Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Navy Birthday Party - complete with costumed entertainment!

Navy Marks its 236th Birthday PORTSMOUTH - Chris Grimes adjusted his tall black top hat and picked up a shiny silver bone saw from the display table in front of him.

"This is my capital saw, for arms and legs," he explained. "And this smaller one is my metacarpal saw, for fingers and toes."

A doctor who was looking on - a real physician - grimaced.
"And the patients were awake for this?" he asked.
Grimes nodded. "Unless they'd passed out from shock."

The doctor shook his head. "A lot's changed," he said as he picked up an old, rigid metal catheter, probably used in the early 1800s.

Grimes was one of a handful of volunteer re-enactors who set up historical displays at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center on Tuesday as part of a celebration marking the 236th birthday of the U.S. Navy. The exhibits were supposed to be arranged outdoors at Hospital Point in front of the medical center's oldest building - the Navy's first hospital. Bad weather forced plans to change, so Grimes and the others instead set up inside, in patient waiting areas just down the hall from the hospital's modern-day operating rooms.
"Kind of a neat juxtaposition," one passerby remarked.

The Navy hosts a birthday celebration in Hampton Roads every year. Last year, it was held at Oceana Naval Air Station, and the year before aboard the battleship Wisconsin.

This year, organizers decided on a theme of Navy medicine, so Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, founded in 1830, seemed like a fitting venue. In addition to the historical exhibits, this year's celebration included a formal evening ceremony. In a speech before a room full of officers and dignitaries, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the head of Fleet Forces Command, said the re-enactors and their displays served as a reminder of just how much the Navy and Navy medicine have evolved.

Grimes, who's been posing for years as a 19th century Navy surgeon's mate, said he agrees - but only to an extent.

He pointed out a number of drugs on his display table that are still administered today, and then remarked that many of his tools are still in use as well; they've just been refined a bit.
"Actually," he said, "it's amazing how much is the same."


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