Sergeant Vincent Vilth watched her disappear and then returned his gaze to the I.V. bag. Before the I.V. bags became routine for his treatments they used I.V. bottles. In fact the IV solutions in glass bottles still, for the most part, were the most dominant intravenous fluid container in hospitals–civilian or military. Dr. Brisbane had told him about the bags. Vilth could hear the words from 6-months ago just like it was yesterday.
“Each war produces a benefit to the practice of medicine.” Brisbane had cultured each of Vilth’s twenty-nine wounds separately with the sterile Q-tip swabs on his first day of admission and again today 2-weeks later. The Green Beret had borne the brunt of a grenade explosion in a rice paddy in a VC impregnated hamlet 79 miles North of Danang. The grenade had blown up 12-feet in front of him after it submerged in the paddy’s watery soil. “Night soil”, the Vietnamese called it. It was a mixture of human and animal feces mixed with dirt and water. It was spread at night since it was illegal to use as a fertilizer due to disease borne bacteria and parasites. The rice plants loved it. His grenade-macerated skin got infected with it.
“So what did Nam do for humanity?” Vilth looked up at Brisbane from his 45-degree angle in bed.
“The ‘bag’.” Brisbane patted the 1000cc I.V. bottle of saline solution. “This plastic bag has revolutionized field medicine and hospital practice as well.”
“I’m not as turned on as you, Doc. How in hell does this giant plastic condom turn out to be a medical advance?” Vilth’s expression was serious.
“The I.V. Glass bottles were lethal. During World War II and Korea when an I.V. was started on a wounded G.I. it had to be hung on a pole, a rifle or even a tree.” Brisbane exuded enthusiasm.
“You’re nuts Doc. How can the glass bottles be dangerous? They’re just bottles for God’s Sakes.”
“It’s so obvious that it was missed for 25-years. The glass bottles became a target. Then the wounded soldiers and corpsmen became targets because the enemy could see the bottle and direct gunfire and mortar shells to their combat positions. What was needed was an infusion device that did not need gravity to keep the solution flowing.” Brisbane rubbed his hands together for his climax. “The I.V. bag could be placed under the shoulder of the wounded man and the pressure would keep it running.”
“What about me? I was flat out on a muddy rice paddy. How did it help me?” Vilth shifted his position in bed.
“Yee of little faith. In your case, a blood pressure cuff was wrapped around the bag and the cuff was pumped up until it put sufficient squeeze on the bag to get your blood volume back up and administer life saving medicines. You owe a lot to this plastic bag. In all likelihood it saved your life and the lives of others like you.” Brisbane waved his left hand to the bag at the top of the I.V. pole as if motioning to a star performer.
Vilth thought about it for a minute and then released a smile. “You’re right Doc. It probably did save me. But why am I still infected. Why does every cut on my body fill up with pus?”
“Because the enemy’s grenade exploded in the human bowel movement fertilizer in the rice paddy. We just have to clean up your wounds, get the shrapnel out and get the right antibiotic to kill the bugs. It’s going to take some time but we’ll get there.” Brisbane wrote some orders in the chart and patted Vilth goodbye on his left shoulder.
Vilth was left with Brisbane’s last thoughts. “Shit,” he said to the plastic I.V. bag. Shit is what happened to him. Well if shit did this to him, he damn well will give shit back to the U.S. Military. He thought about how to exact his revenge for hours and hours. Sleep would not come to him. He read a magazine, a chapter in a boring novel, the newspaper and finally a comic book. After two weeks of meditation and contemplation a sudden enlightenment came to him. He would get even with the system. He looked again at the comic book character. He gazed at the man with the purple-tights, the diamond-shaped mask, the black briefs with the skull embossed belt, the skull-ring and the skin-tight hood. He looked at the white horse and the wolf that were this hero’s friends and tools. In that moment, “The Phantom Shitter” was born.
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