Morphine – A Friend in Time of Need

This experience from the Life of Uncle Larry took place in August of 2010 prior to my Mother’s funeral. Just a few days before I had a complex and painful rotator cuff surgery and was taking Morphine – 30mg – four times a day for the pain to get through the funeral planning and service.

Tonight I have my third life experience with Morphine. The first was in the fall on 1969. I can’t remember the specific location but it was a cool rainy day in the western portion of the Central Highlands of Vietnam – probably around 3,000 feet elevation in terrain not too dissimilar to western North Carolina.

My platoon was saddled up for a week’s “search and destroy” – read hide and seek – starting with first class chopper travel courtesy of the Army Air Corps. Things took an ominous turn when the six Huey’s came in with four Cobra gun ships. Some body in HQ thought this was going to be a hot LZ.

I’m on the first bird in and about a half mile out the two lead Cobras are softening the LZ with their rocket launchers – thoomp, thoomp thoomp! I can see it from my perch sitting on my butt in the open sided Huey with just my ruck and G forces keeping in the bird. As we get close the second two Cobras are flying right along side us – no more than twenty five yards off our wing and they open up with the “mini-guns” and I am so pumped I fill my freshly washed uni with warm pee.

As we near the LZ the door gunners go full open fire within three feet of my ears with their short barrel sixty cals swinging left and right shooting at nothing in particular in the long grass. With every five rounds being a tracer it seems like a steady line of hot metal. We hit the ground with no resistance. I’m breathing easier and thinking this is going well.

As is some times their strategy, the Gooks wait for the first bird to land and clear. Then just as the second bird comes in they open up on a two target-rich kill zone. Now I’m setting the world record for the twenty yard sprint with fifty pounds of supplies and ammo on my back trying to get down in the tall grass. Boom, I get down OK but it wasn’t by plan. I ran straight into a line of sharp pointed and dung coated punji stakes, one of which buries itself in my shin and breaks off as I fall.

Thank God the four Cobras come back around for a second pass and they light up the Gook’s world and thanks once again to American Air Power all is well in my world.

For just a few moments there when I thought it was going to be lights out, I had overlooked the punji stake in my shin. Now in the quiet it starts to hurt like hell and the medic comes over and says SS give me your arm. He pops open one of those small plunger like Morphine tubes, jams it in my arm and says this is going to hurt like hell and he wasn’t kidding.

He used a needle nose like instrument to pull the point out of my shin – which wasn’t fun – but I’m thinking that wasn’t so bad. Then he takes what look like small forceps – jams them in the very small opening left by the punji stake and springs open the forceps making it a much larger opening. That my friends hurt like hell. Doc tells me the dung (read water buffalo feces) is poisonous and he has to leave it open and pour in an antiseptic. This procedure makes my first two finger prostate exam decades later seem like a picnic. This is my first well earned Purple Heart.

About now the Morphine kicks in and I’m seeing visions – not quite like Apocalypse Now – but very, very mellow and all is once again well in my world.

So here it is forty one years later and I’m take a small 30mg dose of Morphine tonight and hope to sleep but not to dream.

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