Thursday, April 18, 2019

Corpsman Chronicles XVI: Sorry 'bout that

Big, beautiful moon out tonight.


Seems like since my Dad got sick I've let a lot of stuff go. I hardly do anything here anymore, and I sure as hell don't put up any worthwhile content. Or at least I don't do it in a worthwhile fashion.

And I've pretty much gone interweb sinker. I can't remember the last time I actually read any blogs.

I've got lots of excuses, but pretty much zero good or even adequate excuses.

Sorry 'bout that.

I had a comment on the blog today from someone I've never heard of before, so I checked out his profile which led me to a couple of interesting blogs with links to blogs I used to read, sooooo....

I'm pretty sure that's like a sign or something.


Speaking of signs...

Yesterday as I was running a big black tomcat crossed my path. A couple of hours later as I checked out at the grocery store my change from a $20 was $6.66.

Yep, no doubt about it. That's some pretty scary stuff.

So what does a scientifical minded fellow do when faced with legendary signs of bad luck?

Well, here's what I do. I suck it up and drive on. With just a smidgen of extra caution.

From everything I've read regarding bad luck signs, and from my own extensive experience spending quality indoor time underneath ladders with opened umbrellas, and with black cats and the Number of the Beast and broken mirrors and spilled salt and many other terrible omenish events, it appears that while I've seen any number of supernatural warning signs, such signs have simply never been even loosely correlated with subsequent personal disasters. When it comes to other folks, to the best of my knowledge, any correlation between sign and disaster has never been reasonably proven to be anything other than coincidence.

In general, I feel pretty safe in saying that the chance that my observing a supernatural warning sign will cause a subsequent personal disaster is very unlikely. Very, very, very unlikely.

However, unlikely is not the same as impossible.

So I take a little extra care as I'm out and about, and I try hard not to do anything dumb. Until I forget about the scary portent of disaster and go back to my usual larking about without a care in the world.

So far so good.


And now, on with the show.

So there I was, standing overnight duty in Medical on the boat. This would have been late 1980 or early 1981. As a Nation and as a Navy we were under a rather crushing ops tempo at the time, but I was junior enough not to know what that meant. From my perspective, I was just doing the job as assigned. I'm either on the beach or on the boat. I do what I'm told, and do it to the best of my ability. I'm not a slave or a robot, and I get to do and learn some really cool stuff, so I'm happy with my lot and very willing to serve. However, I wouldn't know an ops tempo from a procurement budget and that's just fine with me. That the ship and airwing have only had a 30-day stand down between the end of a major deployment and the beginning of workups for the next major deployment is simply what it is. Even had I known that the "usual" stand down period was 90-120 days, it would have meant nothing to me. I wasn't on leave, so I was supposed to be at work, either aboard ship or at the Air Station. I was a sailor, I was on a ship at sea, and that's the way it was supposed to be.

Anyway, there I was. It was late, but as I recall it wasn't yet zero-dark late. I was sitting at the check in window of the medical records office, listening to boom box music, smoking a camel, and drinking a warm coke. Myself and another HN/E-3 were "up and standing watch," the rest of the seven or eight man duty section were racked out in medical berthing, just a few frames aft and one deck down.

BLAM! The door (technically, a non water tight door, or NWTD) from the portside passageway crashed open and a guy came running in, yelling at the top of his lungs.

"Come quick, come quick! A guy fell down the ladder and he's bleeding all over the place and his brains are coming out!"

At that moment I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. I was on duty, and my station was main medical. I was not supposed to leave my station unless and until I was properly relieved. Period, However, I also seemed to be the closest corpsman available for a shipmate who had sustained a very serious injury. That shipmate needed attention now, not at some point in the future after I'd dicked around long enough to find someone to tell me what to do. So I yelled at the other HN on duty, told him to call the duty section Leading Petty Officer (LPO), and that I'd report back when I found what was going on. I grabbed my Unit One and followed the fellow who'd crashed through the door 15 seconds earlier.

We went back out into the portside passageway and forward a few frames, then outboard to a ladder well.
This one's only a few frames aft of the one in question!

There was a crowd gathered and I bellowed, "Make a hole! Medical!" I shoved through the crowd, cursing. At the top of the ladder I looked down and could see another crowd gathered around a khaki-clad man laying on the deck in the narrow confines of the ladder well. There were also six or eight guys standing on the ladder, rubbernecking at the scene of bloody mayhem below. Fucking unbelievable.
Just not a lot of room for rubbernecking.

I gave forth with long and loud string of profanities, which helped me clear the ladder. More than one ladder-perching sailor collected an elbow to the nose as I fought my way down toward the wounded man. It seemed to take forever but couldn't have taken more than a handful of seconds for me to get down the ladder and get a good look at the injured man.

He was on his back on the deck with his feet an legs still up on the ladder. His eyes were closed but he was clearly breathing, which was a good sign. His head and shoulders were in the middle of an impressive puddle of blood, and as I watched the puddle continued to spread. On the up side, that meant his heart was still beating. On the down side, the ol' human body only holds so much blood.

On my knees in the blood I quickly probed the injured man's head wound. It felt impressive, but there weren't any brains coming out. I couldn't actually see the wound because I didn't want to move the fellow in case of a neck injury. I flipped up his eyelids and his pupils reacted promptly and equally to light. His pulse was strong and he was breathing just fine. Other than a bloody scalp laceration and perhaps a concussion he was probably fine, but that cervical spine...

My quick and dirty field assessment told me that we needed the Medical Response Team (MRT) to move this guy to sick bay. We needed them here sooner rather than later, so we needed to call away a Medical Emergency. I scanned the crowd for someone senior, and found a lone khaki amid a sea of slick-sleeved (E-3 and below) blue shirts. Unfortunately, he was a LT(jg). He looked pretty green around the gills and possibly on the verge of fainting. He looked back at me through coke-bottle eyeglass lenses and swallowed nervously. Shit.

Just then a big hand grabbed my shoulder. "Whatcha need, Doc?" 

A Senior Chief! Hooray!

"We need to call away a medical emergency, Senior, this guy needs to get to medical right away, but he might have a neck injury."

As I was talking I opened my unit-one, pulled out a large battle dressing, and began to staunch the blood flowing from the injured man's head. Only then did I notice the silver eagle on one collar, and golden cross on the other. Jesus fucking christ! A Captain, and the ship's senior Chaplain to boot! Thank heavens he was unconscious and didn't hear me cussing!

Within moments the 1MC roared to life, announcing the medical emergency. The MRT followed within only a few minutes, and I got out of the way.

Later in the sick bay treatment room, while I was writing in the chart and the Chaplain was being sewn up by the ship's senior medical officer, the Chaplain confided to his fellow Captain that, "I knew I'd be fine as soon as I heard your foul-mouthed corpsman clearing the ladder!"

You could have heard a pin drop, and all eyes (save those of the Chaplain) in the treatment room focused on me.

"Uh," I said, "I'm, uh, sorry 'bout that, uh, about the language sir. I mean Captain. I mean, uh, Chaplain, sir. Uh..."

"That's all right, son," said the Chaplain. "Very impressive in fact."

The glare from Captain Dalton, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy, suggested that it wasn't, in fact, all right. But it became more or less okay an hour later after he'd torn an O-6 sized strip off of me.


A month or so before the cussing fiasco, a cute little Corps Wave (female Hospital Corpsman) was dropping me off at Pier Twelve. The ship was getting underway, and so was I.

"Oh, why do you have to go?" she asked.

Being young and very stupid, I didn't realize that she was asking the same question that about 10,000 other women and children were asking that very moment.

"Because they'll throw my ass in the brig if I don't," I replied. "Sorry 'bout that."


A couple of years later I was standing duty at the Oceana Clinic. There was an aircraft in the pattern which had just declared an emergency, so the tower "rolled the meat wagon." That was us. I was the paramedic, and Mike Graham was the driver. Our meat wagon was a 1969 Jeep 4X4 field ambulance. What we called a "cracker box." It was a great unit, but different than the Dodge cracker boxes. Those were automatics but lacked power brakes. The Jeep was a four-speed but did have power brakes. As we roared out of the parking lot and turned onto Tomcat Boulevard I was still trying to fasten my seat belt. As he turned, Mike stomped down on the brake. Hard. My forehead hit the inside of the windshield hard enough to break the glass. With my brain rattling around inside my skull and vision blurred by smarting tears I heard Mike say,

"Sorry 'bout that!"

This one's a '64, but pretty close.


  1. Ladders like that have bit more than one sailor over the years! Good stories!

    1. That's a fact!. I never took that tumble but I got my share of nonskid rash and knee-knocker contusions.

      Thanks for stop[ping by!

  2. Ya Done Good, Sailor! You weren't hurt too badly in the Jeep, I hope.
    The situation inre your Dad is high stress, and we shall patiently await how it resolves itself. This time is for you and your family, and anything for us is just a little bit of a treat.

    1. No, I broke the windshield with the least vulnerable part of my anatomy!

      Thanks Scott.

  3. Thanks for the post Shaun, I know how busy you must be.

    Cheers, mate.

    1. Thanks Sarge. Lots of people are much more busier, and that's another thing I take for granted.

  4. What Scott wrote; however, you are going to continue with that last tale you started, aren't you?

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. I guess I probably should.

      Thanks for stopping by Paul!

  5. Dittos to all the above. Glad to read anything you care to share.
    John Blackshoe