Dr. Carter Rogers is leaving for Ft. Benning today on a mission to heal injured soldiers.
Rogers, the chief of surgery and director of the Wound Center at Newton Medical Center, will be stopping by the fort before heading to Iraq for a 90 day “boots on the ground” deployment. He has been in the Army Reserves for 20 years based out of the Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood in Texas.
“I watched too many episodes of MASH and wanted to be like Hawkeye Pierce,” he joked. “Really, all I ever wanted to be was a doctor and after working at Rockdale Medical Center in high school I only wanted to be a surgeon. I wanted to be able to help people and actually fix a problem they may have,” said Rogers.
He signed up for the Reserves during his general surgery residency at the Medical College of Georgia after the chair of the department, Dr. Arlie Mansberger, a retired Army colonel, encouraged residents to join. Out of 32 categorical surgery residents, 23 signed up at the time. Shortly afterwards, Operation Desert Storm was launched. Rogers said it was “the only good time to be an intern” because they can’t serve in a foreign theatre.
Before the last Iraqi invasion, Rogers was called up on his first 90 day tour and spent the time at Ft. Hood.
Fast forward to days before he departs for Iraq, and Rogers admits he’s more anxious this time. “At least when I went to Ft. Hood and Germany, they knew no one would be shooting at Daddy. I’ve tried to reassure them that I’m not going out on patrols, and I should be fairly safe over there. But, it is a little more worrisome,” he said.
His wife reports their 11-year-old twin boys have had a few bad dreams from watching too much of the Military Channel.
While happy for him to serve their country in a time of need, she said, “I will be relieved when he can retire. I’m concerned for his safety, but do believe that prayers will get us through this.”
One challenge and ultimate reward Rogers experienced during his yearly two-week stints at Ft. Hood and during a 2006 deployment in Germany was convincing soldiers to amputate frozen joints.
He said soldiers often come back with mangled legs, feet or ankles that are secured with large external fixators in an attempt to heal the bones. But because they’ve been in the desert, he sees different bacteria growing or the bones sometimes do not heal properly. He has to inform them that once the fixator is off it will be hard to walk, and the soldiers are unlikely to ever run again. But if the limb is amputated and a prosthesis is in place, the solider is healthier and able to run again. Some stay in the Army, and he’s heard of soldiers with prosthesis’ even jumping out of planes.
Despite all the tragedies of this war, Rogers said one silver lining might be the rapid advances in prosthetic devices.
Besides tending to the wounded and his patients at NMC, Rogers is often on hand to consult or reassure many in the community. Anne Principe, a fellow member at Conyers First United Methodist, said, “Carter was there before, during and after my mastectomy last year, and he wasn't even my surgeon! He made himself available to me from the day I got my breast cancer diagnosis forward. He added an extra level of care that made the entire ordeal so much easier for me.”
Rogers appreciates being able to serve the community where he was raised. He knows a lot of his patients through one connection or another and believes it’s a comfort to them. It also goes both ways. He says many patients have come by to wish him well. “It’s touching they’re genuinely concerned about my well-being and safety over there. Knowing that they will be praying for me and my family has been a big comfort.”