Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm back in Al Qaim

  Thanks to everyone who’s been praying for me.  I really have a great family, wonderful friends and an awesome support structure.  I feel very lucky to have all of you back home praying for me.  I am so thankful for all of you.  I am back at Al Qaim (again).  Hopefully, this time it will be for more than 24 hours.  I’m still sore and walking like an old man but I am happy to be back.  I lost 15 pounds.

  Sunday morning, I felt like I had cramps in my abdomen.  Naturally, I just thought I had to use the bathroom but I couldn’t.  So I got on my cammies and went to medical.  I could barley stand up straight and it was tuff walking there and when I went inside they immediately took me back and laid me on a table.  They ran some tests and took some X-rays and decided to medivac me to Al Asad.

  Once I arrived at Al Asad, I was put on a table in the emergency room answered 100 questions, gave blood and urine, and more tests were done.  I guess things started adding up and my white blood cell count was very high so the doctor decided to operate on me.  I was taken to the operating room.  I say all of this with a smile.  We work with what’s available.  I have no problems with any of this but it is kind of funny.  The operating table was a wooden table that was obviously made by some Marines or Corpsmen.  They had black trash bags draped over the sides of it.  They took me in there on a litter (stretcher) and I crawled over onto the bags.  They had little tables for my arms so they could lay straight out to the sides.  Then, they gave me some drugs that made my head and neck feel like they weighed 1,000 pounds.  I kept my eyes open for as long as I could (I didn’t want them to start early).  The next thing I knew, I was in a dark room lying in a bed.  Not a hospital bed, just a bed in a hospital.  So I couldn’t role over, or get up.  Someone was there and helped me to the bathroom.  I still felt the pain.  It actually felt like nothing had been down.  Then the doctor came out to the hallway to let me know that my appendix was bad and it was a good thing he took it out.  On my way to the bathroom I noticed that the hallway was ending.  Suddenly, we were outside.  That’s right, the bathrooms were outside in little tin building, much like the one I live in except it was converted into two showers and two toilets.  Two days later, they discharged me to the Regimental Aid Station (RAS) on Al Asad.  They told me to only take my medicine if I thought I needed it and that I should walk as much as possible.  So, I stayed there for one day and started feeling better the next morning.  I stopped taking my medication, and went around looking for all the Marines that I knew that worked on that base.  I was gone all day, walking around and visiting with Marines.  I shouldn’t have done that.  The next morning, I woke up with terrible cramps and they put me back in a bed, under watch, under drugs, for 24 hours.  The next two days, I didn’t do anything but lay around and take me meds.  I didn’t want anything to happen like that again.  By Saturday, I was feeling great.  So I caught a helicopter to Al Qaim and made it back around 11:30 P.M.  I got to my tin can, took a shower, laid out my uniform, put everything else away and laid down.  The Marine that picked me up had asked if I wanted him to check in on me the next morning.  I told him I didn’t want anyone checking on me because I had planned to sleep in and get up whenever I felt like it.  However, around 0200, I started having cramps.  I took some medicine and thought they would go away.  It didn’t.  By 0600, I was really hoping someone was going to check on me.  They didn’t.  Around 1000, I drug myself out of bed and managed to get my door open and I waited for someone to walk by.  Of course, everyone was at work.  At 1030 an Indian man that does maintenance around our camp and doesn’t speak English walked by and helped me to his maintenance truck.  He then took me to the medical station where they did more tests on me.  They medivaced me back to Al Asad.

  While at Al Asad they poked me 7 different times to get blood.  They ended up putting heat packs on my hands and then sticking me successfully.  After some tests, they decided to medivac me to Balad.  On the way to Balad, we had to stop at Baghdad and drop off two patients.  I had to go pee so bad but they wouldn’t let me off of the helicopter.  I didn’t see much when I was in the helicopter because I was on the top litter inside the Blackhawk.  What I was able to see, looked beautiful.  It was night by now and Baghdad was lit up.  It has nice big buildings with lots of colors.  It didn’t look like a war zone at all.  When we left, I could tell that we were going really fast.  The engines were revving much higher, the nose of the Blackhawk was angled down, and I could feel the G-Forces.  About 10 minutes into the flight a bright green light lit up the entire helicopter and then it burst into a million shooting little bottle rocket like streams.  A few seconds passed and then it did it again, and the helicopter started swaying back and forth.  It was really kind of fun – like being on a roller coaster.  I found out later that we had been targeted by a missile.  So much for fun.    

  I got to Balad and all I remember saying is, “Ma’am please let me pee.  Ma’am please let me pee.  Ma’am please let me pee.”  They wanted me to answer 100 questions.  They didn’t have a clue why I was there.  They didn’t know if I’d been hit with an IED or shot in the chest.  I finally got to pee.  Then they poked me 11 different times.  I kept telling them I was cold (blood vessels go farther into your skin when you cold) and told them about the trick the corpsmen had used on me earlier.  “That’s nice, but we don’t need to do that.” they said.  These were Air Force Docs.  They were much better than Navy Corpsmen.  Four docs later, they decided to let me warm up and lo and behold they got it on their next try.  After all the same testes where completed that the Navy did on me just a few short hours prior and they were all confirmed.  They let me have a CT Scan.  They found that I had an infection on the thin layer of skin between the muscles and the organs.  They said it happens to about 10% of appendectomy patients.  So I spent two days in the intensive care ward while they monitored me to see if I should have another surgery and it started clearing up.  Then, I was moved to a Self Care Ward for two days and last night I flew to Al Asad and this morning I flew to Al Qaim.  The Air Force Hospital was a bunch of tents all put together.  It’s amazing what they can do with modular tents.  It was a real life 21st Century MASH.

  It wasn’t very fun.  Most of the time, I sat in a room with 12 – 15 other Soldiers and watched the clock.  Time went by very slowly.  I’m very happy to be back and to see all the love and support that was posted on the blog site.  Thanks again to everyone.  I’m going to hobble my way to the chow hall now and then go to sleep.  I’ll try to write again tomorrow.

  Oh yeah, Thanks UCLA!!


At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Aunt Lea said...

Horrah - you are feeling better. So thankful that you are back. Please take care and know that you will still be in our daily prayers. Try to gain some of that weight back too. Much love

At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WE ARE ALL SO GLAD YOU ARE BACK!!! Please be careful and stay safe.
Love you so much,

At 8:40 PM, Anonymous Tiffany said...

So glad that you're back and feeling better. Oh My Goodness, that was so much that you went through, and to go through it by yourself, you're one TOUGH guy. Take care and get back to your normal self soon, not until your ready though. We'll keep praying for you.

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous 147 said...

Just not going to be so positive to say that you are "out of the woods" so please continue to remind yourself of that very often as you feel better. I do know that you are going to be okay. You have been through so much in the last 2 weeks. It seems like 2 months to me - so for you even longer I'm confident. It grieves me that you could not have been in the best medical facility in the world. I love you so much Mike and I'm always more that proud of you and your attitude! Darkside is a lot brighter now and all of us here can breathe a little easier. I’m applauding Schellee and Britni and giving you a standing ovation!

At 3:07 AM, Anonymous Linda said...

So that's the secret to losing those pesky holiday pounds, have an appendectomy! Welcome back! So glad to hear you're on the mend. The kids have been writing and we are actually seeing improvements (small but they are there). You will be surprised at how many of them, including the boys, wrote that they love their Marines.
You missed that great game but I can bore you with all the details, it was that memorable. Oh the joy in my house!!
Take it easy and say hello to the guys. Bet they were REALLY happy to have you back! We are too.
Your pal,

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Aunt Lea said...

Here is Seattle for a few days and my family here wishes you the best! We are all anxious for you to regain your full strength. My little granddaughter Neva says hello to the Marine I am writing too. I have explained that you are doing an important job for us and she will tell her classmates at school about you. She is in the third grade and she has a classmate whose father is in the service and he doesn't get to see him that often. So the kids in class talk often about our servicemen. Please know that you are thought of often and are in my prayers daily. Stay well.


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