My back was giving me less trouble and spotting me carrying two 5 Gallon jerry cans of water the SSM kept this in mind for use at a later date. That date duly came whilst on exercise, when a Log Run was included just to keep us all fit and happy. The log (or telegraph pole) was heavy and when wet, even heavier. Despite my protestations, I was ordered by the SSM (or a kicking would ensue no doubt) to man the pole, with three others, heave it onto our shoulders and to set off at a gallop, followed closely by the rest of the troop (30 odd guys). I do not know whether this was done purposely or not but as we reached change over, (whereby our replacements would fall in step closely behind us and under the log, take the weight then we would move away), my replacement and that of my partner running to my right, did not take the weight of the log and my partner moved away, leaving me carrying the log on my own. Mind you, this was not for long as my back “popped” quite spectacularly and I and the log fell to the ground.
That was my problem, mouthy, a gobshite. I hated the green brains, the blokes who were army all the way through and they hated me. The few mates I had were split between wanting to fit in with the green brains and wanting to go to Hannover and Wunstorf on the pull. None were prepared to sleep out all weekend; scared they would be associated to closely with someone who was more civilian than squaddie. I look back and to them I was a grade one arsehole. I was a womaniser and a tyrant when it came to letting girls down. I moved on quicker than an express train, I did not want closeness, relationships and all that bollocks; I was twenty years old and a walking phallus. I was tolerated by most of the blokes but I was making it clear that I wanted out.
The x-rays I had at the BMH were inconclusive and so another appointment was made, this time for a Myelogram or Lumbar Puncture. This was carried out by a rather grumpy Colonel and I was attended to by 2 rather attractive nurses, so I was rather relaxed as I entered the room and sat in a hospital gown on the operating table. A small local anaesthetic injection was made to the centre of my back and then a larger anaesthetic injection went in rather deeper. The idea being to inject a contrast medium into the spinal column, move me about a bit to ensure the liquid travelled the length and breadth of my spine and then take x-rays to identify the location of the problem.
First of all though a sample of Cerebrospinal fluid (spinal cord fluid) was to be drawn out for testing, so I was sat, knees under my chin and a nurse holding each hand (very nice). The needle went in and the Colonel started moaning and grumping about “getting a bloody tap”, so he had to go in again slightly higher. In he went and again started complaining about a bloody tap, wherein blood rather than clear spinal fluid comes into the needle and syringe. “Right” he said, “this is no good” (it felt like he was blaming me), “I will freeze up another area and we will start again”. I must admit I was felling quite sick and told him, “nonsense” was his sympathetic reply along with a rather sharp “and sit still for god’s sake!”, even though I was sure I had not moved.
Hastily re-frozen we started again, and as he inserted the needle, my whole body jerked and my left foot kicked out, catching Nurse “No1” in the groin, she shot backwards and I had Nurse “No2” trying valiantly to hold me up as I was sick all over her top. “STOP MOVING” came the gentle voice of the Colonel, “you moved and I hit a nerve, now SIT STILL!” I mentioned that I felt rather unwell, the nurses were cleaning each other of my vomit, so he decided “right, lay him on his side; we will do it that way”. I lay down, knees still under my chin and in he went again “another bloody, bloody tap” he shouted, “right, this is pointless, we will diagnose with x-rays, and you can go”. By this time, I was laid out on my side, legs straight now and the nurses we round the back of me with the old shit. I turned to look at him and his clothes were covered in blood, my blood, and he had a nurse holding her finger to the hole in my back.
“What’s all that blood doing” I asked, “you moved and it came out, I can’t get any fluid out and I cannot inject the contrast either, so that’s it, x-rays will be taken again and we will look at them”. I was cleaned up, dressed and out of the BMH Hannover within the hour and on my way back to Neinburg-Weser. There are a reasons why a bloody tap occurs and they are:
So, back to Neinburg I went, meeting up with Mark Cameron and we celebrated with all the joy that came with the knowledge that I was about to leave the Army. I was also guaranteed a small lump sum payment, some of which I lent to Mark and he used it to buy his ticket out of the Army a few months later. I prepared to leave the Army, my mates and the wonderful Frauleins. Sgt Davis, a usually nasty piece of work, as far as I was treated by him, actually told me to not accept anything from the Army and to get a lawyer as soon as I could!
My final week involved handing in my uniform, (as a Medical discharge I did not keep it for Reserve service) and filling in form after form. I was given air tickets to fly to Gatwick from Hannover and after a night of final beers and tears, I flew back to the UK, with a small trip to Chatham (the home of the Royal Engineers) to collect my discharge papers, hand in my ID Card, Rail Card and any sense of being a soldier I had left in me. I walked out of those gates strangely emotional, I was leaving a family that had nurtured me, put up with me, developed me, made me mature (finally) and had paid me whilst doing so. I had made friendships that last to this day, had skills (trained Painter and Decorator), a pension and a limp, some sciatic pain and nagging low back pain.
But I had a life to come that was about to offer more adventure, women, fights and friendships than before, that would bring pain, pleasure, and run the gamut of emotions we probably have all experienced at some point. If you have stuck with this Blog until now, thank you, it’s about to get better (I hope) and rather more raucous!!