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Simon Bolivar

My Falklands Story Part 9A: Seaview Ward

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[QUOTE=Simon Bolivar;174439]Part 9: Working on Seaview Ward.<o></o>

Seaview Ward was just below the flight Deck & it had full glass windows around the curved stern bulkhead, hence the name Ė Seaview. Well the first thing we did was cover all the windows up, to prevent any injuries from flying glass if we were attacked so No View ward would have been more accurate.
When the Narwhale prisoners/patients were discharged via the small ships to Montevideo, I was released from that duty & went to work on Seaview. It had been designated as Orthopaedics but held a miss match of those not needing Intensive Care, or severe burns treatments but werenít minor enough to go down to the low dependency wards below decks.
I suppose we had the usual broken leg or two but of course what sticks in your mind are the more dramatic cases & these were mainly amputations. I had come across a few in the naval hospitals but itís usually the elderly diabetics or smokers & occasional industrial accident. I donít think Iíd ever done a stump dressing before although it was covered in First Aid lessons.
To suddenly walk into the ward full & up & running as it was when I arrived was quite a shock even though Sindy had been telling me how bad things were. The sight of so many limbless young men was as horrific as those that can be seen at Selly Oak in Birmingham today. The cause of ours, were the result of mines, shells & machine guns, todayís are mostly IEDís.

The wounds healed remarkably quickly & there was very little infection. Psychologically of course recovery was going to take some a lot longer than others. I have never really worried about losing a leg as I could lead my life with an artificial limb, you can even get an offshore medical with one these days. I always had a fear of losing a hand, something we still have no effective substitute for. We had two guys who lost an arm.

The little plastic mines the Argentines deliberately sprinkled about, without making maps, caused many injuries (the best idea afterwards was to get the Argentines to look for & clear the mines they laid Ė surely against the Geneva convention though?) We would receive a casualty who had part of his foot blown off by those little mines, we would dress it & heíd think, well that doesnít look too bad. A little later the surgeon would drop by & explain that because there werenít any prosthesis for half a foot, they were going to take the rest of his foot off. Some were taken off below the knee, as it was thought this would be more practical, much easier for prosthetic limbs. Itís a hell of a thing to come to terms with, the Argies took half your foot but the mob took half your leg!

Gas gangrene was always a threat due to soil contamination of wounds (apparently itís a higher risk in areas used by horses, like the Camp) & I believe it was the reason for at least one amputations. Like burns, with gangrene itís always the smell you remember the most. My father was a butcher & once received a large gammon sealed in plastic via an un-chilled delivery. When I pierced the plastic on a nice warm summerís day, the sickly sweet stench was wrenching, it was a smell I was to recognise in these cases.

Some surgeons seemed very keen to amputate limbs, where there was viable blood supply but the bone was smashed & it looked like it wouldnít heal. Their theory was that they were going to lose it eventually so best get it over with & spend the time coming to terms with it now in our safe environment, with other guys going through the same thing. I tried to persuade a couple to be patient; the services give you up to 18months before kicking you out if youíre not going to be fit for duty again. A lot could happen in that time, different opinions & improvements in orthopaedics. Most of these guys didnít even have one uninjured leg; the other would have had some damage as well, so I only saw a few get to the stage of trying crutches onboard before being repatriated.

So as you can imagine, the mood of this ward could swing up & down & generally evolved around the drug rounds. In the field this guys had two morphine ampoules tried around their neck. If someone was injured you administered their morphine to them, it was an accepted rule that you wouldnít use your own. So instant relief in the field, on the ship, they had to wait for the Sisters to come around with the drug trolley. There were many of the Sisters who were convinced that by giving these guys Omnopon (less addictive derivative of morphine) when they asked for it i.e. when in pain, they would end up hopelessly addicted as happened to some Vietnam vets. This has been disproved, as long as just enough morphine is given to kill the pain, addiction doesnít occur. So after a week or so of morphine, they were on Paracetamol two four times a day, I kid you not! We had nothing in-between. Eventually we accepted some medium strength analgesia from the Argentine Hospital ship, after visiting to take off some of their casualties, they noted how short of supplies we were. On one occasion I gave two aspirin to a guy in distress, to tie him over as the drug round was still an hour away & was nearly put on a charge because it hadnít been written up on his drug chart & signed by a doctor. Some Sisters just shouldnít have been out of their hospital environment.

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