On The Edge, Between Life And Death

Kimberly Dozier, being airlifted from Iraq to Germany. AP

When Kimberly Dozier was brought to the U.S. Combat Surgical Hospital — the Baghdad "CASH" as it's called — she was clinging to life.

Army surgeon David Steinbruner was on call. "I came down, threw my M-16 on my shoulder, 'cause we carry it wherever we are. I'm in PT clothes, you know, shorts and a T-shirt, and I see one of our best nurses down there," Dr. Steinbruner recalls. "He said, 'Dr. Steinbruner, I need you in the back. This woman's really sick."

"So I walked around to the back and she was as white as a sheet laid out on the bed. I had no idea who she was," Steinbruner remembers. "Her legs were clearly badly injured and she was, seemed to me unconscious. Came up to the bedside just to see if she could breathe, if she was alive. And she said to me with closed eyes, with the mask on, 'My name is Kim.' Pushed the mask off. She clearly was somewhere else at that time."

CBS News producer Kate Rydell got to the hospital as fast as she could. "I grabbed my bag and I grabbed two of our security guys and we flew down the stairs and even as I was running down the stairs, my phone was ringing, and it was a reporter from Reuters television saying, 'Can you confirm that your guys have been severely injured?'" she remembers.

"The doctor took me around the corner and there is Kimberly covered in blood, from head to toe. I thought, this is it, we have to kiss her goodbye, because this is, nobody looks like this and is going to survive this kind of thing," Rydell recalls.

"We lose the pulse. So we slam home blood as fast as we can, I get a pulse back. By definition, she died for a moment," Steinbruner says. "At the time, when we lost her pulse, I thought we were actually going to lose her completely. I mean I kind of think of that as being on the edge of a precipice between life and death, and she's pushing, rocking back and forth. She's still alive, but I don't know how much longer."

"They keep using expressions like, 'Very sick, she's very sick… we don't know if she's going to survive…50-50 chance if she's going to make it. If she makes it, she's probably not going to keep her legs,'" Rydell remembers.

While Dozier hovered between life and death, several soldiers from the 4th I.D. were also being treated for serious injuries from the blast. One of them was Cpl. Michael Potter.

"Your hands are obviously scarred from this. At the time this happened, what did they look like?" Katie Couric asks Potter.

"I couldn't tell you. I was just in a daze. They all told me they looked purple," he says. "They were swollen. Almost twice the size they are now. …I was in the same room as Sgt. Farrar, Sgt. Reed, and it was just everyone was in pain. It was terrible."

Staff Sgt. Nathan Reed had a badly wounded leg; Sgt. Justin Farrar was battling multiple life-threatening injuries; Spc. Leon Snipes had shrapnel wounds to his face; and Sgt. Ezequiel Hernandez had a seriously injured leg and a blown-out eardrum.

"It was a total chaos in there and I was in another room 'cause I wasn't severely injured and to myself, I was just thinking, 'How could this happen to us?'" Hernandez recalls.

But the fact they had all even made it to the "CASH" was astounding.

Dozier would have died on the street if not for a near-miracle. Her savior was not even a medic, just a soldier whose patrol responded to the scene of the explosion. His name is Jeremy Koch, a staff sergeant with the Iowa National Guard.

"I didn't know if she was gonna make it or not but I was gonna do my best. She was laying in a pool of blood," Koch remembers. "And that's when I noticed the cuts that are on both her legs. And that's when I started putting the tourniquet on.

"If they had left off a tourniquet, she might have died in route," Steinbruner says. "So that kind of bravery and presence of mind, to know how to apply the skills that they've learned there on the field of battle is pretty impressive."

But as that awful day in the "CASH" dragged on, the day's losses began to sink in.

  • Daniel Schorn

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