Now, fresh out of training, he was in an active combat zone in Vietnam with the survival of the wounded his total responsibility. His residency experience had been hands-on, and he was well-equipped for his new role as a wartime trauma surgeon.
As for Private Richard Burrows, multiple x-rays were taken of his chest, abdomen, and extremities and reviewed by the radiologist, Major Robert Hooper, and Declan Burke to help establish the extent of his injuries. With resuscitation completed by restoring circulating blood volume and warming, Richard’s blood pressure was stabilized. His body systems were working again. The normalized circulation was evident as his kidneys were producing an adequate urinary output, his temperature was almost normal, and his body was not acidic. His body’s cells were close to functioning normally.
Corpsman Mike Clark reported, “His central venous pressure is six centimeters. His blood volume should be good to go,” as shown by the saline-filled vertical tubing of the manometer at the side of Burrows’ chest which communicated with tubing within a huge vein that entered his heart. This reading indicated that the patient’s circulation was stable. He was not overloaded from the frantic efforts of resuscitation.
Dr. Burke comforted and befriended the Private by saying, “We’ll do everything possible to save your legs; I feel good about it.” The soldier, still in considerable pain, answered, “Thanks Doc, I’ll owe you.”
Burrows was then brought to the operating room. In OR 1, supervising nurse Lt. Patti Hendrix, who volunteered for Vietnam as had all the very young nurses, held his hand. “You’ll soon be asleep and wake up in the Recovery Room. Remember to take the pain shots if you need them.” She then warned him, “Don’t let the pain get ahead of you.”
An extremely competent regular Army nurse anesthetist, Captain Fred Brockschmidt, was waiting for him. He was a big man and instilled confidence. “I’ve done this over a thousand times. It’s not my first rodeo. You’ll be fine. Good night.” he said. “Phu Bai” Fred then smoothly induced a world-class anesthetic for the duration of his surgery, kept up with fluid and blood replacement, and rendered him awake without a problem. As with flying, in anesthesia, the takeoff and landing are the most challenging.
Private Burrows’ skillful surgeon, Major Declan Burke, was able to avoid amputation by expertly repairing the damaged major thigh arteries. Roger King, who had trained with Declan at the Medical College of Virginia, joined him in the OR. They made an accomplished team.
The booby trap had inflicted extensive wounds. Effective treatment required extensive debridement of devitalized muscle. Twenty-eight units of blood were given to replace the amount lost during the procedure.
Mike Clark, who had participated in many similar surgeries, served as the scrub tech during the procedure, expertly anticipating each surgeon’s next move and passing the requested instrument at the exact moment either surgeon’s hand was extended to receive it.
Mike had been in Vietnam for a long time and had too often witnessed extreme human destruction. The thought of returning to his beloved young wife, Connie, was the force that kept him going. “She is my rock; I’ll keep it together for her,” he repeated often. They had met when she was fifteen and he sixteen. Within twenty-two months, at seventeen and eighteen, they were married with one year of high school to go. After completing community college, on their second wedding anniversary, he had arrived in Vietnam.
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