Friday, July 29, 2005

The Emergency Room in Wurzburg

This is the third part of the story that I began on July 26 and continued on July 28.

“Get off that thing and jump up on this table.”

Since the doc was purportedly a major and I was a second lieutenant, I assumed that was an order. I slipped off the gurney, doing my best not to put pressure on my injured leg, and hopped on my non-injured leg the ten or so feet to the examining table. It was a high table—the top was about four feet from the floor—and it took me a few moments to figure out how to get up on it without putting pressure on my leg.

I say that the doctor was ostensibly “a major” because the only proof of his rank—or that he was even a medical doctor—was what he told me. He was wearing a short-sleeved golf shirt and Bermuda shorts and had evidently come directly from the golf course. And he was none too happy about being in the Third Infantry Division’s emergency room rather than on the fairways—at least that seemed to be what his sharp order to me implied.

The ambulance ride from Schweinfurt to Wurzburg, once a driver had been located, had not been too eventful. This SPC 4 seemed to think he was driving in the Indy 500 as much as my co-opted supply clerk tank driver had. I really didn’t mind, because the pain in my leg was steadily increasing and I looked forward to getting to the hospital and receiving something sort of medication to reduce it. I decided to tolerate bouncing around in the back of the ambulance if it shortened the time of the trip to the hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital in Wurzburg, a couple of medics rolled the gurney, with me on it, from the back of the ambulance through the emergency room entrance and into a very large the examining room. They left. And no one else came in! There I was, flat on that gurney for at least an hour and a half—no doctor, no nurse, no medication for the pain!

About forty-five minutes after I arrived in Wurzburg, a telephone began to ring. I waited for someone to come in and answer it, but no one came. Finally, since the phone was relatively close to my gurney, I reached for it and answered it myself.

“What are you doing answering the phone?” said the voice of my battalion commander, LTC Johnson.

“I’m the only one here, sir,” I responded.

“Let me talk to your doctor,” my C.O. said.

“Sir,” I replied, “there is no doctor here. I am alone in this room and have been since I arrived.”

After asking me how I was doing, and my responding with a simple but untrue “O.K.,” Colonel Johnson ended the conversation with “Well, Nick, I think you’re going to be doing a lot better real soon.”

It was about forty-five minutes later that the unnamed major in golf clothing arrived.

After I “jumped up” on the examining table, the doctor unwrapped the bandage that had been placed on my leg by the German MD in Schweinfurt. He seemed to look at it only a few seconds. Then he muttered something and replaced part of the bandage over the wound without re-wrapping it. He then walked out of the room. And I was alone again.

About fifteen minutes later two medics came into the room. One carried one of those open-backed hospital gowns that always lets your butt hang out. The other took scissors to my fatigue pants and literally cut me out of them. Then they helped me out of my shirt, boots, socks, and underwear and into the gown and onto another gurney. Neither said a word to me and I was in too much pain to ask any logical questions.

Medic #2 rolled the gurney—and me—out of the examining room and down a long hallway. I tried to see where we were going, but the combination of trying to lift and turn my head backwards and the instability of the wheels of this wobbling gurney made my stomach rebel. So I gave up.

As we were going down that hallway, medic #1 suddenly appeared with a form on a clipboard, which he handed to me along with a pen.
“Please sign this, sir,” he said.

I tried to read the form but the wobble-bobble of the gurney made reading impossible. So I asked, “What am I signing?”

Medic #1 replied, “It’s a standard form, sir. It simply says that you give us permission to dispose of any body parts the surgeon cuts off.”

There is, of course, another installment to this story, which I shall post soon!

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