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Medics from the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment at Forward Operating Base Sweeney, Afghanistan, have seen as wide a variety of cases as many hospital emergency rooms.

Some of the cases have been tragic, such as a little girl who came in and was told she had to have her arm amputated. The girl had broken her elbow and the parents hadn’t taken her for immediate medical treatment, resulting in a loss of blood to her lower arm. Eventually, the arm swelled, turned black and died.

When the father was told that she’d lose the arm, his first response was that they shouldn’t cut it off as he wouldn’t be able to get as large of a dowry from a future husband. The medics sent the girl to Kandahar for the amputation.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Neal has also seen two cases of centipedes in people’s ears. After his initial disbelief, Neal found that there was, indeed, a centipede in the patient’s ear.

This is not something that’s taught in medic school.

“You just have to learn how to do it,” Neal said. Their method? Hydrogen peroxide poured in the ear. It irritates the centipede, causing it to climb out, without damaging the ear. Problem solved.

Medics say they repeatedly hear two problems that they can’t — or don’t want to — fix.

People come to sick call and say they can’t see at night. Their vision’s fine during the day, but not at night. The medics’ diagnosis: Nobody can see great at night.

The second? Men come in and say they can’t “control their sperm.” Premature ejaculation, it seems, is a big problem in Shinkay district. The medics won’t treat it and are no longer amused by this “problem.”

But their most serious cases are burns. Area residents, the medics say, burn their children as punishment.

“They won’t admit it when they bring the kid in,” Neal said. “But the interpreter will tell us. They don’t want to tell us because they know it makes us mad. They’ll normally burn them with tea or water — some kind of liquid.”

Neal had pictures of a little girl whose hand was burned so bad that the fingers had to be amputated. Parents prefer burning, rather than beating, he said, because the children can still work with burns, but not with broken bones.

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