In Saigon, I actually loved Saigon. It's a beautiful city. My ward was kind of the med surg ward. So, we had cardiac patients there, over flows from post-op surgeries. It was a very small hospital. Then also, one of the groups that were there were the folks that had the venereal diseases and I really, really was angry with them. In those days, we had to draw up Penicillin by the vial and mix it. By the time you did all the millions of units they needed, I had Penicillin on the ceiling and on me. I'd be so mad at them, we would give them a really good shot and they all said, "Oh [inaudible], you gave me the best shot." It would make me so mad because I really wanted to hurt them.
We really kind of had, it was--I went to the markets and one of my Vietnamese friends, I would start pricing things and then when she would go, they would start with my bottom and so I got very good buys. We didn't have anything to do with our money, anyway. We'd go to the Saigon Zoo and we really, truly had our run of the city. What we did learn is that, if we rode our bikes out, as soon as the kids started calling us names, we would turn around and come back. We were getting into territory that wasn't safe or friendly. And also, if you got surrounded by kids, the guys would usually pull us out because they could blow you up. I never thought about that, but that wasn't anything. It was true they could and did, but you just don't think about it because the kids want your sunglasses off to see a blue eyed, blonde haired person.
So, we were pretty safe there, we thought. Then, during Tet -Tet was the New Years and it was 1968 in February. We were expecting terrorist activities and our hospital--we started out at a hotel different than the hospital, then our living quarters were the hotel across the street from the hospital. During Tet, everybody had to be on- site, we couldn't go off-site in the country. So, we had this awakening at 2 o'clock in the morning and went across the street they didn't open the front door of the--military people are weird--the hospital so could go directly across the street.
This street called Tran Hung Dao was one of the busiest streets you've ever seen. I mean, it was a foreign--peddie cabs and carts and motorcycles and cars--and there was nobody there. So, we had to walk around the hospital and we found out later there were snipers all around us that could've just shot us all. Then, at that point, we had to wear white uniforms. That's why we called it Walter Reed East. After Tet, we didn't. We started wearing fatigues.
So, we got over to them to the hospital and they had everybody called in, but they couldn't get anybody in to us because we were right in Cholon which was where, in Saigon, a lot of the fire fighting was starting and the mortars were going over. So, we hadn't had that direct contact in Saigon, directly. So, the chief nurse sent everybody back to bed, like they're going to sleep, and she said, "Pat you stay and you do triage." Triage is when people come in, you decide where they go.
We were a very, very small unit. We had, I think, 3 surgical units and as soon as everybody left, of course, they got people in. I made some pretty strong determinations and had to decide who/what triage is. The "docs" were there, but they were all in surgery. Who was going to be next for surgery? Who should we let stay because they're going to die anyway? Who needed immediate care? I did some things nurses don't tend to do anymore. Well, I think they do, but it depends on where you are. Put a chest tube in so someone's lungs didn't collapse and prioritize the patients.
I was there for 12 hours without a break because they forgot I was there. The chief nurse forgot I was there. I was doing such a fine job. My friend, Teddy, worked in intensive care. Interestingly enough, you know, I never thought of that as being trained or not. I was trained. I was a 3 year graduate and we went to basic training, but I remember looking down and someone's femoral wound was bleeding through and I thought, "Oh, goodness, they're really need another bandage" and I was so tired I just went and got it and I said, "You know, I really would like a break." "Oh, we forgot you were there." So, that was interesting and also they brought blood in on a helicopter. To see a helicopter land on Tran Hung Dao through the wires was very--it really sort of put it into--someone said we did not truly know what was happening. We knew it was a terrorist attack, but we did not know the full scale of the attack throughout Vietnam until later.
One of the patients came in was a North Vietnamese person and he had a pretty severe injury and I was trying to tend to him. I started an IV and he was spitting at me which, I understood that he didn't know and the military police came in and they were starting to interrogate him along with the other soldiers and they were almost on the verge of torture and I had to--I really do have to admit this is a stance I'm very proud of. I took a stance of, "You cannot do that when we're here to take care of him."
Well, they picked up his litter and left. So, I don't know what happened to him, but later on I thought, "I used to say that we never take a stand". I did take a stand. Not at that moment, but later on I thought that was a good stand because it wasn't really necessary because he was already in pain, he was frightened and yes, he wasn't being very nice, but he was the enemy and you guys, he knew what they were going to do to him, I'm sure.
The interesting part of Saigon and Tet, all the corpsmen and all the doctors had flak jackets on because later we found out we were a targeted site because they thought the North Vietnamese wanted the medical supplies, which they did. For some reason, we didn't have that. But none of the female nurses had flak jackets which was interesting. Something came up and one of the corpsmen said, "Lieutenant, not to worry. If we get overrun"--which would mean the North Vietnamese would be coming into the hospital--"I'll shoot you." I said, "No, you won't. They don't want to take me with them. Have you lost your mind?" So, I said, "No, No. I don't want to be shot by my own corpsman." I said, "I'll tell you what"--we had an elevator, I said, "I'll go in the elevator and stop it between floors after we get the patients taken care of, but don't shoot me."
I had that happen at Cu Chi [n Chu Chi?], too, where they said they were going to get everybody [inaudible] one of the corpsmen. I said, "No, I've been through this before. Don't. They're not going to take me." That was the mentality. Here are these doctors and corpsmen around. They don't know how to shoot a gun. I mean, we had basic training and we were all terrible shots. I was so bad the drill instructor said, "Lieutenant, if you have to shoot anybody, turn it and throw it at them because you can't hit anything." I said, "OK. That's a good plan."
At that point, I was afraid of guns. Much, much later I learned how to shoot, but not then. So, anyway, that was a really interesting thing and the psychiatrist who was on the site was no help to anybody and went absolutely bananas. It is like, "You're supposed to be the psychiatrist calming people down. What are you doing? You're going crazy." He was short time and ready to go home and I think he was just afraid he wasn't going to get out of there. That was an interesting thing. The men were going to protect the women by shooting us to which we had to say, "No, No, No, No. That's not OK."
It was very busy and then we got everybody out of the hospital within a couple, 3 days or so and then we were back to our normal routines. However, I think they knew they were going to close down the hospital because, at that point, it was unsafe. Now, one of the things that happened, too, is we had a Vietnamese maid service person who did our rooms and did our laundry and ironed our lovely white uniforms which were totally useless. But anyway, her name was Moi and she didn't show up for a while and we didn't know what happened to her. So, when she finally came back, I asked her, I said, "What was happening around us?" She lived in Cholon. She said, "Well, when the offensive started, the South Vietnamese troops would come in and then take whatever food they had."
Now, these people were not rich. There were a lot of families from the rice paddies and from their farms living in the doorways in Saigon. It was very sad. Their whole life was disrupted once again. She said, "But, when the North Vietnamese troops came, they would ask for a specific item. If they didn't have it, they would leave them alone."
So, what was happening with that is the North Vietnamese were, at that point, using some very good judgment calls and not offending people. That doesn't mean to say they didn't do it, they did, but at that point, the people who were pro-South Vietnamese troops/regime were, at least in her world, beginning to re-think it maybe. Because it wasn't appropriate. It does happen and, of course, we learned, you know, about what our troops did, too. War is not a fun thing. There are atrocities on both sides all the time which, unfortunately, the nurses hear a lot about.
In Saigon, I would get a lot of stories from the guys in from the field. Saigon was an in country R and R, rest and relaxation, for the guys who'd been in the field and when they would see a blonde haired, blue eyed person, they wanted to show you pictures of their families, their girlfriends and just talk about home. So, there was a lot that I think we did as nurses that really didn't have anything to do with other than listening because we were out and about in Saigon until that time.
The Tet Offensive changed the whole focus. Of course, that was the whole force of the Vietnam War. That was a major turn, that we were not going to win. And the other thing I learned, too which I understood better probably than most Americans, is that [on] the trail that came from North Vietnam down to South Vietnam, the people would carry one part of a mortar so that, if they got caught or did something, they didn't have the whole piece. I don't think anybody in this country can understand that process, that planning and that slow pace and that determination. Because, we put everything together and go blow something up and we bring the whole thing in. This was what was happening, these little pieces. That was how the Tet Offensive got set up without anybody really knowing how much weaponry was on hand. It was incredible.
I admire that part of everything because, like I said, I think I understand more of that because I have lived in so many different areas as an Army brat and that my parents were married in Italy during WWII and my Mom would tell me stories about the hospital train and going to the Kasbahs and my Dad flew over the Anzio beach head so they could get married. I think I understood a lot of military things, but that was one thing I don't think anybody truly grasped until later and I think some of that's happening now too, very much so, in a different setting, not jungle.
After the Tet Offensive, Cu Chi Convoy So, when we were going to be moved out, there are stories about that I'm not going to go into because they're kind of funny. Teddy and I wanted to go north. She got sent south and I went to Cu Chi which, as I said, was on the Cambodian border. At that time, we weren't supposed to have troops in Cambodia, but we did. To get to Cu Chi, everybody was getting sent out of the 17th Field. We had orders. We had several of the corpsmen and another nurse--a couple of the nurses~we were going to go in that direction to Cu Chi, 12th Field [Evac] and then the 45th Field after that. Nobody told us how we were supposed to get there. So, I met some people that were on a convoy and they said they would take us. So, we got on the convoy with our stuff and drove however far it was. I don't know how far it was. On the little map it looks like that far, but who knows, it seemed like a long trip and we got to Cu Chi and the chief nurse came out. She said, "How did you get here?" We said, "We came on a convoy."
Well, we went through this enemy territory that was supposed to be mortared. She said, "Well, the nurses aren't suppose to come that way." We said, "Nobody told us how we were supposed to get here." So, we just did. I was automatically in trouble as soon as I got there because the other nurse said, "Pat set it all up." So, I got a little lecture, but we got there. That's all I can say about it and started off on a very bad foot. Cu Chi is a field hospital and all of the guys coming in, a lot more direct.
The unit I was on there was again a med surg one. We had 2 Quonset huts and it would be over flow and we also had helicopter duty where we would be transporting anyone that needed to be transported out of Cu Chi to another hospital, like head injuries and other things. Even though they had medical corpsmen on board, the nurses had to go and accompany on major helicopter lifts. So, we'd have that and that would come up periodically and also then any over flow with incoming people. We would go to the ER and help do the triage and [inaudible] caare there. We actually had 12 hours on, 12 hours off shifts and then the day you switched that.
Cu Chi was very hot and it had-- Cu Chi is the place they now know had tunnels under it which I think we knew that, but not really at that time. It had also been sprayed with Agent Orange. So, it was very barren. The unit was very full. We would get the malaria cases and the cardiac and the psych patients. My big love in medicine, at that point, was pediatrics and psychs. So, it was interesting time. I'd also worked in intensive care, neurosurgery, before I came into the service. So, I had a lot of experience.
The main thing was the guys just would tell you things and get crushes very easily, but most of them want to talk about their families, again. Then, we had an outbreak of rabies because they had dogs and the rats bit the dogs and the dogs would bite the people. So, you had a pretty good outset of that and the problem with that was the joints would get so painful with that. One of my patients there I really felt needed to go home and I won't forget him because, a lot of reasons. When I talked to his commanding officer, he said, "Well no, he's re-upping [reenlisting]. He wants to stay here." I said, "He needs to go home. He's getting very--he just is grasping."
He never got any mail. He's one that had rabies very badly, a reaction. His joints would just swell up. Very painful. So, long story short, I asked the psychiatrist in Cu Chi to evaluate him and recommend him going home. What the psychiatrist at that point said, "Acute anxiety due to hospitaiization" which means get him out of the hospital and send him back to his unit. He was in a tank unit. I knew his commanding officer. I said, "Don't let him stay here." They did. He didn't die when I was there, but a couple of months afterward.
I looked his name up on the Vietnam Wall because he was just a memorable kid. He was 18 years old, no, he was 21 because when I said, "You have to make him go home", they said, "Well, he's adult age." I'm 22 or 23, but I think of him as a kid. I found his name.
What bothered me about finding his name--my husband makes fun of me--I look back and during Tet and all that time and the people I'd taken [care of] before him, I didn't remember their names. So, at the wall I really was, I thought, "Oh my gosh, you think you're going to remember everybody and their name and what they had and what you wrote to their families for them." I thought, "This is the only person I remember." It was a very sad feeling because, as a nurse, you are there and, of course, some of the nurses in surgery and never got to know anybody's names because you don't talk to people there. That's why I didn't like surgery, you know. You don't get feedback. They're not too talkative. They're sedated.
Anyway, so Cu Chi, again we had a bout where we got overrun and I mentioned it and the mortar unit was right behind the hospital. So, when firing came in, they would be aiming for that unit and the hospital would periodically get hit. Right before I was due to leave we had incoming and I didn't know where my corpsman was and we had to get creative because we had IVs running on these guys. We had to cover them up with flak jackets.
The cardiac patients couldn't get under the bed. The guys knew what to do. Incoming, they would go under the bed to be safe and I didn't know where my corpsman was. So, I ran between units and I heard this high pitched thing and I thought, "Oh my gosh, it's a rocket." So, I slid into the unit and my corpsman was there and we were all good. In the morning was a dead rocket in between the 2 units, Quonset huts. I thought, "It's time to go home. I have stretched out my luck." I was probably a lot more cautious that next couple of weeks than I had been. I actually have a picture of that rocket. So, then we got creative.
When the guys would go under the beds and they would have IVs, we didn't have things that would go down with them. So, they'd [IVs] fall off the poles and I know that [at that time] we had glass IVs. So, they'd break the IV, the blood would back up, and I'd have to restart everybody's IV. If I didn't--that was a waste of time. I had a corpsman who was a chemical, a chemist, PhD chemist. As a conscientious objector, he was a corpsman.
I said, "Come on. We can figure something out." He rigged this thing along the wall kind of wire like a clothesline thing and with the [IV] pole. So, when we put the IVs up--and we didn't have always the same number of IVs--then we put it on there and if the guys got out of bed, even if they knocked it over it was a taunt enough thing that it stayed up and they might back up, but they didn't break. I thought we were really clever. So, we kept everybody from getting cut to shreds when they dove under their beds. We had our share of things. I really loved my guys.
I would sneak things for them from the mess hall. We had a cake there for the general coming and I took it and gave the guys, it was a great thing and the chef and the mess hall people knew who did it. I don't know why. They said, "You have to make a cake." I said, "Are you talking about me? I don't know how to make a cake in the first place." So, I did. I made this cake with tuna fish oil. We had lots of tuna fish. It was disgusting, but it looked really good. I said, "You give this to the general and you'll die, but here's your cake." And the guys really appreciated it. They said, "Oh, that was really nice." They said, "Lieutenant, you're going to get court-martialed." I said, "Probably."
So, you know, you have all those events no matter what you do in the world. You have to find the humor in things. Really and truly I did a lot of illegal things which I probably won't talk about. I flew some helicopters that we weren't supposed to fly and realized that, if we'd gotten shot down, medical insurance wouldn't cover me because I was in an illegal spot and different things. Then, when I went to Hong Kong on R and R, the gal I went with, we met some CIA people.
That was interesting because we already knew. I already knew from Cu Chi, I think she was at Cu Chi with me, too, but that the CIA was Air America kind of thing. We knew it. A lot of people said they didn't know, but you did. It wasn't publicized, but you knew. Also, the fact that we did have troops in Cambodia because we'd get some guys in and they'd say, "Oh yeah. We're across the border doing what." I said, "Uh, uh, uh, uh. [Covering ears]" Again, the guys would talk about the things. Perhaps the most interesting patients, or I'm not going to say, scariest patients, is the word I want.
I had 3 different snipers as patients. I think 2 of them had malaria and I was something else. They were very scary people. I could see them in a tower shooting at people, one especially who, I think, became a sniper because he really had that "no core", in my opinion, nothing to hit or tap into. The 2 others maybe, but the snipers would be up in trees, out in the field on their own shooting people one by one. If you put yourself in that mind set, you have to have a special mentality to do that.
When they were sick, they were very hard to give any extra care to because they were very arm's distant. Like I said, the one if he didn't, I don't think he has shot anybody up in the tower, but I'm sure he became a mercenary and just went from war to war to war. That was what he did and he was very good at it, according to him, and I believed him. Like I said, the other 2, depending on what happened to them when they got home, would've been iffy.
But anyway, like I say, I'm jumping a bit, when we came home we had our uniforms on and were uncomfortable at Berkeley and then got out of the service and it was very tough because we were in jeeps. We never drove. In Saigon you didn't go fast and in Cu Chi, you're on dirt roads and in a jeep. Nothing is very speedy. Then to come home and have your car on the freeway in California, I said, "I can't do this."
Also, Teddy and I, because we drove around the country for 3 months, any sonic boom, we want to stop the car and get under the car because that's what you did. Anything coming in, you had to get down and under. In Cu Chi, we had to go to the bunkers when they had incoming. I didn't like the bunkers. I got a little claustrophobia. Also, when we had our rat infestation--I mean, the rats were always there-but when we had the rabies infestation. I do remember one time I said, "I'm not going in there." I rolled under my bed and there was this rat. I just said, "Well, guess I will. Hi there, bye there."
Also in Cu Chi, there were Quonset huts we lived in and the nurses were all there. The nurse had hours which was ridiculous because the donut dollies, or the Red Cross gals, didn't. We worked in 12 hour shifts and some of the girls were dating guys that would come in. They weren't in all the time, but when they came through they'd want to see them. So, they usually came back in through my Quonset hut because we were the first one, but we didn't have any air conditioners and Cu Chi was very hot during the Monsoon season.
During the Monsoon season, it was rainy and wet and we had these huge flying cock roaches and we didn't have any hot water for our showers and so you'd have to go out from your Quonset hut over to take your shower. When these bugs were flying, and they weren't all the time, but during the Monsoon Season, you'd crunch on them to get to the shower and then you'd have to open the door and they're covered on the screen. When people talk about bugs, I say, "You haven't seen any bugs until you've seen these gigantic flying cock roaches in Vietnam because it's a foreign, tropical country. The other thing is we had a hot--well I remember when those of us who were working nights kept waking up every 12, 15 minutes or so just dripping wet. Had to get some water. We looked at the thermometer and it was 120 in the Quonset hut. We said, "We've got to sleep. We have to go to work."
Well the commanding officers, the majors, had air conditioners in their unit and for new people coming in, new nurses coming in, they had a little area that had kind of bunk bed thing that was air conditioned. So, I finally said, "We're going over there." Put up a big sign up , "Leave us alone. We're sleeping. Don't open the door." Of course, we got in trouble for not sleeping in our own rooms. I was like, "What do you want us to do? We can't sleep. We've got to go back on duty."
One of the things my husband used to [comment about], we have a sailboat or had one and anytime there's a helicopter, I am watching it. At that point, I did not know why. Charlie said, "You just really have this fascination with helicopters, don't you?" I said, "I guess. I don't know." Well, China Beach came on, the show about the medical, and it was pretty good show. It was pretty accurate, too, in a lot of ways. I realized all of a sudden, they were on the beach there and they looked up and they're counting. I said, "I know what I'm doing. I'm counting helicopters." Because, if you are first call for wounded that you're back up for ER, you have to do this. If you are second, third, it depends on how many helicopters are coming in to the landing pad delivering wounded. I said, "That's what I'm doing. I'm counting helicopters." I finally figured that out. So, I go [thought], "I won't do it anymore." But, I still like helicopters especially around here. It's like, "Oh, there's an accident somewhere. Or, the balloon festival. I love the balloon festival, but the helicopters wake you up. So, that was something I learned about myself that I did not know until 20 some years later, but that's what I was doing.
As far as some of the stories the guys told. War is not, any war zone has its down time where it's very boring. There's nothing to do. Nurses always had something. We usually had patients around, but even then you might be low count for a while. Then, all of a sudden, it's just bombardment and you might be up for 36 hours taking care of things and getting the wounded in and that's same with the troops in the field. They are walking. They are doing stuff and all of a sudden they get surrounded and they are in a very scary situation.
I think what people need to realize is, like I said, there's both sides that do horrible things to each other. What man does to man is just incredibly awful and it's like the picture of shooting the fellow in the street in Saigon. That, to me, was an awful picture, photograph. It was awful, but it did demonstrate how absolutely terrible people can be.
When the guys would talk, some of the ones who had been caught in situations where they, themselves, had been tortured a bit or--there's no such thing as tortured a bit, you are tortured or you're not. But then, at the return side, I was aware and told about North Vietnamese people being kicked off helicopters with the door open so the others would be frightened and tell them something. I said, "Well, you know"--but the guys would be telling that and mostly they would be talking to the nurses. I can't speak about other nurses' situations. It was really kind of a, "Do you think that's OK?" What do you say? No, it's not OK, but you are in a situation and it's like any group mentality they've got their other comrades with them and their other troop members their other unit members and if somebody's been injured and it's your friend, you are very angry and people do strange things. It's like road rage, now. Why do people have guns in their cars? I would like to sometimes, but I'm glad I don't. So, I think that thought process and the things that they would do and tell me about, I think they were just trying to cleanse their own souls. It wasn't anything they were a proud of and probably have never told their own families.
I know, I was back from Vietnam for a while and I went to San Francisco and a cab driver I had. I don't know why he started talking to me, but he started talking about his Vietnam experiences and he was a very, very wounded soul. I said, "Well, you know, I was a nurse in Vietnam." He says [inaudible], "You're understanding what I'm saying and I can tell you." I said, "You need to go to the VA and get some help. You are really having trouble."
It seemed like all of a sudden for a month I would run into that kind of thing and then it stops. It's not as much as it used to be, but it was and I think there's a lot of resentment and the men do not tend to talk about these experiences. Their wives have said, "Would you talk to him?" I said, you know--and actually sometimes because I was there, they will talk to me, but my recommendation is usually, "You need some help if this is giving you nightmares."
Interestingly enough, Teddy and I both have been involved in women in Vietnam studies. There have been several studies done on that. Teddy's my roommate, my college friend, and we went to Saigon together and Walter Reed. She went back east for a study where they really did a lot of hook ups and the main thing that is interesting to me is, I have a huge startle reflex. You come behind me and clap a hand and I'm out of the chair. I thought I always had that.
Teddy said, you know, what they told her, she said, "One of the differences between post-traumatic stress syndrome, men and women have different responses." Apparently the one that women have that the men don't is their startle response is way off whack. I said, "I never felt--Teddy and I have never felt--that we had any post traumatic stress in." But, the other thing she found out is, because we came home and drove around for 3 months and we just went anywhere we wanted to. Most people can't do this, but we said, "Gee, have you ever seen a rattlesnake farm? There's one up ahead. Let's go." "Gee, have you ever been to New Orleans?"-this is 1960--"Let's go."
So, we really had no itinerary. We just drove from California, actually from Washington to the east coast up around. What they told Teddy in that study was that we probably did the best thing we could've done is that we debriefed together. We had no residual anything. We didn't have any problems, but I do feel we were also 3 year grads, diplomas. So, when we started nursing, you started out immediately. You're on the floor giving back rubs right away.
I do feel some of the 4 year grads, especially the ones that got sent to Vietnam right away who'd only, you know, 2 years study and your 2 years starting with the patient, really truly did have some issues that I saw. I don't know, some people used to say that Vietnam caused their psychiatric issues. I really know a couple of nurses that had psychiatric issues before they ever got there, but they blame Vietnam. So, that's probably not fair of me to say, but it's true.
I do know one really well and I said, "You've always been that way." But, she wants [inaudible], but the post war, as far as that goes, I don't think I have any hangovers about things. What was interesting, though, was when 9/11 happened and actually I'm very much against the coverage that they show. Everything is too fast, even Vietnam looks too fast. I got letters from my parents that were telling me things that we didn't know.
You mentioned how we kept in touch with each other, in those days, you had tapes. The phone calls would be very short over--you never really got a chance to say very much. So, the letters were extremely important and the tapes. Problem with the tapes were, when you're working long hours, you don't have time to hear them, but you did your best and you'd send tapes back. So, my Dad had written me that he had--they were living in Vancouver, Washington--an Oregonian reporter that wanted some comments from me about Vietnam. I thought, "He knows better than that. I can't say anything." So, I wrote him back and I said, "Well, I'll tell you this."--This is from my Saigon experience. This is from Saigon not Cu Chi-"We have our own triage system set up at this hospital. First would be military wounded in the course of their duties, in action. Second would be military wounded doing something other than what their duty was called for. Third was South Vietnamese. Fourth was North Vietnamese and fifth were reporters." We had some reporters on the unit that were absolutely--they didn't want to leave Vietnam because they got extra money and they had to stay a certain amount of time or they would lose this extra financial gain and that was true of some private businesses, too, but the reporter were obnoxious.
I wrote back to my Dad and said, "You can give this to this guy or not. That's the only thing I'm going to tell you." Getting back to 9/11. The other thing was, when I was watching that- first of all I don't like to watch anything with war. When it came back, I cannot watch. I mean, A Man Called Horse was a movie and I couldn't watch it. I found that I could no longer go to those things that were entertainment because I'd already seen it and I'd already dealt with it and I didn't particularly find it entertaining. I will say that. My husband even knows. He says, "Oh, this is a little violent for you." I say, "Yeah, take it off." Certain shows, I will not [watch] and I will not watch the news before I go to bed because that's just plain common sense, good thinking not to do that because I also have a masters--actually I used up every military benefit known to man because I went back to school and got a degree in psych. I didn't want to be a nurse anymore and I got a Masters in Developmental Psych and now I'm back in nursing. I've always had my RN and now I work with people and seniors with disabilities in their home. That's where you get lots of interesting stories, too. You're dealing with some older folks, now, too.
Back to 9/11 very quickly. I didn't watch it, but all of a sudden something came on. Of course, that was all that was on. There was nothing else on the television set, anyway. I remember hearing, they said, "A triage team has been sent to New York." I don't know what happened to me. Probably, and what I figured out later, I called my friend Teddy which is nice to have somebody who's been there with you and I said, "Teddy, something really weird is happening. I think I'm falling apart." I said, "What were they doing having me triage all these people during Tet when I didn't have a clue what I was doing? I was 21, 22 years old."
She said, "Oh, Pat, for God's sake. You were trained. You were doing a good job." She said, "The docs all said, 'Pat's doing a great job.'" I remember her saying that. I was out there for quite a while. She said, "I had to go past the body bags all the time." And she said the words "body bags" triggers her.
She said, "You're fine." I said, "I know, but I can't understand." I figured it out that the word "triage" hit me in a different place. That I hadn't had that word in that context for 38, 40 years, whatever. So, that was just a little aside on that. I think that's what happens to a lot of people. They think they're fine and they are fine. They are coping. They are doing well and some weird statement or weird thing will trigger and it's almost like you're right back there. It's a very disconcerting thing. It's not so much scary although it depends on what your memory is. Of course, it's very powerful.
I do know they have newer treatments for post-traumatic stress syndrome, not just for the soldiers, but for people who've had all kinds of emotional stress--that are very effective--Eidetic imagery and other things. Really and truly, the first thing anybody has to deal with is say "yes, I really have a reaction." Being a Nurse So, I found out I have some reaction to things, but I don't feel it's ruined my life forever.
I actually truly think, for myself, going to Vietnam helped me realize the positive sides of being a woman. I think before then there was a lot of women--my high school counselor said you could be a nurse or a teacher whereas my aptitude test said you should be an aeronautical engineer or a meteorologist. I think I would love being a meteorologist, but no one was giving you permission. I don't think young women today realize you have the doors open and your choices right in front of you. So, I became a nurse.
My Mother was a nurse. It was like, "OK. I'll just be a nurse." I certainly cannot fault that because of all the things I've done. I have done just about everything in nursing, except surgery. I'm not a good surgical nurse, like I said, I don't like surgery a lot. I like to talk to my patients, get a little response. But, I think now I'm probably a better nurse than I've ever been. I have a lot more patience. Patience as calmness. It's just all the things you've been through. I mean, I've had my own surgeries.
When you're younger--I think I had a lot of empathy. I never withhold pain meds for anybody. I think pain management is a major deal. But, the emotional pain that the guys went through was very, very hard. Again, it's one of those things you reflect on later and say, "Geez, how do these guys do this?"
I think the current situation, a friend of mine has a daughter who's nurse, was a nurse over there. What I heard from her is she couldn't wait to get out of the service and she never wanted to see a wounded anybody, again. I think that's how most of us felt, "OK. Let me out of here. I don't want to do this anymore." And yet, my friend Teddy worked in intensive care forever and she's good at that, but I finally got in p's [Pediatrics] and psych. So, I did my own thing. Any other points? I jumped around a lot.