Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quang Tri to Guam

After my big foot hit the booby trap, Doc Hall bandaged me up and off I went by chopper with two other Marines that also were hit by shrapnel. I went to Dong Ha where I had my initial surgery on the wounds and by the end of the day; I was headed to Phu Bai via C-130. I had more surgery on the wounds and was put into a full leg cast with little openings for dressing changes. Here is how I described by wounds in my little medical book, “shrapnel in left lower thigh, shrapnel laceration of lateral malleous, shrapnel in middle of foot, thru and thru shrapnel wound near middle toe”. They estimated the grenade went off about two to three inches away from my ankle. It was not pleasant.

My little medical journal says that the next day was “uneventful, Pain bearable with slight drainage of wounds”. “Possibly will have dressing changed tomorrow”. After my surgery on the 13th is when we discovered that, I was allergic to pain medicine. I began taking many aspirin, which did not give me a problem. Changing dressings and debridement of wounds was not a pleasant experience without pain medicine. They gave me a large dose of Thorazine so I did not care what they were doing. It still hurt but I did not care.

In my little book, it states “as of 1200 hours 19 Oct. 67, I have received 26.4 million units of Pro-Pen and 11 grams of Streptomycin. Guess they were not taking and chances in my getting an infection. A lot of the skin was blasted off the top of my foot so the Doctor used something he was experimenting with for wound granulation. Sugar and Basitracin mixed and packed on top of the wound. This kept the wound moist and helped to reduce infection. This is a precursor to the modern day wet dressing. Alternatively, maybe it was a form of maggot therapy to get the maggots to eat the dead tissue. I was swatting flies that were constantly landing on my foot.

The healing process was slow and not progressing as fast as the medical staff had hoped. About the middle of November, I was flown down to Cam Rhan Bay where they have air conditioned medical wards to see it that would help. I still had a lot of swelling of the foot and ankle and after two weeks, they decided to ship me out to a Naval Hospital. Am I going home? Fat chance.

They shipped me off to Guam via the Philippines. The plane that came in to take a bunch of patients out to the Philippines had a problem with the engines. There were only two stretcher patients so they considered us the critical ones and put us both on the plane that normally would hold a couple of hundred. We must have had ten nurses taking care of two patients and they were all female. It was a great flight until they told us about the engine problems. Two engines were overheating so once we were airborne; they shut down the two problem engines and did not turn them back on until we landed in the Philippines. Remember this problem with airplanes and I will tell you, later, a few more problems that I have encountered while flying.

From the Philippines, I was placed on another plane, headed for the U.S. Possession of Guam. I arrived at the US Naval Hospital on Guam on 2 December 1967. After a couple of weeks there, I finally was able to get around on crutches. Mobility at last. The wounds on my foot still had not closed up as yet but it was getting there. By the middle of January 1968, I was finally walking without the aid of the crutches. I was transferred from the Hospital to work at a Medical Clinic on the Naval Base while waiting for orders back to Guam.

I was on Guam for New Years Eve that year and let me tell you a story that is cute now but was not cute then. I was an E4 or Hospitalman Third Class at that point but was friends with many Marines on the ward that were E6 and above. E4s had to be back on the ward by midnight that night. Well, about four of us went out, started hitting parties and bars and at 2330 hours, I said that I needed to catch a cab back to the hospital. These guys would not let me go. There excuse was “what are they going to do, send you back to Nam?” Therefore, I stayed out and partied with the Marines.

When we rolled in the next morning, the Chief on Duty said I was late and AWOL. All the Marines in unison said, “We told him but he wouldn’t listen”. They all had big grins on their faces as they walked off leaving me there. I was scared for the next couple of days that I was going to get a Court Martial or something. I never heard anymore about that so I figured the Marines had taken care of everything. It is just as the bumper sticker says, “The Navy has Hospitalmen, Marines have Corpsmen”. Semper Fi.

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