Dr. Anne Crawford, professor of nursing and U.S. Army reservist major, is back to teaching classes at UMHB after a year deployment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
She has returned to her family and position with a new appreciation of her craft along with images of young wounded soldiers without limbs or functionality and the medical ingenuity that allows them to live productive lives.
When the call came in the fall of 2009 for her to activate and prepare for deployment, she had to put her life here in Texas – both work and personal – on hold.
“They called in August initially saying, ‘you’re going’ in December,” Crawford said. “This was great because I had a whole semester to plan and get my classes and workload covered. When I knew I was going to Walter Reed … that was exciting for me. It is a premiere military medical facility in the world. And it was scary because you don’t know what you’re going to be doing exactly, and you have to leave your family.”
Walter Reed is the primary center for wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. After they are stabilized in Germany at an American military hospital, they come directly to the D.C. hospital.
Crawford worked in the emergency room there, just as she does at Scott & White Hospital. But the patients at the facility were not like the ones she sees in Temple.
“There were all these young, healthy looking soldiers without arms or legs,” she said. “It was so sad and yet so uplifting to see the advances in prosthesis that helped their lives. There were troops with bilateral amputations above the knee who were out running on prosthetic limbs.”
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen great medical advancements to care for troops.
“They say the only winner in war is medicine,” she said. “We started using helicopters to evacuate people because they did that in Vietnam. Lots of different procedures and surgeries came from the Civil War and World War 1 and all the conflicts we have been in.”
For her deployment, her husband, Professor of music history and percussion Dr. Stephen Crawford, drove her to D.C. immediately following the graduation and celebration lunch of their son, James, from UMHB in Dec. 2009.
Stephen visited her three times during the deployment, but being separated is never easy – especially for a pair of high school sweethearts.
Stephen said, “My dad did two tours in Vietnam. When (Anne) was deployed this time, it took me back in time. It didn’t make it any easier, but having a family member gone for a year deployment was something that wasn’t new. The nice thing was that it was a stateside deployment. Washington, D.C., was OK.”
Her children, James and fellow alumna Beth Crawford, visited her as well.
“It was tough for her to be away,” Beth said, “but I think it made her a better nurse. She works in the E.R., and working with different kinds of critical and traumatic injuries helped her in her career.”
The couple texted every day and, according to Stephen, ran up the phone bill with all their cross-country calls. Luckily, Crawford had the support of the military around her.
She has shared these experiences with students, hoping that they understand the opportunities the service provides.
“The military really takes care of their own. They own you, but they also take care of you. It’s amazing all the different support services. They really really push furthering your education and for your family members. Healthcare is provided for you and your family members. They also have a great support network for families when someone is deployed.”
But the biggest lesson she brought back to her students has to do with caring for those whom medicine saves beyond just the emergency room. Patients – military or civilian – need to heal to become “functioning humans,” she said.
“It was so heartwarming to see these soldiers who have been dealt horrible blows that they can continue to live their lives with their families. It is also sad when you think about people with traumatic brain injuries,” she said. “We are dealing with that a lot because we have patients we used to not be able to save. Now we are saving them and we have to learn how to deal with that kind of injury. It’s the same thing with the (representative) who was shot. They have to relearn how to do all these neurological activities that they have been doing all their lives. It’s not like when you break an arm you can fix it. The brain just doesn’t fix like that.”