In early December of 1969, now at Walter Reed in DC, I underwent an arteriogram to determine the proper procedures to repair my combat severed carotid from several months before. A catheter was threaded thru my groin up into my heart and a dye was injected into my body. I remember the burning sensation, not entirely unpleasant and could literally feel the roadmap of my interior circulatory system.
They discovered the clot that was slowly destroying my left side and decided after a few more weeks, I’d be strong enough to survive the next surgery, a saphenous bypass. I awoke in ICU, fairly groggy and have a few faint memories, but only that…a misty angelic encounter. Those of you born after the usage of Pentothal as an anesthesia, Xin Loi. 😉 Y’all just missed out on one of life’s very purest highs. Downside is that you really want a gas passer standing by, cause your body is so busy blissing out that you forget to breathe. We’ve moved on to better drugs from which patients recover clarity faster…but I’ve had em ALL. Trust me, Pentothal is the Gold Standard.
So anyway, come early January of ’70, it’s time for The Main Event. This is still early days in vascular medicine, which is why I’m part of the historic Vietnam Vascular Registry. During the subsequent years of 5000 mile check ups, I’d visit Walter Reed and my doctors seemed to enjoy walking me around the halls and introducing me to their colleagues, saying, “Hey you want to hear a war story? Let tell you about this young Lt and his surgical history!” Some of them even recognized me from commercials. 😉
We went thru our pre-op drill, my gas passer by now an old friend and he allowed me to linger on the cusp of consciousness for a looooong while and then I very slowly slipped under. During my conscious absence, they opened my right thigh, removed a segment of my right saphenous vein (redundant and very handy for non-rejected grafts). They then opened my throat, quickly removed the small, blocked segment of my right carotid and grafted the transplanted vein.
All went well. Very well…and I remember waking up in ICU. Beside me was a sweet, somehow familiar face and a body that would bring eyesight to the blind! My own eyes opened wide and I whispered in wonder, “You’re real. I thought I had dreamt you!” She squeezed my hand and said, “Sure I’m real.” And with a sly smile, “I wondered why I never heard from you.”
Well, my mother raised no fools and before passing out, I had her write down her name on my nightstand pad. Lt. T continued to care for me over time and oh, those sponge baths…Have Mercy! Once the doctors had cleared me for more strenuous activity, she and I began an athletic affair that stretched on into spring. Clearly my medical work had been top notch. Forget about standard cardio stress tests; THAT’s the way you wanna go!
And then the Army sent HER to Vietnam. Story of my life…