- In an essay published last November in Canada's Maisonneuve journal, physician Kevin Patterson described his experiences working as an internist-intensivist at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
One detail he noticed: The Afghan soldiers, police and civilians he treated in Kandahar had radically different bodies from those of the Canadians he took care of back home.
"Typical Afghan civilians and soldiers would have been 140 pounds or so as adults. And when we operated on them, what we were aware of was the absence of any fat or any adipose tissue underneath the skin," Patterson says. "Of course, when we operated on Canadians or Americans or Europeans, what was normal was to have most of the organs encased in fat. It had a visceral potency to it when you could see it directly there."
- For someone used to the life and the pathologies of the rich and settled, much about practicing medicine in Afghanistan felt unfamiliar. One of the striking differences was the way gunshot victims’ abdomens looked in CT scans. Back home, I was used to seeing organs stand out with some prominence from the abdominal fat. In fact, in Canadians, the state of the kidneys can be partly assessed by the degree of inflammation in the perinephric fat that envelops them. It’s the same with the pancreas, and the liver often looks like it belonged to a French goose fattened for foie gras. Indeed, the idea of “normal” in a Canadian body proceeds from the assumption that it might be normal to spend one’s days tied to a grain spout, beak pried open, being filled with cracked corn.