I told the story of Second Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell who lost her leg in Iraq because her Humvee had no doors. US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld was yesterday subjected to unexpected and critical questioning on a visit to US soldiers in Kuwait. One key point was that US servicepeople are having to scrounge for scrap metal to render their armoured vehicles secure.
The rate of amputations among US personnel serving in Iraq has been twice that of previous conflicts:
New data on war wounds are the grisly flip side of improvements in battlefield medicine that have saved many combatants who would have died in the past: only one in 10 US troops injured in Iraq has died, the lowest rate of any war in US history. But those who survive have much more grievous wounds. Bulletproof Kevlar vests protect soldiers’ bodies, but not their limbs, as insurgent snipers and makeshift bombs tear off arms and legs and rip into faces and necks. More than half of those injured are wounded so badly that they cannot return to duty, according to Pentagon statistics.
One unintended result of the invasion appears to be fast-tracking prosthetic research projects that may benefit future amputees.