5X5:Treatment Center

Treatment Center

A Five-Minute Play by Kerry Gildea

CHARACTERS

THE GENERAL: U.S. Army General in his late fifties.

THE DOCTOR: Female U.S. Army Doctor in her thirties.

THE PATIENT: Female Army Sergeant in her very early twenties. She recently lost both arms in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

SETTING
The scene takes place in a dilapidated U.S. military hospital where there are not enough beds to accommodate the increasing numbers of wounded American military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

TIME
It is May 2007. The death count of U.S. service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is approaching 3,500 and the number of injured has already topped 25,000.

AT RISE: (THE GENERAL enters. THE DOCTOR rushes to greet him.)

THE DOCTOR
General, I can’t tell you how relieved I am that you could finally come here today. I have been writing letter after letter and trying to get through to someone who has any ounce of authority on the phone. I haven’t had much luck at all. Thank you so much for coming.
  (beat)
Surely just walking through this first ward you see the urgency, you understand my desperation, my frustration.

    THE GENERAL
Hmm, yes, yes, I do. I see these young men and women and I see what lengths they go to in order to serve this great country of ours and my heart, well it goes straight to my throat. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.

    THE DOCTOR
Then you do see and you understand why this can’t continue. The conditions here are utterly unacceptable. We are over-crowded and we can’t control the bacteria and the rooms – the pure stench from the mold.
  (beat)
It’s all so dangerous. We work to stop one infection and another pops up – it literally crawls out of the woodwork. I just can’t believe it’s taken this long for someone to come here, to see what’s really happening.

    THE GENERAL
Now, I read your reports, your very detailed reports. Believe me those in the front office back in the Pentagon know everything you are doing here and your patriotism and professionalism is appreciated.
  (beat)
But, we can’t get too carried away here. This is a very delicate situation and sometimes during war, treatment centers become overcrowded. It’s a fact of life.

    THE DOCTOR
But it’s going to be a fact of death – death for these young service members. You can’t just ship them here and leave them to die.
  (beat)
My God, this is the United States of America. We don’t do this. Not to our own.

    THE GENERAL
You’re getting too far ahead of yourself. I assure you, we are winning this battle. We are combating the forces of true evil, and that’s why our mission – your mission – is so critical. You’re one of the best we have and you have a long career ahead of you if you keep your eye on the mission.

    THE DOCTOR
My mission! My mission is to save lives. The injured here need the correct treatment. They are entitled to the very best treatment. We owe that to them. The number of amputees alone, I can’t accommodate the numbers. There’s no where to put them. That sergeant over there, she’s barely twenty years old. She lost both her arms to a roadside bomb. What about her career?
  (beat)
And the young soldier down the hall. He was a medic himself. He can’t lift his head, he can’t speak his name. His brain is so extensively damaged that he sits there and drools on himself all day long. And there are dozens – no, not dozens – hundreds, hundreds of amputees. They need to be rehabilitated.

    THE GENERAL
The amputees. They are the hardest to look at.

    THE DOCTOR
You must look at them. You can’t just turn your back on them.

    THE GENERAL
Now, calm down. This is a problem that needs to be addressed. I agree with that. But, between you and me, what value do they really have to society now? From my point of view, they are useless. It’s not like we can deploy them anymore. This is probably the best place for them.

    THE DOCTOR
So you are going to just let them suffer here? Is that your idea of treatment?

    THE GENERAL
I am sure I sound very cold and unfeeling to you. But from my vantage point we are addressing a much larger issue.

    THE DOCTOR
And what was their vantage point when they went to the front lines for your future? When they put their lives on the line?

    THE GENERAL
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I don’t value one life over another, I am simply stating the fact of the matter that they are a burden now, and they very well could put a very large drain on society. You see, they may be your problem now doctor, but this will reach far beyond the walls of one military hospital.

    THE DOCTOR
So you would leave them here to die due to infection and unsanitary conditions so they don’t drain society? The very society you sent them to fight for?

    THE GENERAL
It’s very complicated.

    THE DOCTOR
It’s not complicated at all. We have a responsibility to do whatever we can do to help them, to save them, to preserve their quality of life – however long that is. They are human beings! I took an oath and so did you in some respect – to preserve lives and to protect those who depend on us.

    THE GENERAL
Let me ask you something.

    THE DOCTOR
Go ahead.

    THE GENERAL
You ever been in combat? I mean real up close combat?

    THE DOCTOR
I am combat casualty trained and I’m well experienced in the treatment of these types of wounds and illnesses and I am offended that you have the audacity to come here and question my qualifications.

    THE GENERAL
Right. Another one. Never been to war. Never seen up close what can happen when the very foundation of your society is on the brink of destruction from some inferior God-hating race.

    THE DOCTOR
General, I find it highly inappropriate that you are questioning my professionalism and my qualifications…

    THE GENERAL
Why’d you ever go into the military in the first place? I’m just wondering. You apparently have no respect for the chain of command and you seem to be so displeased with your overall situation. I am just wondering what prompted you to become a part of something you so vehemently opposed?

    THE DOCTOR
I wanted to serve. I stayed because I thought I could make it better, change things from within. What I didn’t realize was it was this bad, that this disease of disregard had permeated the highest ranks of that chain of command you keep referring to.

    THE GENERAL
If I were you, I would have a little more respect for that chain.

    THE DOCTOR
Or what, I’ll find it around my neck, like the patients here?

    THE GENERAL (laughs)
You have a lot of guts, to take this on. Who’ll believe you? You’re going to go up against the Pentagon, the White House?

    THE DOCTOR
I’m begging you, General. People are dying.

    THE GENERAL
People die every day.

    THE DOCTOR
A hospital is not a battlefield. They should at least have a chance here. But if you turn your back, more will die. They have died here and you know they have. You can’t cover it up forever. 

THE GENERAL
Those service men and women died serving their country. They died paying the ultimate price for freedom against a terrorist regime.

    THE DOCTOR
Who does your PR? That’s what you want the American public to believe. But that’s not the truth – not about the ones who came home. They died here in horrible conditions. You may as well have killed them yourself. That’s what you’re doing. When all is said and done, maybe not right away, but the truth will be known.

    THE GENERAL
I am not to blame.

(THE PATIENT enters. THE GENERAL caught off-guard goes to shake her hand, and is quickly embarrassed that he cannot because she is missing both arms.)

THE PATIENT (laughs)
Ah, it’s okay, General. I’m still getting used to it all myself. They say pretty soon, that I’ll get the snap-ons. Better than nothing, ya know.

    THE GENERAL
Well I’d like to thank you for your service to our country and let you know the Defense Secretary and all the Commander-in-Chiefs are grateful for all you have done.

    THE PATIENT
Thank you, sir. Thank you. That really means a lot to me. Sir, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just saw you and I just wanted to say thanks. I know things are tough, but I wanted you to know that those of us who went, we believe in what we’re doing. We’re, not all that happy with what we came back with, but God never gives you too much to handle they say. Some of the folks here, well, they have it a lot worse than me.
  (beat)
So again, sir, just wanted to say hello and thank you. The Doc here, she takes good care of us, best she can. Not sure what we’d do without all of you.

    BLACK OUT
THE END