How I inadvertently saved a Sailor's Life: Being Led by the Spirit
Bill Shipley, HM1, USN

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Bill Shipley's Retirement PhotoI wished I could find the guy whose life I inadvertently saved a long time ago.  It was not my plan and it was a matter of being at the right place at the right "moment".  The reason I say "moment" is because if I hadn't walked into the Hancock hospital ward  (we had a about a 32 bed ward ) at the time I did,  the man would have died within minutes.  Some say it was just a matter of chance, but I believe it was being led by the Spirit. Here is what happened:

I was on liberty in Hong Kong, however, I actually stayed in Kowloon. I broke the Sailor's Liberty Rule: I went by myself and that is the way I liked it. 

I walked all over the China side and never had any trouble with anyone.  I knew where to go and where not to go but for some reason that time, I had to go back to the ship for "something" and to this day I don't recall what for.

  I went on board and went thru the medical department on my way to my berthing area.  When I went through the "ward", I saw a guy laying on one of my nicely made up beds with his clothes on!  That was a no-no... I went over to check his situation.  The guy was out cold... I mean non-responsive,  deeply asleep... nothing could arouse him.

There was another guy sitting on the floor next to this guy.  I asked him..."Hey,
  what's the deal with him being on the bed with his clothes on?  What is wrong with your friend?"  The guy on the floor looks at me and sacastically asks,  " You work here?"  I say, "yes."  He then asks me.." and you don't know what is wrong with my friend?"  I said "No!"  

He told me that the doctor told him that his friend was drunk.  

This guy looks at me and says,
"That doctor doesn't know what he is talking about!"  He continued to tell me that his friend was not drunk! 

By now, he is very angry!  I check the guys record and shown him where the doctor said the man was drunk and that he was to sleep it off,
  under our supervision.  I was satified with what I read and I told the guy on the floor what the doctor had written. 

Jake... that guy got extremely mad!!  He started yelling at me saying things like.... "you bunch of dumb asses
.." and "we didn't know what was going on..", etc, etc.

He was making me very angry,
  but it got my attention!  This man was extremely passionate about the fact that his friend was not drunk!  He yelled,  "My friend is not drunk! I have seen him drunk and he is not drunk! Help my friend!!"

I was getting extremely nervous and anxious by now. T
his guy was very angry and his friend wasn't moving at all during this time.  He was breathing and looked like he was sleeping very hard.  Being only a corpsman striker, I was at a loss. 

Just about that time, one of our old Chief Corpsman was going by one of the hatches on his way topside.  I yelled out to him, "Chief!! I got a problem here!"  He stopped and listened to me tell him what was going on.  I told him that this
guy's friend says that this man is not drunk.  I told him that this guy is very very upset and extremely worried about his friend.  The chief asked me, "Did you check his eye pupils?"   Being a Seaman Corpsman Striker,  I didn't know what he was talking about.  He asked again, "Did you check his pupils? You know, with a flashlight to see if they reacted to light?" 

I had a pin light in my pocket and when I checked his pupils, they were PIN POINTED and NON- REACTIVE!  The chief
immediated yelled out, "Get me some Narcain... quick!!" 

To make a long story short, the guy was dying... very quickly... from a drug overdose. He had been in
Hong Kong,  at a bar,  and they "mickeyed" his drink with rock heroin.  The man on the bunk was at the brink of death; his pupils were restricted... pin pointed... and non-reactive.  

We were able to bring him back, but it took a lot of work.  The place turned into a full blown medical emergency in a matter of minutes!

If I had not come back to the ship and gone thru there at the right moment, and if that guy on the floor hadn't gotten my attention (and he definitely got my attention - he was very angry and upset),
that guy on the bed would of been dead in short order!

God works in mysterious ways, and I still don't know what I went back to the ship for!  I spent the night there, making sure this guy made it thru the night. 

Yep, the Hancock gave me
a lot of memories... what a ship!

I sure would like to know what ever happened to that guy.

  catch ya later.


click patch for larger image.

Medical Department Patch was provided by
Shipmate Robert J. "Bob" Chalfant, HM3, USN (Ret)
Email Bob

Note: The Yeoman believes that Bill answered his own question, saying, "..and I still don't know what I went back to the show for!" with his statement, "God works in mysterious ways..." who can doubt that Bill was being led by the Spirit here? Of course you first have to believe that God IS and Works in this way. The answer to that Question is up to your own Jury. What say you?

If you were this man who nearly died, or his friend, or know who he is, please sound off.

Bill continues to help the Vets in his chosen field working in a VA Medical Center in Tennessee, and what a legacy he has woven for himself!

- Jake

Read Bill's exciting 'Emergency Breakaway' Story in our Oral Histories

Click here for some Off-Site info on Emergency Breakaways

Bill's Marine Corps Story

The "American, the Fall of Saigon and a Guitar" - Bill has contributed this story which your Yeoman feels is a great Spiritual uplift to those who think our efforts in Vietnam were wasted efforts.