A tropical beach vacation would have been more relaxing.

But Dr. Marcus D’Ayala, a vascular surgeon at New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, instead chose to spend two weeks last month at the U.S. Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. There, he treated soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

Many of the soldiers were missing limbs, had been paralyzed or were suffering from other “horrific injuries that will change their lives,” according to D’Ayala.

Yet not once did he ever hear them complain.

“On a personal level, it’s great to interact with these people,” D’Ayala said. “Helping them was a pleasure and an honor.”

Vascular surgeons, who specialize in arteries and veins, have been volunteering for two-week rotations at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center since 2007 as part of a program run by the Society for Vascular Surgery.

So far, about 80 doctors have gone over, some of them more than once. D’Ayala, for example, said he first volunteered two or three years ago.

Other medical specialties run their own visiting surgeon programs in coordination with the government.

The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is the largest American hospital outside of the United States. Since 2001, the medical staff there has treated more than 64,000 patients who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, with a survival rate of 99.5 percent.

The soldiers “are very different from the patients we usually see,”
D’Ayala said. “We don’t see that sort of trauma in the United States.”

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