Thursday, June 22, 2006
How I saved a Marine from a shrapnel-filled brain
Over the past couple of years, I have been firmly embedded in some of the worst places on earth: In the middle of the northern mountains of Pakistan after the earthquake; on the eastern shores of Sri Lanka after a tsunami; and in Charity Hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Still, one of my most vivid memories was when I spent two months in the middle of the war in Iraq in the spring of 2003. With bullets whizzing around and shrapnel flying through the air, I always triple-checked my Kevlar vest and helmet anytime I might be in danger, which was pretty much all the time.

Having that equipment made me feel a little more comfortable in the midst of wartime dangers. So imagine my concern when I saw a young Marine corporal, Jesus Vidana, brought by chopper into the tent of the Devil Docs, a medical unit tending to injured soldiers, because his helmet failed to stop a bullet.

He had been shot in the head and shrapnel had sprayed throughout his brain. Twice pronounced dead, once in the field, once in the helicopter, he was in fact alive, but barely. Looking at his injuries, I could not believe he had been wearing his helmet.

Given my background as a trained neurosurgeon and Jesus' dire condition, I was asked to shift from reporting on events to participating. I performed an operation on Jesus that day, removing the shrapnel and the life-threatening blood collection that was placing pressure, too much pressure, on his brain.

In the middle of the desert, my next objective was to find something sterile to repair the outer layer of his brain. My only option was to open a sterile IV bag and flip it inside out. It worked. Jesus Vidana survived and is living today in southern California.

After the operation, I went and found Jesus' helmet to investigate what exactly had happened. Sure enough, there was a hole in the back of his helmet on the right side. Jesus had done everything right, but his equipment had failed him. Needless to say, it was unnerving for all of us as I showed that helmet to everyone in the unit.

For sure, designing protective gear is a difficult job. As with anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to changing the equipment. Not only should it be protective, but it must be relatively light. Not only should it be safe, but it should be able to accommodate the unforgiving nature of the desert heat.

For Jesus, everything worked out in the end, but what about the thousands of other Marines still fighting today? There's a debate raging about the adequacy of their protective gear. I am curious to hear your thoughts.
Posted By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Correspondent: 10:34 AM ET
  60 Comments
Just amazing that our gov't sends its people to fight w/ so little forethought as in "what will we do *next*" and regarding basic protective measures like vests, headgear, etc. It's criminal! There's a crisis of confidence that's bubbling over and the leaders (elected, Pentagon, State Dept., etc, JUST DO NOT GET IT! Wake the hell up!! We need some honesty and straight (not simple-minded) talk from the heart...and fast.
Posted By Anonymous Tony Glassman, Rochester, NY : 11:04 AM ET
It is simply inexcuseable for the Marines to send these young men and women into harm's way with equipment that does not perform its sole purpose--to protect the head. If the Army and Navy are using helmets with a type of padding, there is no reason for the Marines not to do so also. Period.
Posted By Anonymous Sandra Winters, Palm Springs, CA : 11:28 AM ET
Why can they not line the helmets with bullet proof materials? This would be a second layer of defense.
Posted By Anonymous Chris, Norwich New York. : 11:35 AM ET
Dr. Gupta,
I haven't done enough research about the issue and the politics yet to respond intelligently.

However, as a general matter, I am finding that, while the news is reported, it is almost immediately forgotten. We don't really respond. While we can point fingers at the government and public officials (and should continue to do so), I think that we need to acknowledge that they are minimally effective (regardless of their affiliation). The government and our public officials are like any other operating business(es). It, and they, need to address many competing interests in order to continue to be able to operate. Some do it better than others.

So, this is my long way of saying that we, as individuals, need to take responsibility and whatever action we are able to fit into our own overwhelming days to address some of the issues raised.

Please know that you are heard and thank-you.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy G., Boston, MA : 11:37 AM ET
felt the same way in vietnam. seen way
to many perforated helmets. You would
think by now they would have better
covers. Larry
Posted By Anonymous larry needles, ca : 11:39 AM ET
Why did the Army get it and not the Marines when it came to lining the helmet with material to absorb the banging of the head just like a football helmet. The number of lives these inserts could save let alone the number of taxpayer dollars on rehab, etc. Just don't get it!
Posted By Anonymous Wynona, San Diego, CA : 11:40 AM ET
It's amazing how Jesus Vidana survived his injury, but it is also scary to think that this could indeed happen again. The soldiers who go out risking their lives to save ours should be provided with the necessary gear to protect and defend themselves. Their gear should not be their main concern, as they trust its security. With incidences such as Mr. Vidana's, the soldiers' trust in such faulty materials will diminish slowly causing them to panic more.
Posted By Anonymous Ria, United States : 11:44 AM ET
All our people deserve the best equipment money
can buy . Its the least we can do for these men and women , placing themselves in harms way , everyday .
Posted By Anonymous C.Slade Peterborough Ont. : 11:45 AM ET
Watching CNN last night and learning the extent of the inadequacy of American's troups helmets made me nauseous.

Here is a government spending millions and billions of dollars to 'fight the war on terror' and yet they can't even spend the money to ensure that their soldiers wear adequate gear! I believe the discussion last night was $71 for helmet padding?? How much more would it cost to reinforce outter helmets as well? Pennies.

If you are going to force thousands of soldiers to represent your country on hostile lands then do it right and put as many odds as possible on their side to ensure they return home safely and healthy!
Posted By Anonymous jenna, vancouver, bc, Canada : 11:46 AM ET
If the gear is inadequate, it simply needs to be upgraded. I'm sure the product is out (just ask Cher). As usual, it boils down to dollars and (common)sense. If we take back some of the tax dollars that the Bush administration has given away to the Oil Industry (and his other Corporate charities) over the last couple of years, we could afford a multitude of dire products and services.
Posted By Anonymous Jim Bowers, Phoenix, AZ : 11:46 AM ET
I'm glad you were there when Jesus Vidana needed you.
Posted By Anonymous KC, Garland, TX : 11:48 AM ET
Most of the protective gear the military has been issued since WWI was not designed to stop bullets. Many people don't realize this, but the equipment we used in the Cold War and stared down the USSR with, the equipment we used in Desert Storm, Grenada, Panama, and Bosnia was not designed to stop bullets. The PASGT system which came out in the 1980s was not designed to stop bullets. They are designed to protect against shards and shrapnel from exploding munitions. The term "flak jacket" refers to protective gear worn in WWII to protect air crews from exploding anti-aircraft fire, (flak, short for Fliegerabwehrkanone). The flak jackets issued up until the early 2000s specifically stated in big, bold letters that it would not protect against bullets. Many say we are not protected enough, but we are better protected than at any time in our past. The current Interceptor OTV is the first time we have had bullet resistant body armor. By itself it will stop shards, shrapnel, and pistol rounds. With the added SAPI plates, it will stop rifle rounds.

All this gear is heavy and slows troops down. Just a helmet, body armor, weapon, ammo, water, etc... the "basic" load works out to about 50 lbs of gear. If you haven't tried running, walking , getting up from sitting or lying down with 50 lbs on, try it for a day or so. Your legs and back will be sore as hell, so will your neck. We get used to it, but you are never as mobile as you are without the gear. Furthermore, flexibility of the gear becomes an issue. At times you really start to feel like a turtle in a shell.

Some people want to issue the troops armor that is completely bomb proof and bullet proof. It just isn't realistic folks. The more armor you slap on, the less effective you get. That is why many troops will ditch their protective gear if they are given half a chance.

Proper wear of the protective gear is also a must. Cher is pushing for these rubber disks to be inserted in helmets because, she says, the webbing on the inside of the helmet allows the helmet to hit the troops in the head. First of all, there is an adjustment inside the helmet to tighten the webbing. This is in addition to the sweat band adjustments. Many troops don't know that or just never take the time to adjust it. Additionally, the helmets come is several sizes, but many troops just grab a large and never get fitted for the correct size. Take the correct steps and a helmet fits fine. I've tried the pads Cher is pushing and while I think her heart is in the right place and God bless her for that, the pads are a pain. They make the top of your head hot, sweaty, and itchy. I ended up with an open sore on my head. Plus they only pad against blows directly from the top, which is great if someone is dropping anvils on your head, but doesn't do a thing if you are impacted from the side (most common direction) or worse yet, from below (also very common). Many troops don't get their vests adjusted correctly either and end up leaving gaps between the front and back shells along the sides of their bodies. This can be avoided by grabbing the correct size vest and taking the time to use the adjustment straps.

Long winded, I know. The bottom line is combat and war is a risky business and people die. We know that going in. We want good protection, but not at the expense of effectiveness. We have the best gear ever issued and it will continue to improve.
Posted By Anonymous MSG John, Currently somewhere in Iraq, but from Colorado Springs CO. : 11:52 AM ET
It's no that the Marines don't "get it" when it comes to armor and protection. The Marine Corps does not get the same funds that the Army and Navy gets. We do what we can with what we have!
Posted By Anonymous Sgt P, Norfolk VA : 11:54 AM ET
I have a son in the USMC and he is being deployed AGAIN to Iraq in September. I saw Anderson Cooper last night and his interview with Dr. Bob and Cher. I am going to spearhead a drive here in Illinois to pay for every serviceman and woman to have one of these BLSS kits for their helmets. I also saw your piece on Jesus. He's such a lucky guy. Please tell CNN that they need to rerun and rerun the info about Operation.Helmet.org. They are a force to be reckoned with.
Posted By Anonymous USMC MOM, Linda Hinton, Springfield, IL : 11:56 AM ET
Wow! Here is a perfect example of the press adding to confusion and confused thinking. The combat helmet was designed to protect the head from metal fragments produced by exploding artillary and mortar rounds. It is made of kevlar - a very good armor material.

The idiots (and there are millions, judging from sites like this) who think that designing and manufacturing a helmet that protects against rifle rounds is simply a matter of intent and willingness to spend the money are the same idiots that believe humankind can find a cure for the common cold, or cancer, or low cost energy with no adverse environmental impact if only there were sufficient "will" to do so.

NATO 7.62 calibre rounds go right through 14 inch diameter blocks of wood (telephone poles). Armor protecting against rifle rounds having 1900 to 2000 feet per second velocity would make a helmet so heavy the Soldiers and Marines would die from immobility. There is no easy solution to protecting Soldiers and Marines from kinetic energy threats in this war any more than protecting them from past wars. War means killing and being killed. The nature of war is nasty, ugly, and bloody. Head wounds are just part of the ugliness.
Posted By Anonymous Dean E. Kolberg, Fredericskburg, Virginia : 12:08 PM ET
Dr. Gupta, What a miracle that you were there to save that young soldier!

I think it is an absolute shame that our men and women must be thrown in harms way, while in their minds they are worrying about their equipment keeping them safe, adding more stress to an already stressful situation.

I think it is high time that our country get it's priorities straight. Instead of Congress getting another raise, why didn't they appropriate the money to upgrade our troups' equipment? Shame on the powers that be in the United States of America.
Posted By Anonymous P. Benjamin, Portsmouth RI : 12:09 PM ET
All of the people that made comments forgot to ask the most simple question of all. What caliber was the bullet that hit Jesus? I am a soldier and I have to say that the comments that I am reading sound like people jumping on a "blame the government" band wagon. These helmets are all bullet proof up to a certain caliber. The manufacture does QA testing on every batch of protective equipment. I would suggest doing some research before you start pointing fingers. I have seen Marines and Soldiers whose lives have been saved on countless occasions by these helmets. The gear works, but the enemy is getting smarter. Don't blame government. Blame the insurgents who constantly kill for no more of a reason than the thought passing through there mind. Blame dictators that put those thoughts into impressionalbe minds of young arabs. For the record... good job on saving that Marines life... we could use more little miracles like that right now.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Payne, Harrisonville Missouri : 12:10 PM ET
Lack of adequate helmet protection is indeed inexcusable. However, this problem should have been remedied when the first injury occurred which probably goes back to WWII as our troops rely on their equipment to get them through the day/night. What a miracle for the injured soldier, that
Dr./Reporter Gupta was nearby to save him. Angels are amoung us.
Posted By Anonymous Joyce Matheny, St. Louis, MO : 12:15 PM ET
This is just another example of the sheer attrocities committed by this joke of an administration. Maybe they think God should protect the men since afterall it was God who told Mr. Bush to go to war, right? Dressed in inadequte gear, our soliers escort Haliburton millionaires across the desert. It is shameful and disgusting the richest country has to have Cher as a spokesperson for adequate gear for our soldiers. Its pathetic this country wanted to impeach a president for cheating on his wife but not a president who lied about a war, is squandering our money and now sending our soldiers to fight his war with helmets that offer no protection. SHAMEFUL.
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills, CA : 12:16 PM ET
This is not the first time I have heard this issue adressed. What I find simply amazing is that nothing has been done about it and what I find even more amazing is that congress found the time to vote for a pay increase at the end of November 2005. Again, the rich get richer and the poor get killed.
If we as Americans don't stand up as a whole and start demanding that our representitives act as representatives then we will be a society that continuously is dependent upon a celebritie to handle situations such as this. We as Americans have more power to change things than I think alot of us give ouselves credit for, and it's time we start acting like it is our constitutional right to demand that our troops get the appropriate defenses necessary to go into battle. Thank GOD for people such as Dr. Gupta who will put their lives on the line, to save our people putting their lives on the line every minute of the day to protect these rights that alot of us just take for granted. Come on America let's take care of our people, and DEMAND Congress takes care of this issue!
Posted By Anonymous dolly Las Vegas NV : 12:18 PM ET
This is a disgrace!

Might as well wrap tin cans around their heads and send them off to war. That should cut down on costs a bit. There is absolutely no excuse for inadequate equipment! As far as I'm concerned, when someone is defending your country, you give everything they need and you give it to them now!

Can't afford the war? Then pull out until everyone is outfitted properly. This is more than mistreatment; this is a human rights issue.

Dr. Gupta, Jesus Vidana was lucky to have had you there. Thanks for the work you do. You are amazing:)
Posted By Anonymous Tikka, Seattle, WA : 12:20 PM ET
Bravo Dr. Gupta. You are truly a life saver. I guess we on te homefront realize how dangerous it really is for our troops no matter what type of situation they are in. It never dawned on me that their helmets weren't really protecting them the way they should. From lasts nights segment I learned that there is a problem and it can have devistating conaequences luckily Jesus had you to help him through the neurosurgery portion of his injury.

Now if the Marines would just get off their high horses and provide our boys
with the proper safe guard they would not only save many lives but money in the long run. Is 71.00 too much to spend to protect a life?
Posted By Anonymous Marcia Warren, MI : 12:23 PM ET
I am so appalled that we still send our men and women into war without the right equipment. Having served in the Corps for 23 years, I know the right equipment is attainable� it�s the red tape and total BS that keeps our troops from having �the right stuff�. The men and women of our armed forces are not drafted to protect this great country of ours�they asked to protect YOU. It�s in their blood...it�s what they want to do. By god we should be able to provide them with the equipment to do the job they have to do, and do the job without having to worry about equipment failure. Whether it�s a computer, jet, tank, ship, M16 or yes even a helmet. The red tape and BS needs to be streamlined so our men and women can have the best of the best�not a product from the lowest bidder.
Posted By Anonymous J. Paulson, Stafford, VA : 12:31 PM ET
Our Marines deserve better. They are the front line. We need to make sure that they are protected in all ways that we can provide for them. I know the helmets are the issue right now, but has someone done a story on all of the equipment that they wear, and how safe it is? Its been 3 years, there are some obvious flaws in our armor and safety equipment, but is there anybody-besides Cher-doing something about it? And if so, how do we help? And most importantly, how do we keep the pressure on our government to keep our soldiers in safe equipment? Any information you could shed on this story would be welcome.

You were there for a reason that day, Dr. Gupta. Thankyou.

Semper Fi MLS 9/8/66-8/22/01
Posted By Anonymous Sharon, North Adams, MA : 12:33 PM ET
With all the money allocated for the war, it's a shame our soldiers have to worry about something else. Anything that will bring our soldiers home safetly should be done.
Posted By Anonymous Royce, Dallas,TX : 12:34 PM ET
I'm astonsished. People are responing as if body armour and helmets are %100 efective. I'm not surpirsed at all that a modern high powered rifle can fire a modern projectile and have it penetrate a helmet. They're made to do that! Body armour is not swiss cheese but its not a Star Trek force field either. They don't make Tanks for nothing.

Having said all that, if other branches have a more effective helmet, it's just as astonishing the Marines don't have it.
Posted By Anonymous Hank, Philadelphia, PA : 12:38 PM ET
A common misconception is that these helmets are bulletproof. They are resistant against pistol rounds but not rifle rounds. It is not currently possible to engineer a helmet that is light enough to be worn all day that will protect against rifle bullets. All the crying and wailing in the world will not change the laws of physics. We've all absorbed too much Hollywood science fiction.
Posted By Anonymous NM, Nashua, NH : 12:40 PM ET
Similar problems occured in WWII. One infamous example was with the famed M-4 Sherman tank. The goverment knew that the armor and ammo protection was totally useless vs German tanks. The main gun couldn't penetrate the enemy armor. Did the War Department do anything? No, they didn't because they did not want to lower production and Army doctrine said tanks supported infantry, and did not kill tanks. It took the mechanics in the field and the British to show us how to give the tankers at least a slim chance to survive.

The only reason American tanks defeated German tanks was the bravery of the crews. We simply had more tanks than they did. Do we want to do this with our infantry?

Nothing has changed.
Posted By Anonymous Bob, Las Vegas Nevada : 12:41 PM ET
It has never been practical to design a helmet that would stop high-velocity bullets - only shrapnel. The current helmet is made of Kevlar embedded in a plastic resin, but to stop a high-velocity rifle round from penetrating a kevlar "bullet-proof" vest requires a very heavy ceramic insert. Maybe there's other technology today that they could be using in helmets (the current one was designed in the 80s), but the weight has to be a major consideration too. Sensationalizing a story like this is just another way of trivializing the true situation.
Posted By Anonymous John Kantor, St. Petersburg, FL : 12:45 PM ET
According to last night's cnn report, billions of U.S. dollars have been spent on this war. We send our brave young soilders into battle without a proper helmet. I understand from this same report that the Army has improved their helmets, so kudos for them. As for the rest of the military, the $71 it was reported to cost per helmet is minimal to protect these men. I have a relative that died in Iraq. He was 19 years old. Maybe with a proper helmet he would be here today.
Posted By Anonymous B.A. Taylor Nacogdoches, TX : 12:46 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,
Your belief that the principal purpose of the kevlar helmet is to stop bullets is incorrect. It is designed to provide ballistic protection from fragmenting munitions such as hand grenades, artillery, and mortar rounds. I don't want to go into excruciating detail, but shapes, weights, and velocities vary significantly between bullets and fragments. In general, high velocity bullets fired by rifles and machine guns are harder to stop than fragments.
More importantly, for everyone else, you can't wear enough armor to stop everything that can threaten you and still walk. For those of you commenting about padding for Marine helmets, that is a concussion issue, not a penetrating wound issue.
I want our Soldiers and Marines to have the best possible equipment, but there is no equipment that can ensure that someone in a combat zone is perfectly protected. The equipment that our Soldiers and Marines are wearing today is substantially better than that worn during previous wars.
Finally, I'd like to echo KC's comment. Thank you for being there when Jesus Vidana needed you.
Posted By Anonymous LB, Montgomery Village, MD : 12:50 PM ET
It's easy to make a desision to send people in harms way when your sitting behind a desk in Washington. The least our government could do is properly equip our troops. Don't just support your troops; equip them too.
Posted By Anonymous Jason, San Antonio, Texas : 12:51 PM ET
If our diplomats would do a better job at avoiding war, our young men and women would not have to go into battle at all.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 12:58 PM ET
I am glad that you not only saved his life, but that you didn't forget about him once the surgery was finished.

I think the USA forces deserve the best protection available. I am glad that you were there to do all you could for Jesus Vidana.
Posted By Anonymous Shirley Laughbaum Wolf Point, Montana : 1:00 PM ET
The Marines are studying the
helmet issue (they say). We were
not prepared to fight this war
by equipment or numbers of troops.
We just "jumped in" and typical
of America, spilling our best young
blood. Vietnam memories - alas....
Posted By Anonymous C.M.Tubbs, Oxford, MS : 1:02 PM ET
As the wife af a Marine in Iraq I have to say that they now have new helmets since Dr Gupta's report. The new LWH (Light Weight Helmet) is 30% more effective against bullets and shrapnel. However they still don't provide the added protection from bomb blasts that the pad inserts do. We are not trying to get the Marines to change to the Army helmet, just to add the energy absorbing pads to make a very good helmet an excellent helmet.
Posted By Anonymous Shannan L. Twentynine Palms, CA : 1:05 PM ET
As Dr. Gupta notes there are a lot of trade-offs when designing anything. When designing life saving equipment the consequences are very real. But what seems to be lost in the case of Corporal Vidana is the fact that he survived a direct impact with his head! What were his chances of surviving such an event without the protective hear? To be sure he was certainly fortunate to have Dr. Gupta there! Some questions that need to be answered are what caliber was the round that injured him? How close was the round fired from?
Posted By Anonymous Don, Newport News, VA : 1:10 PM ET
Thank you Dr. Gupta.
God bless you and keep you always.
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte, University, MS : 1:11 PM ET
His equipment didn't fail him. Helmets are designed to reduce risk to debris for the most part but to think that it is going to stop a round at +/- 600 mph at normal incidence is idiotic. The kevlar vests won't stop a high power rifle round either. There is no way to be in the middle of a war without getting shot or injured no matter how expensive, advanced, or complete the equipment. Period.
Posted By Anonymous Kevin, Nashville, TN : 1:14 PM ET
Unfortunately it's not that simple to improve the helmet to render it bulletproof. Modern firearms can easily penetrate metal many times the thickness of these helmets, and using standard materials would then make them so heavy as to be unwearable. Even if they were magically made bulletproof, the kinetic energy of a high-speed bullet would be akin to hitting a man over the head with very heavy sledgehammer. A helmet would prevent direct injury to the skull and brain, but would do nothing to prevent blunt trauma to the brain and spine. Imagine the head and neck as a golfball on a fixed tee. Even if the ball itself suffers no damage, the "tee" would then be flexed and twisted by the force of the blow...Bottom line, I'm sure helmet technology can be improved upon, but I'm not sure that bulletproof helmets are the answer....
Posted By Anonymous Allan, Raleigh-Durham, NC : 1:15 PM ET
I want to know if the padding that Cher is promoting will stop the bullets & shrapnel from penetrating helmets? I think they implied the padding was able to do that?
Thanks
Your pieces of news are always informative & very interesting
isabel
Posted By Anonymous isable, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan : 1:26 PM ET
Reading all the comments I've got to make an observation. Retired military, worn the same equipement mentioned in the article. All the people that have responded that actually wear/worn this equipment don't have a problem with it. However, the people pointing fingers aren't even commenting on the blogs from the service people. If you have never seen what a 7.62MM round can do to you, then you can't possibly know what you are talking about. AK47's the most popular weapon in the world is a 7.63mm bullet. It will/does penetrate armor - period. I wouldn't wear all the junk you would put on me to fight, cause in the end, I'd get killed for not being able to move out of the way of a mortar round! Liberals, geeeez - learn something before you shout from your lazy boy!
Posted By Anonymous John, Columbia, SC : 1:38 PM ET
Too many times I've heard about reporters with the potential to make a difference who do nothing when on the scene of an emergency. Thank you for your work and stepping us to save Jesus.
Posted By Anonymous ML, Washington, DC : 1:39 PM ET
This was quite an eye opener for me to hear, but then I am not surprised at how we prioritize safety for our troops in all areas. When I saw this report I was reminded of my own bicycle helmet safety and how I personally place importance on those pads that line the inside of the helmet. I am a mountain biker and this type of Shock protection goes a long way. It may seem elementary but why can't the government see it that way as well.
Posted By Anonymous Anthony Van Ry, San Francisco, CA : 1:46 PM ET
Ask the guys who use them. . .and then listen to their answers.
Posted By Anonymous m.e.beal traverse city michigan : 1:57 PM ET
That is a great story. Good job on helping too. You need to pair up with Cher on the helmet issue and get the word out. Good luck.
Posted By Anonymous Anon Y. Mous, Philadelphia, PA : 2:00 PM ET
I am glad for that soldier that you were there. I saw the piece with Angie and Cher. All I can say is that Angie doesn't alienate anyone who can help her cause by being political. Cher on the other hand just couldn't help blaming war deaths on Right sideed republicans "who don't want to spend money on our soldiers safety". I am proud to be an American and a Republican who like many others doesn't support war but DOES Support our troops. In spite of Cher's slam, I am going to help with Operation Helmet as much as I can. And anything any of us can do to help with equipment safety should be a priority.
Posted By Anonymous Angie, Safford, AZ : 2:07 PM ET
Fascinating account, thank you, Dr. Gupta. I'm sure that soldier is eternally indebted to you. Sad to hear that his gear failed him.

You are an excellent writer. Have you written any books? (I guess I will Google you and find out.)
Posted By Anonymous QueenofSky, Austin, TX : 2:20 PM ET
Dr. Gupta while some would consider this a political issue, I think it is quite awesome that you were able to help. Congradulations on saving someone's life.
Posted By Anonymous Jonathan Simmons, Eugene Oregon : 2:42 PM ET
I'm not surprised about this because everyone knows this administration, especially Bush,Cheny and Rumsfeld have their heads in the sand. It's commendable that CHER takes on this helmet cause. The real problem is how little they value our HERO front line soldiers in a war began under false pretense. But I suppose it's easy to make these inadequate, idiotic decisions sitting behind desks in the most protected building in the world, 1600 pennsylvania avenue, Washington, DC. btw, great job with Jesus Vidana. I suppose he was very close to being another statistic of the over 2,500 brave and valiant men who have already given their lives. Reminds me of the Viet Nam quagmire we were in. Bush is WRONG! mission NOT accomplished!
Posted By Anonymous James Baker, Monticello, KY : 2:52 PM ET
I thank God that there are people like Dr. Meaders and Cher that are willing to ACTwhile our government is "studying" the need for more protection in the helmets to save the lives of our men and women serving in Iraq. By the time the government finishes their "study", thousands of soldiers could be adversly affected, possibly changing their lives forever!
I am so proud to be a Cher fan and I congratulate her and Dr. Meaders for doing what's right and doing it NOW!You are saving lives and are true examples of Patriotic Americans!!!
Posted By Anonymous Jonsie Ross, Santa Clarita, Ca. : 3:01 PM ET
We would all think and hope that the kind of protection that our soldiers are wearing would work in this day and age. Unfortunately, lately I have heard many reports of failed equipment and protective gear. Even Cher has been campaigning for more padding in helmets. Sending our men and women out into the battlefield without proper protection is low. I don't care how in debt our country is, money needs to be spent to ensure proper protection especially when people expect to be saved by the gear. It disgusts me that people are sending someone into battle and telling them that what they are wearing will save them knowing very well that it could easily fail. More money needs to go into research on new materials that are lighter and stronger, and also effective against the many new weapons that are constantly being invented.
Posted By Anonymous Anna, Moline, IL : 3:28 PM ET
An ideal situation would be if there were no need for wars in this world and if situations were resolved through peaceful means. However, in situations where war does end up occuring, then clearly there is a need for helmets for soldiers that are more effective and protective. Dr. Gupta is to be commended on his excellent surgery skills because he was able to save Jesus Vidana's life. But still, there is a definite need for more protective helmets so that other soldiers lives can be saved.
Posted By Anonymous Elva Keaton, Chicago, IL : 3:38 PM ET
In the movie "Saving Private Ryan" A medic Is trying to save a fallen fellow soldier in the middle of the �D� day beach battle, but just as he is stabilizing him a bullet hits the fallen comrade in the head by going thru his helmet and kills him. This was 1944-45, so your trying to say that in 60 years we have not solve this problem yet?...So we have the highest defense technology around for airplanes, helicopters and subs but for the plain foot soldier a simple well placed bullet can do the job?...The DOD ought to spend some money on this issue of real armor for the foot infantry.
Posted By Anonymous Albert Cano. Dallas TX. : 3:52 PM ET
This was one of the most interesting posts I've seen on this blog. Although, I didn't completely understand this line: , In the middle of the desert, my next objective was to find something sterile to repair the outer layer of his brain. My only option was to open a sterile IV bag and flip it inside out. Question: does this mean you actually had to partially remove part of Vidana's brain inorder to repair it?
Dr. Gupta, you are one gutsy guy.
Posted By Anonymous Annabelle Echo, Chicago, IL : 5:49 PM ET
I read your blog on "how you saved a marine" and just want to cheer you - Go Dr. Gupta!
Posted By Anonymous Leigh McMillan, Esquire, Miami, Fl : 6:04 PM ET
Wow! Dr. Sanjay. I didn't know you were a neurosurgeon and a reporter! Ha! I am a big fan of yours..my daughters are both Emory students.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Easton, Painted Post, NY : 6:16 AM ET
Dr. Gupta,
First of all, thank you for saving a Marine's life!
As a former soldier who supported OIF I (those who went to Iraq in 2003), I have to agree with MSG John from C. Springs, you have to understand that the armor soldiers wear is intended to give them a "second chance" and not to be invincible. The gear is hot and heavy and I wish we could protect everyone with indestructive shields, but it's not reality. Having been in Iraq for round 1, I saw numerous soldiers using everything they could to provide better protection for themselves. Soldiers were sent to war with flimsy vehicles and were using pieces of scrap metal to attach to their humvees.
It's really easy to be apalled when you don't understand the nature of war and the media is scrutinizing every little thing. War is not easy and soldiers die. All those of us at home should do is 1.)pray for our soldiers and 2.)make sure our soldiers have the best equipment feasible for the situation.
Posted By Anonymous K. Sands, Colorado Springs, CO : 10:09 AM ET
Vote ALL of them out of office. You must begin and start to understand the real power of your vote. Elect your neighbor if he/she can do the right thing for Everyone not just a small few.

Your Vote Counts and start telling your children that at an early age!
Posted By Anonymous D. Moss, Heath, OH : 5:06 PM ET
The bricks, 2by fours are standing and roof after repairs and a fema trailer, but it doesn't make you feel any better, its still like going through a war zone only thing no bullets...help is not easy to get to rebuild.some get the help others don't especially eldely. Maybe one day it will be better if another storm or hurricane doesn't come through.
Posted By Anonymous J. James, Chalmette, La. : 10:04 AM ET
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