Monday, September 15, 2008

The Life and Times of Sgt Bilko: Marines Cry Too

By Sgt Bilko

Anyone who’s ever been in the military knows the pecking order between the services. In terms of toughness, it goes: Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force. And then there’s subcategories, Active, Reserves, National Guard. So when a patient comes in for medical treatment, some medics will treat the patient first by priority of their injury or illness, then by the Toughness Scale of Treatment.

Basically, it works like this: Two patients come in at the exact same time. One is a Marine with a sore throat (more about him later) and a National Guard soldier with a broken arm. Obviously, you take the National Guard dude first, and then help the Marine. Simple, right?

Let me tell you a little story that happened in the Emergency Room at Fort Irwin, CA. Names will be changed to protect the medics from lawsuits.

We had just had shift change and I was headed to the front desk to make sure Phat Paddy (I have nicknames for most of the people I work with) was good to go. On the way up front, while I was still 15 feet behind a closed door, I hear the most God-awful wailing coming from the waiting area. Thinking some poor lady was in full blown labor and was about to deliver right on the front desk and I would have to help clean up the mess, I hurried to the front.

Phat Paddy and Kornfed were both at the desk, looking rather amused. A patient was on one of the gurneys that we keep up front for air medical evacuations, rolling and wailing like someone was jamming a toilet brush down his throat or something. Maybe he was in labor, but I ruled that out pretty quickly by determining that he was a male.

I had to physically look, because the noise and commotion he was creating made me think of a 16 year old rich-bitch drama queen who didn’t get the Mercedes Benz that daddy had promised her. Phat Paddy and Kornfed just shook their heads when I asked what was going on with the patient.

I spoke with the patient and he said that he had a sore throat that was “killing him”.

While inputting his info in the computer, we discovered two things. One, he was an Active Duty Marine officer and Two; he had already been seen earlier in the day and given antibiotics and painkillers.

He was also told that he had Strep throat and it would take a few days for the antibiotics to work and to take the pain meds for his throat. I know having Strep throat is painful, I’ve been through a few bouts myself, but this was something I had never seen or expected to see. Both of my parents were Marine Drill Instructors, so you can imagine my disdain with the situation. And the wailing continued….

Due to the commotion, we bring the Marine with the sore throat to the back for screening. His crying and whining continued while we try to get vital signs and a medical history from this big, 6’3”, 225-pound Marine officer. The nurse on shift (lets call him Russell), had heard the guy hollering and yelling. One thing you have to know is that the floor nurses work a 24-hour shift, while the medics only worked a 12 hour shift. So, Russell had already dealt with this particular patient and was not very sympathetic to his situation, since the patient had not taken his pain meds.

How goofy do you have to be to understand that if you are in pain and have been given something for that pain, it might be prudent to take the drugs? So Russell informed Kornfed and me that he wanted bilateral IVs started, nothing less than an 18 gauge catheter was to be used and that one of us had better miss with the first stick.

We had stuck one of the IV bags in the freezer for about ten minutes before we began sticking because we knew the guy was going to just carry on and on about his pain. We figured we could give him something to take his mind off of his throat and give him something else to worry about.

Being the senior medic, I got to be the one who missed the first stick. I jammed that needle into his arm, dug it around a bit, then admitted I had blown the vein and would have to restick him. Without removing the tourniquet I assembled another IV set. He was bleeding all over the place from my earlier jab, but I went ahead and stuck him properly.

We got the fluid flowing and with some meds jacked into the IV bag, he eventually settled down. Remember, one of the bags had been in the freezer for a bit. After a while, he started cooperating with us and asking for blankets because he was shaking from being cold.

We told him again that he needed to take his prescriptions, he started talking about how he was a Marine and he didn’t need any painkillers, yadda yadda yadda. I asked him that if he was such a tough Marine and could take pain, why was he rolling and caterwauling like a little drama queen all over my gurneys? No answer, of course. We discharged him after the IVs were finished and the doc gave him a stern warning about his drugs and that if he returned within 24 hours for the same complaint, that he (the doc) would admit the patient and have IVs, heart monitors, and a urinary catheter put in.

Seems the thought of having a rubber hose jammed into his, you get the idea, worked wonders for pain control. By the time we discharged him, he was in a hurry to get out of there. And we giggled for the rest of the night.

Oh, and the National Guard soldier with the broken arm? He ended up waiting patiently in the waiting area until we could get him treated.

Sgt Bilko is active duty Army NCO and I’m the retired version. Being a Non-Commissioned Officer in any branch of the service automatically ranks one higher on the not-a-big-pussy scale than any officer in any branch. I may make an exception for those in special ops. If you agree or disagree, we’d really enjoy hearing from you, either in the comment section or by sending in your own funny stories.

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Les James said...

Reminds me of a few times when someone would demand treatment and then somehow blame me or my medics for their illness or injury. Payback can be sooo sweet.

RT said...

Great story!

Glad I wasn't on the receiving end of that botched IV. OUCH!

Jules said...

Oh, Les, remember the one lady who would use the ER as her child's primary care physician because she just couldn't get up early enough to take her kid to Pediatrics? Gaaaahhhhh!!!!!

Les James said...

Jules- Nice to see you again! You have a much better memory of those little details then I do, but yes, I do remember her now.