10: THE NETHERLANDS
11: BACK TO GERMANY
18: CYPRUS WIND DOWN
22: MEXICO Y ESPANA
The flight home was the usual trans Atlantic affair. A bit tiring. But, coming home is less tiring than going to Europe. It is because we flew through the day, whereas going to Europe we leave and fly when we should be sleeping ☺ But, none the less a bit tiring.
When I got to customs I was dressed in my “traveller” clothes so that sometimes sets off a bell; although there was no need for that . I was asked where I had bought most of my purchases and I slipped out ,”Morocco”. Gad had I said Amsterdam or Paris. Morocco was a known hippie hang out and it seemed to trigger something. I was asked to step aside for a more thorough inspection. I had nothing to hide; but, I was not really up to a delay.
A bit of a flash back now…about six months previous I had a patient in my chair who was leaving the Forces. It was called an examination on release. When I graduated in 1969 the preventive program was starting. The idea of this was to ensure that people on deplyment were dentally fit. Can you imagine being on patrol in a dangerous situation with a point man who had a tooth ache. Lt Col Chatwin, whom I mentioned as a visitor to Cyprus, had initiated this excellent program. It was ,in fact sought out by Dental Corps around the world. Patients were colour coded according to their hours of need as far as treatment was concerned. There was a mandate to keep people dentally fit once they achieved code Red, and each clinic was to bring a percentage of those requiring less than 3 hours to be coded red, up to dental fitness. And those requiring critical treatment were to be brought out of a condition where they could have serious problems.
Some skipped out on dental exams and Sgt Stone was one of these. He came in for an exam and he was not in good shape. He had many fractured upper teeth and many missing teeth. One option is what is called an immediate denture. This is a treatment taught me by Lt Col Paul Sills, who went on to direct the prosthetics department at the University of Western Ontario. It consists of extraction of posterior teeth, allowing 4-6 weeks for healing to take place then do detailed impressions. At insertion of the complete dentures, the final front teeth are extracted. The advantage is that the patient is not “gumming it” for 4-6 weeks. A reline is usually required as the soft tissues heal . It is a great service
I explained to the retiring Sgt. That it would cost quite a bit to have done in the civilian world and he had served 20 years and deserved this,
He was in military intelligence and police and was off to a job at Toronto Airport Customs. So as I was being let aside I casually asked. Is Mr. Stone now on staff…”Hey how do you know him ? I was asked. I explained I was his military dentist etc.. “Oh, you can go then” I had nothing to hide but I did save some time. Saint Pesmo had again looked over my shoulder.
We had a few days off before we went back to work and I wandered about with my Moroccan Djellaba. Most found it funny, but as I found out some back stabbers used it as fodder…
I was heavy into fitness and the gym was my noon hour domaine. I jogged 3-5 miles a day and worked out in the gym at least 4 days a week. Something I still do , perhaps less so; but ,I do bike and skate . I ran into Mila at the Officers’ mess and she was a tad cool and told me she had won a position teaching English in Spain. I must admit I was a bit taken aback ..but I was not going to make it an issue.
I had lost 10 pounds, 4.5 kg, in Morocco due to what we called the Tangiers trots. A number of people told me I looked a bit weak ;but ,I told them I was working out, likely a left over from the trots. A week after I started work I had spent a great noon hour working out and went to the mess for a small lunch. When I got back to work I started to perspire like never before. And by this I mean even when I was playing sports in almost 35+c weather. It was pouring off my forehead and from all pores in my body. As fortune would have it I decided to call an MD friend, Maj. Hal Frizell. I told him I figured it was a flu. But, in what could only be called a Lotto winning moment he advised me to come over to the hospital. Again St Pesmo was at my side. There was an African Exchange MD from the Ghana Defence forces on rotation through the base hospital. They took a look at me and got a blood sample. The Ghanaian, Dr Kwaku Akpolu, saw a little parasite in one of my red blood cells. He informed me that I had Malaria. I kind of laughed and thought of the many explorers , of whom I had read, and thought what a neat coincidence. Having an explorers’ disease. Kwaku quickly told me it was not quite a fun disorder. He told me I would have uncontrolled shivers, severe thirst, and not much of an appetite. He also told me bowel movements were likely rare for 3- 5 days. Something that came to haunt me during an arduous attempt 4 days later ☺
I had a Plasmodium Vivax strain, which, I was told, is paradoxically the easiest to treat but potentially the most fatal if not treated. It is small and blocks blood vessels in the brain. The Base Borden Hospital was ideal, in that the only real patients were vasectomy patients. So I was spoiled by the attention from the staff. I was also exhibit A as it were J I made a presentation to some medical aid students. They often served in tropical countries so I helped out that way. it is also interesting in that I had checked on what medications and vaccines to take before I left for Morocco. Malaria was not on the list ; but, my little buggy boo put it on the required medications. I may have inadvertently, and not intentionally saved a few lives.
I called Mila and my ear all but froze when she coldly answered; but, when I told her I was in hospital with Malaria. She quickly changed tone and our lives changed , and some 38 years later…etc.
It is also a paradox that the shivering is not due to a loss of body temperature but due to the release of toxins that actually cause a rise in temperature . One actually perspires while shivering. I was drinking a lot and I recall one evening where I was parched ;but ,I did not have the strength to reach to the nearby table for a glass of water. I was later told that when I had the shakes I should perhaps take a tepid bath. Now I always prided myself on a decent vocabulary but tepid was a new word to me. The water at Base Borden is from 400 feet deep fresh water and it is cold. So when I started to shiver I decided to take a nice bath, but tepid was cold to me..not lukewarm…J So in I hopped in and I started to shiver uncontrollably. One of the nurses heard me whimpering and they send down a male nursing assistant to help me out of the bath. He was not a big fellow and even though I was down to 180 from my 205 from before the trip it was still a difficult time for him. All kind of fun especially when the nurses laughed at my lack of comprehension of the word trepid. ☺I should mention that many of the nurses were single and lived on 12th street so we were social friends as well as my patient hospital relationship.
Now this tome has been upbeat and positive ; but a few incidents occurred that stung deep. When I first joined the Forces and spent my summers at the Dental Corps School the esprit de corps and the importance of all members was emphasized. The “School” is but 2 blocks from the Hospital. And even though it was well known that I had a serious affliction there were really no offers of help, such as dinners, once I got out. The Commandant of the school apparently came over once, and left when he found out I was asleep. My immediate superior officer came over twice, once I was asleep and he left, the second time apparently he asked me if I wanted anything, I allegedly said, in my foggy state “ Just get me out of here” . And that was that. When I was released from the hospital I was given close to a month off. I was sleeping 20 hours a day recovering and I had to change my pajamas at least 5 times a day. Not one offer of help or a meal from a staff of 55 at the school. I attribute this to a real lack of concern by the senior officers. Very disappointing would be an understatement. I was also admonished when I was eating supper on a Friday at the mess, during happy hour. The gist was "So you can party but you can't work". In fact I could not drink alcohol for 6 months. The chloroquin affected the liver.
But the crew of single officers from 12th street dropped by frequently. And ironically we were considered “wild”. Mila also dropped by daily, and in short order moved in to my apartment . She was the one who nursed me back to health. It is speculative to surmise what would have happened had she not done what she did. I often tell my children that they owe their being here to a mosquito☺.I began to realize that I had no future in the Dental Corps, this was a seriously depressing discovery for me. I was a footloose and fun loving bachelor; but, looking back I know my duties were performed to high standards. I was told this by a number of officers from other branches, who had witnessed some of the summer exercises I had organized.
Mila was still slated to go to Spain and I was set to go to a clinic in St Catherines. One evening I said , “Hey would you like to come to St Catherines ?” A kind of ‘will you marry me’ moment. We were married in August of 1976, and almost 40 years later it has been a great adventure for all of us. It is interesting that some of the back stabbers played around. I can say with pride that I have been loyal.
At St. Catherines it was a good experience ; but, we were both eager to travel a bit so we decided that I should re-enlist in the Forces. I had a “reputation” as a single guy; but, I felt my married state would put me in good standing. Sadly the back stabbers seemed to be working on their frail egos at my expense. I was sent to Base Borden for two months till Mila finished her teaching music , in the Lincoln County school board. When I arrived at Borden I was taken aback when at least five enlisted personnel took me aside over a few weeks and said, “Sir, this is perhaps out of line ; but, don’t trust LtCol XXXXX he has been talking a lot behind your back. “ . I apparently was portrayed as an immature single fellow who would never settle down. Interestingly this fellow stayed over at my apartment for a week and I caught him in the front room in , shall I call it a compromising situation, with a single female officer. Ah yes a front pew Christian in action . ( He made a big deal of his religious proclivities). This was quite unnerving , as he seemed to know how to suck around the more senior officers. When I got to Gagetown New Brunswick, with Mila all seemed to be going well. Then I got a call from my loyal assistant from St Catherines. She asked if I knew LtCol YYYY ? She said she had introduced herself to him as having been my assistant, at a lecture he was giving. He too went on about how I was a wild man, not changed even though married etc.. I spoke to my commanding officer, fully expecting him to get on the phone to this fellow, to see why he was maligning one of his men. No such action was taken. I spoke to some legal people and they suggested a possible slander action. I did write him and, as many cowards , who are brave behind closed doors, he did not reply. Interestingly he had made moves on Mila before we started to date. So much for marriage vows from a back stabber
But the damage had been done, I called St Catherines to rejoin the clinic; but, my position had been taken. So I stuck it out, I did a post grad at U of Toronto in Public health, and I spent 3 years at Borden, teaching again . I had asked to be transferred to Germany and the General sent me to British Columbia. Our daughter was born while we were in Borden so it was in fact a great trip across Canada. Among the highlights was visiting my birthplace of Fort McLeod, Alberta. It was actually a fitting reward despite the negative incidents I had encountered.
Chilliwack was my first command of a clinic, except for small “One holers” in Summerside P.E.I. and Cyprus. There was a staff of ten, including me. And all, but one of us .was new in their position at the base. A lab Sgt, who was in his first command as a lab tech, a new Sgt office manager, new assistants, two new graduated dentists and myself, and a new hygienist. It was a lovely base and the clinic was well appointed. But, it needed some organizational upgrade. And the great staff was up to it. We an 80% yearly dental recall exam record when I arrived . In a year we brought that to 100%. I had been on a great Forces management course and one thing they emphasized was need to delegate and to ensure those to whom you delegate , are trained and aware of what if required of them . I was told by the other ranks career manager , that for the last two years that I was there, the morale was the highest in the country. I was also told that he clinic was the best run , that the administration captain of the B.C. dental Unit had seen in 11 years . Unfortunately he did not write my annual reports. I had also received great feedback from small clinics at radar sites where we would send a dentist and an assistant every few months, on temporary duty. In the past the relationship was poor. I can pride myself that things went well under my guidance.
In January of 1986 my dear son Gregory almost died due to natal complications. The professionalism of the Chilliwack Hospital saved his life. But, one can never describe the deep pain of such an event. Mila stayed up for 48 hours at his incubator side. Talking softly to him and stroking his cheeks. For years he would stroke his cheeks when he was worried about something ☺
On my annual report , I asked that I not be moved for family reasons. I didn’t want to play games with this ;but, I felt it was a fair request. At my annual report review the Base Commander pulled no punches. He asked, “Mike ,who have you pissed off in the Dental Corps? This report is so off base from what you have done here ” He then told me my clinic was the best run unit on his base. I was a “lodger” unit , which meant I was not under his direct command. but, he told me that he had hiked several numbers in the report. He told me he was disgusted at what the BGen of the dental corps had written . A few platitudes from him, than “It would appear that Maj. Pilon is not interested in further rank or responsibility.” This I have in my records I obtained through access to information,so it is not slander
It was a direct feed from the back stabbers I had mentioned. I did send in a redress of grievance . The Performance Evaluation Report ( PER) is the basis of promotion, postings etc. I noted that “PER means performance evaluation report, not Previous Evaluation Rumours” . The redress was “evaluated <tm> by a crony fellow General and my complaint was dismissed. But he did succeed in crushing my spirit.
A year later I was forced to move with an 18 month old child who had almost died. But, I was sent to Headquarters in Ottawa. It could have been a good experience and I did do a fair amount of innovative work as I was the only person who could work with computers. But the morale had been drained from me by the previous General's insensitive remarks. Pretty demoralizing , as I feel I may have been one of the more enthusiastic dental officers.
I left the forces with a total of 23 years service. Many great moments ;but, to my mind things had changed. Mila, Nata, Greg and I have made a good life in Ottawa.
When I look back over the opportunities I had to travel, learn from fellow dental officers and of course to have met Mila, it has been a great trip. I also had opportunities for some excellent courses, both of a dental nature and of a management nature. Too bad some of that wasn’t learned by some of my “superior” <tm> officers ☺ The many military friends I still contact have made life pleasant. My Australian police officer friends from Cyprus are still in contact with me on the net. So it was 99% great :)
I hope this on line ‘book’ is of some fun to you, who have read it . One thing I learned was it is the generous and inspiring people one meets that make life a positive experience. Drop a line and we may post it on the comments page ( Anonymously of course)
Michael Pilon still trying to grow up