COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - We often interact with men and women we may not be aware have been instrumental in serving our country. As we continue our Year of the Veteran coverage, I want to introduce you to two doctors who started their medical careers serving in the military. One veteran physician shows how taking an oath to treat the injured means treating everyone - even the enemy.
Dr. Marc Antonetii is on the front lines in numerous aspects of general surgery at Lexington Medical Center. Years before, he worked on a different kind of front lines.
"There were guys with guns outside our windows shooting back and forth, so it was close,” he said.
In 1993, Dr. Antonetti joined the United States Air Force while he was in medical school. He was in the reserves and then active duty serving as a general surgeon until 2005. During his time in the Air Force in 2003, Dr. Antonetti was stationed with the 506th Air Expeditionary Group at Freedom Air Base in Kirkuk, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“It is a different perspective in life when people are shooting at you. It changes the image of what you had thought your life was going to be.”
Dr. Antonetti treated common lacerations, broken bones and major injuries like gunshot wounds to critical injuries done by explosives. “There was one lieutenant colonel in the army actually that I treated when I was in Iraq and he was on the front lines, guiding his guys in a fire fight and he took a round of an AK-47 into his leg and it shattered his shin, exploded his leg,” he said.
Dr. Antonetti was able to stop the bleeding, get the man’s bones in place, and return blood flow to the foot - surgeries he considers a privilege to have been able to perform. “I played a very small part in his overall recovery, but at least I was there when he needed me to preserve his leg and get this, you know, amazing person back out to be leading our troops again.”
While serving in Iraq, Dr. Antonetti was challenged at times to hold true to the Hippocratic Oath he had taken when becoming a physician - to do no harm and to help the injured - even those who are the enemy combatants. “You have to look at it as it’s a human being. You’re there to take care of them. I didn’t really like a lot of these people, but they were human beings in need of help and that was my primary goal was to help them.”
Another part of the Hippocratic Oath Dr. Antonetti lived out in his practice in the military - is to remember warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife. “Those are the things that I’m proud of about helping veterans or active duty members at the time when they were in need, and that’s, I had the training and that’s what I was there for, and hopefully I impacted some of these guys a little bit.”