The hospital.

Tenno was a small fishing village with a number of oyster beds, which provided cultured pearls for the Japanese market. Also the local fishermen dried their fish, in the sun, along the side of the road. We were transported to and from the hospital by bus and they ran from early in the morning to 9.30 or so in the evening.

There were two operating theatres at the hospital with their adjacent anaesthetic rooms (see note 1). Each theatre had two operating tables. We had a daily operating list and at times did eighty cases a day. The routine was broken occasionally when we provided a gynaecological service for Japanese wives of American servicemen. We frequently did emergency work, at night, with casualties being collected by the Emergency Orderly, a duty performed by non-ward staff (i.e. clerks) who were on a duty rota after hours. They used a four-wheel drive ambulance with a Japanese driver. On return to the hospital reception casualties were seen by the Duty Medical Officer who determined whether immediate surgery was necessary. As there was this need to use the operating theatre at a moments notice a theatre technician, again on a rota basis, slept in a room just off the theatre (I used to sleep on a trolley), his job (on receiving a telephone call) was to prepare for such occasions. These emergency sessions were to treat casualties or at times to remove someone’s appendix. When it was to remove an appendix it was always ‘surgery against the clock’ with one surgeon endeavouring to beat the time of a colleague and of course get back to bed as soon as possible!

Casualties from Korea were transported by hospital ship (see note 2), Med-Air Evac and sometimes helicopter. They also arrived by train from Iwakuni (a port and airfield along the coast, west of Kure), and an ambulance would transport casualties from Kure Railway Station to the hospital.

Our routine surgical work consisted of shattered bones, traumatic amputations, burns of all degrees to most parts of the body (although it’s quite surprising how boots, belts and gaiters afforded protection), chest and facial injuries. The winter of 52/53 saw a considerable number of burns due to the mal functioning of petrol heaters used by the troops. Our work was primarily making good, corrective surgery and on going skin grafting. In addition to the already mentioned appendicectomy, operations for circumcision and self inflicted gunshot wounds were also performed. I recall vividly removing a leg plaster of paris to find maggots everywhere, but they had cleaned the wound well! Fortunately the patient was anaesthetised and he was spared the shock. Two anaesthetists looked after the well being of patients on the operating tables. Operating theatre technicians (OTT) supported the anaesthetists at all times and they looked after the patient in the temporary absence of the anaesthetist. The other OTT’s provided support to sisters and surgeons by sterilising and laying up instruments for operations, waiting on operating staff during surgery, applying plaster of paris and now again returning patients to the wards. The Japanese staff were very good providing patient portering service, cleaning and laundry. I took advantage of this and for a small charge had all my personal clothing laundered!

As a distraction from the trauma surgery at Britcom General Hospital an anaesthetist with an operating theatre technician visited a local Japanese hospital at Hiro, just east of Kure. These visits, on a Saturday morning, took place about once a month and the purpose was to provide a general anaesthesia service for the surgeons.