by John Blue
But sweaty, jumpy, feverish me now looked just like them! If I sat over there, I may also get locked up! Yet freedom was just a few feet away after a simple signature, then a walk through a doorway onto a civilian street with cars rushing by. Newly discharged “ex-GIs” were yelling and running out of the hangar’s metal door while tossing off their uniforms! I turned back, leaned over and signed papers stating I wasn’t war ill or injured. I walked 20’ behind the tables then through a cheap metal doorway into snowy Seattle streets in my canvas jungle boots. All my belongings were in a duffle bag on my shoulder. As I sloshed through snow I thought: “Oh well, it’s probably just some cold I’d gotten.”
Wrong! I had drenching debilitating fevers that never faded for the rest of my life, and totally ruined it. For I broke into stinky sweaty fevers every 2 months like clockwork, then had to lie down for 2 weeks until they disappeared for 2 months, when they began again. Hence, I couldn’t get a good job, buy a nice house, find a girlfriend, get married, go to Law School on my GI Bill, then work as a Public Defender – all my dreams since I was 15! Instead, I lived for years, as many ill vets, on low paying manual jobs or in poverty. Worse, in all those decades, no damn doctor I visited figured out my Jungle Fevers!
By 2008, after years of suffering I was just worn out, and finally near to dying. So I went to the new and vastly improved VA and said: “I don’t mind dying, but by God before I go, I just have to know what in hell is this Jungle Fever I’ve suffered from since 1972?” Someone at the VA finally said: “Well, how about you seeing the Head Doctor of our Infectious Disease Ward? Okay?!” Duuhhh!
And so, I met the great and brilliant Dr. G. who after many more blood tests said exactly this, and I will remember his words to my dying day: “You know, John, I actually sat and looked at all your blood test and charts for almost 40 minutes of my life — and I found it!” He was mocking most doctors, who as people know, only give you 10 rushed minutes of their time! Not this sensible Midwesterner! He was so cool he had even refused to join the A.M.A., saying they were mostly insurance hacks only into medicine for the money. (Oh! Did I mention he was also a full Professor at one of the most prestigious Universities in the country? His internet CV and Resume contain five pages of national and international awards for his medical brilliance. Yet he is not ashamed to remain a friend to a simple GI — me! We still talk!)
Anyway, he went on, getting angrier and angrier: “You are in South East Asia where it is endemic! You are wading in the rice paddies where they use **** to fertilize their crops! You are in the jungle for weeks on end with open cuts and sores, with no showers! You are exposed daily to the single most common bug over there – and no one tested you for TYPHOID FEVER in all these past years?! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!”
And there it was! They had not done the easiest and most basic medical exams on me. I had a simple problem that had a simple solution, which could have altered my life in every way and for the better. But no! Almost every doctor preferred to quickly tell me my fevers were all in my head! This rather than do their job — as I had done mine in Vietnam. For decades they went home with paychecks, while I went home with none. And that is how I lost my youth, middle and old age to “LEECH VALLEY.” One type of bloodsucker took my blood, and another type did not bother to…
? THE END ?
REFERENCE: In the summer of 2017, I found and bought the amazing book “WHERE WE WERE IN VIETNAM” by Michael P. Kelley. In it I found my “LEECH VALLEY” where little wiggly things changed my life forever, as I ended theirs.
I hope this absolutely true tale will spark some of my fellow vets to give the new and actually improved VA another chance. And give themselves one, too! Please go get checked out for whatever ails you, then go check out this book!
Its Vietnam vet author spent years researching it and he found every single place in Vietnam that we GIs had been to, or had set up any kind of base, even if for only a few days! It was an astonishing piece of research and was also dead accurate! Not even the U.S. ARMY had anything like it! How Michael P. Kelley did it, no one knows! Tragically, after he finished it, he killed himself. He still had PTSD over the death of his platoon C.O. medic pal.
The book had a perfect description of “LEECH VALLEY” and placed it exactly where I remembered it was. I cried when I read it. You’ve no idea what a strange relief it was to me! For at long last “LEECH VALLEY” was proven to exist for me, and now for others! The leeches there really did hunt down humans to suck blood and give deadly fevers!
My 40 years of selfdoubt, sorry-assed doctors, and VA denial were over! “LEECH VALLEY” was exactly where I remembered it, and was now documented forever — as were those deadly chasing leeches and what they did to us! I write story up now hoping it might help other vets who also suffered from strange war fevers, ills and self-doubts about them. THEY MIGHT BE REAL AFTER ALL!
GET CHECKED OUT IN THE NEW VA! (Thank-you blessed Sgt. Michael P. Kelley, and RIP! You brought me great peace after 40 years of lazy doctors, VA mockery, and my own self-doubt. I hope you found yours. — JB) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
WHERE WE WERE IN VIETNAM — A Comprehensive Guide to the Firebases, Military Installations, and Naval Vessels of the Vietnam War 1945-75” By Michael P. Kelley, Hellgate Press (2002), Ashland, OR. $40.
~ See page 294 ~
“LEECH ISLAND” (map coordinates YC 834-997) A 4 x 1.5 km island in Song Ta Trach River (south fork of Perfume River), approximately 22 km SSE of Hue City and 26 km due West of Q Phu Loc, a Fire Support Base “Rifle” there. To its SW was the home of 5th North Vietnamese Army Regiment in 1969. Possibly named for its shape or for its dense population of what US Troops called Dry-Land Leeches or Tree Leeches, that lived in trees and wet grasses, rapidly moving towards their prey when sensing heat in motion similar to that of the inch worms. Was a smaller and more ubiquitous leech than its waterborne cousin, though both were equally dreaded by troops in the field. Thua Thien province, I Corps.
“LEECH VALLEY” (map coordinates AT 8-6) Along Song Lo Dong River, approximately 17 km SW of Da Nang City (and major U.S. Air Force base). Quang Nam province, I Corps