If you ask Chainsaw how many surgeries he has endured, and he tells, it’s because he wrote the number down on a piece of paper somewhere. That’s the only way he can remember. To say that he remembers all of them is false; there were just too many, too traumatic, too surreal.
The most insidious of Chainsaw’s afflictions by far are the seizures that he suffers. In the earlier years they were many. In the latter years they tapered off and went away completely. In the recent months, they have reared their ugly heads once again to torment him.
Having had a single seizure in my entire life, I can say it was the most horrifying mental event of my existence. Terrifying is an understatement. Unfortunately, you are painfully aware of every second of a seizure, all too cognizant of each dreadful moment. Yes, I have had only one, as in 01. If you were to ask Chain how many he has had, he would have to go look at the number written down on that same piece of paper, next to his number of surgeries.
He’s a tough scrappy sort, that guy is. He is the first person I have ever heard use that expression: “Every day above ground is a good day.” He texted that to me in one of the first text exchanges we ever had. What an amazing thing to say; what an amazing man, I remember thinking. It took months and months to learn just how bad things were for Chain, because he just didn’t volunteer the details, and he just did not complain.
By the time I learned most of the truth—I venture I don’t know it fully still—I marveled and agonized over my insensitivity over the months. How could I have been so obtuse, moreso even than the warden of Shawshank. I was an obtuse fellow, of that I truly did fancy myself.
And so it goes:
I come around; God knows how much time has elapsed. I hear a dude with a heavy German accent telling me that I have a very serious head wound , and I need surgery, Yeah, ya think? I cut SGT Schultz off at the knees and told him to not bore me with the details, as I have a fucking headache.
I’m not in Kansas anymore… OK then, where the hell am I? I woke up totally blind, with a fist-sized, ’lump, on the back of my head. I remember three things, vividly, and In order: PAIN, intermittent beeping noises, and people speaking German.
The first thing I started doing was trying to put pieces in order. What the fuck happened, and where the fuck am I? I got shot, evacuated, and I’m in a German hospital; a ICU ward to be accurate. I remember feeling around the back of my head thinking: “that is going to set me back for awhile.”
Evidently, someone saw me moving around, because it wasn’t long after, a female started rattling off a bunch of German to me. I gave one reply: ”Mein Kopf,” as in it’s killing me! She put something in my IV port (morphine), and within seconds the pain subsided!
I had no inclination at the time that THIS… was where a seven-year battle with addiction would start.
As I was rehashing everything in my mind, I heard a familiar voice, and it dawned on me that I had an escort. It was a really good feeling to know I had him with me. He was truly ‘there’ for me! I told him:
“I WANT DETAILS!”
He filled me in on a bunch of the blah, blahs, and asked if I wanted to eat, as it had been days since I had last eaten. I shot back a YUP! I want a Big Mac and a Beer (a fantasy I’ve had for months now).
He tried to talk me out of the beer, but on this, I did not relent. “You asked, I’m telling!” Then silence… followed by “Yah, yah, one beer, drink slow, says the male voice… a doctor, I’m guessing?
He is Matt, and he tells me that he’s off to get my food. I shot back…”Don’t forget my beer!” He returned, with two of each of what I requested. I couldn’t finish one of the Big Macs, but I did drink the beer—slowly, as it was the BEST feeling I’d had in awhile; I just love the taste of beer—LOL!
I know I was shot. I know I’m in Germany, but have no idea if my family is aware. I need to make contact with them in a big way. A representative from some army base comes by to check on me, blah, blah, blah. As soon as I’m stable, I’ll be sent home, says he.
“I need your ID.”
“Dude! It’s in Asscrackistan; I got nothin.”
“Hmm, OK; we’ll get you a new one.”
“Oh, hey man… has my family been notified?”
“Not sure” says he “but check it out I will.”
“I would really like to talk to someone,” says I—“Please!”
Chow time! Matt N. returns bearing gifts, in the former of two Big Macs, and two beers. As I said, I couldn’t finish one Big Mac, but drank every drop of beer—pure bliss! Matt sat with me for quite a while, but eventually needed do other stuff… so, see ya, I’m in good hands; go do your stuff, says I.
I was in no pain, had my food/drink fantasy fulfilled. Now, in the dark, I was trying to put pieces of the blah, blah, blahs together for what seemed like hours. Then a woman came to my bunk, frantic, rattling off German like a wild woman. I thought I was doing something wrong, as she unhooked my crap and put it on my bunk.
Am I gonna get the boot? What the hell is up?
She, the nurse, wheels my bed out the door and down the hall. How far I know not, but when we stopped, she quickly put a phone in my hand.
“Hello,” says I.
“Hello,” says Nancy, my wife.
Before another word came out of my mouth, I felt around for the lady, found her hand, and kissed it, with all the sincerity I could muster.
I know not why, but the first thing I said was: “I’m good, but I can’t see!”
She told me like she has, on more than one occasion, that it will all be okay, in a way that is reserved just for me. She also stated that she would be coming to Germany ASAP, compliments of my real casualty assistance dude (one Mark P.), an old boss of mine and friend.
“Do not do it!” says I. “We will pass on the way, as I’m getting out of here ASAP!”
My last C-141 ride.
I spent a few more days in Germany, having Morphine pumped into me on a regular basis, not thinking about anything but pain, and making it stop. Addiction never crossed my mind.
Fit for travel! On about day four or five I was given the word that I would be leaving on a Med-Flight home the following day— “Yes!” says I. “Get me outta here!”
The next day at plane side waiting to load was me and one other closed head injury. The poor kid was in severe pain, moaning so. Bad I felt, talk to him I tried. None of it, he wanted.
My turn: Matt hands me my medical records, shoves them under my legs, I do, so lose them I won’t. Flight nurse, aka BITCH! Unannounced, she reaches between my legs to retrieve my medical records. Slap her hand I do, offended she gets.
“I want your records” says she. “NO!” I say. Tug of war on the flight line, we have.
“Fuck it,” I say “take them… bitch!”
I am the last one on, and I realize this is a Space Available (Space-A) flight. It was packed with military personnel and their families… women and children… lots of them. Can’t see them, but sure can hear them. Whatever, says I, but other dude is in bad pain, and everyone knows it. Quiet as a Church Mouse I am…Except for two occasions: Pressurized cabin…Massive amount of pain!!
“May I please have some of my pain meds?” I ask.
“No.” she says.
“Excuse me??” says I.
“It’s not time yet,” says she.
“Bitch!” says I.
However long later, I ask if I may go to the bathroom. Again “no,” she says, and hands me a pee bottle.
“Hmm!” I say “women and children, piss bottle??” I think—“Hell NO!”
I unhooked my IV, and felt my way to the front of the plane, I did. I took a piss and started making my way back, when flight nurse bitch noticed. Scolded me she did. Ignore her did I, then asked for my meds. No bedside manner, had she.
Blah, Blah, Blah.
We landed at Andrews Air Force Base January 7 at night, freezing cold, dressed in hospital garb, in nauseating pain. We loaded into a meat wagon, and off we went.
“We’re we going?” I question?
“Walter Reed Army Medical Center,” says a new nurse.
“My head is really bad,” says I.
“No problem,” replies the nurse… a bit of Morphine, it’s better, but not gone—the first sign of addiction!
Chain and Chik send
(All images courtesy of Colin ‘Chainsaw’ Rich)