Despair

 

...The day before he died I was washing him: he had made a mess of himself during the night. While apologizing for his state he said "Of course I did tell you to put a napkin on me." Then for the first time he gave way to the awful suffering he was enduring. He looked up at me with tearful eyes and with a catch in his voice he said, "Oh. Taff, it hurts." It must have been agony for he was completely raw in the crotch and scrotum, and although I was careful I knew he was going through hell.

He had lain on his stomach the night before to ease the pressure on the bed sores and being drugged with morphia, he was sleeping when he had made the mess. When I started to wash him he was caked in bloody foeces which had made him raw. The sob came from deep down. It contained all the weariness that must have been his after the torment of such long suffering, but even as he said "It hurts," he checked himself and said in a very weak voice, looking from side to side "Now didn't I ought to be ashamed of myself saying it hurts when all these men around me are suffering so much." At that point I very nearly broke down. Those words will forever be in my mind when I think I have something to complain about, and whenever I hear of heroes I think of him.

The next morning I took him his breakfast and shook him to rouse him from his drugged sleep. He roused and raised his hand, grabbed his hair and tried to raise himself, only to fall back slowly - he was dead. He had tried to help himself to the last and had shown throughout that he could take it. Every Cockney and every Britisher could well be proud of this man.

This Cockney was such an example that one could not help feel the influence. I felt small and compared to him I felt mean, but thinking of him kept me going many times when I felt I could not go on a minute longer. His courage was an inspiration, and I know of many whom I would have liked to have seen his bravery and the example he set.

A patient named Beak, suffering from septic scabies, said one morning when I was attending to him that he felt queer and asked me if I would postpone his treatment until the next day as he didn't feel up to it. I didn't like leaving the blisters unpunctured but I couldn't resist his appeal. Though he looked all right and his temperature was normal, he refused his meals that day, so in the morning I spoke rather sharply to him and threatened to report him to Major Hunt if he didn't eat his food. He told me that he would eat if he could, but later he tried and couldn't saying that he felt he was going to die. I told him that I was disgusted with him, but as I was worried I told the M.O. who, after finding a normal temperature and pulse, told him he would have to pull himself together.

That night I was awakened by someone shaking me. It was Beak. He apologized for waking me and said he was frightened and wanted to lie by my side. I made him comfortable - he was trembling, but I was still unable to find anything really wrong with him and he couldn't give any explanation for his fear. I laid down beside him and talked a while with him. Then when I heard him snoring I dropped off to sleep again. I awoke a few hours later as day was dawning and thought Beak looked strange as his arm was crooked in the same position as when he had gone off to sleep hours before. I moved back his blanket to expose a deathly white face with eyes glaring into space and mouth wide open. He was stone cold, stiff and dead. He was yet another victim to some strange tropical germ and just another mysterious death. The strange thing about it was that he was so sure that he was going to die and before dropping off to sleep he had requested me to see his photographs home safely to his wife in the event of him dying and had thanked me for the little services I had rendered him.

When I examined the snaps I found that they were of a family group. Him, his wife and little boy sitting among the flowers of their garden somewhere in England. I took charge of the photographs so that I could send them to his people if ever I got out all right, but that picture of a happy family scene in a little corner of dear old England upset me for weeks. I showed them to Jim, who said "Let me once get back there and it will take all hell to get me away again."...

 

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