“The new drug is called Ampicillin.” The trim, crisp-looking, white uniformed nurse answered the patient’s question. “Dr. Brisbane regulates its use because some of the hospital germs are getting immune to the usual antibiotics.”
“I appreciate your answering my questions Ensign Pulp.” The 22-year-old Green Beret watched the slightly amber Ampicillin liquid being added to his I.V. bag.
“Not at all Vinnie. You’re something special here on the dirty surgery ward. You’ve been here the longest because of your persistent wound infections.” Pulp affixed the label to the plastic I.V. bag. She had written the dose, the start time and the patient’s name in Brisbane’s controlled antibiotic drug log–Sergeant Vincent Vilth. She looked at him and winked. “Not that I’m complaining.”
“Why can’t I get transferred to the VA? Six-months at Queens Naval Hospital must be some kind of record.” Vilth watched the ampicillin-normal saline solution drip into the tubing that ended taped and secured with a sterile adhesive dressing in a left forearm vein. The wink would have a delayed effect.
Five-foot Priscilla Pulp turned from the logbook. She weighed 106 pounds and many said that she resembled Tinker Bell from Walt Disney’s Peter Pan. Sergeant Vilth agreed with the description. Her hair was a pixie cut of straight blond shiny confluence with her Ensign gold stripe at the upper margin of her nurse’s cap. “The rules are that no drug resistant infections are allowed into the VA hospital system–government regulations. Besides, I like you where you are.”
“Well at least I’ll have one consolation on Christmas Day.” Vilth smiled at Pulp and admired her perfect balanced female anatomy. Cute face, adequate bosom, pert hips and pearl-textured, satiny legs–she was beautiful.
“What’s that Vinnie? And you better be good now.” Ensign Pulp folded her arms beneath her breasts and made eye contact with Vilth. The corners of her mouth were slightly upturned in a seductive smile. There was just a suggestion of dimples in each cheek.
“I get to see you every day too.” He knew she appreciated his delayed responses. “I heard there were very few shift rotations this Christmas because of being short-staffed. Almost the entire Duty Crew works the straight 24-hours.” He reached his right hand out with the palm up. “You’re my own personal Florence Nightingale–my own Christmas Angel.”
She let her arms fall to her side and placed her left hand in his offered palm. “Vinnie, we can’t get intimate in public. Remember you’re an enlisted NCO and I’m an Officer. You can get weekend leave after four more days of the ampicillin. My aunt invited us over for New Year’s Eve.” She looked around the ward as if expecting to see spies. “I have to get to the other patients now.” Priscilla Pulp sidled away blowing him a kiss and went to the nurse’s station to return Vilth’s chart to the rack.
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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