It Could Have Been Worse - John Messerly

                Pre-flight of the O2-A didn’t take long, but wasn’t something done lightly or carelessly since an oil leak undetected or other item not inspected could result in a very unpleasant night in the jungle with some very unfriendly people looking for you.  That is, if you lived through the crash or parachute letdown.  I had already stowed most of my gear in the cockpit, walked around the aircraft checking engines, flight controls, gear, brakes, radio antenna and the two rocket pods.  As I opened the door on the right side of the aircraft to enter and start the interior pre-flight, I felt a pain in my side so sharp it took my breath away!  The next thing I know, I am laying on the asphalt next to the airplane in such pain as I have never felt before!  I can’t breath, I can’t talk, I can’t even scream out loud and am curled into the fetal position, immobile!  One of the crew chiefs saw me fall and ran over immediately.  Finally, I was able to gasp for breath, but was still unable to speak.  The crew chief and several of the maintenance people lifted me into their jeep and started for the large army hospital up the hill from our quarters less than a mile away.  By the time we arrived, I was able to mumble something about the pain and was able to walk, with help, from the jeep into the emergency room.

            By the time a doctor was found and made his appearance, the pain had subsided to a tolerable level and I could carry on an intelligible conversation. This was a great help to the doctor who proceeded to poke around my abdomen until he found the location, immediately bringing tears to my eyes and a sharp rebuke to my lips.  “YES, that hurts, damn it!”  What I didn’t say was another such intentional onset of pain would likely be met by more than vocal protest, would likely mention his obvious lack of parentage and produce a swift kick to some part of his anatomy in an attempt to halt and prevent further such careless exploration.  Apparently satisfied by my reaction to the induced pain, the doctor ordered a barium shake or some such concoction, which I had to choke down.  I successfully suppressed the gag reflex long enough to get most of the chalky mixture into my stomach.  I then had to wait for thirty minutes while the stuff moved through my system while wondering if another round of pain was on the way and could it be any worse than the pain I already had experienced.

            The time passed excruciatingly slowly, but finally I was ushered into the x-ray room and several minutes later was back in the waiting room for – you guessed it – more waiting!  I was just considering requesting my personal effects be brought up from my quarters, as it appeared this was going to be a PCS move, when the doctor strode into the room beaming!  He proudly showed me the completely normal x-ray of my lower abdomen while pronouncing me healed.  His diagnosis was a renal stone blockage, temporarily, of my renal canal.  This produced the characteristic disabling pain I had experienced, but had evidently passed of its own accord.  While all of this was terribly enlightening, my concern was discovering the cause and whether it could happen again.  Trying not to be smug, and failing miserably I thought, the doctor revealed the cause is usually related to dehydration and recommended drinking lots of liquids.  He hesitated, and then said, “Drink plenty of CLEAR liquids”.  “Avoid drinks with alcohol and caffeine, or at least limit your intake, and drink lots of water.”  “Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics and cause the body to eliminate fluids.”  This doc was not unaware of the combat aviator’s motto:  “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!” and he realized Gin and Vodka might be considered clear liquids.  I did recall I had been regularly watering a small banana tree between the Officer’s Club and my hootch.

            I was summarily dismissed with a caution to take it easy and force liquids, clear liquids, for the next twelve hours and I would be right as rain.  All in all, things were looking much rosier, but I had time to reflect on the possibilities of the day.  It was very sobering to think of the consequences, had the pain struck while flying.  The flight was to have been solo and there would have been no one to fly the plane while I was incapacitated.  Had the attack come during takeoff or at any time within the next five hours, I might not have lived through the episode.  As miserably as this day had started, it didn’t take an Einstein to realize it really coulda been worse!