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The Navy's traditions live on in the hearts of those who serve

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tough old salts!

It always amazes me how events of today, bring back very fond memories of my past. I have written about this tough old Gunner's Mate before, Master Chief James Smith. Jim was a tough, robust, professional Navy man. He was with Admiral Buckley when they shut the water supply off from Castro's Cuba going to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He did two in country tours in Viet Nam running the rivers on PBR's and Zippo boats. Read back in my earlier postings to refresh your memories about this extraordinary individual. This remembrance comes from later in his career.

Jim was a Senior Chief when he had his first of three documented heart attacks. That lead to his first bypass operation. It was a quad bypass. This was in the early 1980's and bypass surgery was still relatively new. Now doctors do it almost in a nonchalant manner. In any case, Jim had over 24 years in the Navy, and his cardiologist got it in his little mind that it was time for Jim to retire. He was even brave enough to tell Jim that, foolish fellow that he was. This was about 3 months after Jim's surgery. Jim told the doctor that he was going back to sea duty!! The naive doctor told Jim, if you can find a ship that will take you, I will release you to full duty! Jim had been on the USS Waddell (DDG 24) when he had his heart attack and the Captain loved him. So, Jim marches down to the ship and meets with the Executive Officer, one of my old bosses at BUPERS, LCDR Phil Marco. He was an exceptional officer and I respect him to this day. He gladly accepted Jim's proposition and called the cardiologist immediately to tell him the "Warship Waddell" would be glad to have Senior Chief Smith back. The doctor was amazed, but he kept his word and released Jim to full duty. The Waddell and Jim deployed to WESTPAC one month later. That's 4 months after an emergency quadruple bypass!! Now that is a Tough Old Salt!!

Jim completed 33 years in the Navy, and just before he retired, he had another heart attack. That one lead to a sextuplet bypass. He survived that, retired, drove city bus for North County Transit in San Diego County for five years before his luck ran out. He died of a massive heart attack in his den, after a full days work.

Jim never gave in to his fears, pain, or a challenge. He showed everyone who knew him how to lead, set the example, and how to live. He had his plans, goals, standards, and principles, and they were ALL set at a higher level than that of the ships he served on, the Navy's, or the world's. Yes, he was a tough old salt and I am convinced there are not many more left.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The humor of being sick!

Sorry I have not written for a few days. The doctor was trying a new medicine on me, and the results were less than spectacular! Now, I will admit, she told me to start this medicine when I did NOT have to go to work. She warned my wife and I that there might be some rather drastic side effects. But, what resulted was a surprise, even for me. Many of you know I am dealing with Parkinson's and Dementia. No big deal, they are both early, and I even find some humor in my little inconveniences. But, I have started to see things that are not there, hear things that are not said, and feel things touching me, when there is no one close. I used to have these issues when I drank a lot, but that was a long time ago!! So anyway, my neurologist wanted to put me on a med that would "Do Away" with my issues. However, that med COULD cause some side effects, but she did not think so. Oh, those side effects would also point to a more destructive form of dementia called Lewy Body Dementia.

So, last Friday, with a long weekend looking me in the face, thanks to the guy they named the capitol of Ohio for, I started the meds, as directed. Saturday morning the first side effect occured, I had the most difficult time waking up. Like after an all night drunk! Saturday afternoon, I took a long nap, mainly because I did not want to do anything! That evening, I began to get very angry, frustrated, and in a rage. Nothing was right, I even picked at my wife, something I never do. Sunday, I had difficulty waking up again and the rage got worse, and I was difficult to talk to, even at church. I took a nap Sunday afternoon. Sunday evening I was increasingly overwhelmed by rage. Monday, I did not wake up, even though my wife went to work. I finally managed to get up at 10 Am, eat, take some other meds, and go back to sleep until 1630, when my wife came home. We had an event at church and I was a real bear by then. I even got snippy at the Pastor and his wife over college football!! Later that evening, my dear wife told me to stop taking that med. She also told me I was experiencing involuntary movements of my legs and hands when I slept. All of these issues are symptoms that MAY lead to the Lewy Body diagnosis. I called my neurologist today and told he the news! She has not replied, yet.

OK, I can hear you, so WHERE is the humor?!?! Some years ago, I had a Senior Chief Gunner's Mate friend in the Navy that I had known since he was a GMG2 and he was my student at Gun School at Great Lakes. My friend always wore glasses. And those glasses were always thick. I always thought, if Coke quits making glass Coke bottles, they will never be able to make him a pair of glasses. Anyway, I ran into him one day at the Navy exchange at Naval Station Norfolk. I had not seen him for a while because I was deployed. I asked him how he was doing, and he replied; "Fine now". I further inquired and found out that he went to get a new prescription for his glasses and the doctor's discovered that he had a brain tumor. They did the required surgery and after some radiation therapy and chemo, he was doing much better thank you. I did observe that his glasses were much thinner, now only as thick as the glass top on a coffee table! He did tell me about one, slight, side effect of the chemo therapy that he was presently on. It seemed that the treatment made him uncontrollably angry!! Now, that made me sit up and take notice, since he was always a BIG boy, and the surgery did not reduce his size. I asked my friend, how did you find this out. He replied; "The other day, I decked a Captain!!" I took one big step back, as he explained that he was in BIG trouble until his doctor explained the side effects of his treatment to the bruised Captain. He retired shortly after that.

So, while I was angry, in a silent rage, and hard to get along with, no one got hurt. Yet!