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Minnesota National Guard
You can offer balm to the badly burned kids of Iraq

You'd think US troops in Iraq have enough to do keeping their heads down and doing their assigned duties

But, in their spare time, a North Dakota doctor and some Minnesota National Guard troops run a pediatric burn clinic from a trailer southeast of Baghdad

As they pour sweat and tears into a nightmarish parade of burned children, these men and women also are seeking more supplies -- everything from money to medicines to toys -- from back home so they can help even more kids at Smith Gate Clinic

The trailer clinic is a spartan place There's no air conditioning No place for in-patient care The waiting room is an outdoor bench under a canopy

But bare bones as it is, the trailer outside the perimeter of Scania, a bleak military outpost, has become a destination for people all over Iraq, because it's the country's only pediatric burn speciality clinic

Burns are another of the awful realities of life in Iraq, says Col Craig Lambrecht, a physician and Guard member from Bismarck, ND He's helping to run the clinic, with passionate support from members of the 1-125th Field Artillery Battalion, which is headquartered in New Ulm, Minn "Causes of burns are related to high-risk behavior and constant exposure to flammable substances and fire in an environment with little electricity," Lambrecht wrote in an e-mail "The local nationals cook by open-hearth ovens, store fuel in open containers next to flames, boil water, boil tea, boil milk scavenge fuels with containers that are not safe"

The sight of the burned kids tears at the hearts of the Soldiers

"Burns are incredibly painful," wrote Lambrecht "When treatments are initiated, the dead skin is removed or debrided and dressings applied Patients have to endure many episodes of these treatments, which are tantamount to torture for them Many times, the clinic may have not have pain medication"

Lambrecht, the father of five kids all under 10 years old, can't imagine enduring what these families go through

But he knows it would be worse without Smith Gate

The US military subsidy for the clinic covers only about half the amount needed for supplies to care for as many as 30 patients a day

Networking for medical supplies isn't a simple matter when operating out of a place called Scania It's made harder by the fact that Lambrecht's No 1 responsibility is to care for US military personnel Meanwhile, the full-time duty of members of the 125th is to provide escorts along the highway into Baghdad

Yet, Lambrecht and the Minnesotans have found time to reach out

Lambrecht's employer, Medcenter One in Bismarck, has set up a link on its website, wwwmedcenteronecom, with details on how to donate money and/or supplies to Smith Gate Clinic Or you can call the Medcenter One Foundation at 701-323-8450

"Our goal is sustainment of the clinic for the next year and a half," wrote Lambrecht

Awful as the sight of the burned children is, what's worse, he said, is when desperate people are turned away from the clinic because there are no supplies to treat them

Story by Doug Grow, Star Tribune, Nov 5, 2006
Link: http://www.startribune.com/465/story/787515.html

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