HUNTERSVILLE – It’s not every day that an ob-gyn signs up for the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps to practice trauma surgery in Iraq and Afghanistan amid the sound of explosions.
And he certainly wouldn’t be expected to finish up a novel while overseas.
But that’s exactly what Grant Campbell, who practices medicine with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Eastover University in Charlotte, did over the last five years.
Campbell, who lives in Huntersville, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill’s medical school in 1997.
“I planned to join the Marine Corps right out of high school. My grandfather, who was a career Marine, said I couldn’t until I went to college,” he said. “Shortly after Sept. 11, I heard about how short they were for surgeons, and I thought about signing up.”
His wife, Nadia, convinced him the Army could wait until their youngest son, Nathan, was in kindergarten.
In 2008, he was commissioned and sent to Ft. Sam Houston in Texas to go through Officers Basic Leadership Corps.
“It’s kind of a compressed version of basic training where you learn the nuts and bolts of marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat and soldering,” he said.
Campbell spent four months of 2010 and 2012 tending to the wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectfully.
“We’re right in the middle of it," he said of being in Afghanistan. "I mean, our operating base was called Sharana, which was up in the mountains, about 8,500 feet of elevation near the Pakistan border, and it was not uncommon for the operating bases to come under attack.”
In medical facilities the size of double-wide trailers, Campbell stopped hemorrhaging and saved limbs, ensuring patients were stable enough to make a helicopter ride to the closest hospital.
His novel, “Playing the Devil,” tells the story of Dr. Michael Reece, a surgeon who falls victim to a Taliban ambush and returns home to discover the murder of his childhood mentor, a current U.S. senator.
The book is available on Amazon.com.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with survivor’s guilt. I had people that I cared about and knew very well that didn’t come home alive from deployment,” he said. “There’s no perfect recipe for how to deal with that, and maybe writing was a little bit of a therapeutic catharsis.”