Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Doc B.

Doc B. was an interesting fellow. He kind of struck me as one who, while he thoroughly enjoyed his position and duties, might have easily been a grunt in another life. Smoked like a chimney, cussed like a sailor, and knew his stuff.

To explain,

The position of Corpsman, what others call 'medic', is one that is not found in the Marine Corps. Corpsmen, like Chaplains, are provided to the Corps via the Navy. In training, they can usually be found in a safety vehicle, back from the firing line, waiting with a good book, in the event some hapless Marine discovers why it is not a good idea to stick ones finger in a bolt that is closing, dangle from a second story balcony before dropping to concrete, or learning why a particular plant in the jungle is named 'Black Palm'. Corpsmen throughout the Corps are usually named 'Doc', to his Marines. Some are there to finish reading the latest adventures of Conan, others are there because as a sailor, they normally don't get to do all the 'fun' stuff that we get to do. Doc. B was one of those.

He was quite knowledgeable in his area of expertise, and was eager to impart this knowledge to others. He was the one that in training in California that insisted that we should have at least two Marines per squad that knew as much as they could in regards to Doc's job. If he went down in Iraq, he didn't want to have to wait 20 minutes for the bird or for another squad's Corpsman to respond, he wanted someone to know how to do anything and everything to save him. He did let us know that for him personally, the first check to an unresponsive Doc. B. was to check 'the little Admiral'. "If he's gone, might as well zip me up, boys, no use bringing me back then, is there?"

One memorable class that he gave was the period of instruction on IVs and QuickClot. He gathered the platoon around him, got everyone where they could see his demo and proceeded with the class. This got him credit from me, as we had been at the old semi-abandoned Air Force base for about 3 weeks at the time, and wouldn't you know it, there were no showers anywhere. To say we were a little ripe in the hot Cali sun would be an understatement. Back to the class...

While hitting on basic, basic medical info for the Marines, he reached back into his little bag o' goodies, and pulled out this little rubber tube. He mentioned that like shooting a rifle, one had to have some modicum of focus and control when doing an IV. Especially in combat. ESPECIALLY if it was him we were going to be working on. He tied off the tube on his arm and proceeded to insert the needle into his vein. Made it look easy. While his demo was in process, he continued to instruct the Marines on the relevant information that the medical personnel were going to need back in the rear. "Those guys aren't going to have the foggiest as to what happened to put that Marine or Corpsman on their table, but believe it or not, the more information that they have, they better chance that you and I will have when it comes to treatment."

He withdrew his needle and ejected some of his blood on a disposable plate. "Now for the QuickClot. I'm not going to get into the details of this stuff, because honestly, I am not the expert on this. I do know, and you can think of it this way, is that this powder will help stop the bleeding on a traumatic wound. This is issued by the goverment, so you know it is good stuff." A few groans from the class. "For most wounds, a bullet hole, piece of shrapnel, just patch it up and tie it off. If it continued to bleed through, put more bandage on it. Those that are going to be in my First Responder class will get some more detailed training, but for the majority of youz guyz, that is all you will have time to worry about. This stuff", he said, shaking the bag of QuickClot for emphasis, "is to ONLY be used for emergencies like traumatic amputations, is there any other kind? huge wounds that won't stop spurting, etc."

He turned to the plate with his blood in it. "Normally, the blood is moving through your body, we'll just call it 'circulating around' (Har). When it exits the body for whatever reason, it maintains its liquid form for a little bit." He swirled the plate to demonstrate. Most of the guys were pretty into this class, but I noticed Lcpl. Cherry, over in the corner, looking a little green. "The reason that you only want to use this stuff as a last resort is because of this" he said as he poured the QuickClot on the plate of blood. Nothing happened for a few seconds, and then wisps of smoke started to curl from the plate. Then the plate started to bubble and curl, itself. To my layperson eyes, the blood 'cooked' and holy shit, dried up real quick. Doc. B. took the plate, turned it over, and all saw that no blood dripped down to the dirt. "This stuff will hurt like hell, but it will stop the bleeding. Besides, if you are looking at your legs across the road, you will already be in a world of hurt, don't ya think?"

"Now, for the practical application of the class." Pointing to an enthusiastic PFC., "No, asshole, you ain't gonna get to use the QuickClot on anybody for training, I was talking about the IVs. Any volunteers?" In true Marine Corps fashion, he locked on to the least motivated Marine of the group and voluntold him to 'get yer ass up here, boy'. Cherry was an interesting shade of pale green at this time. Hee hee.

Doc B. then patiently talked Cherry through the process of inserting an IV for the group of Marines. He rolled up his own sleeve as the test dummy. He explained where he kept the needles in his bag, and how to get to them. He explained the purpose behind using the rubber ties, strips of cloth, or whatever was handy to search for the vein. He noted several alternative veins that one might be able to get to, should the arms not be a good point of access. He stopped several times to explain to Cherry that if he went any further, he would poke the needle through his $%^#@ arm, bone and all, and pin in to his chest. "Stop, son. Breath. Goddamn! Missed it again! Pull that bad boy out and try it again." After Cherry had completed a needle insertion to his satisfaction and without passing out or tossing lunch, I was starting to wonder if Doc was going to need some of that QuickClot stuff, after all.

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