Don’t trust the Doc…The sequel
It has been a busy and very long week of work on this side of the computer. I left the house on Memorial Day and besides a quick 48 hours at the house, I am still not home. But the good news is that vacation is right around the corner and my family is with me so all is well. I am in the mood for a good old fashioned war story so gather around kids and hold on.
Our last war story left us in late October 2003. My crew had just moved from Masriah Island to Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait. Living in trailers for the first time in the war, life was good. We had real beds and a much more private living experience because we shared a room with two or three guys. But the confined space was bad, especially when Dave and Kyle tossed chickens into the room because there was nowhere to escape the attack. You can read it here. https://robakers.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/dave-and-kylethe-chicken-fuers/
An earlier story was centered on a Flight Doc and his overreaction to Harry’s fight with the folding chair. The Doc wanted to fly along to see if Harry was psychologically stable enough to do his job in a time of war until we had a serious in flight incident that abruptly closed the Doc’s investigation. You can read it here. https://robakers.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/watch-out-for-the-doc/
The second in the series is here. https://robakers.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/watch-out-for-the-doc-part-ii/
Now that you are up to speed, here is a little flashback. We returned from Iraq in September for our 35 days at home, one of my wife’s personal agendas was for me to see a Dermatologist about a small bump that had started to grow on my left cheek next to my nose. It had only been there for a year and I was too busy to get it looked at. So she took me to a skin doctor and he did a biopsy. Fortunately, the results came back clear with good margins. But he said that if there was anything like that again to have it checked out. He made me promise not to ignore it like I did with the first one. That is probably good advice for all of us to follow and as luck would have it another one did appear in almost the same spot just a couple of months later. I’m not a doctor and I don’t know how or why things like that happen but I can be taught. So true to my word, I went to see the Flight Doc in Kuwait about this new bump. I should have kept my mouth shut but I wanted this one to be documented in my medical records so away I went full of confidence that this Doc would do the right thing.
It was late in the afternoon when I went to the Doc’s office. He looked and looked at different angles and using different types of lights, mirrors and magnifying glasses. I don’t think he knew what he was looking at but I do think he was having fun because someone had something that wasn’t a cough. After a very long time he said that I was going to Germany to see a specialist. I didn’t want to go to Germany because that is where the really sick and injured guys went. All I wanted the growth to be documented in my records and I promised to get it biopsied when I got back by my personal doctor. Maybe it was payback for making him think we were going to have to bail out of an airplane. Maybe it was Karma coming back on me for trying to scare him. Either way he placed me into a DNIF status which stands for Duties Not Including Flying Basically, I was grounded until the issue was medically cleared. The Doc called Sleepy, my Commander and told him that I was to be on the first airplane to Germany to get checked out.
The first flight was a medical rotation that left the next morning at 4 AM, Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving. Sleepy drove me to Kuwait City where I got onto a waiting Aeromed C-17 flight with guys who had been shot, blown up by an IED, or otherwise critically wounded in battle. I felt like a real horse’s backside having to claim a seat because of an oversized pimple that won’t go away no matter how much you try to pop it.
There is no just walking onto a medical flight. It was just like going to the doctor’s office. You have to check in, you have to see the nurse to get all your vitals, you have to see someone else to assess your illness, you have to see a doctor and then you get assigned a seat or a gurney. I apologized to every person I spoke with but they all said that it is better to get it looked at. I think there were saying that just to make me feel better about impersonating an injured person. I am also sure that they thought I was faking it to get out of work. I was able to talk the doctor into giving me a seat as opposed to lying next to some poor dude missing both arms and both legs with IVs attached to his neck.
We landed at Ramstine Air Base in Germany. I had been there several times but never as an ambulatory patient. I was the last one off the airplane and one of the few who was healthy enough to do the drill again. Check in, get your vitals, talk to a nurse, talk to a doctor, it was all starting to run together. But I don’t have anything negative to say about how I was treated. In fact, in spite of my lack of wounds I was still someone who was going to get first class service. All of the appointments were already scheduled and I was given a personal guide through the hospital. It was nice to have someone to literally hold my hand and be an advocate through the process. I went directly from the airfield triage to the Dermatologist’s office. Within an hour from landing, I was laying back in a chair in a needle in my face to numb the area to be biopsied. After he finished, the Doc said I was good and they took me to another office to begin the transfer back to the States.
Once I realized what they wanted to do, I objected. I didn’t want to go back to the States. I wanted to get back to Kuwait and finish the rotation. Sleepy promised me that I would be heading right back so I only packed a small duffel bag with some civilian clothes and a shaving kit. The folks in the travel office told me that no one goes back to Iraq. I asked a couple more questions before I realized this was a one way trip. Before they started the paperwork, I asked if I could get off DNIF status. They said sure and sent me to a Flight Doctor. He looked at everything and signed some paperwork returning me to flight status. He asked why I was there and shook his head with disgust when I told him.
I went back to the travel office and asked them if I was free to leave the hospital and make my own way back to Iraq. They said no. I asked if I was a prisoner under confinement and they said no, so I asked for my release from their care. Amazingly enough they gave me a piece of paper to sign and I walked out the front door of the hospital missing a pound of flesh and a new respect for the care of the wounded.
Next week, it is European Vacation story time. Until then, keep on rockin.