I’m a retired registered nurse. I worked for 32 years, mostly in the emergency room, but I did venture into different areas of nursing and always learned something.
This story took place sometime around 1996. I was working in an outpatient catheter lab in Las Vegas. The pre- and post-op room contained five beds that were divided by curtains. We always tried to do the Vegas thing — what happened between the curtains stayed between the curtains — but that was very difficult.
This was a typical day, full schedule, and I was running my little butt off trying to keep up with vital signs, IVs, patient needs, wound checks, with little time to really chat with the patients or their families. I finally had a few moments and I asked one gentleman about the tattoo on his right forearm: “John, I would guess that tattoo is from the early 40s.”
“You’re right,” he said, “I got this in Singapore in 1943 while I was in the Navy. I was in submarines in the Pacific for four years during World War II.”
All I could say was, “Wow. I would not like submarines because of the depth charges.”
“You get used to them,” John said. I was about to move on to another patient when he added, “You know, I only got scared one time.”
“Well, tell me about it,” I said.
“We got sunk and lost half of our crew. The rest of us floated in the ocean for a day and a half in life vests only, and that was not fun. A destroyer came by and picked us up. We had a couple of weeks off and then got a new ship and went back to sea.”
“Wow. Amazing.” I really did not know what else to say. But a patient on the other side of the curtain, named Bill, spoke up and asked if the ship that picked John up was the USS (don’t remember). John said yes, it was.
“I was in the lifeboats that picked you guys out of the water,” Bill said. John and Bill immediately started talking and what they put together was, Bill actually helped John out of the water.
I had to move on and take care of things, but about 20 minutes later, I was back at John’s bedside, and his wife came up and thanked me for asking about his tattoo. I said it was an amazing story.
“No, that’s not the amazing part,” she said. “We have been married for 40 years and he never mentioned the horrible time he had in the war. I did not even know he got sunk. But now John has someone to talk to, he needs this.” Then I got a hug.
Turns out John and Bill only lived a couple of miles from each other. When discharge time came, John waited for Bill to be discharged so they could leave together.
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