Rescued POW facing surgeries

Jessica Lynch reported in good spirits despite multitude of broken bones

April 05, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LANDSTUHL, Germany - Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the soldier freed Tuesday from captivity in Iraq, is undergoing a battery of operations at a military hospital here to treat wounds that include a fractured right arm, two broken legs and a spinal injury.

The extent of Lynch's injuries remained unclear.

The commander of the hospital, Col. David A. Rubinstein, said at a news briefing yesterday that Lynch did not suffer gunshot or stabbing wounds, as had previously been reported.

She does have a laceration on her head, Rubinstein said.

But Dan Little, a cousin who held a news conference last night in West Virginia, said he had talked with her doctors and they had determined she had been shot.

He said they had found two entry and exit wounds "consistent with low-velocity, small-caliber rounds."

Rubinstein did not say whether Lynch's injuries were sustained during her captivity or when she was rescued.

"We don't know the exact mechanism of her injuries," he said. "We don't know at what point they were received."

Sleeping a lot

Lynch, 19, is speaking with military officials here, though the sessions have not delved into the details of her treatment by her captors. She still spends much of her days asleep or in the operating room.

On Thursday, doctors operated on her spine to repair what some family members have described as a pinched nerve. Yesterday, orthopedic surgeons performed an operation to fix broken bones.

In addition to her right arm and both legs, she has fractures in her right foot and ankle.

Rubinstein said Lynch would require intensive physical therapy after her injuries heal. But doctors believe her chance for recovery is excellent.

No date has been set for her return to the United States.

Despite the seriousness of her injuries, Rubinstein said, Lynch was in buoyant spirits. "Her emotional state is extremely good," he said. "She is jovial; she is talking with staff."

Lynch is receiving psychological counseling from people who specialize in dealing with prisoners of war. She is also talking - and joking - with a friend from her unit, who came with her to Germany.

Lynch's unit, part of the 507th Maintenance Company, took a wrong turn near Nasiriyah on March 23 and was ambushed by Iraqis in tanks.

Fifteen Americans from the unit were seized.

The daring rescue came after the military received a tip from an Iraqi that an American was being held in a hospital in Nasiriyah.

Bodies of Americans

During the nighttime raid, commandos seized another Iraqi, who took them to the site of 11 bodies. The Pentagon said today that eight dead soldiers among the 11 bodies recovered during Lynch's rescue were members of her ambushed Army unit.

Lynch is believed to be the first female American prisoner of war ever to be rescued. Her arrival here has set off a media stampede, with emissaries of television talk-show hosts importuning hospital officials to pass notes to her.

It is not clear that Lynch yet understands the magnitude of her celebrity. She does not have a television in her room, and the staff is zealously guarding access. Rubinstein said she asked whether her story had been reported in the local newspaper in Palestine, W.Va., her hometown.

In other ways, however, Lynch is taking steps back to a normal life. Doctors expect her to be able to eat solid foods soon, and she has submitted a list of her favorites: turkey, apple sauce and steamed carrots.

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