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Two veterans now working together as surgeons

By Angela Yingling
Published On: Nov 11 2013 04:26:51 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 10 2013 11:00:00 PM CST

Two doctors who work in Bristol are both veterans. They share a similar path that got them to where they are today -- it turns out the surgeons unknowingly met long before they came to Bristol.

BRISTOL, Tenn. -

The saying 'it's a small world' rings true for Dr. Sidney Collins and Dr. Paige Furrow. They’re the newest members of the team at Bristol Surgical Associates. He joined November 2012, she joined September 2013.

"[We treat] anything from brain injuries, head injuries, spine injuries, abdominal trauma, loss of limbs," says Dr. Furrow.

But as it turns out they've actually worked together before in Afghanistan. "We were there at the same time our paths crossed, so I was probably getting some of his patients," adds Furrow.

Dr. Furrow joined the U.S. Air Force to help pay for medical school. She spent six months in Afghanistan performing hundreds of surgeries, mostly traumas from improvised explosive device (IED) blasts. "I saw so many things over there that I will never see here," she adds.

Dr. Furrow was in what she refers to as a 'hard-walled’ hospital, on base in Bagram, Afghanistan. Many of the patients she treated came from Forward Operating Bases which often have a less sophisticated medical treatment area, sometimes just tents, where injured troops are taken first.

That’s where Dr. Collins was working during his third and most recent tour in Afghanistan as part of the Army Reserve. "We would stabilize the patient and then ship them to Baghrham and then the guys in Baghram would re-assess," says Dr. Collins.

It turns out Dr. Collins was sending his patients to Bagram where Dr. Furrow was likely on the receiving end.

The two may have unknowingly crossed paths overseas, but the real connection wasn't until they both got to Bristol -- both were there in October 2010. The doctors say the battlefield experience is unlike anything here in the U.S. "Basically all of our bases over there would get bombed at some point," adds Collins.

The surgeons performed hundreds of surgeries and endured being away from home, a tough task when both have two children at home, but regardless of the tough times they faced both are honored to have served this country.

They are now happy to be working as part of a team in the U.S., the country they both have worked so hard to protect.

The doctors tell us during deployment surgeons in Afghanistan can typically perform about 300 surgeries in a six-month period.

On average surgeons in the US will perform 100 to 300 in a year, depending on the hospital they are working in.