TTGU, Ep. 2, Ch. 22 – Health Matters
The Mystic East was awash with strange diseases. When one looked at the living conditions of those struggling along in dire poverty in this part of the British Empire, one understood why.
We soldiers had, of course, been inoculated against almost every ailment known to Man. It was always amusing to see the big, mouthy “tough-guys” keel over at the sight of the needle used to inoculate them! Living so close together in a more or less closed community for most of our military careers made all these jabs necessary, of course.
Daily, at breakfast in the camp kitchen, we were ordered to take a Paladrin pill. Not sure how to spell it, but the daily dose was supposed to ward off malaria. There was even a daft song about Paladrin pills. They seemed to work because, to my knowledge, only one soldier in the whole of the Federation ever had the disease.
That soldier happened to be our RSM – the youngest RSM in the British Army. It was he who used to ask, randomly, if we had taken our Paladrin pill at breakfast that day. It was he who stood by the pill collection-point and watched as we obediently took our daily dose.
He was hospitalised for a few days and was then back among us. From that time, he would make a great display of going into our kitchen each morning and ensuring that we all watched him down his pill. He grinned as he did it and we liked him for that.
There was, of course, the occasional case of VD among the lads. “Flesh is cheap Out East” – but the worry afterwards wasn’t worth the price of that flesh. I will not mention what the Army did to try and control the catching of VD, so suffice it to say that the rumour was that “they were so thick and tough, you could wash ‘em in a dolly-tub, put ‘em through a mangle and hang ‘em on the line to dry out before using them again . . . and again . . .” Nuff sed.
Shortly after my 21st Birthday celebrations, there was a sudden attack of dysentery on our camp. Only a few of the lads caught it – me being one. My goodness, it knocked me down suddenly and my stomach erupted. I felt like death-warmed-up and was carted off to a private ward in the British Military Hospital near KL.
I was “barrier-nursed”, no-one being allowed into my ward without a mask, hair-cover and gloves. Bed-pan after bed-pan was carried in and out by members of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. I was totally embarrassed that they had to do this.
I knew some of the nurses beforehand, either via the camp Theatre Group or from meeting them socially at various Army functions. That I knew them by their first names embarrassed me even more.
The doctors plied me with various “cures” and, after a couple of days, I was feeling better – so in walked a Staff-Sergeant with a clip-board to ask me a load of questions. Who had I mixed with? Did I always eat on the camp? Had I consumed (he stumbled over that word) any food bought from outside the camp?
Like the other lads who’d gone down with dysentery, I’d bought a bread roll filled with something I have mercifully forgotten from a street trader in KL. He carried his wares in a big box on the front of his three-wheeled trishaw. They may have lain in the box for days, and the heat and humidity were not the best conditions in which to keep food fresh!
I heard that he’d been stopped from trading – by the Military Police (Redcaps) no less – until he had been watched cleaning out his box. This took him a couple of days. I remember looking him up once I was well and apologising to him for being infected by his wares!
Anyway, if I had recovered enough to answer Staff’s questions, I was well enough to have tricks played on my by the QA nurses. All I will say here is that they were of a physical nature and some of them caused even a brave – I nearly said “hardened” – warrior like me to blush. It was all great fun.
I was in hospital for only a few days, then I was back on duty as normal.
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