Friday, February 23, 2007

The Two Worlds of Walter Reed

We used to get chocolate milk delivered to our beds. The amputees of Walter Reed Army Medical Center were accustomed to first-class service as a matter of hospital policy. "The Ritz-Carlton is where you want to go, not Motel 6," the head nurse of Ward 57 told her staff after the Iraq war began in 2003. "That's how I want all my patients treated."
But it was a courtesy that apparently stopped at the hospital's front door. According to a series in this week's Washington Post, some wounded soldiers have lived amid mice, mold and mismanagement in outpatient facilities. It was a shocking account to ordinary Americans who know of Walter Reed by its spit-shine, high-tech image, but especially to me. An embedded reporter who lost a hand in a grenade attack, I was treated at Walter Reed as an in-patient from December 16, 2003 to January 8, 2004, when I left for my home in Washington. I returned regularly to the hospital as an outpatient for 18 months, stopping often to visit friends who were living in the modern, clean Malogne House.


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