Saturday, May 11, 2013

Military Intelligence

The title refers not to the specific Intelligence field, but rather generically, to the .mil, from sea to shining sea. It could cover a multitude of sins, but for today's blog purposes, it's in specific reference to my experiences with military medical care, and its practitioners, performing their tender ministrations upon Marines.

For the record, most Navy docs, enlisted and officer, are worth their weight in gold, at 2013 prices. But there's always a couple whom you could melt down to cast fish sinkers.

One fall day, after having an assumed cold for several days, and I was feeling generally miserable, achy, and fevered, and an additional noteworthy symptom was that going pee hurt, stank, and deposited something in the urinal I'd never seen issue from my body before. So I voluntarily went to sick call, for the one and only time in my military career.

I was a medical illiterate in those days, but I had some vague notion the docs might want to perhaps collect a urine specimen and test it, and actually give me some form of medicine to relieve my pains. Instead, upon hearing my complaints, they rapidly issued me a chit, directing me to, IIRC, Building 522. I was at BAS (Battalion Aid Station), so I assumed I was being kicked up the chain to the RAS (Regimental Aid Station).

It was about a block away, so as quickly as my achy body permitted me, I legged it over to Stop #2 on my medical odyssey, and signed in.

Within about 5 minutes, a properly snotty 4'11" black female petty officer (worthy of both halves of that term of rank) came out to the waiting area, shoved a clipboard in my face, and announced to me that in order to be seen, I needed to fill out a complete listing of all my sexual contacts for the last 6 months.

Given that, at that point, I'd only been in the Marines for about 14 months, the first three accounted for in boot camp, followed by a month in division schools, and another three months or more in the field either on base or at Fort Bragg, I was a little amused by the implication.

Apparently my amusement registered on my poker face, because PO Snottybritches took personal umbrage, and informed me "Look, this isn't funny, the health department requires this information, so you're going to follow orders and fill this out, or I'm going to get the doctor out here, who's an officer, and he'll make you tell us!"

I actually laughed out loud and told Snottybritches to go get her champion. She disappeared in a properly self-righteous huff and a cloud of sulphur to the nether regions of Clinic 522.

Which, rather self-evidently, wasn't RAS, but in fact, the Swamp Lejeune Base VD Clinic. I would've chuckled, but it hurt my side.

So now, sick and on report, in a few minutes a boyish-looking j.g. Medical Corps officer sauntered out, and I popped to attention in USMC-approved fashion.

His tone, though he was barely older than I was, was gentle and almost fatherly:
"Look, Marine, we have to get this information, by law and regulation. You're going to have to tell us who you've been with, and it's going to get back to your chain of command."

I mightily fought back a smirk as I mentally composed my reply to tactfully convey the information required without being insubordinate, and replied, "Sir, it's like this. I'm thinking of a six-letter word, that starts with "V", and rhymes with "surgeon"...


He was an NROTC and med school grad, not a product of the Naval Academy, so it only took a second and no chalkboard diagrams for him to grasp the thought I intended to convey, rather shyly. I saw the light bulb go on that fast, and a small smile spread over his face. He looked me up and down, and asked, "Really?"

And apparently for once, the honesty was self-evident, and I said, yes, really, it was like that, despite their undoubted experience with 20,000 Marine corporals before me, I hadn't boinked anything whatsoever, let alone anything recently. Then I went on to explain the signs and symptoms that had led me to, thus far foolishly, entrust my medical well-being to those in the Navy commonly referred to by outsiders to their profession as "chancre mechanics." It was becoming more obvious to me why by the second.

No fool this doc though, who said "Well okay then." and immediately barked out an order for PO Snottybritches to write me a chit referring me immediately to the Base Hospital for further testing and treatment.

I thanked him, took my slip from Snottybritches, and legged it back to my unit, and told the Platoon Sgt. I was referred to the base hospital, then got in my car and drove over.

Where, some 4 hours into my medical odyssey, someone actually had the sense to ask for a urine specimen, while I awaited the results.

Cue a middle-aged Navy Lt. Commander, short, white, female, Medical Corps, to come storming out into the waiting area asking where the guy with the horrible urinalysis test was.
"Great", I thought to myself. I not only flunked my urine test, but Snottybritches has a white big sister, and called ahead to get me properly greeted and dealt with.

Standing to, she identified me as the culprit, and barked out, no nonsense "You. Upstairs. In a hospital bed. Now."

"Um, Cmdr. Ma'am, may I return to my unit and get a razor, change of underwear, robe, etc., ma'am?"

"Look, I don't want any crap. I know how hard-headed you damned Marines are. If you aren't in that room upstairs in 30 minutes, I'm sending the MPs to come get your ass and drag you back here in irons, you understand me?"

Wow, the love and compassion that is Navy medicine...

"Yes, ma'am. Understood. Aye aye, ma'am."

So, I scampered to my car, went back, got my stuff in a small bag, returned, checked in, went to the ward upstairs, and was changing out of cammies and into a hospital gown when, precisely 29 minutes later (I checked my watch), Lt. Cmdr. Brimstone popped into my room.

"Good." Leans out the door "Nurse, you can cancel that call to the MPs, and get this man's antibiotics running."

Whereupon it turned out that I had the mother of all kidney infections, spent a week in the hospital on IV antibiotics, nearly lost the kidney, and needed corrective surgery.

But they cured the infection and they saved the kidney, and I got a decent blog post out of it, so it wasn't a total loss.

And my chain of command was notified - that I had worked myself nearly to death with an infection that should've killed me, which didn't hurt my rep for not being a crybaby pussy sickbay commando, either.

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