David A. Church, HM3

Quick Thinking and Action Saves a Sailor's Life and Arm..
A 'Sick Bay' Miracle

Mid-Year 1965

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Hi Jake,

Once upon a time, doesn't it always start that way? O maybe I am mistaken, and since it is a sea story , it should start out "this is no shit" I am not really sure that it maters, but here it is. About midyear 1965, it was one of those beautiful Pacific mornings, I was just coming down to sick bay, I had an unrep watch on station 9. The first class that was lord to us all, He said "get your ass up to station 9, there has been an accident!" I had tried to tell him that I had just been relieved from there, but he was very adamant. So, off I went unit one in hand. I was speedy, but not running, then I saw other crew members running flat out, not for the platform where we stood our watches, but for the deck winch below it. That must be the place, and as I passed though the doorway out to the winch I saw a young man laid out on the deck in a pool of red lead, or so I thought. I was a very young, and very naive corpsman, I had never seen that much blood in one place before.

I remember what I did, I was the first corpsman on the scene, I had to. I examined the guy, asked about what had happened. He had about an inch of skin and muscle keeping his arm together at the shoulder, and all of those vessels at the shoulder were torn and leaking!
I brought out my unit one, and used battle dressing after battle dressing
packing them tight against what was left of his underarm, and shoulder. By now there is another corpsman, an HM3 Sivigny, and he was backing me up. He handed me a tourniquet and I just looked at it for what seemed an hour, there was not a place to put it. He did hand me all of his battle dressings, and by now there was a stretcher there, and thinking that it may be some new inventive procedure I positioned his arm against his side, and took the tourniquet and strapped his arm in place. Then we put him in the stretcher and got him to sick bay.

If it ever enters your head to condemn Navy medicine out of hand, think about this. Our doctors got out all the books, and repaired that arm. It was a long, long surgery, and fourteen pints of blood were put through that young mans veins and arteries, but by the next morning the fingers in that arm were pink, alive. These guys were the best, the very best.

Oh, by the way the young gentleman had the task, that day, of holding the line that made sure the cable paid onto the deck winch properly. It was dark, so he tied the line to his wrist so that he wouldn't lose it. Of course he had been told a number of times that this is not the proper procedure, but well it was dark, and he really wasn't thinking of the line anyway. The bitter end of the line caught in the cable drum. It was dark, and the winch operator could not make out what was going on until too late to keep the young mans arm out of the cable. He felt bad, but there was really nothing he could do in the noise and heat of station nine, underway replenishment is a massive evolution as everyone knows, maybe we are lucky that not more are bitten.

Thanks for listening.

David A. Church


Submitted 11/09/2006
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