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I am the professional soldier Walter Ortíz, combat nurse. I entered the Colombian Army in 2000 as part of 2nd Mobile Army Brigade. By that, this brigade was the Rapid Deployment Force composed by 1,2,3 Mobile Brigade and the Special Forces Teams. In 2008, I was transferred to 1st Commando Battalion.
I was part of an operation against FARC criminals in Cordoba after having been trained in Lanceros, Special Forces, airborne and basic combat operations.
I lively remember the operation. It is like being back in time
It is night. We are on a Black Hawk helicopter. We are leaving Carepa in route to Montes de Catatumbo where we land on a jungle and irregular terrain. There are trees 70 mts high. It is four oclock in the morning; we get off the helicopter and put on the night vision gear.
We can listen to the enemy saying dirty words for the operations against them. However, we cannot locate them until sunset because the terrorist are in a good position to attack the troops.
A heart-rending scream
The objective is to advance in the operation and defeat the enemy. However, we are to respect life as a right; therefore, the task of a combat nurse is to go through the combat area to help injured personnel.
It is 5:30 a.m., and we begin searching terrain; suddenly I listened to the scream of a guerrilla. He is a black man who is staring at me angrily. We are troops of the Colombian army. Dont shoot. Put your hands up, I say.
This man follows my instructions. He is about two meters away from me and I go to help him. A commando stays ready to provide security.
The injured man says: Do not get any closer. Why? Well, I defecated and have feces all over my legs. No problem, brother, I need to examine your wounds. After examining the patient, I say: Wow, you have a full fracture in your femur. I have to accommodate the bone. It is going to be as painful as hell. Put something into your mouth, I say. I prepare the patient and perform the procedure, but he cannot withstand the pain.
Beyond the pain felt by the patient, I concentrated on the action 100% . Now everything goes well. I arrange the leg a put it in a splint. This is just the first part of the mission because, for sure, there are more people suffering and needing my help. That is my task regardless the patient, friend or foe.
A life in danger
It is 6:30 a.m., I continue sweeping the area and finally reach a woman, 22 or 23. She does not say anything. I look at her and ask: Are you injured? The baby, she said.
Immediately, I reach out her. She touches her womb. I examine her and found she is pregnant, four months, and has wounds on legs and arms. The fetal movement is very slight. I provide first aid and another nurse helps me to put dressings and I.V. saline solution because we cannot administer medications for the baby.
This is a very difficult situation; however, our training enables us to be brave to handle the difficult times.
She does not ask for anybody except for the baby. I regret this because I have children and I know what one feels.
The weather is not helpful
It is 7:15 a.m., it starts raining. We have to wait to begin the evacuation. We need to take patients to a medical center. It is pouring, time seems endless; therefore, we put tents up to shelter patients. I pay attention to the pregnant woman. I am really sorry to see this girl, injured and widow. Her husband was killed in combat.
We continue counting minutes, the watch says 13:00 hours. Finally, the rain stops and we can evacuate injured people. First, the pregnant woman is delivered to the evacuation team. I listened to babys heart by using the stethoscope and say Here is the baby
She is relieved. She is really well. Upon she is evacuated, we leave the zone.
I complied with my duty to take her out alive and it is very grateful. I performed my job; I contributed with the military successful operation by saving lives without their condition in the conflict.