Apr 032013


The Major’s voice rose above the plaintive groans of the newly arrived wounded.

images-25“We have more litters,” shouted Major Pat.  “ Ruth and Cindy, help me with Triage. Ruth and Dee, scrub for surgery.”

The litters were now being stacked waiting for surgery.

“Has Doctor Matt returned from R & R?”

“Not yet, Major,” replied a medic.

Ruth stood before Dee.  “Make your own decision about administering morphine.

Just write the time and dosage given.   Many of these guys will have to wait to be evac’d.”

“Over here,” a nurse called to Dee.  “Give him morphine. Then, restrain him,while I peek under his eye bandage.  She pointed to an eye bandage that was leaking.

Dee did as directed, and watched as the nurse unwound a bandage from the groaning soldier’s forehead.  A wave of nausea hit Dee as the nurse gently placed the eye back into its socket.   “I’ll hold it in place, you bandage.”

A surgeon stuck his head through the operating room door.

images-1“Pat, can I have three more patients and a couple of nurses?”

Dee put up her hand.

“In you go, Dee.”

“Be careful of the floor.”  A surgeon warned.

Dee stepped over the blood that seemed to be everywhere.

“I’m working on a chest wound, come and join me.  I’m Steve.”

Dee felt completely at ease.  This was a world of wonder, the human body a marvel of creation.

“Damn it,” Steve growled, “I need to get back in there, please suck out the bleeding.”

Dee looked at the young patient as she assisted the surgeon.

“Damn, shrapnel.  It is so time consuming.”  Steve looked up and smiled.

“I haven’t seen you before?”

“Dee, I just arrived in Nam.”

“Welcome to Club of Horrors.”  Steve pointed towards the window and the constant gun fire.

The clock on the wall measured time in blood, guts, and stitching.  Soldier after soldier arrived, each with a different challenge to present to the doctors and nurses.  Dee worked the long hours mostly with Steve.   He was engaged, and he hoped to be married within a year.  Dee admired his skill and his ability to teach at the same time.  When Dee took the initiative, due to the heavy number of casualties, Steve took the time to show her how to close.  Dee marveled at the types of procedures she was doing on her own.  This would never happen back in the States; such procedures would be the prerogative of medical doctors.

The approaching dawn was visible through the heavily sandbagged windows.  The barrage of gunfire was leveling off.  Dee had stopped hearing it, soon after she entered surgery.

“Last mop up before morning staff,” Mike the Medic said to no one in particular.

Dee had ceased to notice the constant mopping up of blood, but it was one of the smells she would recall years later.  It would come out of nowhere and bombard her senses.

“Yippee, morning staff!”  Mike cried with jubilation.  “See ya in the Mess tent.”

Dee glanced at her watch, it was almost 8 a.m.  Now that her shift was over, an incredible tiredness overcame her.  She walked out into the humid heat in the direction of the hootch.

Ruth caught up with her.

“Bed over coffee? Same for me.”

Dee nodded.  Ruth stretched her arms and said, “The maids will be setting up early for Tet tonight.  I just cannot see a truce, how about you?”

Dee responded, “God last night was terrible.  Does it get worse than that?”

“Do you want to sleep or stay awake worrying?” Ruth put an arm around Dee’s shoulder.

“I want the sleep of the angels.”

“Me, too, Dee!”


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