PCO/Salus Grad has Treated the Infamous in His Career

PCO/Salus Grad has Treated the Infamous in His Career

Within a year after graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), David Meltzer, OD ‘02, FAAO, found himself in Iraq as part of the First Armored Division, embedded with the 47th Forward Support Battalion stationed at the Baghdad Airport during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Dr. Meltzer, a captain in the U.S. Army, was one of 10 U.S. eye doctors stationed in Iraq at the time, responsible for treating U.S. soldiers, civilians that had been injured, and prisoners of war captured by the Americans. The war in Iraq had taken a positive turn for the U.S., Saddam Hussein’s government had fallen and the Americans had taken control of the situation.

Dr. Meltzer was laying in his cot on a Sunday morning when there was a knock at his door. It was a doctor from the detention facility near the Baghdad Airport.

“He said, ‘I have a patient and I can’t tell you his name. But you’re going to want to see him. He’s not going to come here, so you have to go to him,’” recalled Dr. Meltzer.

Within a week, Dr. Meltzer, along with a technician, took the five-minute drive to the detention facility, where they were scheduled to see a group of prisoners. At one point, they were led down a long hall to an area that housed only one prisoner. Dr. Meltzer was to conduct an eye exam on the prisoner in the hallway outside his cell.

And, out of the cell stepped The “Butcher of Baghdad” himself, Saddam Hussein, who had been captured just days earlier. “And, oh my God, there he was. When he was caught, he had the gray beard and the gray hair. That’s what he looked like, just like the video when he was caught. He was older, he looked tired and, he knew he was defeated,” said Dr. Meltzer.

The exam was fairly routine. Hussein had a little bit of diabetic retinopathy, Dr. Meltzer said, and his vision was 20-25. Dr. Meltzer prescribed him glasses.

“I still have a copy of the prescription. It was HVD (High Valued Detainee) 1001,” said Dr. Meltzer.