Friday, 28 Oct 83

Dear Mom & Dad,

Angelique before Halloween carnival -- 28 Oct 1983 It is 7:30 pm. Steven is sitting in the floor playing. Jeannie & Angelique are gone to the Halloween Carnival at Pinetamare Elementary school. (Now Steven wanted to watch TV so I put on Charlie Brown.) Angelique had her face painted & went as a clown wearing some pajamas of Steven's that have a matching cap. They went with Faye & her kids.

It has gotten quite chilly here over the past week. The temperature in the house is an almost constant 58º F. We all dress warmly & only Jeannie complains. Every day it seems a little warmer to me. The kids never tell us they are cold so we aren't sure if they are dressed warm enough or not. They run around and bounce off the furniture so much that they are probably plenty warm. We dress so warmly that we usually don't need a coat when we go outside. During the day, it is actually warmer outside in the sun unless the wind is blowing hard. It is probably in the 60's during the day and the 40's at night outside. We wish our electric blankets from Sears would hurry & get here.

We have 3 kerosene heaters. We bought them when the demand was low so they weren't too expensive. They are used & came with no instructions. One of them has instructions written on it, but they are in Italian. Yesterday I got some kerosene coupons but got home too late to get any kerosene. It is about the same price as gasoline. Tonight I got some kerosene & spent some time figuring out how it works, so now it is getting a little warmer in here. It smells terrible, even with the windows open.

Jeannie & Angelique got back. Angelique brought Steven some popcorn which he is going crazy over. Angelique "won" lots of little toys. Her face looks a mess. Jeannie said it was so crowded they could barely walk around. Angelique had lots of fun & saw some of her friends.

Just as I was beginning to think it was getting routine & almost boring over here, everything started getting interesting a week ago. There is so much to tell you that I will continue this tomorrow & Sunday probably. I thought I might get a letter from you today. We didn't get one this week. I'm sure you have thought of us with all the news about Beirut.

Last Friday night David & a friend of his came to supper with us. I cooked some steaks out. We had sort of a mixture between American & Italian food. Those guys ate & ate. Actually, so did I. It looked like a banquet. Jeannie did a good job with the meal. They certainly acted like they enjoyed it. David has lost his Southern accent. I almost didn't know him when he came into my office. He has certainly grown up. He is excited about going back to the States next month. He couldn't spend the night so I took them back to the base around 10:00 where they could catch a bus back to their ship. Fleet landing is in downtown Naples & I'm sure I would have gotten lost if I had tried to take them all the way to the ship. I sure enjoyed visiting with him.

Nearly all day Saturday & 1/2 of Sunday, Jeannie stayed in bed. She felt bad, but didn't have any other symptoms. The Cummings left Saturday for a week in England and left us their VCR. We spent the week making tapes. We borrowed several tapes from Vic & Sandy Sharpe & made copies, day & night. I set the alarm for the middle of the night & got up & changed them. We now have over 40 hours of Sesame Street.

Monday, we got 2 tapes from Diane in the mail. One of them had 15 minutes that Bill recorded while Jeannie's parents were in Little Rock. We sure enjoy seeing them. The kids love it, too. They especially like it when their name is mentioned. Jeannie's dad is finally talking like they will probably come see us. Everyone was a lot more relaxed doing this tape than they were in August.

Sunday morning, 23 October, in the middle of class at church, which I teach, my beeper went off to report to the hospital. I got there about 10:15 & was told we were preparing for 71 casualties from the bombing in Beirut and I needed to be back at the hospital by 3:00 that afternoon. I went back to church and finished teaching my class. I ate lunch at home. Saturday & Sunday were cold & raining - miserable days.

I got back to the hospital about 2:00 & within 5 minutes I was on a bus on my way to the airport. Fortunately, the rain stopped by the middle of the afternoon. However, it was quite cold at the airport & I would have dressed warmer if I had known I was going to be outside in the cold so much. We weren't there long before we were informed that the first plane was diverted to Germany. We were a little disappointed but knew that it was for the best. We knew many of the 42 patients on board were seriously injured and we didn't really have the facilities to give them the care they required. We later learned that many died on the plane. The plane had come from Germany & had doctors aboard from the hospital there & knew they could take care of these guys better than we would be able to. We have no facilities for taking care of burns.

The next plane was from Sigonella. This is a Navy base on Sicily, the island off the toe of Italy. Three of Sigonella's 4 doctors were on the plane. We were sure we would get this plane, because it was Navy and the injured were less serious. The 12 on board were all Marines, but one, who was in the Navy. The plane touched down at 5:50 p.m. & it was already quite dark.

Everything had been set up for hours. We were all getting bored, but still a little nervous about what was about to happen. The majority of us had not been through anything like this before. I wasn't real sure what I was supposed to do but decided I could quickly figure it out once the action started. We were prepared for the worst, but suspected that 12 hours after the bombing that these guys were either stable or dead.

We were more than adequately prepared, both at the hospital & at the airport. Things ran very smoothly & very quickly. We received 12 patients, none of whom were seriously injured. At the airport, we unloaded them all, put them in the terminal (at Capodichino), & checked them all quickly to determine how they were doing, then decided who had the worst injuries and transported them to the hospital.

I rode in the last helicopter with a patient. It was just windy enough that they were "concerned" about landing in the hospital parking lot on top of a hill. Since the first trip made it, I figured we would, too. It was certainly different from an airplane. I couldn't tell when we were on or off the ground except by looking out the window. The worst part was coming down. Being high in the air & looking straight down to where we were going to land at night was bad enough, but seeing the fire truck standing by was more than I cared to see. Besides, no helicopters had landed there before that I had seen. But the trip was fun & landing was - exciting - to say the least.

By the time I got into the hospital, all the other patients had already gotten there & there were people everywhere. I finally found a patient that hadn't been admitted yet so I checked him over & got him admitted. (He was discharged Tuesday.)

After I finished with him, I had to go take care of one of my pregnant patients who was in premature labor. I was one of the last doctors to leave the hospital, but still got home in time to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

The whole experience reminded us of why we are in the military & why we are in Naples. It also helped us better understand the horrors of war. Our 12 men who survived Beirut could talk to you like nothing had happened. But they couldn't hide the looks of bewilderment & sadness in their eyes when they weren't talking or being talked to. It was quite an experience. I would just as soon it be my last.

There was a lot more I could tell, but the enclosed articles do a good job & will save me from writing the same information. It took our minds off the earthquakes for a few days. It seems to have helped improve the image of the hospital in the American community, too. Only the back of my head got into the pictures in the newspaper here.

I hope you heard something about the hospital here in the news. I was told I was seen on the network news Sunday night. Do you know if this is true? I don't remember the TV camera inside the building at the airport, but I wasn't even aware of the reporters taking pictures until we started winding things down.

Sunday, 30 Oct 83

I can't believe it was only a week ago that I was waiting for casualties from Beirut. It has been a long & busy week.

I got home Monday night late because I had a patient with asthma come in at 4:30 & keep me busy trying to get her cleared up without putting her in the hospital. Her mother very much appreciated that I didn't admit her. However, I could have been home an hour earlier if I had admitted her.

In the middle of the night I got paged to the hospital to deliver a baby. By the time I got there everything was done, so I just turned around and came back home (about 4 AM). Fortunately, the doctor standing watch in the hospital that night was one of the obstetricians.

Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday I worked at Pinetamare. Actually, I was supposed to be taking a course (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) all week, but got bumped at the last minute almost, so the regular doctor at Pinetamare could take it. So I had to cover for him while he took the course. It was okay because I wasn't very busy since none of my patients knew I was there. I got to come home for lunch every day. I took off Wednesday (instead of Tues.) afternoon & babysat while Jeannie went to town to get groceries & finish her Christmas shopping. We stayed up till almost 2 AM trying to get them all wrapped & packed in boxes. Now if I can just figure out what & where to get Jeannie something for Christmas.

Thursday we got new neighbors behind and beside us. Dr. Corey, the school psychologist at Pinetamare Elementary school, moved in next door. Dr. Davis, the anesthesiologist at the hospital, and his family moved in behind us. Neither house was completely finished yet. Dr. Davis (without his wife & 2 kids, ages 21 & 23, because they were gone to classes) and Dr. Corey ate supper with us that night.

Wednesday night I went to a class, about the National Museum of Archeology in Naples, taught by the Professor of Archeology from the University of Naples. Yesterday, Jeannie and I went on a tour of the museum with the same archeologist. This is the museum where artifacts from Pompeii are located. It was very interesting, especially with someone telling us so much about so many items. Angelique & Steven stayed with babysitters at John & Faye's house.

Last Monday, I got a letter from Becky. She probably got a letter from me on the same day. We couldn't believe all the crazy things happening on "Days of Our Lives." She sent pictures of Alan & Brian. They are really getting big.

We are sending Becky's Christmas presents to Harrison with yours. If she doesn't go to Harrison for Christmas, I guess she will just have to wait to get them. I doubt that they will get there in time for Thanksgiving.

Do you know yet exactly when you plan to get here? What day of the week? Let me know as soon as you can. I plan to take a few days off when you come. What do you WANT to see? I have been developing a plan of where we could go, but I don't want to if you are not interested. I'm sure you will want to see Pompeii and maybe Mt. Vesuvius and Solfatara. You would probably enjoy the National Museum. We can go to Cuma because it is close and won't take long to see. Do you want to go for a drive through the countryside & some of the small towns around here? Do you want to shop much? What sort of things will you be interested in buying? Will you be interested in buying more than you can carry back to the States, then mailing it back from here? Are you going to be here on a Sunday? Do you want to see as much as we can while you are here or will you want to just sit around the house a lot & visit? We will plan to take the kids along wherever we go. Will you want to eat out at a lot of different places while you are here?

I suggest you both get typhoid shots before you come over. Also, be sure your tetanus shots are up to date. You will get diarrhea when you get to Europe. You might want to ask Dr. Hammon what he suggests you take with you.

Last night Angelique was asking if she could ride a train. (Jeannie & I rode one yesterday.) We told her she would get to ride one when Grandma & Grandpa came to visit. She said, "Tell them to hurry and come."

Last night, I gave Angelique & Steven your Halloween card & books. They really are enjoying them.

After church this morning we took a back road to see if we could find another route to the base besides the Tangenziale and the Domitiana. It wasn't as hard as we thought it would be. We didn't get so lost that we had to turn around anywhere. But, it sure was a long way. It took about 45 minutes to get home. We need to know alternate routes to take because once in awhile the roads we know are closed.

Angelique just got up from her nap & is talking her head off about nonsense. But it seems important to a 4-year-old. She is getting difficult to control these days. She is more uncooperative than cooperative lately. We are at a loss to figure out what has caused her change in behavior.

Angelique is dictating a letter for you - "I miss you. I love you. Are you going to be here soon? That is all for right now."

You all take care & come see us. We all love you both & miss you. We won't let the kids forget they have grandparents.

Lots of love,

Michael, Jeannie,
Angelique, & Steven

P.S. I picked 2 lemons off our tree today. These are our first ripe ones.

Also, there is an Italian toothpick in this envelope.

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