After a month or so had passed, I was finally relieved of my duty on the contagious disease ward. The reason for the change was simple; the arrival of some new Corpsman. Seniority rules! And so one of the new guys had to take my place at the bottom of the ladder.
My new job placed me on one of two orthopedic wards, Ward 51. I worked the day shift at first, working from 7 to 3. The ward contained more than 50 beds and had 3 private rooms for more intensive care. The ward normally held about 20 patients and the private rooms were rarely used.
The Doctor in charge was Lt. Commander Rolf Noer… (I just Googled his name and found his obituary) Dr. Noer was also the hospitals chief resource for neurology and in most instances that meant that we handled all of the “head cases”, brain injuries. This meant stabilizing the patient until they could be airlifted to Saint Elizabeth’s (Washington DC) for further treatment. These patients required constant attention with vital signs taken every 5 minutes. Believe it or not, we didn’t have those fancy patient monitors that “beeped”… they hadn’t been invented yet!
Dr. Noer also specialized in knee injuries and so you can imagine that we saw plenty of those, located as we were, in the middle of a Marine Corps base.
With a patient load of 20, there were 3 Corpsman and one registered nurse/officer. Things could get pretty hectic since the majority of our patients were immobilized by their injuries. That was the downside of the orthopedic service. The upside for me was the fact that we were doing more than sterilizing the same old things every day just to keep from falling asleep.