September 23, 2009
Posted: 11:52 AM ET
It started as a cough. It wasn’t the kind of cough where something is temporarily stuck in your throat. It wasn’t the kind of cough where simply clearing your throat would’ve been adequate. This was the kind of cough that hurts when you do it. A stinging pain that makes you wince and guard and hope that you don’t have to cough again any time soon. I thought I might have a fever, but of course, I was in the middle of covering a war in Afghanistan, and the conditions were… well, hot. So, maybe it was that. Problem was, the next day I wasn’t feeling any better – in fact, I was worse. I woke up in my dusty desert tent and tried to step out of my sleeping bag. Two steps later, I almost hit the deck. Incoming. Except this wasn’t due to any sirens going off, this was due to my own body simply being unable to hold myself up. I was lightheaded and freezing cold – even though it was over 100 degrees outside at that early hour of the morning.
I was nauseated and my entire body hurt. I tried to explain away my symptoms with lots of different excuses. You don’t sleep much while covering a war. My bulletproof jacket didn’t fit perfectly and was very heavy. There was a lot of dust and dirt, and maybe I had what the Marines referred to as the Kandahar Krud. It turned out to be none of those things.
I remember looking over at my camera man, Scottie McWhinnie. He looked absolutely awful. He was wearing a scarf on his head, and it was completely drenched in sweat. He was coughing so loudly and frequently that I was really starting to worry about him – and about myself. We each had it, whatever “it” was. I made a command decision. As a physician reporter in a war zone, I was going to get us medical care. That prompted our visit to a battlefield hospital, not as reporters this time, but as patients.
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