Praying to God while playing Doctor on a Bloody Knight in Cambodia
As darkness set in I had little hope of the man making it through the night. Though he gained consciousness for a time, the loss of blood made him delirious. Waiting those long hours in the black jungle, all I could do was pray.
It was to be a simple trip taking medical supply to villages in the hill country. Our group -- run by an ex-military Captain turned missionary, and 14 other men -- had left base camp near Kok-Lak-Nai, headed north into the Annam Highlands of northeast Cambodia. We just entered Virachey Province when the shelling started. In an area that seemed to be in the middle of a civil war, it did not take long before we were off the road, running for our lives. Not even a day and we had already lost our trucks.
When the group broke apart, taking shelter where we could, five of us tried to stay together, heading south to find the stream we had followed all morning. In less than an hour my group was cut down to three, and one had a wounded leg.
Still no sight of the stream, I began to think we were headed in the wrong direction entirely. As I came around a tree, keeping an eye on my point-man, I was partially protected when a mine went off, only receiving a small cut to my leg-- the man I carried was not so lucky.
When the silence settled in around us, I rose slowly to my feet. The man in front was no more than torn scraps littering the side of the hill. The one beside me was little better, his chest cut open by shrapnel from the blast. Shaken as I was, I knew he would not make it without medical help-- and fast.
Cutting open his shirt, I felt relieved to see it had not hit his heart directly. Though the damage was massive, he still lived. I dug through the packs to look for anything I might use as a bandage and I found a medical bag, complete with gauze pads, tape, and even a small surgical kit. Knowing he would not live long without help, I set to work cleaning up what I could. The little I knew of first-aid was truly stretched to the limit.
Dressing the wound, I felt pieces of metal, and carefully tried to remove the ones I found. The sight and smell of blood made me nauseous, more so when a severed vein began to flow freely as the scrap was removed.
I tried to stop the bleeding enough to stitch the vein closed, and though it slowed, I was still afraid I had just killed the man. I gave him a pre-measured shot of morphine for pain, and one that said penicillin for infection, then cleaned up what I could and simply bandaged the rest. Not knowing how much damage was caused, I didn’t dare move him, yet couldn’t leave him alone, even to find help.
We sat in the dark for what I thought was the inevitable. Shaking hands held his chest together as I began to pray even more-- seeking God's healing for the man, and forgiveness in my self for not being able to save him. There was nothing else I could do but wait and remain hopeful in the blessings of a merciful God.
As the sky became lighter with the dawn, my fears increased as well – through the night the man's moans grew quiet. I had known it was only a matter of time, but had remained with him nonetheless. Finding him still breathing was a true miracle. When his eyes opened, though still filled with pain, he could at least look at me.
Surviving the night was a blessing, but we couldn’t stay where we were. He needed help. Wrapped in clean bandages and tied as tight as I dared, I chanced leaving him to take a look around. I knew if I found the stream we would be able to get back to the base camp, or possibly find one of the other groups.
Fearful of more mines, I moved about slowly, headed downhill. In the distance I could make out running water, but closer still I heard movements in the trees. For what seemed hours I stood there straining to hear the slightest sound. When a voice called out, my heart almost stopped. As I realized it was English, I shouted for joy, thanking God for His blessing.
Note:: Giving names to those lost would have caused more pain. The man I helped was the group's doctor, and though he lived I was never sure if my doctoring helped. He died three years later from chest problems brought on by a collapsed lung. :(
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