SAN ANTONIO - When then-Army Sgt. Tara Hutchison first encountered Dr. Sam Mehta, the Iraq War was at its height in 2006.
It also was Valentine’s Day.
Mehta said he recalls no matter what the holiday, that’s when more patients always arrived in his emergency department in Baghdad.
Among them was a young squad leader they called “Sergeant Hutch.”
“I was dead when I met him the first time,” Hutchinson said.
She said her right leg had been instantly blown off by a roadside bomb that hit her Humvee.
“I remember looking down at where my leg should be. There was no leg. I could see the seat,” Hutchinson said.
She said the wound was bleeding profusely.
“It was coming out with every heartbeat,” Hutchinson said. “I knew that if I didn’t get out of the truck I was going to die.”
She said her assistant squad leader used a makeshift tourniquet, but by the time she was flown to the military hospital in Baghdad, she was dead.
“She lost her pulse in the helicopter,” Mehta said.
Even so, Mehta’s team was able to revive her.
Several months later, Mehta found her at San Antonio Military Medical Center.
Seeing her, “made my heart swell, truly a miracle,” Mehta said
Currently, an emergency physician with Methodist Healthcare, Mehta also serves on the Greater San Antonio Emergency Physicians board of directors.
The two now have been reunited yet again, this time at Hutchinson’s home where she’s started a jewelry business.
“I’m just blown away by how much you’ve done and with all the challenges you’ve overcome,” Mehta told his former patient.
He said the tremendous blood loss she suffered had caused a severe movement disorder that she apparently conquered.
She managed to teach herself how to make intricate custom jewelry, wielding small tools to create necklaces, earrings and more. Both said not only has becoming a maker of fine jewelry helped refine her motor skills, it’s benefiting other women like herself.
“I really feel what I have to offer people with my jewelry is to help them feel beautiful on the outside, so they can feel beautiful on the inside,” Hutchinson said.
Mehta said that feeling of purpose also helps in her continued recovery.
On disability and with her start-up underway, Hutchinson said she still yearns for a South Texas basic necessity, air conditioning.
“It’s so hot here in the garage and my studio where I work, every day, all day,” Hutchinson said, and it’s cold in the winter.
Regardless, Hutchinson said she was thrilled when Mehta stopped by to see her trying to fulfill her new mission in life, far different from her days as a military police officer.
“He’s such an amazing man, so giving and caring about other people, that it’s a blessing to know him,” she said.
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