Tuesday, June 22, 2010
They load them on the plane roughly, it seems to me. But that is the end of it. They are rough men with tender hearts steeled against their task. Leave them to us, now.
The men with wounds that won't show later, except at the beach or to a lover, look sheepishly around them. Can you be ashamed to have all your parts? They look it. Their bandages are still pink, and they want to get up. Lie still. You've done nothing wrong.
I know many things about the inside of a man. I was trained to pull men whole from their mothers, like some Greek deity on a vase. They showed us the pictures in school of the parts meshing seamlessly, like a damp watch made by Einstein himself. When the doctors let us trail them around the hospital, finally, we saw the faces in the trim white beds whose watch ran a little fast, or slow, or made a bit of a whirring sound. What prepares you for the watch smashed, or plunged into the sea, or its hands pulled off? Nothing. The surgeons are in a hurry, always. I handed them the tools as they edit the men. They cannot write. It's as if they are trying to see just what a man can lose, and still be a human man.
There are the bottles and pills and blankets to be attended to. Then I sit next to the worst of them, mummies still alive, lost to sight and sound. There is nothing to do but put my hand on their arm. It is the hand of every mother and wife and daughter and girlfriend and nurse and stranger I wield. Of every human woman that ever walked and talked. I know their face is just a smear on the back of the bandages, and it's a long way to Okinawa. Let them feel our hand one more time.
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Gerard stressed the urgency and I'm glad he did -- only an Angel could be the " ... hand of every mother and wife and daughter and girlfriend and nurse and stranger ..." and I got here in time to read her story.
I am often amazed at the ability of some men to arise - mind and spirit - from their newly hobbled circumstances and become something greater than the sum of their missing parts. I feel less than perfect in the presence of such people. Lost in the equation, so very often is the kind of women (mostly) who become nurses and attend to their suffering. Perhaps it's a combination of a particular nurse's encouragement and indomitable spirit that can make or break a man.
My best friend had studied to become a nurse as long as I'd known her. She rose through the ranks to become the head nurse in the Trauma unit of the emergency room of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Yakima, Washington. She's seen everything. She has a spine and stomach of steel. Doctors mind what she has to say, even when she fulfills their orders.
She later went on to run the medical section at the Boy Scout Jamboree. She carries a kind of angelic authority to which even the Secret Service submits. She once commandeered their bus when President Bush came to the Jamboree. It was sweltering, and several boys had died from heat exhaustion, and earlier, while putting up a tent pole, a father had been killed when the pole touch an electrical line. All in all, it could have been depressing enough to call it quits and send the boys all home. She was trained to work through that kind of grief, and when the kids began to suffer, she took the Secret Service's air conditioned bus and ordered them to make it into an emergency room.
I am in awe of her.
An excellent post. Thank you.
And if you haven't read this from Michael Yon, please do. Your post and his dispatch belong together.
This nurse thanks you, Mr. Sippican.
Somehow, you know what it is we do, on many battlefields.
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