Sunday, December 21, 2008
Being Sick In The Army
Since I was drafted into the army in October, I've been fairly sick off and on. Two weeks ago I was hacking up radioactive green mucus all day every day, non stop coughing and sneezing. Every winter I get sick with a sinus infection, but this year it was pretty hard to get over. I still haven't fully recovered, and as a matter of fact I just got up to blow my nose. Considering that we get up at about 5AM every day, and go to bed after 11PM, give or take, it's not so hard to get sick.
But before this obvious infection came on I was really happy to see our company medic (the "chovesh") was a smiley kind of guy who always just stood at the entrance to the commanders' barracks, hands down his pants, looking around like a contented veteran. He didn't seem to do anything, but he was around and smiling, so I figured he was a good guy. He just has that look to him. He's the guy you go to for all types of medical issues, from needing gauze for a blister to getting sick leave. So, it's comforting to see him being so available. In light of his visage, let's call him Medic Smiley.
In the midst of being sick as a dog, I was selected to help the SARSAP for a day, a commander who's in charge of food related duties. He's a combat commander, but this is an undesirable role that all ambitious commanders take on. The guys that help the SARSAP for the day have a routine:
-Put the silverware for breakfast into buckets based on type (fork, knife, spoon)
-Bring silverware to the dining hall
-Hand out silverware to each soldier individually (to make sure no other group takes our silverware)
-Collect silverware after everyone has finished eating
-Bring silverware back to the barracks
You repeat that process two more times, obviously, for the rest of the meals in the day. There are other things you do, a lot of other timed busy work, but that's the main duty. So, I couldn't believe it when out of the three other guys helping the SARSAP I was told to be the guy handing out the silverware. Before each meal the platoon sergeant lines his soldiers up in two single file lines opposite from the door, letting in two at a time. The two enter, and there is the guy handing out the silverware. He sits on a chair and hands the silverware out by hand.
I found myself sitting overtop the silverware with my head turned to the side trying not to sneeze into the forks and knives. The SARSAP was standing next to me, and he noticed my eyes watering and nose running. I wiped my nose across my shoulder without using my hands, and looked to him thinking that he'd recognize my condition. As I coughed up a loogie the size of a golf ball and looked around in agony, the SARSAP just shrugged his shoulders. It seems that he doesn't mind getting the entire company of 150 guys sick.
A couple days later I figured I'd talk to Medic Smiley when the chance arose. He called me into his small medical room and asked me what the problem was with cynicism right off the bat.
"It seems to me that I have an infection. Every year-"
Cutting me off, he snapped, "What's hurting you?"
"Well, my throat hurts, my head hurts. I have a fever. I have a lot of sneezing and coughing, and a lot of snot. Also, I have a huge amount of mucus."
"Green. Really really green."
"OK," he said, and reached into the drawer behind the desk for a thermometer. "Put this under your tongue."
I put it under my tongue and sat there quietly, wondering when he was going to realize that I needed a doctor and antibiotics. I mean, I know his job is fraught with people making excuses to get out of this and that, but it's pretty easy to spot those who really need medical attention. After about 15 seconds he asked me to pass him something, and I figured he said to pass the thermometer. It wasn't a matter of not understanding the Hebrew, it was just that he mumbled whatever he said.
I took out the thermometer and held it out for him, but he waved it away and told me to give him my hand. I put the thermometer back in, and put my hand on the table. While checking my pulse the electric thermometer beeped. It was ready to be checked. I pulled it out, and it read 30.6 degrees Celsius.
Now, I'm from America. I don't really have the instant recognition of what degrees mean in Celsius, but I had a feeling that 30.6 was slightly low. I looked over to Medic Smiley, who was not smiling at the time, and wondered if he was going to tell me to redo the test. He didn't, and I sat there wondering what 30.6 degrees meant.
Medic Smiley typed something into the computer on the desk, and then reached into the medicine cabinet and gave me four Ibuprofens. I took them into my hand dejectedly, realizing that it would take a small battle to get past the medic to the doctor. I didn't want to seem like a pansy, so I left without a fight, figuring that if I got any worse I'd ask to see him again. My head throbbed for another week before the fever broke, and I think I swallowed a handful of Ibuprofens in the meantime.
Later on I did the calculation on what the thermometer told the medic. My temperature was 87 degrees Fahrenheit. I had one hell of a cold, apparently!
The entire point of this poorly written post is to tell you that I hate the company medic. Medic Smiley, you are worthless. The other point is to give advice to those entering the army. Bring a Z-Pack (Zithromax) with you if you can swing it. Israelis think Americans are wusses because we take a lot of antibiotics, but if you were as sick as I was, you wouldn't care who called you what.