More Horror
The Medical

On The Military Medical...


At the beginning of 1980, I was involved in a motorcycle accident. I went flying over a woman's trunk at something like 50 miles per hour and landed on my head on the gravel on the passenger side of the car. The motorcycle (Kawasaki 500 triple) was about two thirds as long as it had been. The woman's car slid sidways in the gravel and sustained over two thousand dollars worth of damage. The frame was bent. I was unconscious twice and had convulsions. Two friends were riding behind me. One was breaking in his new performance bike (GPZ-750?) and the other's bike was not running on all cylinders, resulting in me being in front. All three of us were wearing helmets and had our headlights on. My friends reported to me later that the woman pulled right out in front of me and looked both ways; there was nothing I could have done. My only memory about that accident is feeling embarassed because there was quite a crowd. I asked for my shoes (which had come off) and insisted that I wanted to go home. The ambulance came and I collapsed into my second unconsciousness while trying to climb into it.
I ended up at Dover AFB hospital (I was active duty). My wife showed up and I was in a daze, but I kept nagging at her to give me a kiss until she finally did. She was EXTREMELY distraught. My sister, Emily, also showed up, and reported to me later that some orderly or attendant commented something like, "it's another drunken motorcycle guy". I spent the rest of the day clamoring for a blood alcohol test. It turns out I hadn't had a beer in days, but I was worried because I did like my beer in those days and because I couldn't remember for sure.

I gradually grew more and more aware that day and I remember the pain. I had serious trouble rolling over in bed, because my neck and back hurt so much. I was hurt in lots of places. My left foot was nearly crushed; it had a bloody scab that didn't come off for months. I had bent the motorcycle's  ignition key 90 degrees with my leg, resulting in a big gaping hole in my leg, which they sewed up with a couple stitches. My knees were awful for months.

I was in the hospital for about 7 days. I had HUGE trouble going to the bathroom. My urine was the color of coffee because I had done something to one or both of my kidneys. Emily (my sister) was completely offended because the staff kept putting my meal tray across the room instead of next to my bed. Gradually, it coalesced into a situation where everything was getting better except my right elbow and right shoulder. I informed the doctor of this and he ordered x-rays. It turns out I had also broken off the tip of my elbow. The doctor had people put a cast on my elbow.

Later, at home, I was a huge pain in the ass to my poor wife. I couldn't use crutches, let alone walk. When I woke up in the morning, for a long time my knees hurt like hell with an out of joint feeling. During this period, Emily (my sister), who was and is a practicing registered nurse, found out what had happened and was alarmed by the fact that they hadn't X-Rayed my elbow again after they put the cast on. I poo-poo'd her concerns. She pushed hard. She got me to the point that if she brought over paperwork to release my X-Rays, I would sign it.

She took the X-Rays to an excellent orthopedic surgeon she worked with, Dr. Edward Quinn. He took one look and murmured that I would have huge arthritis and very little range of motion; I would be crippled for the rest of my life if my elbow were left like that. I contacted the insurance company of the woman who pulled out in front of me, asking if an operation was OK. The agent said, "Sure!" It was in their interest to NOT have me crippled for the rest of my life. I underwent an operation during which a hole was drilled in each of my forearm bones lengthwise from the elbow as two pins that acted as drill bits were inserted. A wire was then put through another hole drilled across one of the bones and each end of the wire was attached to one of the pins. This setup held the piece of bone that had broken off in place while it healed.

At that time, there was a Commander's Action Line published in The Air Force's on base free newspaper. The Action Line was for reporting things that just shouldn't be. Calls received on this Action Line supposedly got the personal attention of the base commander. I found out later that there was a three month limit with a single three month extension period for calls received on that line. In other words, they could not exceed six months in their investigation of the call. Six months, almost to the day, later, I received a call from a Captain. He spoke harshly and quickly. It is my belief that he was trying very hard to be intimidating. After verbally battering me for awhile, he summed it up by saying something like: "So it basically amounts to a difference of opinion between your doctor and our doctor, doesn't it?" I let myself be intimidated and the call ended. A short while later, the pre-teen daughter of a Technical Seargeant (E-6) at work fractured her wrist. It was just a hairline fracture, but she was turned away from the Dover Air Force Base hospital and sent to a civilian hospital downtown, according to the Technical Sergeant, because the Base Hospital wasn't allowed to have anything to do with broken bones.

Do the math here, and trust me when I say the military has plenty of policies and procedures in place to ensure that it looks and smells shiny-happy even if it isn't actually shiny-happy. Do you assume the Government is any different? Isn't the military in actuality, THE GOVERNMENT?

I ended up receiving $13,500 for my pain and suffering and $700 for the motorcycle, if you're interested.

Also, Jim, one of the friends riding with me, was so freaked out by the accident that he ended up switching from performance bikes to a car. I am not scared of motorcycles, but the fight I would have had to go through with my wife has kept me away from them. The accident may have been worse to watch than it was to be in!