Letters: Airman Loncki, Surgeon Chen

Scott Simon reads letters from listeners who responded to our stories last week about Air Force Airman Elizabeth Loncki, who died recently in Iraq, as well as our interview with surgeon Pauline Chen.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for your letters. Many of your responded to our interview last week with surgeon Pauline Chen. Claudia Keith of Bakersfield, California writes, Six years ago I lost both of my parents within a week of one another. Your story made me realize how angry I still feel about my parents' physician. He did not even handle his own patients in the hospital when it was clear that they were dying. I felt that he betrayed my parents, his patients of 15 to 20 years, and left us bereft in extreme circumstances. I hope that Dr. Chen's book will influence physicians on the nurture and care of patients and their families.

And Marilyn Gilday(ph) of Mountain View, California had this to add. It's unfortunate that more doctors don't accept the fact that everyone dies and pay more attention to helping their patients and their families through the process. Instead of seeing death as a failure to be avoided, in both senses of the word, and at all costs - again, in both senses of the word.

But Mark Stambowski(ph) of Springfield, Massachusetts reminded us that our conversation didn't acknowledge the crucial role that nurses play. He writes, Typically it's the nurses who are responsible for the quality of a patient's final hours. They are the ones who spend the lion's share of time with patients and families.

Sally Vance Trembath(ph) of Atherton, California wrote to thank us for our interview with George Matthew, who conducted Verde's Requiem in honor of every person who's died in Darfur. Ms. Vance Trembath said, I wish to express my gratitude for Mr. Matthew because he reminded us all of the deepest purpose of the arts. A community must gather for the sake of each human person.

Cynthia Bishop of Syracuse, New York wrote, Your story allowed me to be present and to weep.

Our remembrance of Senior Airman Elizabeth Loncki who died in Iraq performing her job of explosive ordinance disposal prompted this letter from Marissa Tedrick(ph) of the Internet. My brother Eric is an Air Force veteran now working as a civilian in Baghdad. Here's an excerpt from his last e-mail to me. As I walk through he freshly-turned dirt, I stepped on something and heard a strange clinking noise. I stood still and would not move. Really, I could not move because it was a landmine that I had triggered. After about 30 minutes, someone from explosive ordinance disposal showed up and donned his suit and started to dig around my foot. He said that it was a landmine but the bottom where the explosive were had rotted off and only the trigger was all that was left. My brother was very fortunate, but this event demonstrates the bravery of the explosive ordinance disposal team members. They risk their lives to keep others safe. Airman Loncki's death brings home the sacrifice of our service men and women. Know that she is honored.

You may send us your letters by coming to our Web site at NPR.org, then clicking on Contact Us.

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