learned recently that what it means is the look on that young lady’s face when she received a gift of a used pair of serviceable shoes.

I wish you a very merry holiday season, and I look forward to seeing you all sometime in 2010.

Treasure every day in the USA

Maj. Robert Campbell MD
US Army Medical Corps

Rob is coming home soon (yippee skippy!) so the push for shoes is currently urgent. He has requested that if you plan to send shoes that he can't do anything with open toes, heels or sandals. Please send some to the address provided above if you get the opportunity!

*photo courtesy of Dr. Rob*

I am definitely guilty of taking our freedoms and bounties for granted, so thank you Rob for opening my eyes and heart a little wider. And thank you for doing what you do. You and your work are a gift.

Off to mail shoes from the Slater's,



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