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Since 1st March, 1999
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Scalpel replaces sat phone
Sanjay Gupta

Washington, April 4: Sanjay Gupta, medical correspondent of CNN, stole a march over other Indian American reporters “embedded” with the US and British forces in Iraq when he abandoned his satellite phone and script to perform emergency brain surgery on the battlefield instead.

Departing from the by now routine footage and script of firefights or air raids in Iraq, CNN last night showed its medical correspondent on the screen leaning over a hastily assembled operating table.

Another shot showed Gupta, a practising neuro-surgeon at Emory University in Atlanta, washing his hands before the surgery on a two-year-old boy.

An Iraqi Republican guard held by US Army combat engineers during the push towards Baghdad. (Reuters)

The Iraqi boy was the unfortunate victim of US Marine gunfire when a taxi in which he was travelling drove through a checkpoint south of Baghdad.

Marines signalled the vehicle to halt and fired when it did not.

The driver and another man in the front passenger seat were killed.

The boy’s mother, who was in the backseat with the child, survived the shooting and is in critical condition.

The boy survived too, but had multiple wounds requiring emergency surgery. Gupta rose to the occasion.

Perhaps more difficult for him than the operation was to find a way to report on himself. Ultimately, CNN decided that the way out was for Gupta to interview Rob Hinks, the commander of the unit to which he is attached in Iraq.

Hinks, also a medical doctor, said on CNN that “we were very lucky to have Dr Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon extraordinaire, present to help us operate, as he graciously did, as a humanitarian gesture. Unfortunately, the child died, but without his help, there would have been no chance”.

Gupta said he appreciated that.

“Medically and morally, I thought it was the right thing to do,” he reported. “I did not hesitate at all... I thought we could give this kid a fighting chance to live and we came very close to doing exactly that.”

“Sanjay was sent to that particular unit as a medical correspondent, but we clearly support his efforts under these extraordinary circumstances to save the life of a dying boy,” CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said in a statement in Los Angeles. “We are all proud of him.”

Gupta, in his early 30s, is from Chelsea, Michigan and was chief resident at the University of Michigan Hospital for a year. He also taught there before joining CNN as medical correspondent.

A registered Democrat and former White House intern, he is known in social circles as a friend and adviser on medical issues to Senator Hillary Clinton, who failed in her attempt as First Lady to reform America’s health care system.

Outside his reporting and medical practice, Gupta is helping to create a web site to link developing countries to medical equipment which they need.

In Iraq, CNN assigned Gupta to report on the mobile staff of naval surgeons known as the “Devil Docs”.

Yesterday, after operating upon the Iraqi boy, the commander of the unit he is “embedded” with made Gupta an honorary member of the “Devil Docs”.

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