There Were No Fireworks But….


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.

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