Reaching Past the Wire: A Nurse at Abu Ghraib

On a frigid afternoon in February 2003, Deanna Germain, a nurse practitioner and new grandmother living in Blaine, Minnesota, received the registered letter she had hoped would never arrive. In six days she was to report for active duty as war loomed in Iraq. The purpose of mobilization: “For Enduring Freedom.”

With startling detail, Lt. Col. Germain offers a clear-eyed account of life as a nursing supervisor behind the fortified gates of Abu Ghraib. Her duty: To treat Iraqi prisoners, U.S. soldiers, and Marines in need of medical attention. Shortly after she arrived, the notorious prison made headlines around the world for abuses that had stopped months before. Despite unbearable heat, frequent mortar attacks, medical supply shortages, substandard facilities, the relentless stench of war, and sleepless nights quartered in a tiny prison cell, Germain served the medical needs of each of her patients with remarkable humanity.

In this crucible of wartime stress, workplace turmoil, and cultural uncertainty, Germain found herself forging powerful connections with colleagues and translators.

She learned from translators about normal Iraqi families struggling to survive impossible conditions. And after vowing to avoid personal relationships with prisoners, she became a comfort to many. Duty and compassion, camaraderie and hope all helped to pull her through.

  • Reaching Past the Wire

    Reaching Past the Wire

    Reaching Past the Wire also reviewed in:

    • Publishers Weekly, Aug 2007
    • Minnesota Monthly, Nov 2007
    • Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sept 2007
    • St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sept 2007
    • Minnesota Women’s Press, Oct 2007
    • City Pages, Sept 2007
    • ForeWord Sept 2007
    • Nurse Practitioner World News, Oct 2007
  • This book reassures us that we are all human.

    This book reassures us that we are all human.

    Reaching Past The Wire provides a crucial perspective on Abu Ghraib that has been lost in the painful and sensational coverage of the abuse scandal. Deanna Germain’s honest and down-to-earth account of life at the prison hospital demonstrates her professionalism and uncovers the compassion with which she and so many others treated their patients. This book reassures us that we are all human.”

    CDR. RICHARD JADICK, author of On Call in Hell: A Doctor’s Iraq War Story

  • …the American spirit at its best…

    …the American spirit at its best…

    “In Lt. Col. Germain’s surprising story of wartime Iraq, we taste the dust, smell the gas fumes,feel the bumpy roads, hear the helicopters, and feel the fear. But even more remarkably, we see her nursing her prisoner-patients, and we understand her desire to trust those she knows she cannot. Through this lucid account, she shows us the American spirit at its best, as people come together to overcome obstacles and grow as human beings.”

    KATHI JACKSON, author of They Called Them Angels: American Military Nurses of World War II

  • …a seldom-viewed aspect of war through the special eyes of a healer

    …a seldom-viewed aspect of war through the special eyes of a healer

    “War is a nasty business. [Reaching Past the Wire: A Nurse at Abu Ghraib] Lt. Col. Germain has given us a very readable look at a seldom-viewed aspect of war through the special eyes of a healer.”

    GEN. JOHN W. VESSEY, former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

  • Added To Ultimate Reading List for Nurses

    Added To Ultimate Reading List for Nurses

    “We put together this “ultimate” list to showcase some of the absolute best nursing books across all genres, from textbooks to memoirs.” Reaching Past the Wire featured on Ultimate Reading List for Nurses on LPNtoBSNOnline. Feb 19, 2014

  • By far the best book I’ve ever read. 5 stars plus more!!!

    By far the best book I’ve ever read. 5 stars plus more!!!

    Excellent reading for all. This book was well put together and truly helped me understand what a nurse working on the front line during times of war is exposed to both mentally and physically. Page after page the author, Deanna, shows us what the true definition of what a nurse really is and what all nurses should strive to achieve. If you want to read a book that's impossible to put down till it's finished If your a nurse looking for inspiration. Even if you're not a nurse. Most of all, if you are looking for that, "written from the heart kinda book", this books for you.
    By far the best book I've ever read. 5 stars plus more!!!
    Well done Deanna, well done...

  • Excellent reading, unbelievable story of courage.

    Excellent reading, unbelievable story of courage.

    Excellent reading - unbelievable story - eye opening. I, along with most Americans, had no idea what these nurses (and all our troops) had to endure to get their assigned jobs completed - thanks for your service and sacrifice.

  • An intense read that ends too soon!

    An intense read that ends too soon!

    So proud of you, Deanna. Thank you for your service, and the sacrifices you made to make the world a better, safer place to live!

  • I have a deeper appreciation for our soldiers and for our medical personnel…

    I have a deeper appreciation for our soldiers and for our medical personnel…

    I read this book as research for my own novel-in-progress which has a character serving as an Army nurse in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am also a nurse but have no military experience. Ms. Germain's insights were so helpful in describing what a nurse in this situation experiences and endures. Her story is real and honest and covers many issues I had not considered. I have a deeper appreciation for our soldiers and for our medical personnel serving in the Middle East and around the world after reading this book. Thank you, Lt. Col. Germain, for sharing your story; I know it was difficult for you. You are very brave.

  • Sobering read about going to war, and coming home.

    Sobering read about going to war, and coming home.

    I bought this book after I heard the author speak at a conference. Germain gives an honest account of the internal and external struggles she went through as a nurse at Abu Ghraib, and when she returned home. She describes caring for wounded prisoners who are on the other side of a war, trying hard to uphold her obligation as a nurse to treat everyone with dignity and respect, yet knowing these people were injured trying to harm her fellow soldiers. She describes the daily fears and life of living in a battle zone. She gives a sobering account of what it is like to return home after living in a war zone, and details the feelings of being stuck in an emotional world somewhere between war and peace. The hoensty[SIC] in Germain's account is commendable.

Book Details

Authors: Deanna Germain with Connie Lounsbury
Publisher: Borealis Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2007
Pages: 224, Paper
ISBN-10: 0873516060
ISBN-13: 978-1945094057
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches

Reaching Past the Wire: A Nurse at Abu Ghraib


NPR – Caring for the Enemy: a Nurse’s Memoir

Author, Connie Lounsbury

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