…THERE COULD’VE BEEN
I was experiencing personal pain, bordering on agony, until my “frozen” intestines (paralyzed by the handling of same by the medical practitioners performing emergency life-saving surgery), voluntarily resumed their proper function.
And it had been ongoing and building for 3 days.
However, I noticed that the minute hand of the clock on the wall had slowly crawled past the number 12 on the dial, officially, if not ironically, making the date to be July 04, 1969, at least on the side of the International date line.
For some unknown reason, my paralyzed innards finally begin to allow the passage and release bowel gas into the enclosed environment of a post-surgical ward at the Naval Support Activity Hospital, located near the Marble Mountains in Danang, Vietnam.
Three days prior, after four days and nights of endless vomiting, the hospital corpsmen assigned to the dispensary (“sick bay”) at the Camp Tiensha facility finally elevated their concerns for my well-being, moving beyond the alternating, and utterly ineffective, application of Maalox, liquid and/or chewables, and had me shipped, via ambulance, to the station hospital for appropriate testing and treatment .
Less than an hour after arriving at Marble Mountain Hospital, I was in surgery for a perforated appendix, followed by several weeks of treatment for the resultant peritonitis, caused by the ongoing drippage of fluids from the organ perforation into my abdominal cavity.
Unfortunately, the surgery was performed by a hospital corpsman under the direction of a medical doctor, applying the medical theory of “see one, do one, teach one.” I know that this occurred because the anesthesiologist did not provide enough substance to render me unconscious throughout the entire procedure.
As a result, I regained consciousness during surgery and briefly observed the verbal instruction by the doctor to a young scalpel-armed hospital corpsman. Fortunately, immediately thereafter, I resumed my blessed state of unconsciousness, until I woke up in the recovery room.
Instead of the usual medical evacuation to a Naval Hospital on the island of Guam, I was placed in a ward of young Marines, most of whom were recovering from wounds to their abdomens and lungs.
The next day after surgery, during a routine follow-up examination by the medical doctor , he noticed an unusual swelling at the incision on my lower right abdomen. Using a small wire cutter to cut the surgical wires used to close my original incision, followed by a painless “slice” of a scalpel to excise the outermost surface of the protrusion, the doctor permitted the copious abdominal fluids, collecting from the as-yet undiagnosed peritonitis, to spew from my abdominal cavity.
What followed was six weeks of intense medical treatment for a physical emergency that “normally” is resolved, and recovered from, in a matter of a week, without any complications.
Meanwhile, back to the Fourth of July fireworks.
As my body functions eventually allowed the prolific passage of pent-up bowel gas, I laughingly apologized to my nearby Marine brothers-in-recovery, not wanting to add to their to their suffering, even though I could do nothing to stop it.
Nor did I try!
In any event, despite the passage of 45 years since the “event,” I’m always able to recall, with exquisite detail, what I was doing at 12:10 AM, July 4 , 1969.
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Please join me in having a happy Fourth of July.