Saturday, November 5, 2011

MASH surgeon on trouble, happiness, needs

Hawkeye was real. "I named my dog Hawkeye."

At a medical clinic somewhere in Central Texas - Call him Doc. That's his name, no matter which outfit he's working, or where it is located. He wants no attribution other than his nickname.


“I get in enough trouble as it is.”

It shows. This guy has learned to smile a lot. Got to be some reason for that.

After a 20-year Army career in 22 foreign countries, Doc chose to locate in Central Texas. There's a reason for that, too.

It's not his first clambake. A combat trauma surgical specialist by profession, he saw action in a couple of places that you spell by beginning with the letter K.

Kosovo. Twice. Kuwait. Once. Katrina. Well, you know. He shrugs.


Then there was Iraq. Twice. Traveling man. No doubt.

Other assorted hell holes gave him a lot of practical experience, not only with the kind of massive wounds bullets, bombs and rockets cause, but with the practical, day-to-day quality of life issues that make it worthwhile to keeping on keeping on, from point to point, dealing with the business of being a human being.

Now, he's a Texan. He's from the midwest, but he got here as fast as he could.

Why Texas?

Because Doc knows all the signs; he's been down this road before.

“You know, making people do what you want them to do is not easy. It's like trying to herd cats.”

How true.

“You know how you control people? Huh?”

He pauses for effect. Most docs are teachers. They need their patients to think clearly when they are able so they can assist with their treatment when they get to feeling better.

“You make them prosperous and happy.”

Prosperous means they have what they need, and more importantly, what they want.

This way, you don't have to control them. They will do the next right thing and hope for the best, which means no trouble.

Happy means they don't want any trouble.

Why? Trouble is not a happy place to be.

With a huge military presence up and down the I-35 access corridor, often described as America's Main Street, Central Texas is geared up for trouble. No problem.

Call the cavalry? You're talking air mobility – Blackhawks, Hueys, Apaches. Have a need to control transportation corridors? Armored. Want to surround the enemy and cause them to surrender? Mechanized infantry does a swell job.

Want to target individuals without risking too many resources?

Unmanned aerial vehicles carry a wonderful selection of rockets.

For instance, Central Texas is nothing like Kosovo, where the Serbs controlled everything until the totalitarian regime fell with the Soviet empire.

There, the killing was based on the fact that certain ethnic and religious types just did not like each other. They had their reasons, and those reasons went back for centuries upon centuries. So, they called it ethnic cleansing, and it wasn't very pretty to see.

“The Serbs controlled everything – everything. They split, and that left no one running the hospitals, the police stations, the communications systems. For instance, there weren't even any traffic lights.”


“They told us to take their weapons, which meant going house to house to collect them. We told them to go to hell.”

He throws his hands up and makes noises of protest to forestall any hasty rejoinder.

“I know. I know, there's video all over the internet, but that wasn't us. That was done by civilians, not the Army. The law says they can have their firearms, and at a time like that, they need them.”

The troubles, if they come to Central Texas, will be those of logistics. Survival and comfort depends on answering two very basic questions.

What have you got and what will you run out of first?

Toilet paper.

“You'd be surprised how fast you go through the stuff.”

Reducing the bacterial load is paramount to good health. Staying clean is a key factor. That means you need soap, and lots of it. Water that's clean and safe to use.

Dehydration is no joke. Filth is a killer.

How to survive?

“It's better to bug in than to bug out.”

Why? You're going to need the good will of your neighbors. There's little a person can do that is really effective when he is isolated.

“What you need is an effective neighborhood watch.”

So, you need plenty. “At least twice as much food as you think you need...Man, my dog can't even get under my bed. There's nothing but food stashed under there."

Don't fool yourself into believing you will be able to purchase what you need if and when the balloon goes up.

If angry protesters block traffic at the ports, the distribution centers and the markets, “Those shelves are going to empty out fast...You neighbor, he's a little short, his check doesn't come until later? He's watching those shelves empty out, and he's going to get a little nervous.”

Money will be worthless, anyway. “It already is. The Federal Reserve notes are – well, you know - they're not worth much...Just go buy some bread; you'll see."

It's not what you can buy, it's what you've got and what you can use it for to accomplish what you need to do.

Don't think you can make it as a brigand.

“That might work in New York, or places where they don't have guns, but it won't work in Central Texas.” Obviously.

Then there are the inevitable wounds, burns, broken bones, the kind of stuff that happens and makes it tough to stay alive.

“The stuff you learn in medical school is often very wrong.”

When an entire limb is torn off or blown off, “You don't need to put a tourniquet on it as fast as possible.” He shrugs. “There are big flaps and shreds hanging down. But there's really not that much bleeding.”

The body is an amazing mechanism. Tissues swell immediately, constricting even major arteries. “Once you get out there in the thick of it, you find out what's really important.”

Everybody needs to know how to do three things.

“Control bleeding, splint fractures and transport the wounded safely to expert help.” That means having plenty of battle dressings, astringents, blankets and clear lines of transportation to sources of help so you can get help.

That means access to clear lines of transportation, and without the good will of the neighbors, you get nowhere. So, live and let live.

You're only human.

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