Vincent Worrell lay shivering on a trauma bay. He felt something in his mouth. He sat up and spat fragments of his front teeth into a bedpan. They were mixed with blood and tissue torn from inside his mouth.
And so begins “The Lifeline,” a gripping, three-part, online, interactive examination of the horrors of war, complete with stories, information graphics, narrated photo galleries, an active message board and many other features.
Reporter David Zucchino and photographer Rick Loomis spent several weeks in October and November embedded with Army and Air Force medical units in Baghdad and Balad, Iraq, and with two Army air ambulance medical companies at the Balad military air base north of Baghdad.
The two journalists were provided complete access to the work of doctors, surgeons, nurses and Black Hawk medevac helicopter crews as they evacuated and treated wounded U.S. troops, Iraqi military and police, and Iraqi civilians.
Editor James E. O’Shea said the series illuminates a grim paradox: “Iraqi insurgents’ ever-more sophisticated explosive devices have maimed a rising number of U.S. troops, but because of advances in field medicine, more of the injured are surviving wounds that would have led to death in earlier wars. And more are choosing to return to fight again.”
Produced by Diana Swartz, designed by Stephanie Ferrell, with multimedia by John Vande Wege and interactive design by Bill Bergren, “The Lifeline” explores an under-reported aspect of war coverage — that of the plight of the wounded who now number well over 20,000. Zucchino and Loomis even followed the wounded home, to tell the stories of their recovery.
The judge commented that the report “compelled you to read, watch and listen. As I went through the report, I was struck by how badly I wanted these young men to come home, and how badly they wanted to return to the front to fight alongside their buddies.”
The series is still available at www.latimes.com/lifeline.