Paul F. McCann

THE WALKING WOUNDED

There were never enough nurses, never enough pain killers, and never enough time to recover in the make shift military hospital that was set up in an old derelict warehouse.

A sign was placed outside the intensive care ward and it read, “Wednesday July 7th – 10am admitted 24: Wednesday July 7th -11am deceased 24” On that terrible day after the hospital was hit by heavy bombing the power was lost and there was nothing anyone could have done to save the 24.

A sense of terror gripped the throats of most of the patients in the wards all through the hospital. After the bombs had fallen and exploded you could hear screams and cries for help echo around the hospital. As time passed it was clear that movement had begun and the tending of the injured was now underway. Inside every ward soldiers in pain put on a brave a smile in the effort to lift others who were unable to cope. Telling jokes and funny stories became infectious; humour was good medicine for the troops. Especially in ward 66 where three wonderful characters had been placed.

Star Sergeant Mackin who lay in bed 4 was a very mild mannered and well liked man with a heart of gold. Then there was the Chaplin Roberts next to him in bed 3 who was affectionately known as the runaway comedian from route 66 and then there was the great moral booster and hope of the side Doctor Fergus Campbell who was often sent in to rest and recover from his drinking problem.

On the day the bombs fell these three somehow were able to keep the sanity of everyone in the place. Among those injured were the crazy and insane; then there were others who had been wounded, some sick with fever, some depressed and others with Eye, ear and nose problems. The list of injured was growing and still there was not enough nurses or pain killers to get the job done.

Star Sergeant Mackin sprung to his feet that day and decided to get everyone into the same room and asked anyone who was able to help carry or drag to enlist for the job of re-allocating patients.

“Men,” he said, “the lack of beds and attention inside this institution has come to my notice and since I am the highest rank here at present I’m ordering that we come take our stand together on the floor of ward 66.”

One by one the walking wounded arrived into ward 66. Others who couldn’t walk were helped to make it there.

At last when everyone had arrived, the Chaplin began to speak to the troops. “Dear Lord, what we have here today is a problem and Lord there has never been a problem that you and I can’t work out. So Lord, problems for us are nothing to you. Lord we have a society of walking wounded and this society of ours has something in common. We need your help.”

Suddenly the Chaplin did a somersault up and down the ward. Doctor Fergus grabbed a bottle from under his pillow and took a sip that ended up being a large swallow. As he carefully placed the bottle back he said, “It’s just as well we all have a sense of humour because we can all have a good laugh at the problems all around us.”

The entire ward broke out in fits of laughter. The laughs continued for five minutes. Like a wave it ran from one end of the ward to the other.

Star Sergeant Mackin again stood up and said, “What we have to do now is to see where we are at men. We all have something in common and that is our sickness and our injuries. What we have to do now, is wait for help to arrive so until it does men we must care for one another and trust that the power will return and normality will resume.”

Everyone cheered and as the day turned to night one of the nurses did her round on a trolley pushed by one of the walking wounded.

“How are you today?” she said softly to soldiers in their dressing gowns and pyjamas. Most of the men were in a bad way but they all had a smile for the nurse.

“Are you deaf of something?” said the Chaplin who somersaulted over to the bedside of Doctor Fergus. He grabbed the bottle from under his pillow and swallowed the entire contents. “Give me back my bottle.” said the Doctor who jumped up in bed. “I am the King and Chaplin of this ward and furthermore, Fergus Campbell, there is nothing wrong with you so get out of this bed right now and help that nurse on that trolley to heal the walking wounded.”

There was a hush over ward 66. You could have heard a pin drop. Suddenly the argument started.

“I don’t care King or whatever you call yourself. I don’t care because I’m going home tonight. I’ll be leaving this place walking on my own two feet.”

The nurse got off the trolley and said, “So you think you’re leaving us tomorrow then. Well we’ll see about that.” She took a bed pan from under the trolley and hit him right between the eyes with it. He fell back in his bed, knocked unconscious. “That will teach you to run out on the walking wounded.” she said. The entire ward burst out in fits of laughter again.

One of the walking wounded started a song, another got up a started to do a Jazz Tap dance on the floor. Coming into the dawn a half a dozen eyes were still open. As Fergus came to he remembered nothing about the bed pan incident. The Chaplin did another somersault up the ward and Star Sergeant Mackin said, “Good morning men. I trust you all slept well.”

Suddenly Doctor Fergus discovered his bottle was gone and started to shout and yell at the top of his voice. He jumped out of bed and stood there shaking all over. Three of the walking wounded placed their arms around him and said. “It’s all right. Don’t you remember Doctor you drank all what was in your bottle last night.”

“Here it is look for yourself.” said The Chaplain.

That day help arrived and the walking wounded were taken away in Choppers to the hospital on board a ship on the open sea. The walking wounded had won another battle and Doctor Fergus still battles with the bottle to this very day.