Saturday, June 30, 2018

Navy Epilogue

When I started this series, I discussed my hesitancy to talk about the Navy because it made me nervous. Now you know why. The whole story was just long and boring and drawn out and violated one of the basic tenants of this bloggg. 

I promised early on that my topics would be random and unstuck in time just like Kurt Vonnegut would have wanted it. But I needed to make this segment (sort of) sequential because even I could never have made heads or tails of it otherwise.

So... sorry.

The whole Naval mess ended, not with a bang, but a whimper, as in the poem by T. S. Eliot. The Hand Board declared me useless and bent. The hand wasn't going to return to normal and I was out. They told me to pack up my crap and go home and they would get around to discharging me when they were good and ready. At their convenience. 

So I packed up my crap and on January 19, 1968, I hitchhiked home. 

The last car that picked me up was some kids in a convertible in northern Florida. They took me all the way down to Miami and dropped me near my high school in Norwood, the town next to Carol City. 

From there, I shouldered my seabag and walked the rest of the way home. I just checked, it was 5.2 miles. I didn't care. Of course I had no way of knowing when I would get back to Miami, cell phones didn't exist, I didn't have a house key, and I was tired, so naturally, no one was home. I had to break in but thankfully security systems were unheard of in those days. Locks were only in place to keep your friends out.

I did learn that when you ride 400 miles in the back seat of a convertible, your hair becomes a solid mass of dirty, windswept cactus. It took several days to get it clean. I've had an unnatural fear of convertibles ever since. But I was home.

The law requires me to say that hitchhiking may have still been relatively (relatively!) safe in that millennium, it is definitely not recommended today.

After a brief fling with catatonic stupor, I spent some days at the beach awaiting my final disposition. Days became weeks, weeks became months and eventually, without trumpeting fanfare, my Honorable Discharge arrived in the mail effective May 8, 1968. You will be contacted by the Veterans Administration, goodbye, kiss my foot.

By then, I had already met my future wife and the page had turned.

So how did that hand work out? Well, Doctor Davis, the finger moves. Not very well, I can't make a fist exactly, it's not too flexible, but it's not completely stiff and pokey! The index finger is considerably shorter than it was, about the length of my pinky and the knuckle is misshapen and warped, but that's understandable since a lot of the bone was simply gone.

The scars on my palm and knuckle are impressive and the other fingers are crooked as well from the insult. And on wet or cold days, my hand sings to me, often it plays Mussorgsky's 'Night on Bald Mountain'. 

But I still HAVE the finger, it's still there, still attached, still sort of working. I just checked to see if I use it to type and I don't, I've switched most of my keypad/button-pushing duty to my middle finger and it has stepped up nicely.

But I have remaining, nagging questions, some of which are hypothetical. You might recall that I can trace my lifelong computer career to walking down a hallway in the Eastern Airlines personnel department at exactly the correct split-second. I must ask what would have happened if through a split-second delay my hand had not exploded that day?

You've forgotten all about that Naval Academy college career I had tested for, but I haven't. Once I was declared damaged goods, I'm sure that whole application package and the ribbon that tied it up were tossed overboard somewhere. But what if I had been approved and had attended Annapolis? Would I have stayed in the Navy? If I had eventually become a Captain would it be on the Kobayashi Maru?

Or would I have gone on to Fire Control Technician Class A School and gotten involved with computers anyway. Then when I got out, after my full four year enlistment, would I have joined Eastern Airlines after all? Then what? Gone on to Shared Medical Systems?

And while we're at it, what happened to my stuff? Where is my red rubber ball? I should think having my dog tags would be pretty cool. And why did I get rid of my Sterile Distilled Saline medallion? I wore that forever. Shoot, I'd still wear that! 

I recognize now that it was very short-sighted of me to discard practically everything from the Navy, all I kept were my boots, watchcap and Peacoat. Everything else went away, even the seabag with the blood inside. In those days, I had no sense of historical or genealogical value. If I was done with something, out it went.  

But the red rubber ball? Wow! And couldn't I keep one sailor hat? C'mon!

Who took my place as Projectileman on the right side of the forward 5-Inch 38-Caliber gun on the Eugene A. Greene? Were they as good at it as I was? I don't think so!

What happened to Doctor Davis? Did he get to take off other fingers along the way? Was his heart in the right place, or was this all just practice?

And what about Tim? Was he actually the character Orr from 'Catch-22' who gets skilled at crash-landing his plane so he could eventually escape to Sweden? 

Was Tim just orchestrating his discharge? Or was he actually insane? Is he a senator now or perhaps the CEO of a major multi-national corporation? Both are pretty good probabilities.

If I hadn't come home when I did, I wouldn't have met my wife on schedule. Would I have met her anyway? But if there was no marriage, that meant there were no children and no grandchildren. So, yeah, that whole busted hand thing was an unlucky chain of events for me, but if any of my descendants are reading this... 

Boy, are you lucky! Cheers!


Friday, June 29, 2018

Navy Portsmouth Part IV

The time spent at Portsmouth Naval Hospital wasn't only hot wax and red rubber balls. I only had duty one weekend out of four, so other weekends were mine. The Navy provided a transportation service from the Norfolk/Portsmouth area to cities close by and one of those cities was Washington DC.

I had never been to Washington. Living all the way down at the end of Florida sort of restricted your travel options when there was no money. Thanks to the Navy, I could get to DC on a bus for a couple of dollars and stay at the YMCA at a reduced rate for a couple more dollars leaving the only expense as food. This was a pretty sweet deal.

The bus would leave Friday afternoon and bring me back Sunday afternoon so I took advantage of that for weeks on end. I got to go everywhere, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. To exemplify the exuberance of youth, those friends and I decided not to wait for the elevator in the Washington Monument but to walk up the stairs instead. We definitely took the elevator down, up was bad enough.

The YMCA was located at 17th and K Streets quite close to the White House. I didn't know it at the time, but it was only a few blocks north of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Building where I would be spending some time later in life.

I have one clear memory of DC on a Sunday morning when it had snowed. The snowfall had frightened everyone else in Washington to stay indoors. But this was only maybe the third time I'd seen snow and everything was deathly quiet and empty so I walked all the way down the mall and up the steps of the Capitol. You could still do that in those days. It was quite a scene looking at the snow on the mall and Pennsylvania Avenue from up there, it stays with me till this day.

I really enjoyed those trips to Washington, actually I still like going there. But there were other trips around the surrounding area with one of my friends. 

For the purposes of this blog-ette, we shall call this friend 'Tim'. Not just because I probably never knew his first name, but for the sake of confidentiality.

Tim was insane.

He was a messenger for another division of the hospital, but we would run into one another dropping off stool samples or whatever. Yes, it was a crap job. Tim was one of those overly handsome, gregarious, magnetic types that could talk people into doing practically anything. He liked me because his baloney didn't work on me.

Tim was in the outpatient psychiatric unit because of... reasons. He kept telling me it was all a ruse to get himself out of the Navy although that was a pretty tough sell. But the boy could talk. Oh, my goodness. He talked one of the doctors we met into loaning him his car whenever the doc was on weekend duty. So some weekends we drove around Virginia and North Carolina hanging around in local colleges and sleeping in the car.

But it was cold one night and Tim said, "Just follow my lead". Yes, a line right out of a movie where terrible things are about to happen. When we drove into the next small town we went directly to the jail. We walked in like we owned the place and Tim spoke to the Sheriff saying something like, "Hi, we're poor sailor-boys, can we sleep in your jail tonight?"

Apparently, this was not an unusual request in some quarters, because the Sheriff said, "Sure, but I will have to lock you in." This was not a problem, so we had a free, warm place to sleep and he even fed us breakfast in the morning. Every now and then, you bump into a culture you never even knew existed.

One day Tim didn't show up at work and after making a few discreet inquiries, I found him as an inpatient in a locked psychiatric ward. 

Even though he wasn't allowed visitors, I used what I had learned about talking from Tim and got in anyway. Naturally, he insisted it was all part of his plan to get discharged. But, it turns out that Tim was insane.

And then immediately after this, Doctor Davis told me the Hand Board was about to make their decision regarding my fate.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Navy Portsmouth Part III

I like to think that the motives driving people are mostly good and positive. But when the doc suggested it may be time for my index finger to go the way of all flesh, I must confess that the thought crossed my mind that perhaps we were being a bit premature. On the other hand, no one wants a stiff, pokey finger.

On the third hand, it was a lot premature.

Hence, it was a bit of a cringe for me when he described a process where he would carve and sculpt my hand in such a way that (quoting here), "people would hardly notice there was a missing finger". Yes, that's right, he told me that no one would notice.

Well, I would notice!

I don't even like cutting my fingernails and for a reason I can't put my 'finger' on, it makes me uncomfortable to have parts of me separated from other parts.

My family has certainly had their struggles with fingers. Dave, my much handsomer brother decided it would be a good idea to catch a softball between his fingers splitting them apart. My father lost the tip of his pinky in some sort of automotive mechanic accident. And my mother! My mother was throwing away an old fire extinguisher and it caught her middle finger in the handle and the finger went with it. Right off! 

They reattached it, but my family didn't have a stable of top surgeons to work through all the issues, so her finger was... in an amazing case of foreshadowing... stiff and pokey! Oh, my, that's just how the doc said my finger would be! 

On a side note, it didn't strike me when I was younger, but now I can see that if my mother shook her fist at someone, she was automatically giving them the finger.

So, I took it upon myself (see earlier reference to self-reliance) to prove Doctor Davis wrong. I made my way to downtown Portsmouth, which as I remember was about two blocks long, and bought a red rubber ball maybe the size of a tennis ball. 

I squeezed that ball to death. I threw it in the air and caught it. I bounced it. I carried it everywhere. But my favorite use was throwing it against a wall, catching it and squeezing it with my busted right hand. 

The bouncing noise drove people crazy and they responded by throwing things at me until I moved to a different location. I finally found the perfect spot: The maternity floor!

The maternity ward was located on one of the top floors of the main building. It was almost completely empty, rarely used and sealed off effectively from the little lobby where the elevators were. I would sit there in that little elevator lobby and throw the ball against the wall and catch it and squeeze it. For hours. For days. Until my hand was numb.

If anyone ever came up the elevators, I could see that they were coming and when the doors opened, it was just a sailor sitting there. Clearly, I was on a mission. A little devious, but a mission.

Then I was fitted with a hellish device intended to cause great pain and suffering. There are no images available of this mechanism because it was probably banned by the United Nations Human Rights Council. It consisted of a strong spring-loaded contraption that fit over my hand and pushed my broken, unyielding finger down. Hard!

Wooo, that puppy hurt! I could take it for a while and off it came! Over time I could stand wearing it longer and longer. I took it as long as I could take it. And I continued using it for a year, even quite a while after I was discharged.

Meanwhile, every time I had a doctor visit with Doctor Davis he would ask, "Well, are you ready for me to take that finger off?" Geez.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Navy Portsmouth Part II

It was a little odd how I was perceived by the Medical Corpsmen I worked closest with. They viewed me a bit deferentially because I was an actual sailor who had been on an actual ship and had done actual sailor-stuff. Most of these guys had yet to see their first ship, so they were a little leery of what they did not understand. Naturally, I did nothing to disabuse them of this obsequious behavior.

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I certainly wasn't enamored with the concept of a stiff, pokey finger, so I was looking forward to therapy as odd as that sounds.

But first the pin had to come out, a schedule of those various therapies had to be set and some new, peripheral problems had to be addressed. 'Peripheral' in this instance meant the fallout from having my hand hanging from that stainless steel finger trap. That rather significant pressure had created bad scabs in interesting patterns over my finger. They had all resolved except one really huge, thick one about the size of a dime that covered the pad of the last joint of my index finger. 

I was going to post an example photo of that scab, but they were all so disgusting that it was too scary even for me. Instead, I'll just show you a picture of a kitten to take your mind off what's about to happen. 

So, the doc says, "Here, let me take a look at it." And in just that fraction of a second, he reached in and pulled that humongous, thick, discolored monstrosity off. !!! Looking back, I know what he was doing and I know it was the right thing to do, but I felt so betrayed. And it hurt like... like... uh... ... heck?

Aren't you glad I showed you that kitten? The scab that formed on that secondary wound was much lighter and came off on it's own volition. However, the first scab had taken my fingerprint with it, now there was just smooth skin. And since a few (!) years have passed, a little of the fingerprint has come back around the edges, but the middle is just a void. 

And then it was time to remove the pin from my second metacarpal. The doc did a small incision to expose the head of the pin and at least this time he told me to 'hold on'. He grabbed the head of the pin with pliers and jerked it out, thankfully in one motion. And you know those vinyl cushions that go on the examination room tables? The ones that are covered by paper to keep your sweat from offending the next person? Well, I tore the paper for sure and I don't know if the vinyl was torn before, but it was certainly torn when I was done.

There were three kinds of therapies on my schedule. One of them was to improve my range of motion. So this big, brutal therapist would grab my hand and try to force the fingers to move in directions they didn't want to go. Everything was stiff because there was just a mass of scar tissue but I could tell most of the fingers were going to move. Not so with the index finger and it was the source of significant, non-trivial pain.

Another therapy was deep massage. This was intended to break up and/or loosen up the scar tissue to allow more movement inside the hand. They showed me how to do it, but sessions with the massage therapist seemed a tad rougher than anything I did. Go figure.

The third was paraffin wax therapy. This action consisted of dipping my hand repeatedly into melted paraffin thereby building up layers of hot wax. This heat would serve to loosen up the scar tissue. 

Apparently, this is still a viable therapy in wide use. There are lots of these little bathtubs for sale around the Internet but at the time I had never heard of such a thing.

I even found a video that is a close approximation of what I did in my sessions.  

Then, Doctor Davis introduced an alternate plan that he thought might serve me well. He suggested that since my index finger wasn't going to move again, it was time to remove it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Navy Portsmouth Part I

One of the things that shape you in the armed forces is your new-found self-reliance. You must take care of yourself, because no one else will. Even in the very short checkered tenure I've been writing about, there have been disruptive events that have changed the entire population of people I had contact with. Here today, gone tomorrow.

There are articles written about how your familial or educational or friendship-based 'support groups' are important to help you through troubling or changing times. But like most Sailors and Marines who entered US Naval Hospital Portsmouth Virginia, I did so completely unassisted. No one carried my bag or kissed my foot or told me everything would be all right. 

People in the military may have to go through something like this periodically for their whole career. And I believe for me this was a good thing, because it strengthens you and convinces you that you will be able to get through things. Too much 'support' atrophies your resilience and can make you weak.

But enough philosophy, let's discuss the hospital I was entering. Portsmouth Naval Hospital was big and even then had a lot of history since it is the Navy's oldest hospital in continuous operation. It's been right there since 1830 and while it was already large, it has gotten much larger since I was there. They now call it a 'Medical Center'.

This image above is the way the main building looked when I was there, but there were lots of surrounding, ancillary buildings with special purposes. 

This aerial above shows that this structure is now being rehabilitated, since many other modern buildings have been added to the campus.

When I arrived, I was assigned a bunk in a temporary duty dormitory about the size of a basketball court. And then I was given the next available job suitable to the nature of my injury. 

That job turned out to be the messenger/gofer for the Pediatrics Division. Yes, you read that right, since this was a full service hospital, those services extended to the families of Naval personnel. Some of those family members were little children, so there was a Peds Unit. 

My first reaction was disdain. I'm a big, tough sailor, who wants to be around the baby department? But when I got there, I discovered this duty was what all the young nurses wanted. 

Furthermore, it was also the gathering place for the young nurses from all the other divisions who wanted to hang around the babies. And I had been ordered to work there. How about that! Of course they were all officers, but nobody's perfect.

The job itself consisted mostly of running fluids to the various labs and carrying paperwork or films from place to place. That way, I got to learn the whole campus and there was absolutely no one watching over me. I just had to let them know when I was going off to one of my own doctor visits or therapies.

Soon after I arrived, I met with my new primary doctor, Doctor Davis. He was a hand specialist and one of the members of the Hand Board who made collective decisions about hand dispositions and therapies. He gave me an examination and took new X-Rays and his initial inclination was that the prognosis for any further movement of my index finger was low. In other words, it would be a stiff, pokey finger. 

Stiff and pokey. Well, that's just great! What was that I said about self-reliance?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Navy Guantanamo Bay Part VI

As my days staying at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Hospital and Holiday Resort were coming to an end, I was informed that the next part of my recovery was scheduled to take place at US Naval Hospital Portsmouth Virginia, which happened to be a top-rated hospital. 

I would be transferred there at the convenience of the US Navy. And while I had been lolling around in the hospital on Guantanamo Bay, the Eugene A. Greene had completed it's shakedown and weapons testing and was going to be heading back to Norfolk, Virginia which was it's home port. 

So, instead of flying me to Portsmouth which would have taken a couple of hours, they decided to ship me back on my own ship and that would take over a week. That's called 'convenience'.

The open wound had closed up and healed, all the surface stitches had been removed and the infection was gone. My hand was still in a soft-cover molding mostly to protect my index finger which wasn't moving at all. The other fingers were very stiff from the insult they had endured, so I had no grip strength in my right hand. The good news was that unless I banged my hand into a door the pain level was fine.

My duty level was low on the trip back. For example, I stood lookout watches, but I didn't stand any watches at the helm. They didn't want me flipping the ship over. I couldn't use a broom (aww!), the bow had been repainted where it had scraped along the pier and there was no more old paint to remove. So, it was a cruise.

All the time I was an inpatient I had worn hospital pajamas. I had been wearing jeans and a work shirt when my hand exploded and the hospital personnel had returned the clothes to the ship. Someone (I never found out who) had taken these filthy, bloody clothes, wadded them up, unwashed, and jammed them into my seabag. 

When I took them out after weeks had passed in Caribbean heat, the coagulated protein had turned the mass into a concrete block. I don't think washing them even entered my mind, but if I had kept them they would have made an interesting sculpture.

Fortunately, they had put my boots on top so they came through relatively unscathed. I continued to wear them for years.

My orders to report to Portsmouth Hospital were 'TDY' - Temporary Duty. I would be an outpatient at the hospital but would also be assigned some sort of job. So, when I left the Greene, I had to take all my belongings because no one knew if I would be back. As it turned out only three weeks later the Greene departed on a six month deployment to Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan. Without me.

I would never see the Eugene A. Greene again.

Just a few years later, on August 31, 1972 the Eugene A. Greene DD-711 was transferred to Spain and became the Churruca D-61. In English, Churruca translates to 'Churruca'. Seriously, it was named for a previous Spanish ship. 

Here's a photo of the ship after it had gone into Spanish service. Look, there's my gun still in place, still working like a champ.

After twenty more years of service to Spain the Greene was sunk as target practice on December 12, 1991. Believe it or not, the sinking is actually available on YouTube.

Here's Part 1.

And Part 2.

Boy, things certainly go away quickly around here. And as I was about to discover, sometimes, that included me.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Navy Guantanamo Bay Part V

The surgical ward at Guantanamo Bay Naval Hospital was populated by quite an eclectic bunch. The Marine next to me had a hole in his back large enough to put a fist into from some incident that we never talked about. A Machinist Mate across the aisle had been hit with super-heated steam when a valve failed. It had hit him in the arm and his skin had sloughed off like a sleeve. So, you know, the usual. 

Based on what some of the other patients on the ward were suffering with, it made my little scratch seem inconsequential. Some of these guys were going home for certain as soon as they could leave.

But in my own selfish way, I was concerned whether my new nickname might be 'Stumpy' or 'Captain Hook'. 

Years before all this I had determined my handwriting to be so bad that I had abandoned cursive and simply printed everything. Imagine if I had to try that crap with my left hand! Forget it, pal!

I was also not the best, most consistent writer of letters home. Is that a phrase? It doesn't look right, but you know what I mean. However, I was sending money home to my parents for their car payment. They didn't know anything about this incident yet and I was trying to figure out a way to gently ease the information into their hands. In the end I decided a phone call was best even though that was also not a part of our normal culture. Of course I downplayed it, wouldn't you? In the meantime, I was practicing my writing (i.e., printing).

For whatever reason, we had pretty much free run of the hospital. During rounds we'd listen in while the docs were talking to the other patients and watch while work was done on them. And if we needed something from the store room, we just went in and got it. So, in addition to the rounds of antibiotics, I was washing my hand a dozen times a day with Phisohex and soaking it in a little pan with distilled saline working the dead, burned skin off with an oversized q-tip.

I went through a lot of those five gallon bottles of distilled saline. But whichever of this combination of therapies worked, I didn't care, because the infection was finally beaten back and no one had to come in with a hack saw and cut off my hand. Although, probably the other guys in the ward would want to watch.

To honor the value of the magical saline, I stole one of the metal medallions that hung around the big five gallon bottles and wore it on a chain around my neck. The medallion said Sterile Distilled Saline and I wore it for a couple of years. It disappeared after I got married, but I do have a photo of me wearing it at Haulover Beach. This was about a month before I met my future wife, so you can see how miserable and unhappy I was.

Life in the hospital was pretty easy, we had no assigned duties. We were just supposed to be getting better, so life centered around meals. Three times a day, we got a little printed menu where we could circle what we wanted for the next meal. 

Then they brought the food right to us on a cart. How cool was that? This one time I found a fly in my mashed potatoes and it was so exciting I went around to show everyone. The Marine in the bed next to me wanted to see it and as soon as I brought it close enough he lurched out and ate it. Don't mess with Marines, they have different thought processes.

At night, if the weather was good they would show movies outside on an outdoor movie screen. You might think the mosquitoes would bother us, but there were so many bats flying around they kept the population down.

There were so many bats in fact that they would interfere with the movie sometimes. This is why they didn't let us carry weapons because there would have been so much gunfire that just the accidental wounds would have kept the hospital full. And there were quite frequent earthquakes, but mild ones, just enough to remind you that you should leave.

And just as Lord Halifax wrote, in the fullness of days, it was time for me to leave, too.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Navy Guantanamo Bay Part IV

The Guantanamo Bay Naval Hospital is located right on a little peninsula that juts out into the Caribbean.  

I arrived at the hospital toward evening, so normal day shifts were over. As I was sitting waiting for them to round up a surgical team, I was thinking about, you know, things. Of course it's my right hand, I thought, after all, I'm right handed! What else? I speculated about whether spending so much time inside a cannon would affect my hearing in later years. Oh, and would I be able to play the piano with only nine fingers, I wondered? That would be cool, since I couldn't play the piano at all before all this happened!

Finally the surgeon came in and went to work. My hands had been dirty, the line had been dirty, the speeding, surging line had gone through our hands burning them a little, the wound was ragged, everything was bloody and the metacarpal head was in tiny bits, some of it was just gone. They hosed it all down, confirmed that the tendons and nerves were abused but not severed, rebuilt the knuckle with some of the bits as well as possible, inserted a long pin through the second metacarpal, and sewed the whole mess up with fifty-five stitches in the palm (inside and out) and another eight over the knuckle on the other side.

Later, I could feel the head of the pin under the stitches because eventually, it would have to be removed.

Then they installed a weighted stainless steel finger trap on my index finger to keep it stabilized. That's this thing over on the right there. 

The way the finger trap is devised, the more you try to pull your finger out, the tighter it gets. There are toys called 'Chinese Finger Traps' that do the same thing. So my immensely traumatized hand filled with stitches was now hanging by my nearly severed and broken finger. Go on, picture it! Whee!   

OK, so you couldn't picture it. Then use slightly less imagination with this image on the left and pretend it's just the index finger involved. I can't do everything for you, it's been fifty years! We didn't have fancy-dancy smartphones with us that could photograph every step in our lives. We were just experiencing things as they actually happened!

Then came the best stage of all, the administration of the Morphine. Morphine is great! I mean really, really great. Three days went by and when they started to wean me off the stuff, I got all huffy until they gave me some Darvon. Darvon is good, too, but it's no Morphine! 

After a couple more days, maybe five total, or six? who knows? the doc came in and said they were going to have to reset the knuckle because piecing it together hadn't come out as planned. But this time, the anesthetic would just be local. So back into the surgical theater. They set the screen in place between my head and the work area and he started setting my hand up. I told him, "You know, I can feel that." And he said, "No, that's just psychological because you know I'm working on your hand."  

Then he re-breaks my knuckle which I felt perfectly and of course I screamed like the proverbial stuck pig. The surgeon gestured a 'downward motion' with his finger to the anesthesiologist who turned a valve on my IV and away I went. I got yur 'distant ship smoke on the horizon' right heer!

When I arose from this round of purple haze, they installed me in a bed on the surgical ward. It seemed like a lot of beds to me at the time but I imagine it was perhaps sixteen Sailors and Marines. 

My doc comes and gives me the news that my hand is infected. Uh, yeah, with all the dirt and grease and nylon fibers and burning and a wide, wide world of other things that were introduced into that wound, it would have been a shock if it wasn't

He tells me we're going to have to work on that infection because after all, "we wouldn't want to lose that finger... or the hand." Oy.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Navy Guantanamo Bay Part III

No matter how hard you try, you just can't beat physics. Do the math and if the math doesn't work, then the thing won't work. The End.

For example, if a length of nylon line is stretched to the limit of it's ability to stretch, one of two things will happen. The line may break whereupon the remainder will swing in an arc pivoting on it's last connection point. Very, very bad things will happen to any non-metallic structures (e.g., humans) that might be in the way of that swinging arc. Please reference any of a number of horror movies for a graphic example.

The other possibility is that the slack will 'surge' from the part of the line not under strain to ease the tension of the part under strain. We've all heard the noises a rope makes when it's under a strain. It's kind of a creaking, rubbing, stretching sort of noise. Like this:


Well, the nylon line the three of us held in our hands that day was making noises no one on Earth had heard before. Scary noises, spine-chilling, intimidating, brain-freezing noises. These were 'forget your orders and run for your life' noises. 

So as it surged, spinning through the figure-eight pattern on the bollard burning off the paint, we dropped the line to make that last dash for our lives and two of us made it.

The ungainly goon in the back was struck by another phenomenon of physics called a wave pulse. You may have exercised this peculiarity of wave motion when you whipped a garden hose or a jump rope. With a little wrist motion, you can send a wave down the hose or jump rope or in this instance, a 2-inch nylon line.   

The math for this action can be seen in this simple Fourier Transform.

In other words, the surge had sent a wave pulse down the line and while passing by, it struck me (the aforementioned goon) in the palm of my right hand. 

The impact of the wave pulse burst open said palm much like you see here in this over-ripe pomegranate. 

Sorry, if that's a little graphic, but you should have seen it in real life. (!) 

The action exploded the head of my second metacarpal (the knuckle of my index finger) into tiny fragments. The index finger itself was almost entirely severed, hanging on only by the skin on the back of my hand. 

The impact had sent my arm flying and had spun me around spraying blood in a Fibonacci pattern that would have kept Dexter busy for a week. When I brought my hand up, I discovered that it makes you very uncomfortable to be able to look inside your own body. Again with the blood everywhere, but there seemed to be even more this time. Not quite like that Monty Python sketch, but darn near. 

I'm told I let out quite a stream of curses at this juncture. I don't recall, but those legends you hear about 'cursing like a sailor' are fact-based. In the Navy I was introduced to curses you just don't hear in the civilized, civilian world. At this point, I may have used them all.

The major part of the wound was Y-shaped with one opening running from between the index and middle fingers almost to the wrist and the second running off perpendicularly separating the thumb from the index finger. 

This little drawing I've done only conveys the shape of the wound, not the ragged, discolored, exploded horror I was goggling at. The movie 'Alien' wouldn't be released for another ten years, but it still looked like a little alien had burst out of my hand. Oddly enough, I felt little pain and was clear-headed. You never know how you'll react under a bit of pressure. 

Briskly, I teleported myself to sick bay where the jovial corpsman told me, "Well, I could sew it up for you, but maybe we should have a doctor look at it." All things considered, I found that to be good advice. 

I wish I had a photo of what I looked like at this point. I was covered in blood and it was like a preview of another as-yet unreleased movie, 'Carrie'. I've wondered what my shipmates thought as they saw me strolling along. 'Well, just another day on the Greene.'

I don't suppose Brian de Palma and Ridley Scott were hanging around Guantanamo Bay in 1967. I can only speculate that they may have been following me around to pick up some dreadful ideas. It would have provided a treasure trove for them.

So the corpsman somehow stole a jeep from somewhere and drove me to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Hospital which would be my home for a while.