You’re going to shove that where? It doesn’t matter why you end up in hospital, the one thing you leave at the entry to the ward is, your dignity. No matter the complaint or procedure you are brought down to the lowest common denominator. At the end of last week’s gripping instalment, I found myself in bed with a huge mosquito net surrounding me, and all alone. Come on, I was eternally optimistic. It could have been worse, if they had room I would have been in isolation. Oh my, then I would have missed seeing huge strings of mucous removed from soldiers with bronchitis. A hearty prolonged pounding on their backs and the coughing began. Or those recovering from cartilage surgery, hobbling around with their swollen knee joints reminding me of my old injury. There were plenty of them, especially from those in the Infantry who lugged huge packs around on their backs. Even though one languished in bed, you were still in the army. When an officer appeared, usually the doctor or sister, or God forbid, MATRON then you had to lay at attention. Every morning, bang on 0900 hours it was, Matron’s rounds, usually announced by an orderly. I found that calling out, “I’ll have a beer thanks,” didn’t go over well at all. Or answering the question, “Have your bowels moved today Corporal?” With the pithy reply of, “They’re still where they were this time yesterday, Sister.” No sense of humour some people. Let’s face it, what were they going to do, send me back to Vietnam?
The wards were long wooden huts, about three or four of them I think, coming off a central hub and well fitted out on the inside. Beds ran lengthways down both sides of the ward and there were smaller, two bed alcoves on the side verandas. These were built-in and had louvered windows in the partitions separating them from the ward. My bed was next to the entry into one of the verandas. Two wounded Infantrymen from the operation against the North Vietnamese Army, see below blog entry, were there. Both had been badly wounded and were recovering well. I called out to them and introduced myself, and received a not so welcoming, “Fuck off.” Charming, apparently Armour was still being blamed for the situation they found themselves in.
So I stayed under my net and read books. My only company, the three visits a day for meals and the Vampire Lady. Yes, three blood tests a day. I had track marks on the inside of both arms that lasted for 30 years. They took that much blood I thought they may have been selling it off somewhere. Apparently they were testing me for every disease known to mankind. My VD screen came back negative, yeah, go the no sweat pills. Then the tests slowly came back for all the cattle diseases, negative. They didn’t check for foot and mouth though. Then pig, chicken and sheep diseases. What did they think I’d been doing on leave? Dengue fever, Malaria and Leptospirosis were the main contenders, all had the fever, headache, joint pain, etc etc, associated with them. Although I had taken my anti malarial drugs you can still present with it up to 25 days after exposure. Hence, living under the net. I still felt like a worn out dish rag, probably from lack of blood.
With all the tests coming back negative or the good old standby excuse, “We don’t bloody know.” They decided to bring the big guns in. Remember I said you left your dignity at the door? Well this is a prime example. Engrossed in a magazine I didn’t notice the advancing armada approaching my bed, led by Matron, who reminded me of Hattie Jacques, the actress from the British Carry On Movies.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the picture.
There were several doctors, one of them an officer with more braid and ribbons than Napoleon and a tiny Indian woman. She gave me a disarming smile and Matron ordered, “Lay on your side and pull your pyjama bottoms down, Corporal.” Now here was a woman who knew what she wanted. Whoosh, down they went. “Now tuck your knees up to your chest and breathe in.” – I asked, “Err, excuse me but what’s happening?” A doctor leant over with a silver, trumpet like device in his hand, pointed to the tiny dark woman and said, “This lady is a professor from India who specializes in tropical diseases and she wants to look up into your bowel. Now this may be uncomfortable.”
Thanks to wellchalyn.com for the pic of an anoscope.
You always know when a doctor says. this may be uncomfortable, that it is indeed going to be highly uncomfortable. The above pic is as close as I could find to the contraption they were going to slide up my fundamental orifice. I believe the one they used had been taken from a veterinary museum for horse doctors. The slang term for this device was, The Silver Stallion and when without any further ado it was fully inserted I knew why. Then they started extending it, what a clever little device indeed. Peeking back over my shoulder all I could see were several heads bent forward scrutinizing my innards. They chatted amicably amongst themselves and it echoed up the scope. A nurse must have felt sorry for me and brought in a portable screen, and blocked the view from the veranda. Nobody on the other side could see through the scrum of medicos. Talk about feeling like a piece of meat. If I thought it felt horrible going in, coming out wasn’t exactly a delight. Of course being the patient nobody told me anything, the professor gave me a nice smile and they wandered off, still chatting away. One of the patients called out, “Hi Ho Silver away,” and they all had a laugh. Thanks you blokes. The following morning the orderly raised my net, although it had to be down at night, you little beauty. Still nobody told me what I had. There must have been something wrong though because they kept me for another week.
By now you would know I had a thing for nurses, and one particular gorgeous nurse worked on our ward. Beautiful, blonde, about 22 years old, womanly and sweet, let’s call her Susan. She went beyond the call of duty to look after her patients, except for me. When the officers left for the day and dinner was over she would prepare supper, usually curried egg sandwiches. Yum. Then she would come along and chat with all her charges and make sure they were comfortable. Now this Infantryman on the veranda, I’ll call him Bruce seemed to be something of a charmer. I would watch him work as he laid back in bed and chatted away to Susan whenever she came to check his dressings. He’d been badly shot up in the torso. They took no notice of me lurking under my net and he took every opportunity to touch her. Susan would hurry away blushing, then she’d turn up again and continue her rounds. After lights out and the hourly obs had been taken, she returned.
A small light hung over Bruce’s bed and emitted a soft, yellow glow. I felt, rather than saw Susan brush past the foot of my bed. By the time she reached Bruce she’d stripped naked. Now, let’s face it after a week or so lying in bed one becomes a tad frustrated and there she stood. You may have guessed by now that I’m no prude, I love women and think their bodies are beautiful. Susan, well magnificent comes to mind. When I close my eyes now I can still see her climbing hastily onto an extremely ready and willing Bruce. His smile shining even brighter than the light. She’s unpinned her hair and it hangs long and thick down her back. Facing him and hanging onto the bed head for support she rides him like there’s no tomorrow. I can’t help but watch and heartily dislike the man for getting what I so desperately wanted. Every movement, touch and gasp is indelibly etched into my mind. The smooth roundness of her buttocks. Her hair, honey-blonde hung around her face, and down against her breasts which played peek-a-boo with every rise and fall. The faint sheen of sweat in the dimples above her buttocks glistened for a moment as she enthusiastically rewarded her wounded warrior. I closed my eyes as they climaxed and opened them as I heard a whispered, “Hurry up, you promised.” She gave Bruce a quick kiss on the mouth and hurried to his mate in the opposite bed. The partition blocked any view, I couldn’t have looked, I felt so lost. It didn’t take long though, he’d also had an uninterrupted view of Bruce and Susan. When they finished, clothes in hand she crept around the foot of my bed, stopped next to my night stand and slipped back into her dress. I put my hand out and grabbed her wrist, she squeaked and I said, “Well, I’m more than ready?” She leaned forward and said, “No way, they still don’t know what you’ve got.” Well, didn’t I feel special.
I also had Vitiligo on my chest, shoulders and back, don’t gasp it’s only loss of pigmentation in the skin. Quite common from being in the tropics I believe. Susan came on shift the following afternoon and I asked her if they could do anything for my complaint. Not that one! Gee some people’s minds. She led me down to the treatment room and after taking off my pyjama top I lay down on the table. A wardsman took a large brown bottle off a shelf, containing Ung-Whitfields ointment, used for fungus diseases of the skin. Taking hold of a wad of cotton waste she dug down into the bottle and cleaned out the remaining half an inch of ointment. Putting a delicate hand on my shoulder to keep me still, she stuck the wad onto my back and began scrubbing vigorously. They heard the screams down the other end of the ward. Crikey it bloody hurt, it felt like knives slicing into my skin. She squeezed my shoulder and said, “What a sooky baby, I thought you were tough and…..” Then she began to scream. It seems that at some stage the bottle had been dropped on the floor and shattered inside the bottom. Susan had taken out the glass shards with the remaining ointment. Blood erupted from long, thin gashes and mixed in with the ointment. For the following half an hour or so, I lay there thinking about everything except sex while she located the pieces of glass. She couldn’t wipe all the ointment away at first, as it snagged the shards. The visible pieces were removed, my back wiped off and I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have a fungus problem in my groin. That happened 42 years ago and I still get little pieces of glass creeping out. A tiny pimple forms and I know when it’s time to come out, I usually catch my shirt on it. Doesn’t that tickle, it’s probably why I’ll always remember Nurse Susan.
Yours truly leaving hospital and in a hurry too.
After all that they still didn’t know what I had and put it down as, Fever of Unknown Origin. I left feeling a little sorry for Susan, she blamed herself for slicing me up. Although if she felt that bad I knew how she could have made me feel better. I won’t go there. I guess I received a lesson in interpersonal human relationships though. My leave had stopped as soon as I entered hospital and I didn’t fancy another two weeks at home. So I spent a couple of days with them and left on the train from Brisbane to Townsville. Third class sitting up in a seat on the old rattler was another eye-opener. The train pulled up at every whistle-stop, picking up cans of fresh milk then dropping them off at the major towns. Yes sir, the army obviously thought being a trained soldier we would find a way to keep comfy for a day and a bit. I actually felt good when the train pulled into Townsville station. A sultry, tropical night greeted me as I stepped onto the platform, kitbag in hand. I strolled out to the parking lot and a familiar face from Vietnam appeared, another Corporal, Tony Forbes. (Sadly he has passed on.) That night felt right, I had come home and was heading to my new posting, B Squadron, Third Cavalry Regiment.
Next week: Townsville.