Sunday, May 28, 2000

A lesson to keep: 'Improvise, overcome and adapt'

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HARRISON — At mobile Army hospitals in Vietnam, wounded troops who could not be saved were called expectants.

(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Barbara Rounds-Kugler and the nurses under her command at Chu Lai decided that no one would die alone. So they washed expectants' faces and combed their hair, putting them in screened-off beds on clean, white sheets.

        Then nurses kept vigil when they weren't on their normal 12-hour shifts. Mrs. Rounds-Kugler read her letters from home to the men, who often died of massive brain trauma.

        “I always believed hearing was the last sense to go, even when they'd been blown all to bits,” said Mrs. Rounds-Kugler, who retired from the Army reserve earlier this year as a colonel.

        In one year in Vietnam as an Army first lieutenant, she unlearned what she had been taught in civilian nursing school: “They weren't Joe from Idaho. They were the patient with the severed right arm. That was the only way for us to survive.”

        The then-Barbara Hafner also learned that there was nothing she couldn't do when she came home in 1969.

        “Improvise, overcome and adapt,” said Mrs. Rounds-Kugler, 60, of Harrison, who today is a psychobiology research nurse at the VA Medical Center in Corryville.

        Her position as coordinator of a study on post-traumatic stress disorder is the latest in a string of important nursing roles that include addiction treatment and ambulatory care for veterans.

        From 1975 through 1995, she worked with Hamilton County prisoners, an experience that peaked in 1985 with the development of a health-care program for 2,000 inmates in the Justice Center administered by a 50-member staff.

        She took her VA position in 1997. She and her husband, David Kugler, live in Harrison, where she is in a second city council term. She has one adult son.

        Mrs. Rounds-Kugler remains a tireless public speaker and veterans' advocate, particularly for those she served with.

        “We have nothing to apologize for,” she said.


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