Tom Lacock

Taking Care of A Dictator - Cheyenne Pediatrician Spent Time As Personal Physician For Saddam Hussein

Taking Care of A Dictator - Cheyenne Pediatrician Spent Time As Personal Physician For Saddam Hussein

From the Wyoming Medical Society’s Magazine Wyoming Medicine

By Tom Lacock and Rob Monger

Wyoming Medical Society

Military deployments were nothing new for Joseph Horam, MD -- he had been deployed six times before. However, this deployment to Iraq, scheduled for May 2006, started much differently than previous tours. Horam, a colonel in the Wyoming Army National Guard and former State Surgeon received a call from Col. David Wilmont, State Surgeon of Indiana in March 2006.

The request was simple: Could he come a month early? We have a special mission.

“Usually you come into the theatre and you meet with the local unit commander who says, ‘Here is your villa and your gear, let’s get to work,’” Horam says. “Instead, I am told to meet with Maj. Gen. John D. Gardner and he presents me with the mission to provide the medical care to Saddam Hussein. With the admonition that you will keep him alive so justice will prevail. “That was a sobering way for the meeting to start. And then Gen. Gardner says, ‘Let’s go meet your patient.’”

Caring for a Dictator

He had many nicknames among the military physician community -- HVD1 (High Value Detainee No. 1); VIC (Very Important Criminal) and the Ace of Spades -- but most of the world knew him simply as Saddam. Hussein was one of eight patients Horam was responsible for while in Iraq, with the other seven high-ranking members of Hussein’s cabinet who were also co- defendants in Hussein’s crimes against humanity.

Through much of his career in the National Guard, Horam worked with friend, neighbor and fellow Cheyenne physician, Col. David Lind, MD, who says it was Horam’s ability to see the big picture while respecting the local values of a culture that made him the perfect person to take care of the dictator.

“He actually got to know Saddam really pretty well as an individual,” says Lind. “He spent a lot of time with him and I think struck up almost a friendship with him. I know Saddam would invite Joe and the others he valued back in the evening for cigars. I think that made Joe one of the assets for that situation and that time.”

The Health of a Dictator

Taking care of Hussein offered its challenges, mostly due to his age (around age 67) and a life lived hard. Hussein’s military medical record folder was nearly a foot tall by the time Horam received it and included a difficult case of hypertension with adrenal adenoma. Horam says on a daily basis he logged the status and plan for 15-20 various ailments, and asked for consultations with cardiology, dental, psychiatry, and urology for Hussein.

“We had him on every anti-hypertensive,” Horam says. “He had a lot of stuff for his age, but one time he kept complaining about his leg. I checked him out and said, ‘It looks okay, but let’s give it a basic x-ray.’ He had shrapnel all over his leg. I showed it to him and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, that was from a shoot-out many years ago.’”

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