Fun And Games · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

ETERNITY

From time to time, I reflect upon my life. Surprised, no?

After a series of souls who have “googled” their symptoms, and then promenaded into my urgent care, sharing with me the benefits (such as they are) of their newly fond expertise in All! Things! Medical!, I consider Eternity, and my likely version thereof.

First, the “consultants” who see me. Pro Tip: your clinician is not going to be favorably impressed by the results of your internet search. In all likelihood, he/she has spent a considerable amount of time, money, effort, and lost sleep over many years to acquire the knowledge and (more importantly) the judgment to assess your symptoms, examine you and interpret the junction of symptoms/physical exam findings, in order to reach a conclusion regarding the most likely cause of your particular malady. These self same hard acquired skills and knowledge are then brought to bear in order to establish a plan designed to mitigate your discomfort or cure your problem.

Google does not provide you with the experience, in most cases extending for decades, which allows the thoughtful practitioner to reject irrelevant information, and weigh relevant information, and provide you the benefit of that education and years, nay, decades, of experience.

So, for the love of Ghawd, just DON’T!

Secondly, Eternity. Since I have lived a life of misjudgments and misdeeds (the Plaintiff told me!), I know I’m going to Hell. In keeping with Dante’s view of perdition, it is likely that I will have my own, custom designed Hell. I predict that I will spend Eternity as Hell’s urgent care midlevel, spending my time with an unending stream of trivially sick folks who will not only bring me the results of their own Hell’s Google search of their imagined symptoms, but ALSO, will spend FOREVER to not answer my simple history, medication, and allergy questions. And, Sisyphean, once they swerve into a lane that brings promise of eventually actually, ya know, ANSWERING my Gorammed questions, they will promptly swerve again into circular logic and non sequiturs.

Occasionally, when I have had a particularly lengthy string of such creatures, my staff will tease me. “So, Reltney, you fixing to climb up on the roof and bombard helpless pedestrians with boxes of Z-Pack?”

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Protect and Serve

What is this “Memorial Day”?

This is Memorial Day 2019.  This the day set aside, to contemplate, to remember, those who have stood in harm’s way, have said to Evil, “you shall not pass!”, and have died so doing.

Today we recall those immortalized in Francis Scott Keyes’ fourth stanza, opening,

“Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!”

I want to repeat a story.  I first encountered it on the “Never Yet Melted” blog (https://neveryetmelted.com/). I’ve re read it multiple times, yet it still moves me to tears. Here’s the source: https://www.businessinsider.com/john-kellys-speech-about-marines-in-ramadi-2013-6

 

Scroll to the end, for the picture. 

 

Then, read the story. Lifted directly from Business Insider. This–THIS–is how MEN face DUTY. I pray that, should the need arise, I can be worthy to stand in their presence.  Corporal Jonathan Yale, Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. This is what we remember, on Memorial Day. 

via Marines Magazine

Five years ago, two Marines from two different walks of life who had literally just met were told to stand guard in front of their outpost’s entry control point.

Minutes later, they were staring down a big blue truck packedwith explosives. With this particular shred of hell bearing down on them, they stood their ground.

Heck, they even leaned in.

I had heard the story many times, personally. But until today I had never heard Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s telling of it to a packed house in 2010. Just four days following the death of his own son in combat, Kelly eulogized two other sons in an unforgettable manner.

From Kelly’s speech:

Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.

The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.

They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.

Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.

The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.

All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”

What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”

“No sane man.”

“They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ” … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”

The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.

The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.

Six seconds.

Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.

 

 

 

Here’s what it looks like when MEN face duty, in the last seconds of their lives
Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene

Car Fire

So, before Mallory and I had begun to live together, I had one of my ex partners, let’s call him Adam, as my room mate. Mallory would come over from time to time, and the three of us would chat, or share dinner, or simply hangout.

One day, she came into the house, and asked us to hurry out and see what was wrong with her car. Now, this was her baby, one she had purchased because, as she termed it, “I look so good driving that car!” It had been her very first new vehicle, ever.

So, Adam and I threw on some shoes, and trotted out to see what was the matter. She had told us that it was smoking, and once we got outside, it became clear why. The smell of burning plastic emanating from beneath the hood told the tale.

Mallory was starting to get excited, hopping around and beseeching us, “Can’t you guys do something?”

Adam looked the vehicle over, and asked her, “Do you REALLY want us to do something? If we let it burn, or call the fire department, then it will be totaled, and you can get a brand new one. If we extinguish the fire, you are gonna have to get all that burned shit replaced, and it may never be altogether right, again.”

Mallory was nigh unto break dancing by now, and simply couldn’t bear to see “her baby” burn up. Adam asked her again, simply to be certain, “Are you REALLY REALLY sure you want us to do something?Again, she pleaded with us to act. Adam looked at me, I looked at him, and we charged the garden hose, donned work gloves, and sprayed it down through the grill as well as we could. Once it had dampened down, I opened the hood, and stood aside, while he blasted it (or, at least, “blasted it” as much as one is likely to be able to, with a garden hose!). It was evidently sufficient to the task, for soon the smoke stopped, the smell abated, and we were unable to identify any further burning stuff after diligent search.

Mallory called her insurance company, they sent a wrecker, and she got a loaner.

Several weeks later, her car was returned to her. She subsequently had repeated complaints about this, that, or the other thing not performing properly. Soon, she turned to Adam, and admitted, “If I had listened to you, and let it burn, I’d be driving a new car by now!”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Protect and Serve

Christmas Eve MVA

Christmas Eve MVA

This one time, at Band camp….no, wait: that doesn’t seem quite right….

Oh, yeah: TINS©, TIWFDASL©…(no, not altogether correct, either…). Well, I was NOT FDASL, rather I was visiting The Momette, in The Un-Named Maternal State, and, it being Christmas Season, I was shopping for Christmas presents for the family. Indeed, it was Christmas Eve (for am I not well prepared, and forward thinking? Well, no, not so much) when my brother, The Attorney, and I were attempting to find an open store for the Christmas Shopping, that I had not yet accomplished.

So, there I was, motoring down the highway, and my brother, a veritable fountain of trivia (as is his brother, come to think of it), observed, “They call this stretch of highway the Death Mile, because it narrows from 4 lanes to two, just ahead here, and there are a bunch of collisions right along here.”

How interesting. Just about that moment, I noted beacons in my rear view mirror, and moved to the right to allow a Maternal State Police Trooper to zoom past us at flank speed, siren wailing and beacons flashing. The Attorney commented, “He sure seems like he is in a hurry! Wonder why?”

A few seconds later, ANOTHER Maternal State Police Trooper zipped past us, at about Warp 8, similarly beaconing and sirening, and sped around the upcoming corner and off into the distance.

As we, ourselves, rounded the curve, I noted chaos, as one would normally find at the scene of a high speed collision. Indeed, it certainly appeared that there had been such a collision, with three cars scattered across several lanes, and the shoulders, of the roadway. I parked on the shoulder, clear of the debris, and alighted. Approaching one of the troopers, I introduced myself. “I’m an off duty medic from Da City, Can I help?”

The trooper looked over my shoulder, and pointed. “Yep. Talk to those guys, right there.”

I turned to see an ambulance stopping. I approached one of the medics, and repeated my spiel. He nodded toward one of the vehicles. “You take that car, my partner and I will take the other two.”

I whistled to get my brother’s attention, and directed him, “Get the medic bag in the back of my truck. It’s got that Medical Star on it. I’ll be over here.”

I approached the car, my brother running over and handing me my jump bag. I noted an adult male seated in the passenger seat, another adult male laid over, sideways from the driver’s seat, his head in the passenger seat occupant’s lap. He, the laid out guy, was not speaking. I saw the head sized divot in the windshield over the steering wheel, and supposed that might have something to do with that.

The guy seated in the passenger seat stated, “I don’t think he’s breathing!” I invited the passenger seat guy to move out of the vehicle, and assessed things myself. Yep, he was not breathing. Didn’t have a carotid pulse, either. I asked the recently moved passenger seat guy, “Do you know CPR?”

Yep”

Good. Get on his chest, I’ll ventilate him.”

My new friend set to chest compressing, and I dug my BVM (manual resuscitator) out of my bag, and began to ventilate our patient.

We resuscitated along for a good little while, until the arrival of a second ambulance heralded our relief. We continued CPR until the medics had cut off our patient’s coat (feathers everywhere!), initiated an IV, and began cardiac monitoring (VF, about as I had expected). Once all the technology was in place, we all four of us moved the patient onto their cot, and they took over from there.

I walked back to the truck, set my medic bag in the back, and approached one of the officers.

Officer, do you need my contact information?”

He squinted at me. “Who are you?”

I’m the medic from Da City, who worked that guy over there.”

He turned fully to me, and shook my hand. “Mister, gotta tell you, I’m really sorry I couldn’t talk to you before you left, because I really, really, want to tell you thank you for getting involved here, several states away from your home. Drive carefully, try to have a Merry Christmas!”

I was surprised, but said, “You’re welcome!”, and returned to my truck. I told my brother about my surprising conversation with the trooper. He looked at me, and finally asked, “You just don’t get it, do you?”

I had to admit that I didn’t.

He just did you a tremendous favor. You just gotta know that, with a likely dead person in this collision, there is gonna be a huge trial, right?”

Uh-huh.

And, you are a witness, right?”

Again, I “uh-huh’d” him.

So, being a witness, you would be subpoenaed to testify, and would be required to comply with such an order of the court. Which means you would have to travel your happy ass across the country, and find accommodations, and then miss work while you were here, to testify. At no small expense, both directly as well as in lost income. Said subpoena cannot be served on ‘Sumdood, Da City, usedtabeamedic’, right?”

Might be tough to serve.”

Yep. That cop just thanked you, in certain and unmistakable terms, for your service to his community.”

He paused, and then looked at me as if he had never seen me before. “I watched you out there. You really, really looked like you knew what you were doing. I would have been totally lost, but you just stepped right up, and started working away. Pretty impressive!”

I shrugged, just a little embarrassed. “Not like I haven’t done the same thing like, I dunno, a couple of thousand times before, right?”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important!

My Cardiac Cath Story

I once heard the aphorism that “a man who is his own attorney has a fool for a client”. It turns out that legal matters is not the only arena in which that insight is applicable. Let me tell you a story about that.

So, several years ago, The Darling Wife and I were vacationing in Georgia. There are multiple sites, preserving locations where significant battles of The War Between The States/The War of Northern Aggression (depending upon when and where you learned of such things) occurred. I wanted to walk one of the battlefields (Chickamauga), both to stretch my legs as well as to get a feel for the closeness of the opposing forces.

I was winded by the time I finished my rambling over one section of battlefield, considerably more so than I had expected. I chalked it up to “bronchitis”. (remember that thought!) This persisted as I wandered from site to site, and paused to read the explanatory tablets set here and there.

We finished our vacation, and returned home. There, my “bronchitis” persisted, until, eventually, my Long Suffering Wife asked me about my illness. I admitted that it had not improved, which was curious since I had been having this “bronchitis” for about a month by then.

“How’s your fever?”, she asked.

I did not have a fever.

“Is that common when you see a patient who has had bronchitis for several weeks?”

No, I admitted, it was not.

“So, get your shoes.”

“Why?”

“Because, if you do not, your feet will become muddy”

“Why would they get muddy?”

“When you walk to the car.”

“Why would I be walking to the car?”

“Because I’m not going to carry you there.”

“Why do I need to go to the car anyhow?”

“Because it is too far to walk.”

“Where is too far to walk?”

“Your doctor appointment.”

“I don’t have a doctor appointment!”

“Oh, yes you do! Your wife made one for you!”

“Why did you do that?”

“Because she (my PCP) is not going to come here to see you, that is why.”

“Why do I need to see her?”

“A couple of reasons. First, to get you to stop asking dumb questions. Secondly, because you are sick some kind of way, and your plan is not working. You are going to talk to your doctor, and listen to her plan. And, then, act on it.”

I went to my doctor (actually a Nurse Practitioner, with whom I had ER nursed), who did an EKG, “because you are old and all.” “Well”, she told me, “This looks pretty OK, but, your story is concerning. I’m gonna schedule you for a stress test.”

Cool story. So, I arrived the next day in my running shoes and running shorts, and proceeded to tank the stress test. I mean, I did not even finish the first stage before the physician administering the test stopped me, repeatedly took my vitals, and called cardiology.

Next week, I’m sitting in the cardiology office, and the cardiologist is admiring my EKG, and enjoying my Tale Of The Failed Stress Test. He told me, “My partner will be waiting for you, to do a cardiac cath, at 3:30 (it was now about noon).”

Okey-dokey! So, I went in to my cath, with The Darling Wife and her BFF waving me farewell.

When I awakened, it was like a family re-union. Darling Wife, her BFF, her niece, my second son, my third son, my daughter, and something like 4 or 5 other folks, family in one way or another, who I cannot recall off the top of my head. Once I had sobered up enough for The Darling Wife to brief me on the doctor’s report, her precis was sobering: “You had 95% of your main artery in your heart blocked, but they were able to open it with a balloon and a stent. The doctor said had you waited a few more days, you would have had a big, bad heart attack, and, where that blockage was located, you heart would have stopped. Missed it by That Much!”