Lance Corporal James W. Higgins, 22, of Thurmont, Maryland, was struck by insurgent rifle fire on a desert plain just outside of Fallujah. The bullet pierced the right side of his back, and tore diagonally across his body before exiting in the front of his chest. His diaphragm was torn off, his liver damaged, a lung had collapsed, and his chest cavity was full of blood. The bullet clipped the right atrium of his heart in two places and blood had surrounded the muscles of his heart. His heart had stopped while he was being loaded into the helicopter, and the Medics pumped his chest until they landed at Camp Taqqadum.
Three pairs of hands plunged into Higgins' chest and abdomen. Commander Subrato Deb, 42, of Alexandria, Virginia, drained the blood around the heart, then raced to sew up the first hole, until he noticed the second, much larger, hole. He yelled to a surprised Medic to hand him a urinary catheter, which he used to block the second hole and then to pump fresh blood back into the Marine's heart. Lieutenant Commander Barbara Drobina grabbed the heart and began to massage it back into a rhythm by gently and firmly pressing. She had never done such a procedure before. Captain H.R. Bowman, of Oceanside, California, was the Senior Surgeon who was trying desperately to cut off the internal bleeding into the chest cavity.
"Am I doing it right," is what Drobina kept asking the others, over and over. A monitor began to register and Drobina could feel a rhythm in her fingers.
Navy Chaplain Wilfredo Rodriguez, of Brunswick, New Jersey, was silently reading in the background: "Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering and restore you to wholeness and strength. . .," then he stepped forward to help. He took the bag of blood being held aloft by the doctor who had held each of the previous 17 units pumped into the Marine.
For five minutes the heart continued to beat. Then it stopped.
The surgeons knew that the end was near.
The doctors and medics finally took their hands away from the body. Covered in dark blood, they bowed their heads while Rodriguez began reading: "Into your hands, O merciful savior, we commend your servant. . .a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock. . .May his soul and the souls of all the departed. . .rest in peace."
As the doctors moved away, the Medics moved in to clean the body and to stitch the wounds together. Outside, Marine Sergeant Timothy Cord, 22, of Provo, Utah, loaded his M-16 rifle and stood guard beside the body.
As the body of the angel was taken to the morgue, Subrato Deb stood in the shower. Bohman and Rodriguez had gone off together to pray. Cord went to his room, and played his guitar.
Lance Corporal Higgins died on July 27, 2006. He is buried at the Resthaven Memorial Garden in Frederick, Maryland, a few miles from his home.
Frodo wanted to make a point. . .but it has already been made.
Damn. Damn. Damn.