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Doctors Say All Injured from USS Cole Are in Stable Condition

Aired October 14, 2000 - 10:07 a.m. ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Miles O'Brien at the CNN center in Atlanta, a live briefing under way as we speak at the Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany. This is Colonel Elder Granger with the U.S. Army with an update on those injured in the attack on the USS Cole.


COL. ELDER GRANGER, U.S. ARMY: ... service. We have a clinical update on what had transpired on our most recent patients. We'll ask Colonel Franco, our chief of staff, to talk about some of the operational things we've done to prepare what we've been doing in the last 24 to 36 hours.

But any questions for me as the commander?

QUESTION: Everybody finished with their operations and everything? Are you finished?

GRANGER: At this point I'll let Colonel Rundell...

COLONEL JAMES RUNDELL, U.S. AIR FORCE: We actually have a total of six operations that the doctors in the medical center wanted to perform today. Three of those are under way, and three of those will be going on into the night. But we think those are the end of the operations that we know about.

QUESTION: What is the condition of those people right now?

RUNDELL: Right now, the condition of all of the people who are in surgery is stable. Most of them are orthopedic surgeries, broken bones, and they're fairly routine surgeries, and their conditions are stable. I was just in the operating room and just in the ICU, and things are pretty calm.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about the other injuries that some of the sailors have sustained?

RUNDELL: By far the vast majority are orthopedic -- broken bones, dislocated shoulder in a couple of cases, a lot of -- some bruises and scrapes and cuts. One patient has some burns on her face, and we have a burn specialist -- we're lucky to have here from the United States, who's here on reserve duty, who just happens to be here -- who's helping to take care of her. QUESTION: And most of them you expect to go home tomorrow. Is that correct?

RUNDELL: As it turns out, we have 32 to 34 of the patients who we've finished our exams on and finished our initial work, and we've decided that they're ready to go back to their homes and their families. And we're going -- we have -- the Air Force has lined a plane up, and they're going to be flying to the Norfolk-Portsmouth area in Virginia, most likely tomorrow, at the latest on Monday.

QUESTION: But the rest of them will stay here. And how long? Do you know?

RUNDELL: The rest of them will stay here for variable periods of time. Some need more care and attention and time in the hospital than others do. Some may be here two or three more days, others may be here a couple of weeks. It just depends on their condition.

QUESTION: What is their actual condition right now? How would you identify that?

RUNDELL: The ones who are staying?


RUNDELL: The ones who are staying? It is variable. There's some that are going to require one operation, and two or three days later, they'll be up and about and ready to go. There will be some others who may require a couple of operations and some rehabilitation, and may be here one or two weeks before they go back to the states.

QUESTION: But they're listed in what...


RUNDELL: Stable condition.

GRANGER: Stable condition.

RUNDELL: Stable condition.

GRANGER: Stable condition.

RUNDELL: They're all in stable condition at this time.

QUESTION: Are there going to be -- is there going to be a debriefing now in terms of forensics, the ongoing investigation of whats and whys of this incident? Will that be taking place here or (OFF-MIKE)

GRANGER: Any type investigation, we'll leave it up to the Navy to determine when and where they want to maintain -- perform that investigation.

QUESTION: But you're making room for that kind (OFF-MIKE)

GRANGER: Absolutely.

QUESTION: What kind of stories are you hearing from the sailors?

GRANGER: At this point we have not got in any details about asking any sailors about the (inaudible). Basically more or less concentrating on the injuries and are they having in pain, from that standpoint, making sure they're getting rest, getting in contact with the families.

We're leaving up to the naval investigators.

QUESTION: Considering the violence of the blast, does it surprise you that really a relatively few major injuries here that we're talking about.

GRANGER: I see it as a blessing, I really do.

QUESTION: How is their state of mind, their morale right now? Has it improved remarkably since they arrived here?

GRANGER: Absolutely. They've had an opportunity to get some rest, to get some food, talk to their families, get a chance to say hello to some of their fellow sailors in the hospital. So I would say it's up.

QUESTION: Are they receiving any sort of counseling?

RUNDELL: Oh, yes, we -- every member has been interviewed by a primary care physician as to those aspects of emotional functioning that can happen after a traumatic event like this. Most of them have actually seen someone from mental health. All have seen someone from the chaplain's office. They've worked together to debrief several members who felt like they needed to talk with professionals.

RUNDELL: Normally in a case like this we would do a large debriefing of the entire group. However, because of the need to get them home as soon as possible, we've actually changed our plans about that, and the team at Portsmouth, the mental health team and chaplain team at Portsmouth, is going to be doing that debriefing once they get back home.

Along the same lines we actually have -- we're using a technology today, video teleconferencing, that we use a lot overseas in the military, and we're going to be talking with the doctors and leaders at the Portsmouth naval hospital to go each and every patient that will be going their direction tomorrow or Monday, so they'll be fully informed about their particular problems and the care they've received so far.

QUESTION: Why this thing to get them home as soon as possible?

RUNDELL: Because there is where their families are.

GRANGER: That's where their families are.

QUESTION: Can I just clarify that you said that every single injured sailor had spoken with the chaplain and with a health care -- I mean, a mental health professional.

RUNDELL: The chaplains went to all the patients' rooms. And mental health was more on a case-referral basis. But most of the people have actually talked to mental health as well. Many have requested to.

QUESTION: The majority have?

RUNDELL: The majority.


QUESTION; Will any families be coming out?

RUNDELL: Yes, the families will be coming out for those people who are staying here. Obviously for people who may be leaving tomorrow, or at the latest on Monday, they would meet in the air (ph), but the people who are going to be staying, their families are being invited and the Navy is sending a liaison to actually coordinate the family arrangements for their travel here.

QUESTION: Colonel, you mentioned this morning that some of the sailors seemed dazed. Are you now satisfied that in fact these sailors are cognizant of what actually happened to them?

RUNDELL: Oh, yes, they're -- the ones I've talked to are fully verbal. And this morning they did seemed dazed by the all night in the plane and the glare of the lights and the new place, but, boy, they're glad to be around Americans again. And I've heard -- several have said that to me, that they feel like they're one step closer to home by being here.

QUESTION: But they're fully aware of what actually happened?

RUNDELL: Oh, yes; oh, yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any information when dead bodies will arrive -- more dead bodies will arrive?

GRANGER: Not at this point, we do not.

QUESTION: Colonel Rundell, can you tell us what sort of treatment any of these sailors had in Yemen or Djibouti? For some, was it the first treatment they'd had?

RUNDELL: For their injuries?


RUNDELL: We know only a little bit about that. What we know comes from the Navy and Air Force doctors who had flown to Djibouti and Yemen to take initial charge of our transfer of them to our care.

Mainly what had happened is that the local doctors there and the French doctors had set fractures and had done a lot of suturing where there had been cuts. And our doctors here are taking a look at that, and some of that work was excellent, some of the work we're actually revising. But they had a large amount of medical care in country (ph).

QUESTION: Colonel, are these guys telling you they want to get back to their ship?

GRANGER: Basically what they're saying, they want to get back to their families, they want to get back with their fellow sailors.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the five deceased left today for Dover?

GRANGER: At this point...

FRANCO: We received the report that the flight was leaving, and that's all...


GRANGER: That's all we know. Has it arrived at this point, we have no confirmation.

QUESTION: Was there any autopsy performed on them here?

GRANGER: We have no knowledge of that fact, we really don't.

QUESTION: Will there be more of the deceased arriving? We understand there are seven confirmed, 10 presumed dead. Are we to expect, in the days ahead, more coffins arriving?

GRANGER: We should expect some in the days ahead, but when we do not know.

QUESTION: Have any of the sailors told you any more personal stories? I mean, maybe not the debriefing about exactly what they saw happened but how they felt at the time, how, you know, how long it took before they gained consciousness? Have they given you any details, as you've been going around and talking to them, bed to bed?

RUNDELL: The conversations so far have been clinical ones. They haven't been here very long, and so a lot of that information's come up just because that's the kind of questions you ask someone if they've been hit on the head, for instance. You ask them, "Did you lose consciousness?"

But it's not been in a story-telling mode. It's been in more of a clinical data-gathering mode.

Frankly, there just hasn't been a lot of time between their needing to sleep and eat and us doing our exams to have a lot of conversations.

They wanted to have their conversations more with their families than with us.

QUESTION: How long had they been at sea when this happened? Does anyone know?

GRANGER: We have no knowledge of it.

QUESTION: What kind of injuries -- were these guys in the rack and got thrown out? They were on a ladder? Or working and something fell on them?

FRANCO: We do not know.

GRANGER: We really don't know.

FRANCO: I'd like to say, though, that the nursing staff has reported that many of them wanted to see newspapers and stuff about the incident, so we have provided some of them that have asked, you know, the local Stars and Stripes and some other press releases. Some stuff right off the web.

QUESTION: We could tell them firsthand.


FRANCO: Thank you very much, madam, we'll consider that.

QUESTION: Have you gotten any individual reports from, you know, either the best friends or the girlfriends or boyfriends of some of the ones who were deceased? Because presumably some of their closest friends were right there on the boat with them.

FRANCO: We have not asked them that.

GRANGER: We have not asked them.


QUESTION: ... talking to you?

GRANGER: Not at all.


QUESTION: Or asked for special counseling?

RUNDELL: The mental health and chaplains certainly have discussed some of that with the patients, but we haven't gone and interviewed them about what their conversations with the patients have been. That's been confidential.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate family members arriving, for those few who are remaining?

GRANGER: Normally family members are going to arrive -- the Navy will coordinate this, and normally you're talking about anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, in terms of getting what call invitational travel orders, making arrangements, and that nature, in terms of a place to stay and going through the Navy liaison.

QUESTION: Sometime tomorrow possibly?

GRANGER: That's a possibility, that's a possibility.

QUESTION: For those who will be leaving, will they be further hospitalized when they return to the States, or will they be released here? Will they be completely released from hospital care?

GRANGER: As part of going through the aeromedical evacuation system, they go as in-patient, and that's something we'll be discussing with our colleagues at Portsmouth during the video teleconference at 1700.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea whether they've had any contact with the sailors on the ship (OFF-MIKE)

GRANGER: We have no knowledge of that.

QUESTION: Two of the patients were on ventilators, you said this morning, and a couple were going in (inaudible) on their stretchers. Are they still on ventilators? What is their prognosis?

RUNDELL: Those two are still on ventilators and no additional persons on ventilators now, and they continue to be stable. That's all I know right now, because they're still working on them.

QUESTION: How many were treated in Yemen and what are the final numbers of them who were treated in Djibouti? It's 11 treated in Djibouti, and how many were treated in Yemen?

GRANGER: We think approximately 11 were treated in Djibouti.

QUESTION: And Yemen?

GRANGER: And we're making the assumption that the remainder were treated in Yemen.

Are there any other questions?

Let me just say a few closing remarks.

We really want to thank you for taking out the time for us to get a chance to express our condolence to the families and the loved ones of the sailors unfortunately involved in this incident, and let's have a special prayer for those who died during this incident.

They're truly glad to be among Americans. And we're truly very fortunate to have a great Army, Air Force and Navy team to take care of America's finest.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Have a good day.

O'BRIEN: All right, we've been listening to a briefing outside the Landstuhl Medical Center, a U.S. military facility near the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, some of the medical personnel and chief of staff there. The people in charge giving a brief update. They said essentially of the 39 sailors that were brought there, six operation remain ready to be performed, three actually are under way as we speak.

The conditions are all considered stable. Most of the operations are of an orthopedic nature, nothing life threatening, according to the medical personnel there. The medical personnel indicating that that fact was, quite frankly, a blessing.

Those that can travel will head home as soon as possible. And all of those there are receiving some counseling.

That's the latest from Ramstein and of great interest, clearly, to those families who have loved ones there.

Another story we are tracking here as we speak, a Saudi Arabian jetliner that was bound for London has apparently been hijacked, according to the Associated Press. Egyptian officials say Flight 115 of Saudi Arabian Airlines, taken off from Jedda, Saudi Arabia, was headed to London, and apparently was hijacked, the hijackers apparently wanting to go to Syria.

Officials say they lost contact with the aircraft a couple of hours ago. We are tracking that story as best as we can, and we have confirmed that. CNN has confirmed that story, in addition to the Associated Press story. And as details become available on that hijacking, we will, of course, bring them to you.

I'm Miles O'Brien at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Let's return now to SHOWBIZ THIS WEEKEND in progress.



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