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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Long day at the VA Hospital

What a miserable freakin' day. I think you know the routine by now, don't you? I get up two hours before I leave, take my meds, sit here 'til I get some pain relief, dress and head out to the hospital. Today was an unusual day. I had two appointments at the VA Hospital in Tampa. That wasn't the unusual part. My first appointment was at 9:30 in the Women's Center. My second appointment was at 3:30 in Orthopedics.

Do you see the time difference there? I suck at math but even I can see there is a six hour wait between appointments. Is that right? I said I suck at math and I'm too lazy to pull up my calculator --- Yep, I was a lazy student. Can you tell? What kinds of idiots do they have working in Central Appointments? Do they even look at the other appointments that you have scheduled when they go to put in a new appointment? I think it's a game to them. Let's see how long we can keep this veteran here. Let's see how miserable we can make them. That's gotta be it.

I got up this morning and turned on the computer. Sad about Senator Kennedy. I knew it was coming . My sister and I talked about it 15 months ago when the diagnosis was first announced. We wondered how long he would last. You see, our mother had the exact same diagnosis. We knew there was no chance that Senator Kennedy would survive this. My mother lived only 13 months after she was diagnosed. So long, Senator Kennedy.

I got to the VA Hospital a little early so I actually had time to sit outside and have a smoke before I mustered up the nerve to go in and walk down to the Women's Center. They really need to get me a mobility scooter soon. The walk to the Women's Center is getting longer and longer. By the time I get there, my limp is more pronounced, of course my pain is more pronounced and I'm just flat out TIRED!

There are three clerks who work the desk at the Women's Center. It's a huge clinic. Two of the clerks I like. Today I was checked in by the one I don't like. I was already in a bad mood. I don't know how she got the job. Her communication skills are horrible. I wonder how she got the job. I won't insult anyones ethnicity by trying to guess hers. She doesn't speak English very well and she doesn't understand it well either. When I get stuck with her, I torture her. I make her say the name of the street that I live on. Philatelic. Native English speakers have a difficult time with it. She slaughters it.

After she checked me in, I asked her if my doctor was on time with her appointments. When I ask her a question I usually get the same canned, robotic response. "Yes." I suspect if I asked her, "Would you like some chocolate covered cockroaches," I would get the same canned response. She said, "Yes." Robin, one of the clerks that I do like, rolled her eyes at Ms Canned Response and told me that my doctor had been called out on an emergency but would be back as soon as she could. I hobbled over to the waiting room and sat down and began to wait.

When I got to the waiting room there were only three of us. I hobbled over to the far wall and sat with my back to the wall so that no one could walk up behind me. I sat there so that I could see who was approaching me. I always sit that way whenever possible. I've done that for as long as I can remember. A habit developed in the military, I suppose. The longer I waited, the more crowded the waiting room got. It was getting so crowded that I started to feel closed in. This big fat woman sat down to the left of me. You know her. She tries to take over part of your chair with her thighs, she wants all the arms rests, she snorts, and she does a million other annoying little things. You know her. You want to slap her, too. Right? She was saved by my doctor. Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, my doctor returned from whatever emergency she was on and came to get me for my appointment.

I'd been sitting there for so long, I was having trouble getting up. I dropped my cane. I couldn't pick up my back pack. I had trouble getting out of the chair. Not one person out of the 9 or so women sitting in that waiting room, not even the fat ass woman who was sitting next to me, offered a hand. It took me what seemed forever to get out of that chair. I struggled to pick up my backpack, sling it on, get my cane off the floor and start walking. Usually I refuse help. But an offer would've been nice. Bitches.

My psychiatrist looks like she is 12 years old. Seriously. But she seems like a good kid and she is trying to do right by me so I'm going to stick with her for a while. I've requested copies of my medical records to see what she's written about me. I'll make my decision after I read what she has to say.

When my appointment was finished, I came back out to the main area to make a followup appointment. There were several women gathered around the clerks desk/check-in/out area. One of the nurses asked, "Aren't there any chairs left in the waiting room?" One of the women who was sitting against the wall replied, "There is a man sitting in there. He's making me very uncomfortable. I can't sit in there with him." Tell me, Guys ... and this isn't a slam on you ... but if you know that your wife, spouse, partner, significant other is going to a womens center, and there are women there who are uncomfortable with men, why are you there? Why can't you wait in the cafeteria? You're wearing a hat that says you're a veteran. Surely you know that a lot of these women suffer from PTSD due to military sexual trauma. Why the hell are you there? Do you not understand personal space? You're not there for your own appointment. This is the WOMEN'S CENTER! GO AWAY, PLEASE!

Okay, enough of that rant. Onto the next topic. I'm wired tonight for some reason. Can you tell?

My next mission was to stop by Release of Information to get copies of my medical records. I've been lax on that lately. I walked down there ... there are literally miles and miles of hallways at the Tampa VA Hospital. I'd take pictures but they don't allow cameras in the facility. I got to Release of Information and there were seven people ahead of me. After a 45 minute wait it was finally my turn. There were two things I hoped to accomplish. First, I wanted copies of all my records since June to include mental health (you have to specifically ask for mental health or you won't get them). Second, I wanted copies of the C&P exams that I took last week. I found out that the C&P exams aren't in my medical records. Those are kept at the VARO. Interesting. Every other C&P Exam I've ever had is in my medical records. I know this because I have copies of them that I got by requesting my medical records. I'm going to withhold requesting copies of my C&P exams for now. I don't want to do anything that will delay my claim.

Going a little off track here ... I got an email from someone yesterday who told me their friend just completed a C&P at Tampa VA Hospital and received a decision from the St Pete VARO three weeks later. One can only hope. Keep your fingers crossed!

My last appointment of the day was in Orthopedics. Let me remind you, invisible reader, that I take 90mgs of morphine and 600mgs of topirimate (topomax) daily for pain. I walk with a noticeable limp and a cane. If I know I'm going to be on my feet for an extended amount of time, I take my wheelchair with me. I can't sit for more than an hour. Basically, I'm in pain 24/7. Got that?

So I go in to see Dr Miller. He's a second rate Ortho doctor at the VA Hospital. Another one I'm not quite sure how he got his license. Maybe he found it in a Cracker Jack box. Or possibly he went to school in a Third World Country. I think I've written about him before. Even the other Ortho guys up there talk shit about him behind his back. Sometimes he and I get along and sometimes we don't. Today we didn't get along. I want a better brace for my knee. Something that will support my knee so that I'll quit falling down. If I quit falling down, maybe I'll stop injuring my shoulders. Dr Millers argument is that my xrays from May look good, therefore there is no problem. It doesn't matter that the CT scan done later than that was abnormal. It doesn't matter that I'm in constant, chronic pain. It doesn't matter that my knee is twice the size that it should be. It doesn't matter that it feels like I have a knife driving through my knee at all times. The xrays are fine so I'm fine according to Dr Miller. He gave me a brace but told me that I need to work on my quads. I know that I need to work on my quads. It's not my fault they don't fire. The Army fucked up my quads in 1988. It was the Army who put me in an immobilizer for almost a year. My leg atrophied so bad that my quads have never recovered no matter how much work I've put into them. HOWEVER, the pain is not in my quads. The pain is in my friggin' knee and no one will listen to me. What's wrong with these people?

It was almost 4:00 by the time I finished up with Dr Miller. Prosthetic's closes at promptly at 4:00. Have you ever heard of a civil service employee who didn't clock out exactly on time? I was so tired and sore by the time I left his office that I knew I couldn't get down to prosthetic's before they closed, so I didn't pick up my brace today. I have three appointments on Friday. I'll get it then.

One good thing today .... Since I had such a long break between appointments I was able to go to my favorite restaurant for lunch. Crazy Buffet in Tampa has the most amazing all you can eat sushi buffet I've ever seen. I'm not normally a fan of sushi on a buffet but this shit is good. It's fresh. They make it right there behind the buffet and you can watch them make it. The best part is the cost. Ten dollars. Yep! Ten dollars. I can eat a lot of sushi for ten bucks. Normally I eat 30 or so pieces. Today I only got down about 16 pieces. I've lost a lot of weight the last several months. If my scale is accurate, 50 pounds in the last 4 or 5 months. But it was still worth 10 bucks. It was worth every dime. Try eating that much sushi for ten bucks anywhere else. I double dog dare you.

So while I was wandering around the VA today trying to kill time, I made my way up to the second floor. They have a little mini PX up there. Across from the little mini PX is an empty room they rent out to civilian vendors. The vendors change from time to time and they sell all kinds of different things. There were two different vendors in there today. One vendor was selling cheap, cheesy jewelry. Really tacky crap I wouldn't even put on a kid playing dress up. It appeals to the wives of the old veterans though. I don't know why. Maybe their eyesight is so bad they can't see how ugly it really is.

The other vendor was selling hats and pins. Commemorative stuff. Veteran stuff. You've seen them. Unit designators. Branch of service type hats. Service Ribbons. Stuff like that. I was looking for anything that recognized women veterans, specifically the Womens Army Corps. Back in '76 when I enlisted, I didn't enlist into the Regular Army. My enlistment contract put me into the Womens Army Corps. So I asked the guy if he had anything for women veterans. Get this. Are you ready for this shit? He pointed at a pink baseball cap that said "Army" on it. I shook my head in disbelief. I asked him if he was kidding. I asked if he had anything with Womens Army Corps and he said he didn't carry that stuff. There wasn't enough demand for it. So I said to him, "Don't women veterans matter? How many women buy those pink hats from you?" He said, "Not many." Well, that should tell you something, you idiot. I walked out.

Yep, I'm in a shitty mood today.

Do you know that today is Women's Equality Day? Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki knows it. I find it totally ironic that while I was having a perfectly miserable day at the VA Hospital, this was released today. All I can say is that I'll believe it when I see it. Read the following press release from the Department of Veterans Affairs. I'm out of here for the night.

Until the next time ....


August 26, 2009

VA Pledge to Women Veterans on Women’s Equality Day

WASHINGTON Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki pledged today on Women’s Equality Day that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will work to ensure the nation upholds its obligation to meet the needs of our Veterans – including women Veterans.

“Our Veterans deserve the very best care. Anything less is unacceptable,” Secretary Shinseki said. “If we are to transform VA into a 21st century organization, we need to continually improve our services to women Veterans.”

Although VA has long provided equal benefits to women Veterans, the Department has embarked on new initiatives to meet their unique needs. These initiatives include:

· Comprehensive primary care and specialized medical care at every VA medical center;

· Enhanced mental health care specifically for women Veterans;

· Staffing every VA medical center with a women Veterans program manager;

· Creating a mini-residency on women’s health for primary care physicians;

· Supporting a multifaceted research program on women’s health;

· Improving communication and outreach to women Veterans; and

· Continuing the operation of organizations such as VA’s Center for Women Veterans and the Women Veterans Health Strategic Healthcare Group.

During this observance we should remember the special contributions and sacrifices of the 200,000 women currently serving in the armed forces and 1.8 million who are Veterans,” Assistant Secretary L. Tammy Duckworth said.

Women Veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the Veteran population. They comprise 7.5 percent of the total Veteran population and nearly 5.5 percent of all Veterans who use VA health care services.

- More -

Women Veterans 2/2/2/2

VA estimates women Veterans will constitute 10 percent of the Veteran population by 2020 and 9.5 percent of VA patients.

For more information about VA programs and services for women Veterans, please visit: and

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