Monthly Archives: January 2015

Excerpt from “Burma Surgeon” by Dr Gordon S Seagrave ~~Operating~~

Dr Gordon Seagrave, the son of American missionaries, was a medical surgeon who lived and worked in Burma throughout his life. He joined the American Medical Corps in 1942, working with General Joseph Stilwell. His team of Burmese nurses were well-trained and admirably supported his surgical challenges.

 

picture-BurmaSurgeon-SeagraveWe chose one of the porches for the operating-room and set up four operating tables. The upstairs floor was soon covered with bed-rolls, while the main floor was reserved for patients. The ambulances now returned from their second trip to the front, and with a good deal of trouble, the Friends located us in our new set-up.
We started operating again, and were soon in our stride. This was getting to be old stuff. Four of the nurses were upstairs getting a little sleep preparatory to taking over when the first group downstairs dropped from exhaustion. Two of them, with the help of Low Wang and Lieng Sing, were giving first aid to the casualties as they were brought in and deciding the order in which the patients would be sent for operation. Esther and Big Bawk each had two tables assigned to them, and were pouring chloroform in a way that would have delighted Tiny, who taught them. Koi, Kyang Tswi, Ruth, and Little Bawk were assisting, one at each table. The sun began to scorch us. Off came my surgeon’s gown, then my rubber gown. I would rather catch a Japanese bomb than perish from heat stroke as I moved from table to table debriding devitalized tissues, putting bone fragments together, throwing powdered sulphanilamide into the wounds and applying plaster casts. Sweat was still pouring, and my shirt, undershirt, and stockings came off and were thrown into a corner, leaving me in nothing but a pair of bloody shorts. It was grand to be a man! I could work in a pair of shorts without anyone’s getting excited. The poor nurses were not so fortunate. Their thin little Burmese jackets plastered tight to their bodies, they had to sweat and gasp and like it! A squadron of Japanese bombers passed over us on its way to Mandalay, and I forced the girls to jump into the slit trenches in the back yard. An hour or so later the formation returned. Since the girls were convinced that all bombs had been disposed of and that the planes were returning empty, I could not persuade them to leave off operating. Just as the planes were straight above us the bombs began to scream downward.
‘Lie down, you darn little fools,’ I yelled as the bombs burst a scant two hundred yards down the street.
Paul had dragged the spare nurses into one of the trenches and heard them praying as the explosions shook the house, “Oh, God, don’t let the doctor get hurt; don’t let him get hurt!”
As fire began to sweep the town we returned to our operating tables. Civilian bomb casualties were now being brought in. I simply could not locate the bullet in the thigh of one of our Chinese patients.
“Here, let me have a try,” said Koi. She inserted one tiny finger in the wound, using it as a guide for long forceps, and out came the bullet!
“Listen, woman. What are you helping me for? You take over this table and do your own darned operations! I’m busy. Debride each case, get the bullet or shell fragment out if you can, pack the wound, and if the destruction is extensive, put on a plaster cast.”
Kyang Tswi and Ruth were getting along pretty well also. All I needed to do was select uncomplicated cases for them, explore, and leave them to trim, while I kept them in view out of the corner of my eye. Little Bawk and I handled the worst cases: abdominal, chest, and head wounds. Just as we were really going to town I looked up and saw General Stilwell standing in the doorway! The room behind him was littered with the patients we had been operating on, lying on our little cotton mattresses. On the ground outside nurses were receiving patients from the trucks and giving first aid. Three Chinese casualties were standing by the wall of the operating-room waiting for nurses and Friends to carry away the one who had been operated on so they could climb up on the vacant operating table and sigh thankfully as Bawk or Esther began to chloroform them. My body was covered with blood.

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Excerpt from “Honorary White” by E.R. Braithwaite ~~Spirit~~

picture-HonoraryWhite-BraithwaiteAt the end of the concert, I stayed to meet the musicians. I expressed my delight at the power and joy of their music, all the more impressive in the face of the white South Africans’ determined attempts to humiliate and degrade the black man. The vocalist-bongo drummer spoke for the others.
‘How is it where you come from?’ he asked me. ‘Where is this place Guyana? In Africa? Where?’ His face dripped perspiration which he occasionally scooped away with a forefinger. A handsome young man of medium height, filled with energy which seemed ready to erupt out of him. I told him where Guyana is, pinpointing it on that other continent.
‘Tell me about the people,’ he said. ‘Are they all black, like you? Tell me about them.’ Looking me up and down as if to discover any difference between him and me, them and me.
I told him briefly something of my people. He then asked how long I’d been in Johannesburg, how much I’d seen of the city and the black people and what was my general impression of their condition. Before I could reply, he held up a broad, thick-fingered hand and warned me:
‘When you talk about my country, don’t pity me. Look at us.’ Here he moved closer to me as if to emphasise that we were of approximately the same height.
‘Talk to us as one of us. I will tell you how I live here and you will tell me about life in your country. I will tell you that I am deeply dissatisfied with the conditions of my life here and perhaps you will tell me that you are dissatisfied with conditions in your own country. We black men have been here for thousands of years. We have learned how to survive the heat and the floods and the drought, the hunger and the times of plenty. Now we must learn to live through slavery, right here in our homeland. We will live through this present experience. Our music is an expression of the spirit, just as survival springs from the spirit, just as hope, love and strength are things of the spirit. Come, my brothers,’ he beckoned to come nearer around us. ‘Come and tell our friend here how we can live in shit and still make music.’
His voice had acquired a sharp edge, cutting into me. His round face was grave, the eyes hard, glittering. I guessed his age at twenty-eight or thirty. The voice which had given such poignancy and power to his songs was now low and sonorous, the words tinctured with bitterness.
‘Tell our friend here that we are of Africa as the dust of the veld and the wind which blows it and as the rivers which are its blood. We are permanently of Africa, as the dust of our fathers is mixed with the dust of the veld. Now we are humiliated here and must bend in the dust. But we will be established again in our rightful place when we learn to pay more attention to things of the spirit. Do you hear me?’
I nodded. I was hearing him.
‘I do not speak of your church. I speak of the spirit of man. When we learn, as our fathers did, to pay more attention to things of the spirit, we will know how to work together and suffer together and, once again, be established together in our fatherland.’
Abruptly he walked away, the others breaking up to follow him.

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Excerpt from “MASH” by Richard Hooker ~~Meatball surgeon~~

picture-MASH-HookerCaptain Pinkham had the boy with the minor but significant chest wound. When Hawkeye and Duke wandered in, he was fussing around the patient, rapping on the chest and listening to it with a stethoscope. He was behaving, in other words, like a doctor and not a meatball surgeon, so Hawkeye took a look at the X-rays, assessed the situation and spoke.
“Doctor,” he said, “this guy obviously has holes in his bowel and his femur is broken. It’s not a bad fracture, but he’s probably dropped a pint here. There’s at least a pint in his belly and maybe a pint in his chest. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” Captain Pinkham said.
From there Hawkeye went on to explain that the patient also had a pneumothorax, meaning that there was air in his pleural, or chest, cavity because his lung was leaking air and had collapsed. In addition, he suggested, the shock from the blood loss was probably augmented by contamination of the peritoneum, or abdominal, cavity by bowel contents.
“So what he needs,” he said, “before you lug him in there and hit him with the Pentothal and curare and put a tube in his trachea, is expansion of his lung, two or three pints of blood and an antibiotic to minimize the peritoneal infection.”
“I see,” Captain Pinkham said, beginning to see a little light, “but we’ll still have to open his chest as well as his belly.”
“No, we won’t,” said Hawkeye. “The chest wound doesn’t amount to a damn. Stick a Foley catheter between his second and third ribs and hook it to underwater drainage, and his lung will re-expand. If he were going to do any interesting bleeding from his lung, he’d probably have done it by now. We can tap it after we get the air out and his general condition improves. Right now we just want to get this kid out of shock and into the OR in shape to have his belly cut and his thigh debrided.”
Two corpsmen brought what at the Double Natural passed for an adequate closed thoracotomy kit. It contained the bare essentials for insertion of a tube in a chest, and after Hawkeye had watched Captain Pinkham fiddle around with it for a while, he spoke again.
“Look,” he said, “All that’s great, but there will be times when you won’t have the time to do it right. Lemme show you how to do it wrong.”
Hawkeye donned a pair of gloves, accepted a syringe of Novocain from a corpsman, infiltrated the skin and the space between the ribs and shoved the needle into the pleural cavity. Pulling back on the plunger he got air, knew he was in the right place, noted the angle of the needle, withdrew it, took a scalpel, incised the skin for one-half inch and plunged the scalpel into the pleural cavity. Bubbles of air appeared at the incision. Then he grasped the tip of a Foley catheter with a Kelly clamp and shoved the tube through the hole. A nurse attached the other end to the drainage bottle on the floor, a corpsman blew up the balloon on the catheter and now bubbles began to rise to the surface of the water in the bottle. Hawkeye dropped to his knees on the sand floor and, as he began to suck on the rubber tube attached to the shorter of the two tubes in the bottle, the upward flow of bubbles increased as the lung was, indeed, expanding.
“Crude, ain’t it?” said Hawkeye.
“Yes,” said Captain Pinkham.
“How long did it take?”
“Not long,” admitted Captain Pinkham, who couldn’t help noticing that the patient’s breathing had already improved.

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Excerpt from “The Imaginary Girlfriend” by John Irving ~~Zebras~~

John Irving recalls writers and wrestlers in this memoir, and in this tale, shares his experience as a tournament referee.

 

picture-ImaginaryGirlfriend-IrvingIn the first three weight classes, Cliff and I gave out half a dozen penalty points for the illegal headlock – apparently a feature of Maine life – and Cliff bestowed one disqualification: for biting. Some guy was getting pinned in a crossface-cradle when he bit through the skin of his opponent’s forearm. There was bedlam among the fans. What could possibly be more offensive to them than a no-biting rule? (There were people in the stands who looked like they bit other people every day.)
That night in Maine, Cliff Gallagher was 68. A former 145-pounder, he was no more than 10 pounds over his old weight class. He was pound-for-pound as strong as good old Caswell from Pitt. Cliff was mostly bald; he had a long, leathery face with remarkable ears – his neck and his hands were huge. And Cliff didn’t like the way the crowd was reacting to his call. He went over to the scorer’s table and took the microphone away from the announcer.
‘No biting – is that clear enough?’ Cliff said into the microphone. The fans didn’t like it, but they quieted down.
We had a few more weight classes (and a lot more illegal headlocks) to get through; we kept alternating the matches, between referee and mat judge, and we kept blowing our whistles – in addition to the headlocks without an arm, there were over-scissors and full-nelsons and figure-four body-scissors and twisting knee-locks and head-butts, but there was no more biting. In the 177-pound class, I called the penalty that determined the outcome of the match; I thought the fans were going to rush me on the mat, and the coach of the penalized wrestler distinctly called me a ‘cocksucker’ – normally another penalty, but I thought I’d better let it pass.
Cliff conferred with me while the crowd raged. Then he went to the microphone again. ‘No poking the other guy in his eyes over and over again – is that clear enough?’ Cliff said.
It was Cliff who refereed the heavyweights, for which I was – for which I am – eternally grateful.
The boy who’d been thrown on the scorer’s table, and had thus been victorious in the semifinals, was a little the worse for wear; his opponent was a finger bender, whom Cliff penalized twice in the first period – patiently explaining the rules both times. (If you grab your opponent’s fingers, you must grab all four – not just two, or one, and not just his thumb.) But the finger bender was obdurate about finger bending, and the boy who’d been bounced off the scorer’s table was already … well, understandably, sensitive. When his fingers were illegally bent, the boy responded with a head-butt; Cliff correctly penalized him too. Therefore, the penalty points were equal as the second period started; so far, not one legal wrestling move or hold had been initiated by either wrestler – I knew Cliff had his hands full.
The finger bender was on the bottom; his opponent slapped a body-scissors and a full-nelson on him, which drew another penalty, and the finger bender applied an over-scissors to the scissors, which amounted to another penalty against him. Then the top wrestler, for no apparent reason, rabbit-punched the finger bender, and that was that – Cliff disqualified him for unsportsmanlike conduct. (Maybe I should have let him been thrown on the scorer’s table without penalty, I thought.) Cliff was raising the finger bender’s arm in victory when I spotted the losing heavyweight’s mother; it was another gene-pool identification – this woman was without question a heavyweight’s mom.
In Maine that year – only in Maine – I had heard us referee’s occasionally called ‘zebras.’ I presume this was a reference to our black-and-white-striped shirts, and I presume that Cliff had previously heard himself called a ‘zebra,’ too. Notwithstanding our familiarity with the slur, neither Cliff nor I was prepared for the particular assault of the heavyweight’s mom. She lumbered manfully to the scorer’s table and ripped the microphone from the announcer’s hands. She pointed at Cliff, who was standing a little uncertainly in the middle of the mat when she spoke.
‘Not even a zebra would fuck you,’ the mom said.
Despite the crowd’s instinctive unruliness, they were as uncertain of how to respond to the claim made by the heavyweight’s mother as Cliff Gallagher; the crowd stood or sat in stunned silence. Slowly, Cliff approached the microphone; Cliff may have been born in Kansas, but he was an old Oklahoma boy – he still walked like a cowboy, even in Maine.
‘Is that clear enough?’ Cliff asked the crowd.
It was a long way home from the middle of Maine, but all the way Cliff kept repeating, ‘Not even a zebra, Johnny.’ It would become his greeting for me, on the telephone, whenever he called.

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Excerpt from “Lost in Shangri-La” by Mitchell Zuckoff ~~Found~~

picture-LostInShangriLa-ZuckoffAt around eleven a.m. on Wednesday, 16 May, after five hours of trudging through the stream, McCollom climbed up the 2.5-metre bank.
‘Come on,’ he called, ‘this is it.’
Decker scrambled up, dragging Margaret behind him. On flat ground at the top, she fell face-forward on to the earth, unable to take another step. Decker and McCollom went ahead while she crawled after them on her hands and knees. A half-hour later, she reached the spot fifty metres from the stream where Decker and McCollom lay panting on the ground. Feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays, she noticed that for the first time in days she could see a wide expanse of sky. They had reached their goal, a clearing in the rainforest atop a small knoll.
Within minutes, the survivors heard the roar of four powerful engines. They looked up to see a B-17 bomber, its unmistakable shape silhouetted high overhead against the blue sky. The trio waved to draw its attention, but the pilot of the Flying Fortress flew away without spotting them. They rested and ate what passed for lunch, disappointed by the near miss but heartened by the sight of the plane.
An hour later, either the same B-17 or another just like it made another pass over the clearing. This time McCollom was not taking any chances. He jumped to his feet.
‘Get out the tarps!’ he shouted.
McCollom and Decker raced to untie their supplies and spread out the yellow tarpaulin covers they had salvaged from the Gremlin Special’s life rafts. The B-17, with Captain William D. Baker at the controls, was flying over the jungle at high altitude. Along with his usual crew, Baker had brought along an unusual passenger for a heavy bomber: Major Cornelius Waldo, the Catholic chaplain at the Hollandia base.
Margaret worried that the pilot would miss them again and declare that sector of the mountain fully searched, with no sign of wreckage or survivors. She begged her companions to hurry.
Just when it seemed that the B-17 was about to fly away, Captain Baker turned the big bomber and circled back over the clearing. Still, Baker gave none of the traditional signs that he had seen them. McCollom called to the sky:
‘Come on down, come on down and cut your motors,’ he cried. ‘Cut your motors and dip your wings.’
Margaret chimed in: ‘I know they see us, I know they do.’
Decker added a note of optimism: ‘They see us by now.’
Even though Baker was flying high above the clearing, he could not mistake the survivors for any natives that might be around. One obvious distinction was that all three wore clothing. But the real giveaway was the tarp. Less than five minutes after the survivors spotted the B-17, the B-17 returned the favour. Baker raced his engines. He dipped his wings.
They had been found.
McCollom had made the right call when he had ordered them to leave the crash site and march down the mountain and through the icy stream. As one pilot experienced in jungle searches described it, ‘An airplane going into the trees makes a very small gash in a limitless sea of green.’ By leading them to a clearing and laying out the bright yellow tarpaulin, McCollom had given them a shot at being rescued.

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Excerpt from “A Fortunate Life” by A. B. Facey ~~Grog~~

Albert Facey, at eight years of age, left his family to work and live with another family, primarily tending the livestock. The following event occurred after his second Christmas there, by then he was ten years old.

picture-FortunateLife-FaceyWhen I got back with the cows it was nearly sundown. Bill came to meet me and said that there was a big row on at the house. The grog had run out and Bob was blaming everyone for getting away with it, or stealing it, even the old lady. This made Bill and me very scared. Bill had heard Bob say that last Christmas he had found some bottles planted in the stable and he would search it this time from end to end. Bill suggested that we take the grog that we had planted and put it somewhere else.
We got the bottles off the stable roof (it was getting dark), and put them into two bags. We put these on top of the pig shed roof. A little while later Bob and three others commenced looking for the missing bottles. They were still pretty drunk, so we felt sure they wouldn’t find them.
About half an hour later Bill’s brother George came and told us that Bob wanted Bill up at the house. Bill went up to Bob and I stayed in the stable. Later I heard Bill yelling and I knew then that he was copping a belting. They were trying to make him tell them where the grog was. This made me frightened so I thought I would shift the bottles from the roof of the pig house in case Bill gave in and told.
It was very dark by then so I went to the pig house and brought the bottles down to the ground. I intended to put them in a bag and hide them. The pigs were all asleep, so I knocked the heads off the bottles and emptied them into the trough with the pig feed. This would save me two trips to get rid of the grog, as I couldn’t have carried all the full bottles but the empties were easy to manage in a bag. I put the bag, full of broken bottles, over the fence and took it down into the gully close to the soak.
When I was clear I heard loud voices going towards the pig house. I couldn’t see who it was, but one of the voices was Bob’s and I could also hear Alec. I was safe as it was very dark, and as long as I didn’t make a noise I would be all right. All at once it came to me to let the bag and broken bottles down into the water. There was always about eight feet of water in the soak and the weight of the bottles would hold the bag down, and no one would be able to find it. Having done this I sneaked back to the pig house and could hear that Bill was copping it again. They were belting him and calling him a liar, then Bob’s voice came above the others and said, ‘Find Berty. Then we will get to the bottom of this.’
They all started looking for me. I had no boots on so I quietly got away into the bush and stayed hidden. They never came near where I was. Then a terrible din came from the pig shed. Two or three pigs started to squeal, then a few more, then finally all the pigs were squealing. Oh, what a noise. This brought all the half-drunk men and the women to the pig house. I sneaked up as close as I dared, wondering what was wrong. Then I heard. Bob yelled out, ‘The young sod has poured the grog into the pig trough and they’re all drunk. Wait until I get hold of him, he’ll be sorry for this. I’ll skin him alive.’
This made me go back into hiding in the bush. About two hours later things became quieter. The pigs were not so noisy and everyone seemed to be settled down for the night.
It was in the early hours of the morning when I ventured into the stables to get my blanket. Bill was not there. Everything was quiet. My idea was to wait until daylight came, and clear out and try to get to Uncle’s place. I was very tired and fell asleep and when I woke it wasn’t only daylight but the sun was well up, and standing over me was Bob with a stock-whip in his hand. I had not undressed for bed. I still had on my pants and a shirt, and an old rag hat. These, along with my red blanket, were all my belongings.
Bob said, ‘Well, how much grog did you and Bill put into that trough last night? Now there’s no use denying it, we thrashed it out of Bill last night and you’ve still got yours coming. Come on get up, where’s the rest of the grog?’ I didn’t speak, just stood looking up at him. He gave me a cut around the legs, then he lashed me three or four times around the shoulders and body. I jumped up and tried to run out of the stable. As I got out of the doors he caught me around the legs again and I fell to the ground. He continued to whip me. The whip was one he used to tame horses with and he was an expert. He knew how to use that whip. I don’t know how many times he cut me because I must have fainted.
The next thing I knew I was up at the house on a sofa in the living-room. The old lady and some other women were washing my back, legs, arms and shoulders, and applying some kind of ointment to my cuts. Some of the cuts were an inch wide, and up to twelve inches long, and went into my flesh half an inch in places. I was so ill, I kept fainting. They seemed to be terrible worried about me and one woman said, ‘I think he will die, this is shocking. What were the other men doing to let Bob flog the boy like this?’ Old Albert said that Alec had stopped Bob and knocked him down. They had fought and Alec and Alf had given Bob a hiding. After that Bob had got on his horse and cleared out.

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Excerpt from “The Rat Patrol – The Iron Monster Raid” by I. G. Edmonds ~~Jeep~~

picture-RatPatrol-IronMonsterRaidThe rain started again. The four men in the U.S. Army jeep bumping along the desert road in North Africa hunched their shoulders against the chill December drizzle.
The driver, Pvt. Tully Pettigrew, swerved to avoid hitting a bomb crater. The jeep’s wheels slipped and churned in the soft mud, but Tully expertly pulled them back into the deep ruts.
He shot a quick glance at the grim-faced American sergeant in the front seat beside him.
“The bridge is out over that deep wadi, Sarge,” he said. “These desert creek beds fill up fast in rainy weather. Think I should cut south where we’ll have a better ford?”
Sgt. Sam Troy, leader of the four-man commando group known as the “Rat Patrol,” shook his head. Water dripped from the brim of his Australian bush hat – a souvenir of his service with the Aussies.
“Keep going, Tully,” he said bleakly. “If we turn south, we’ll hit those German panzer columns again.”
“That’s right,” Sgt. Jack Moffitt said from the rear of the jeep, where he and Pvt. Mark Hitchcock rode with a .50-caliber machine gun on a swivel mount. “We have only about fifty rounds of ammunition left. I’d hate to meet up with Capt. Hans Dietrich again with no more firepower than that.”
“That’s right,” Sam Troy agreed. “That guy is the wiliest tank company commander Rommel ever trained. He’s given us more personal trouble than the rest of the Wehrmacht combined.”

The characters were as follows:
Sgt. Sam Troy… Christopher George
Sgt. Jack Moffitt… Gary Raymond
Pvt. Mark Hitchcock… Lawrence P. Casey
Pvt. Tully Pettigrew… Justin Tarr
Capt. Hans Dietrich… Eric Braeden

picture-RatPatrol

 

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