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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Concussion And The Worm VN

(mini-TET May 13, 1968)
(C) James J Alonzo

In Viet Nam I was driving in the middle of a 50 truck convoy in the Iron Triangle, going from Long Binh to Cu Chi. On the way through an area that was near the Michelin Rubber Plantation we were ambushed. The area was commonly known as "ambush alley." The enemy tactics was to disable a few of the trucks with road mines, (IED), setting up the convoy to fire small arms, rockets and mortars to destroy the rest of the vehicles.

J J Jackson, 6'3", 200 lbs, african-american, was my best friend and the machine gunner riding in the "shotgun" position of the tractor trailer, (18 wheel vehicle) I was driving. The vehicle was loaded with 155 MM artillery shells, and it was a high explosive load.

Driving through this area we were vigilant, we expected to get ambushed, I just didn't understand, that when it happen, I was still caught completely surprised! As the two lead vehicle were blown up, the small arms firing started, J J Jackson with grim determination on his ebony face opened up with the machine gun laying down heavy grazing fire to suppress the Viet Cong's charge.

Explosions of mortar or rocket fire continued. However, that was the last thing I remembered. Apparently I was near an explosive force from one of these rockets or mortars that landed nearby. My 160 lb. Body was lifted and thrown from the concussion of the blast! I was told later that the force had lifted me and thrown me off the truck landing about 15 feet from the truck.

The convoy commander Lt Best and J J Jackson later told me what had happen; As the fighting started, J J opened up on the enemy with the machine gun, and I was bringing more ammo belts to reload, when the blast occurred and he had ducked down looking back where I was supposed to be. When he saw me flying in the air doing a couple of somersaults and a 1/2 pike before hitting the roadway, landing on my head. Seeing my demise, he knew I wasn't going to be assisting him.

Through the enemy small arms fire and fellow explosions, J J Jackson disconnected the machine gun from the mount on the truck, continued firing at the VC, and ran to my unconscious body to see if I was alive. Having established that I was alive, still carrying the machine gun in one arm, he scooped me up like a baby and ran with me to better cover.

After the battle, I and other wounded soldiers were medivac by chopper, to the 24th EVAC Hospital at Long Binh. I was admitted with concussion of the brain, cuts, and abrasions of my face, hands and arms.

After the doctors finished with me, I was x-rayed, bandaged,and was admitted for 24 hour observation. When I became conscious, I no longer had my clothing, boots and weapons. I found out later that J J Jackson took my weapons back to the my company unit. I was also informed that I had to stick around.

"Ma'am, do I have to stay in bed?" I asked the nurse, who like all the nurses had officer rank, but she was American and pretty and I did stare at the first American women i've seen in long time.

"No, sergeant," the nurse responded, "there's the latrine, and after you clean up put this hospital gown and robe on. Then you're allowed to roam at will. The mess hall is down on 1B, since you can walk, you won't be served. And sergeant,,,,, don't bother the nurses!"

Well that had been clear enough, i just got my orders. As I roamed the other wards that day I heard a lot of laughter and excited talk from the nurse and medic station. Upon approaching the station desk, it became clear that all the attention was focused on a pill bottle that one of the nurses was holding. Seeing me this pretty blonde nurse smiled and said,

"Hey soldier, take a look at this."

The nurse handed me the pill bottle, and I found myself looking at some kind of worm about an inch long, but nothing else that would make me excited like these people.

"I've seen bigger worms in the jungle."

"Look closer, soldier, this is an intestinal worm," she laughed, " I bet you haven't seen one like this with sutures (stitches)!"

Looking closer, I did observe several pieces of knotted thread stitches on this worm.

"Your right, I've never seen anything like this before."

Still excited the nurse said, these are surgical sutures! Can you believe it?"

"Now why would anyone want to suture a worm? I asked puzzled.

"The worm," the nurse laughingly explained, "had been found in a stool sample collected from another soldier that was also wounded very severely in his stomach. We take samples to see if he has intestinal worms as a precaution, since it is common in this country. If he has them we give medicine to make the body evacuate the worms through their stools when they defecate."

"So how did the worm get sutured?" I asked.

"That's what got my attention," she laughed, "we were in surgery, and I noticed the sutures Doctor Johnson had done on the boy's stomach and intestinal area. Doctor Johnson thought the worm was a vessel and had tied it off by mistake. When I showed him the worm, Doctor Johnson was very proud of the sutures!"

She may have thought it funny and that doctor may have been proud, but I didn't see anything to laugh about! All I saw was a big screw up!

"How can a doctor make that kind of mistake?"

"Soldier," she lashed out in defensive tone, " these doctors work long hours in a lot of bloody bodies so they do make mistakes!"

"Right, well I'll see you later," suddenly feeling tired, I was glad that I had only been admitted for a brain concussion. If doctors sew up worms and are proud of this, I didn't want to be operated on.

© Copyright 2011 James J Alonzo All rights reserved.
James J Alonzo has granted Agent Orange Legacy its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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