Michael had been in Vietnam for several months, and though it would be impossible to completely adjust to the circumstances, he found himself more and more settled with his duties as a combat surgeon He marveled at the number of severely wounded Marines that his unit was able to save on a daily basis. in his opinion this was attributable to certain factors. The first being the heroism of the helicopter pilots who faced constant enemy fire to transport wounded Marines immediately to the triage area. Time is of the essence in stabilizing those who would have bled to death without the extraordinary heroism of the chopper pilots. in many cases, within two hours severely wounded Marines would be experiencing multiple surgical procedures which would prevent them from bleeding out.
Other areas of a breakthrough were the ability to almost immediately hydrate the wounded, and the use of synthetic sprays which would automatically freeze a great deal of bleeding. As in all wars the triage team did not depend on approved medical devices and practices ,but rather what worked and what could save lives .In addition to some of the technical and medical breakthroughs there was also the process of triage, and the ability for nurses and physicians to make immediate decisions which ultimately saved many lives .However some of the injuries were so grave that it created painful medical decisions. It was possible to save a shattered body, but it would be followed i by enormous consequences regarding the future of a particular Marine.
Two days ago Michael made a decision that despite the extensive wounds of an individual Marine he would operate and try to stabilize his condition. Despite losing both legs, part of his right arm and having his cheekbone exposed the young Marine was still conscious. As Michael leaned over him he said”son”we will be able to deal with all of your injuries”. The Marine aware of the loss of his extremities ,and the degree of his injuries pleaded with Michael”.let me die Doc there’s no way I want go to the rest of my life as half a man. Take care of some of my buddies, please let me die. There is no way I want to go back home in the condition I am in now.”This was the kind of area which made being a physician in Vietnam intensely painful.. Here was a young Marine pleading for something which he felt he had a right to, and Michael was caught between the reality that his job was to try to save his life knowing that no matter what happened ,even under the best of circumstances life would be extraordinarily difficult in the future.
Three days after the surgery on the marine who pleaded for his death Michael visited him in the infirmary.Heavily medicated the young man when seeing Michael said”what are you doing here you bastard?I hope you feel good about keeping me alive but I hate you.” .With that the marine turned his torso and buried his face in a pillow.Michael understood the anger, and left the infirmary with the realization that the immediate decisions made have consequences for years to come.