Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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June 10, 2014

The nurse who gave local vet a hand

47 years later, Jim Vines able to hug and thank the Army surgical nurse who repaired his hand

By TODD GLASSCOCK

The 19-year-old American soldier came into the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Cu Chi, Vietnam, with wounds almost everywhere over his body.

Shrapnel from an American artillery round had fallen short on Oct. 18, 1967, and left the young soldier in critical condition. A surgeon patched his belly wound, the most serious of the 19-year-old’s injuries. It was a surgical nurse, however, who would patch the soldier’s hand.

“I never saw names, just bodies and wounds,” said Sarah Blum, who was a guest speaker Saturday at the fifth annual updating of the Vietnam Memorial Wall at the National Vietnam War Museum in Mineral Wells.

Blum was one of four guest speakers, during which the names of four Vietnam veterans added to the national memorial last year were added to the local replica this year. Next year, 14 more names will be added to the local wall.

Blum said she didn’t learn the 19-year-old’s name on the operating table, either, but the wound to his hand would stand out in her mind, largely because the surgeon told Blum the young man was a baseball pitcher, and the wounded hand was his pitching hand.

“You sew up his hand,” the surgeon ordered her.

The surgeon had to treat the other soldiers who had come in he told Blum. She argued with him, telling him she wasn’t skilled for such a surgery, but the surgeon outranked her, so she had no choice but to make the attempt.

“I remember sweating,” she said of prepping for the surgery. To complicate matters, a plague of red locusts had swarmed into the hospital grounds and someone had inadvertently let some of the insects into the operating room, one of which landed on the soldier’s wounded hand. The locust was removed and Blum sewed up the soldier’s hand.  

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