WASHINGTON March 28 —
When Maj. Gen. David Petraeus first met Sen. Bill Frist they were
in an operating room. One man was a patient felled by a M-16 gunshot
wound to the chest; the other the surgeon who would save him.
The life-threatening episode in 1991 helped forge a friendship
that today stretches across the globe, where Petraeus commands the
101st Airborne Division in Iraq and Frist leads the Senate as
Republican majority leader. The two talked as recently as last
Wednesday, the start of the Iraq war.
"In his mind, he introduces me as the surgeon who saved his life
and shows his scar to demonstrate," Frist, R-Tenn., said in an
interview Thursday night.
Frist, a heart surgeon at the time at Vanderbilt University
Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., operated on Petraeus after he
was shot in the chest with an M-16 round fired at close range by a
Recalling that afternoon in 1991, Frist said he got a call from
the emergency room that a person with a gunshot wound to the left
chest was coming in. When Petraeus arrived, Frist put in a chest
tube and it was clear the patient was bleeding faster than blood
could be replenished.
Frist explained to Petraeus on the way to the operating room that
there was risk of infection from the bullet.
"Halfway through the explanation, he said, 'Doctor, let's go get
this over with; you need to tell me nothing more,'" Frist
"He was tough, a real soldier. It fits with his overall image
with jumping out of airplanes, breaking his pelvis," he said,
referring to the commander's surviving the collapse of his parachute
60 feet up during a free fall jump a few years back.
Petraeus was out of bed within 12 hours of surgery half the time
it takes for the average patient, something Frist attributes to his
top physical condition.
Frist recalled Petraeus "apologizing for the guy who shot
The 1st Brigade of the 101st started arriving Thursday at an
undisclosed location near Baghdad.
Its arrival comes just four days after a grenade attack on a
101st Airborne command center in Kuwait took the lives of two
American officers and injured 14 others. An Army sergeant is accused
in the attack. Petraeus was not at the scene.
Last week Frist called Petraeus to express his respect for his
leadership and for the soldiers he's leading into battle.
"I said I'd look forward to calling him, and asked for the area
code in Baghdad so I could call him in the near future in Baghdad,"
the senator said.
The two attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and
International Affairs at Princeton University, at different times,
and in October they ran the Army 10-miler together in
Although they started at the same time, Petraeus quickly
disappeared in the crowd ahead of Frist, running about a 7-minute
|Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist, R-Tenn., speaks during a news conference after the
Senate approval of the budget at the Capitol in Washington,
Wednesday, March 26, 2003. The Senate approved a $2.2 trillion
budget for next year on Wednesday that hands President Bush a
setback on his domestic agenda, giving him less than half the
$726 billion in tax reductions he wants for reviving the
economy. (AP Photo/Charles
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