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Little Company of Mary Hospital surgeon off to Afghanistan

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Updated: August 26, 2013 4:15PM



Dr. Nancy Taft spent more than 30 minutes Wednesday afternoon greeting well-wishers who attended a reception in her honor at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.

“Aren’t these people amazing?” said Taft, who leaves Aug. 2 for her second deployment to an Army base in Sharana, Afghanistan, where she’ll be a member of a forward surgical team.

Taft’s colleagues, former and current patients and friends made up the lengthy reception line that formed after a brief ceremony that included songs and prayer.

Most of them embraced her and promised to keep her in their prayers. Some shed tears as they bade farewell to Taft, the hospital’s breast cancer surgeon and an active participant in the annual Beverly Breast Cancer Walk.

“The good part is, I know what’s ahead of me. The bad part is, I know what’s ahead of me,” Taft said during the reception.

Taft, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2009, shortly after she joined the reserves. She expects to face many of the same challenges she experienced during that stint with the trauma unit, she said.

“It’s intense. Seconds count,” Taft said. “The first time I went, it was a huge adjustment. I feel more prepared this time.”

She said there is one similarity between serving patients at Little Company and treating the troops: “There’s a battle to save lives,” she said.

Taft and two other surgeons will be on call 24 hours a day for a 90-day period, she said.

Some days are busier than others, but Taft is prepared for days that will feature numerous surgeries.

“You have some really long days,” she said.

Many of the surgical procedures involve treating soldiers who were seriously injured by improvised explosive devices, she said. Those surgeries often involve amputations to save a life, she said.

The surgical team also treats Afghan soldiers as well as soldiers and staff who require treatment for noncombat-related injuries and illnesses, she said.

Taft promised to be back on the job in the December after spending some time with her family. Her daughter recently was diagnosed with breast cancer, which changes Taft’s perspective on the disease.

“It’s personal now,” she said. “I’m coming back home, and I’m coming back to all of you.”



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