Blown Into Consciousness
 (Part III)

Two months after being wounded in Viet Nam, I arrived at St. Albans Naval Hospital in Queens, New York. The ride from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn to Queens was accomplished with specially equipped busses. My stretcher was at window level and I could see we were in heavy traffic. My mood was pretty happy because I was almost home; but that changed when I saw the expression on people's faces as they looked at us. Why couldn't they smile and wave us a welcome home? I became sad. We were removed from the bus and taken to our wards.

I had phoned my parents the night before from Washington D.C. so they knew when I would arrive. When my family came to the hospital, they walked right past me because they did not recognize me, after my having lost so much weight. It was a great reunion! My mother checked practically every inch of me which embarrassed me, but it felt great being home and seeing everyone.

Many friends and relatives came to see me also. Because I had been a hairdresser, I knew many females who came to visit me; some would close the curtain because they smuggled a bottle of champagne. The pop of the champagne cork would give us away and the comments from my buddies were hilarious!

Physical therapy consisted of swimming and my own attempts at trying to walk again. On November 1st, I had my first operation which closed my colostomy (my rerouted sewer system). After a couple of days, I became fully conscious. I felt like I had been hit in the stomach with a sledge hammer! The guys on the ward came over to congratulate me because of an incident that had occurred while the nurses were taking me off the meat wagon and trying to put me in bed. It seems that they slipped and almost dropped me on the floor. My buddies said that I became conscious and told the nurses off in very strong language. One particular nurse got the full impact of what I was saying since she was the most disliked on the ward because of her "Mickey Mouse" nonsense of what she wanted everyone to do. I wished I could remember what I had said; it probably wasn't very nice.

On November 21st, a second operation was performed to correct a perforated eardrum. I was awake for this one because the surgeon said it would only take an hour. My head was strapped to the table with my face looking at a clock on the wall. They used local anesthetic on my ear and inserted what felt like a funnel with a crank to open up the ear. Naturally I was not thrilled with this feeling! The operation ran on hour beyond the doctor's estimate and I found it annoying to be confined in this position. Three days later I was back in my regular ward.

More to come.

Sal Cacciola
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VII
Part IX