Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jose Madrigal
At approximately 4 a.m. on July 20, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Gloveis Wells, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and a native of Raleigh, Mississippi, was awakened by fellow shipmates to clear a flooded space. When Wells arrived to the port side sea painter, the water level had consumed his boots. While working to de-flood the space, Wells’ day went from bad to worse.
That morning, Nimitz had been transiting through rough seas and the waves were so intense that they had caused the flooding in the space. A wave with tremendous force had entered the view port and lifted Wells off the deck and slammed him into the bulkhead.
Wells is one of the taller Sailors aboard Nimitz standing at six feet four inches and weighing approximately 250 pounds at the time of the incident, and believes that his size is what saved him.
“My size is what saved me,” said Wells. “Where my shoulder hit the light switch could have been someone’s head. Thankfully none of the other guys were in there because it might have killed them. Almost all the guys in my shop are smaller than me.”
After being smashed by the wave, Wells was able to manage the strength to crawl out of the space and find Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Adam Tabor, from Cincinnati, who called away a medical emergency. Tabor recalled being frightened and concerned for his fellow shipmate.
“I was scared for my shipmate, my boatswain’s mate brother, because I didn’t know how serious his injury was,” said Tabor. “He crawled out of the space on his hands and knees, gasping for air. My initial reaction was to ask him if he was ok and when he shook his head no, I immediately found the closest j-dial and called the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch to call a medical emergency away in the port sea painter.”
By the time the emergency medical team arrived, pain had taken over Wells’ body. He was hesitant to be touched because he couldn’t identify where the pain was coming from, he only knew that his entire body hurt. He again managed to find the strength to walk down to medical still unaware of the full extent of his injuries.
“I walked down to medical and once I got to the examination room I could only lay on my left side, because that was the only side that felt relatively comfortable,” said Wells.
Wells underwent physical examinations and x-rays, which determined he had a collapsed lung and broken his L3 and L4 lumbar. He was treated in the ship’s intensive care unit where they treated his collapsed lung. After his procedures, he was able to breathe correctly again but was still in significant pain. He then spent the next two weeks in his berthing on convalescent leave to rest.
“During convalescent leave I couldn’t lay on my side, couldn’t’ lay on my stomach, I could only lay on my back,” said Wells. “That was horrible. I wouldn’t wish that pain on anybody.”
While recovering in his berthing, Wells had shipmates constantly checking on his well-being. His fellow shipmates from deck department would periodically check on him to make sure he wasn’t straining himself and was getting the proper rest he needed. They would continue that for the following two weeks when he returned to work.
“I worked from the office, sitting down the whole time, and my guys wouldn’t let me do anything,” said Wells. “They would ask me what I needed, what needed to get done and I would just direct them. I’m very grateful for all their help and the help and care from the medical team as well.”
Wells praises his shipmates in deck department and the medical staff that helped him throughout his month long recovery process. He is now back to work and claims to feel normal again. He doesn’t like to think about his incident, he would rather focus on the present and his duties going forward.
“I’ve been back to the space numerous times for work and I look into where I got picked off the deck and look at the bulkhead that broke two bones in my back, but I rarely think about it,” said Wells.
With the exception of a few scars and a memory, Wells claims it’s as if nothing happened thanks to the medical team aboard. A few reminders here and there when fellow shipmates ask him about the incident, but his main focus now is his job and finishing the rest of this deployment strong.
Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.