I Finally Met the Woman Who Held My Dying Son

When Jennifer Robinson's son was killed in Afghanistan, she thought she'd never know the details of his last moments -- until a phone call from Air Force nurse Christine Collins changed everything.
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A Day that Changed Everything

On January 17, 2009, a roadside bomb hit an Army vehicle near the U.S. military base in Kabul, Afghanistan. This tragic event changed -- and ultimately united -- the lives of two women: Captain Christine Collins, an Air Force nurse on duty at a hospital near Kabul, and Jennifer Robinson, whose son was an Army staff sergeant stationed nearby. This is the amazing story of how their paths intersected, and how two mothers helped each other heal.

Christine Collins: When we learned that six of the soldiers wounded in the blast were on the way to our ICU, the staff put together a plan in a matter of seconds. I was assigned to be the medication nurse for the second patient who arrived, a 33-year-old male. In an emergency you learn little about your patient beyond the most basic facts. I didn't even know the soldier's name. I did know, however, that he was a father. When I saw him, my eyes went immediately to the faces of two children tattooed on his left arm. I thought of my three daughters back home in the States, whom I missed desperately. We have to save this man, I thought. His children need him. He was in bad shape, though. He'd lost a lot of blood, and his heart was barely beating. We gave him round after round of epinephrine and took turns doing chest compressions to try to get his heart pumping again. When that didn't work, the surgeon opened the soldier's chest and pumped his heart with his hands while we began transfusions of red blood cells and plasma. We worked for at least an hour. No one wanted to give up, but we couldn't save him. I took a moment to hold the soldier's hand, stroke his face, and tell him that everything would be okay. It was my duty as a mother to love him and comfort him in the last seconds of his life. By the time the doctor called the code, all of us were in tears. It wasn't just that we lost someone on our side. We'd lost a father, a son, an American hero. I composed myself and gently washed his body so his fellow soldiers could come into the ICU to say good-bye. They would be the ones to tell me the man's name: Carlo Robinson.

Jennifer Robinson: Two men in uniform came to my doorstep in Hope, Arkansas, to inform me that Carlo had been killed. I couldn't believe it. We'd just spoken on the phone the day before! He was scheduled to go on leave in just a few weeks, and he was going to spend that time with me and his children, Carneshia and Dakaria. They were living with me while Carlo was serving overseas. All I'd been thinking was, I just want him to come home so I can see him. That's what I kept screaming when the soldiers gave me the news. I never thought Carlo would grow up to be a soldier. Some parents see it in their kids right away -- all the children talk about are their G.I. Joe toys. But Carlo wasn't like that. So when he told me 14 years ago that he was joining the Army, I hadn't seen it coming. His decision to enlist didn't worry me -- 9/11 hadn't happened yet. We weren't at war. But in 2008, when Carlo was sent to Afghanistan, I got nervous. It was his first deployment, and he could have avoided it. He'd left the Army several months earlier, but he had trouble finding a job he liked so he decided to reenlist. I think the military was part of him at that point. As scared as I was, I also felt proud of him for not settling for a job he wasn't meant to do and choosing to fight for freedom instead. The soldiers had few details about how Carlo died, just that a bomb had detonated near his vehicle. I was left with so many questions. Did he make it to a hospital? If so, did the doctors do everything they could to save him? I prayed that the answers would come.

Continued on page 2:  Healing Together

 

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