Now that I got rid of the pooled up water inside me it was time to replenish the amount lost. And what better way to do that than using some engine oil , compliments - or condolences, whichever you wished to go with - of mess tent. Coffee from mess was like tension.You could cut it with a knife. It gave you palpitations and ulcers. About the only good thing it had to offer, if you could call it that, was that it could drive away any notion of sleep like...Nah, I was too tired to come with an analogy.
By the time I got back to scrub room, almost three minutes later, the reliable steed from Lebanon had the coffee ready.
"Pour it in!", I commanded him while I got busy with the ritualistic cleansing required before I went back to the OR.
Coffee was cold, hence the straw. I wondered if it tasted worse when cold or hot? It was a toss up.
"How many left?",I asked Klinger.
"Twelve, counting the one on your table right now."
I did the math in my head. Four for me, three each for Col.Potter and BJ and if Major Bungler did not kill or maim any of his, two for him. And that meant another 7-8 hours. That was not so bad, really, if you discounted the previous lifetime we had spent repairing the gunfodder coming out of our current deluge.
"Who is covering the pre-op?", I asked.
"Nurse Kellye and Nurse Able", Klinger replied.
"Alright. Time to start rolling. Secure your nose cz here we goooooo", I barely controlled my urge to honk his nose. He looked at me with confusion plastered on his face.
"What?" I asked him.
"Nothing Cap'n. I was just wondering what wonder drug you took when you went out. I might wanna use it too. And maybe give it to Col.Potter once in a while", he commented mischievously.
"Promise me you won't tell anyone and I will let you in on my secret", I told him as I entered the OR again.
"Cross my heart", he made the sign.
"I thought you were a gypsy. Aren't they pagans?"
"Alright, scout's honor!", he said.
"So you were a scout. Never figured you for one.", I smiled, enjoying this light moment while it lasted. "Sooooo, what do we have here? Hmmmmm, alright. A regular junkyard belly. I should have gone into scrap metal business. Maybe once I get back...". Gas passer was smart and patient was all relaxed and ready for me to tango on his duodenum and Waltz on his jejunum. I liked this kind of cooperation from those I danced with. Or on, as the case might have been.
"How many to go Klinger"? Col.Potter asked him while he placed the X-Rays for his new patient. I was already elbow deep in this new kid's gut. This one was not as bad as the previous one. That was the upside of triage. Unless surgery went parallel to a battle, of course, because then you just knew that the next one would be harder than the last. And you would be tireder than before. And chances of screwing up went up exponentially. I don't know about others, but I was getting tired of the adrenaline rush I lived in all the time. The faith Army put in us was astounding. They just knew we would be up to whatever they threw at us and always made us go past our previous records of total exhaustion. How we did not lose as many patients as we should have was beyond me.
And what was with this room? Why did I become philosophical as soon as I started dancing on someone's small intestines? Surgery never stopped me before.
Time to Tango!
"So Margaret. How is your Donald doing"? I asked the head nurse, expecting a scathing remark. She was predictable even when she was unpredictable. What wasn't there to love.
"That's Col. Penobscot to you, captain", came her reply. Emphasizing my rank...Hmmmmm, that was interesting!
"Oh cummon. I am your favorite enemy in olive drab and he is your favorite Romeo in greens. We are both special to you," I winked, hopefully not too lecherously, "and that gives me a right to call him whatever I like. It also gives me a right to check on him and see if he is behaving. Which is precisely what I am going to do on my next R&R. Have you told him about me? And why did I not think of that earlier? What do you say BJ?" I winked at her again and saw a flash of anger that made my heart dance triumphantly. Mission Accomplished!
I was impressed by this idea though. Maybe this would give me the break I was looking forward to. Or maybe not!
"Captain Pierce, kindly try to act the gentleman even if...", I heard Margaret saying something about gentlemen but right now, my focus was my friend, one table down.
I turned to see BJ's feedback. He just gave me a blank look and continued working on his patient.
"Is everything alright? How is your patient doing?" I asked him because now I was a little confused. This was becoming really weird. BJ was ominously quiet. My last jab at Margaret was a sureshot way of eliciting a cheesy smile. I could just imagine him in a cheesy mustache. One cheesy smile with one cheesy mustache to go!
"Now that you want to crack jokes, its alright, huh? Only ten minutes ago and you were biting off everybody's heads and now that you had your break, you think everybody should feel nice and funny and start playing along your tunes. Maybe Captain Hunnicut is tired of your sick sense of humor and mood swings just like the rest of us."
"Frank, if you don't shut up about me or if you don't stop addressing me, I will staple your tongue to your nose and your lower lip to your umbilicus." This guy never knew when to shut up. I had to think of something to help him achieve his new goal in life, 'how to shut up'.
I stole another glance at BJ as I tied knots to ligate the mesenteric vessels. Hopefully, this one would not cause me too much trouble.
Just then, somebody entered the OR and gave another free hand a slip.
"Is that for me?" I asked, expecting the latest vitals on Hendricks. That kid had a long way to go and if I were a betting person...
"Yes Hawkeye. Pulse is 110RR. Ummmm, RR is 18. BP is 90/50. And temp is 100. Color is pale. IO is 150WB/24."
"Damnit", I swore. And then I swore some more but this time, made sure nobody heard me. Hendricks was not looking good. I was unsure about what to do? Watch him for now? BP was holding for now. But I was not sure it would hold much longer if things stayed the way they were. How about if I start pressors and expect some improvement? Maybe wait for the labs to come? I was acutely unhappy about his kidneys and his liver was chopped when he got into the OR.
"Pierce, that your grenade swallower?"
"Yes Col. He is not looking good. And I don't see how it can get any better. It took me four hours to fix what was left of that meatloaf inside his belly. And now...Father, could you ask duty nurse in post op to give him blood a little faster? Like one unit in this hour and another in next. And then update me with a fresh hematocrit plus all the rest of details"?
"Sure Hawkeye. Anything else?"
"How about staying out while Gene Tierney replaces you? And not in your robes, I might add. Or any robes, for that matter?"
"Pierce, before the majors tells me to tell you to shut up, why don't you volunteer just this once and SHUT UP",
"Oh Col., haven't you heard? There's this law in the Army. They tried to teach us in basic. 'Never volunteer'!"
"Well, Pierce, the Army I came from was real big on volunteering. So if you don't volunteer yourself, I am volunteering ME to volunteer YOU. You got THAT?"
"Metallically Loud and noisy, Col! You know, your voice reminds me of the..."
"Cap'n, you never told me your secret". Klinger, bless his soul and his beak. They required two blessings anyway.
"Not in front of mom and dad, Klinger. Did those training films not teach you anything? Ask me after this shift. Bring along my Tiny Tim. Where is he, by the way? I have not seen him all day today. I miss his shuffling on his tiny feet."
Radar was absent from my radar. I could not remember when was the last time I saw him.
"I cannot remember the last time I saw him. Maybe he has grown taller all this time that I was gone. My little boy has grown up, hasn't he?"
I knew they were all looking at me, all for different reasons. BJ was moody and sulky and was trying to figure out how my mood really was. Potter was worried about me losing my marbles. He did not know that I had none left to lose. And if I had, I left them under his pillow while he was sleeping. Margaret was part concerned, part annoyed. Frank was just plain annoyed. And intimidated. I liked to do that to him. His voice turned into that high pitch whine which somehow acted as a stimulus for my wit and sarcasm and some other higher mental functions and kept me from losing it completely when it came to dealing with life in this ...place worse than hell. The nurses and other staff was just amused because I could say things they only wished to.
Just then, OR door opened again.