Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chapter 18: Medevac from Cu Chi to Japan

I was stable enough to travel a few days after my surgery, so I was transferred first to the 93rd Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh and then to a hospital at the Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon. I stayed in each of them for a couple of days. Then finally to 249th Evacuation Hospital in Camp Drake outside of Tokyo, Japan. I stayed there until December 3, 1968.

The 93rd Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh

During the Vietnam War the 93rd Evacuation Hospital admitted 73,023 patients, treated 9,353 battle casualties, and had over 232,581 out-patient visits.

Tan Son Nhut Airbase outside of Saigon

249th Evac Hospital in Japan

One of those stops, I don'’t remember which one specifically, I was transported to the airport in a bus set up like an ambulance.

As they were loading me on the bus, the tube that ran from my catheter to the bag, got caught on something pulling it most of the way out, but not all the way. I screamed bloody murder which of course, caused everyone to stop dead in their tracks.

The nurse came over frantically asking “WHAT’S WRONG! WHAT’S WRONG!”

“The catheter! The (insert expletives here) catheter!” I could barely breathe it hurt so much, so that was said rather quietly and breathlessly.

The nurse pulled back my covers and saw what had happened and quickly inserted the tube back into my bladder. When she did that the pain almost stopped. Then (insert expletives here) came forth from my mouth in a never ending tirade. I’m sure they all felt badly for what happened, but I was pissed and made that perfectly clear.

During the first ten days or so I was wounded, my wounds were cleaned and flushed out with a saline solution a few times a day in an to attempt to prevent infection. The larger wounds were packed with a sterial packing to keep the wounds from starting to heal and close. The process to clean them was very uncomfortable if not done carefully. The wounds were fresh and nerve ending were exposed. If the medic or nurse clening them got too rough with the Q-tips when cleaning them out, it also hurt tremendously. Everyone was very careful and the few times it started hurting, they backed off and gave me a chance to rest. I was also drugged up pretty good so that helped a lot. Except this one time in the hospital in Tan Son Nhut the Evil Nurse Kratchet got a hold of me causing more (insert expletives here) to spew forth from my mouth.

Evil Nurse Kratchet must have been having a bad day or something because she comes over and tear’s off with the bandages, rips the packing out of the wounds, of course it sticks like hell to my wounds and hurts removing it if you don’t flush the wound with the saline first and go slow. Then Q-tips rammed into my wounds. Guess what I did? (insert expletives here), lots of them.

(Okay, maybe she didn’t do it exactly like that, but you get the point, it hurt a lot if they weren’t very careful.)

“Hey, take it (insert expletives here) easy! That (insert expletives here) hurts!

That out burst quickly got the medic assisting the nurse to stop her and the doctor to come over to see what was wrong. “Get this (insert expletives here) away from me, she’s (insert expletives here) killing me!” I yelled. The doctor sent her away and told the medic to finish up. The rest of my time there I never even saw her again.

A day or two later, I was loaded onto a medevac plane with a lot of other people for the trip to Japan. We were packed in like sardines just like in this picture. There were also seats for people that were ambulatory on the opposite side of the plane.

I don’t remember very much else about this week or so because I was drugged up pretty well. I do remember that during the flight to Japan, a nurse, another cute one and also a brunette as I recall, helped me eat a boxed lunch with fried chicken, something like a meal you’d get at Kentucy Fried Chicken. I couldn’t sit up, and could only use my right hand because my entire left arm and hand were bandaged so I needed her help.

I will always remember how nice it was being fed by that pretty woman, no matter why she was feeding me. Laying there looking up at her and into those very pretty, caring eyes. Knowing I had made it out of that God forsaken country alive and was on my way home again. That plane may not have been the one I arrived on, but it was a plane taking me back to the 'World' none the less. I was going home and was very, very happy.


Mark Koons said...

I was a medic at the 249th when you were there. glad you made it, Bud.

BTExpress said...

The treatment I received there was second to none and you are all angels as far as I'm concerned. Bless you all.

Ron Schaberg said...

An incredible journey! You did a wonderful job of showing how those in the air ambulance industry work to keep people safe and bring them to receive care they need.

Travel Care Medevac

BTExpress said...

Thank you. I'm very proud of how far I've come since graduating high English with a D average. Even failed it in the 10th grade and had to take it again in summer school.

Peter Veazey said...

Nice blog. A pleasure to read as always. They should make a movie about your experiences in Vietnam.

Air Ambulance International

Jayaruh said...

I was at the 93 Evac Hospital when you arrived. I am happy that you made it home.

BTExpress said...

I'm happy too Jayaruh. Maybe we crossed paths back then.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Evac. hospital at Tan Son Nhut in in late May through mid June in 1971. I was not wounded, but my 1'st Cav. Infantry unit had gotten into some Agent Orange in the jungle. Following a platoon wide (9 people then) bout with dysentery and five days back at a remote fire base, we went back into the bush. I and some others developed boils in various areas of our bodies, mine in my right shoulder. It developed into a Staph infection, which went into my blood, lungs, heart and kidneys. After three days, I was evacuated from the jungle via a chopper from a hole blasted in the jungle with C4 by my buddies.(The night before, we had Orangutangs screaming at us all night and they threw sticks, rocks and fruit at us. We had set up camp in their home turf.). I was dropped off at Bien Hoa and taken via jeep to the Tan Son Nhut hospital. I was in very bad shape and had not even been able to lie down or sleep at all for the last two nights. The doctors and nurses were wonderful overall there. I was very upset because they insisted they had to send a Lieutenant to my parents door to tell them. They did and my parents later told me they had to comfort him because he was so upset. The doctors found I had Septecemia,(Sp?) Bilateral Staph Pneumonia, bacterial Endocarditis, kidney issues and a case of Jungle Rot in my groin. They sent in the priest for last rites twice. I will never ever forget the morning I was able to wheel my IV cart into a shower and get cleaned up for the first time in two weeks. God did I stink! They did give me sponge baths, but that didn't cut it! I was there until about June 15 on IV and evacuated to Japan, where I spent another two weeks on IV until my body rejected the medicines. I then spent another six weeks on massive doses of Oxycillen. I found the care in Vietnam to be wonderful overall, with caring doctors and nurses. I don't remember if I told them how much I appreciated their help and care and I have never heard about them since. So now I want to say THANK YOU! The care in Japan was much worse, but the food was great! I will also never forget walking my IV pole into the mess hall and getting a real Filet Mignon! In the bush or at a remote fire base, the only steak we got was Water Buffalo, as the REMPH's stole and sold it. I arrived back in the USA on the Fourth of July. I would love to tell you how wonderful it was, but it wasn't. They fed the five of us who were on stretchers in the very small ward the Air Force base had and then after dinner they ALL left to party and arrived back roughly three hours later. One of the guys had to go but could not walk, so we carried him and cleaned him up after. The next day we were each shipped to other hospitals. Three days later, I was pronounced completely cured and literally sent out on a ditch digging detail. The medical records I had brought with me and given to them were lost. In short, the fellow soldiers and the medical people in Vietnam cared for each other and the closer you got to non war conditions, the less the people cared and in the US it was bad to terrible. Thank you to my fellow soldiers and to the front line medical people.
John S.