Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Book Being Written As You Read It.

November 11th 1983, Veteran's Day. Becky Ayers, the wife of Signalman Second Class Steven Ayers walked onto the orthopedics ward at Bethesda Naval Hospital. SM2 Ayers had arrived only a few hours earlier having been flown in from Germany,.
Her face was contorted with worry and fear, would Steven recognize her? Had he awakened in flight? How bad were his injuries? These questioned would be answered shortly, " Mrs. Ayers?" A Navy Doctor called out from just down the hall. " Yes", she replied her voice trembling. " We can talk in here", he motioned toward a small office behind the Nurses Station. Becky walked slowly toward the room and the waiting Doctor.
She moved in a fog, only following the motions of the man in the white coat, she sat in a chair to his right at a small round white generic table. This room was cold and plain, only work schedules and a hospital Plan of the Day decorated the walls.
" I am Captain Hamlin, Senior Ortho on staff here. Have you been told what happened to your husband?" Becky remembered the call.
Steven had been returning to the Portland when a rocket had struck the helicopter he was on, sending it and the 6 men onboard crashing into the Mediterranean Sea just 500 yards off of the beach. He had been assigned to the recovery detail after the terrorist truck bomb had destroyed the B/L/T/ HQ killing many Marines, Sailors and Army personnel. That much she knew, they had also told her that 3 of the 6 had survived but beyond that she knew nothing. " Only what happened,." Her voice cracked.
" Ma'am your husband is lucky…" he paused, " I know you don't feel lucky right now and I am sure he doesn't. Compared to the other injuries we have seen since the 23rd of October he is. Well let's start with the worst of the damage." He spoke methodically, like a man who had done this a lot recently. " A piece of either the rocket or the UH-1 he was riding in appears to have severed his spinal cord between the L-4 and L-5." He stopped to let this sink in. Becky felt like the wind had been knocked out of her, she knew in her heart it had to have been bad enough that they could not fly him home until he was stable but paralysis? How would she deal with this? How would he deal with it? The Doctor's eyes searched her face looking for a sign to explain what this meant. "This isn't as bad as it sounds, he will be able to walk with physical therapy, the main function loss here is the feet and toes. " He saw her body settle as the news washed over her. " The crash it seems has knocked all of his top teeth out and all but four of the lower teeth. His face is swollen and he looks a lot worse than he is. " He leaned back and waited for the questions, he left out the part about the coma, that was really the worst injury. They didn't know when or if he would ever wake up.
" Has he woken up?" She went straight to the question.
" No." He avoided the follow up.
" Will he?"
" Mrs. Ayers we really do not know when this will happen or the true extent of the injury to his brain." there he threw it on the table.
" Ok, when can I see him?" Becky asked, she wanted to see him but yet she was afraid of breaking down, they say that people in a coma know what is going on and hearing that might hinder his recovery.
" Shortly, the Dental Team is in there right now." He stood, waited for her to follow. " I can show to the waiting area." She followed the Doctor to a large room filled with women and children, tears flowing magazines flipped through nervously. This was the unseen side of a horrible act such as this had been.

November 11th 2006, this never happened but everyday since the moment we lifted off of the tarmac at Beirut International Airport in a UH-1 headed back to the Portland I feel as though I am in a coma and not really here. I am told this is PTSD, but to me it feels like a long dream, no, a nightmare, with a few happy moments.
I did take part in the recovery detail after the bombing that killed 241 brave American Servicemen. And I do live in a different world than most of you and I am going to try and explain that and what happened in Beirut to you. Grab a chair, open your mind and see if I can show you my world.
( the above is the opening of a book I am writing, please do not post it anywhere without permission. This is a non-fiction work based on my life and you are reading it as I write it, every line every word posted as I finish it everyday.) copyright Steven D Ayers 2006

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