MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A doctor from West Virginia was part of a team that helped an Afghan woman give birth during the evacuation of Kabul.
LTC Robert Snuffer is a staff physician with the 811th Hospital Center, 139th Medical Brigade, his deployment in the Middle East will continue until October of this year. In civilian life, Snuffer specializes in emergency medicine at Mon Health Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital in Weston.
During the recent evacuation of Kabul, Snuffer worked to help refugees with medical issues as they arrived in Kuwait. To facilitate that, Snuffer worked with officials to determine what problems could be inbound, and among those issues are pregnant women.
Snuffer and a team of military care givers responded to a report of a woman in labor. According to Snuffer, the facilities in Kuwait are designed for battlefield-related injuries, not delivering babies.
Snuffer said the procedure was complicated by the language barrier and customs that prohibit women from exposing themselves in front of men other than their husband for any reason. But, a baby boy was successfully delivered by the team to elated parents fleeing a war-torn country.
“She was not my friend until the end and once the baby arrived everybody was friends again,” Snuffer said,” It was a unique experience.”
The father of the child didn’t speak English and was also very concerned about “strangers” taking care of his wife and delivering his first child.
“By the end of the delivery he was my best friend, we couldn’t speak a word between us,” Snuffer said,” We got the baby out and the baby was good, the baby was with mom and the nurses and dad and I went out and smoked a cigar.”
Bases like the one in Kuwait are temporary homes for the refugees. U.S Army engineers have built a series of large tents on concrete pads supported by steel I-beams for the refugees to live in.
They weren’t here very long after that, once we delivered the baby I think they were transferred out within a day or so,” Snuffer said,” It was different in a lot of ways and it was the same in a lot of ways too.”
The medical team Snuffer serves on takes care of the medical needs of the Afghan people. That care includes anything from basic medical treatment all the way up to delivering babies.
“Some of these people are coming here with just what they can put in a backpack,” Snuffer said,” Some of the kids don’t have shoes. It was 70-degrees in Afghanistan when they left and the first week they got here the temperature was in the 120’s and you can’t walk here barefoot.”
Snuffer has served in the U.S. Army Reserve since 2001 and has been on four deployments including one in Iraq. The hardest part of the job are months away from home and his family, but Snuffer is due to return from this deployment in October.
“I want to go home and sit on my back porch with my boys and look at the green,” Snuffer said,” Everything here is brown- there’s no grass, there are no trees here. We are right in the middle of the desert.”