Navy tells VA doctor: Ship out


Two months ago, Dr. Karl Zucker, second-in-command of the Loch Raven Veterans Administration Hospital, had plans for spending more time in the operating room while allowing for lots of time at home with his new infant daughter.

But plans sometimes are made to be changed and his were, rather abruptly.

Late in November, Zucker and his wife, Margaret, brought their newborn daughter, Kelly, home from the hospital. Simultaneously, the surgeon was getting prepared for the upgrading of the VA hospital in north Baltimore to handle any patient overflow from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington pending a war in the Middle East.

The same day the Zuckers arrived at their Pasadena home with Kelly, the physician noticed he had an important piece of mail waiting for him. He was being reactivated in the Navy.

Last night Zucker left his wife, his 2-month-old daughter and his two other children for the Philadelphia Naval Station, where he will pick up some uniforms and wait for assignment.

Now that the war is on in the Persian Gulf, Zucker sort of knows where he's headed.

"I guess it won't be a surprise if I wind up in the gulf," Zucker said yesterday before leaving home.

Zucker, 37, said, "I have mixed feelings about being recalled. I'm scared because of where I'm probably going, but my wife and I have been waiting for this since Aug. 2, so it takes that part of the tension away."

For her part, Margaret Zucker called her husband's reactivation "a little bit of bad timing. He got the notice the day we came home from the hospital. . . . We had been waiting for it but it wasn't any easier when it did [come]."

While he is serving active duty, Mrs. Zucker and her children will return to their native San Diego. Their house in Anne Arundel County has been put up for sale.

Zucker served as a commander in the Navy from 1983 through 1985 and was stationed aboard the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier.

After completing his military obligation, Zucker went to Yale University, where he worked as an assistant professor of surgery. He had been associate chief of surgery at Loch Raven for just under two years.

"I have been trained how to treat casualties suffering from chemical and biological attacks," Zucker said. "So that won't be something I have to relearn."

He said he will be stationed aboard a floating hospital or a fleet hospital on land somewhere in Saudi Arabia.

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