Hello Invisible Reader. Finally, I'm going in to have my second (right) shoulder repaired. I can't begin to tell you how happy I am. My right shoulder has been service connected since I retired in 1994. I've been complaining about it for years. The last couple years both shoulders have gotten very bad. I've lost range of motion in both of them and they've been extremely painful. It hasn't helped that my left knee buckles whenever it feels like it and my shoulders almost always take the brunt of my falls.
I had my left shoulder repaired in January of this year. The diagnosis of both shoulders is bilateral adhesive capsulitis. In English that translates to "frozen shoulders". The VA didn't do my surgery. I was outsourced (The VA Calls this "Fee Basis") to the Florida Orthopedic Institute (FOI) and my surgeon, Dr. Frankle did an amazing job. I was back on my feet, so to speak, in a matter of weeks after surgery. There was no physical therapy after surgery. He sent me home with a Continuous Passive Motion (CPM) chair and starting the evening of my surgery, I spent one hour, three times a day in that chair for about 6 weeks. My left shoulder is almost completely healed now. I have almost no pain and just about complete range of motion. There is still some soreness but any surgical procedure takes time to heal and that was expected.
Now it's time to repair my right shoulder. There is no question that the VA is going to send me back to FOI and Dr. Frankle. I'm scheduled for pre-operative stuff on May 11th and surgery on the 13th.
I'm giving you this information because I want you to know how easy I have it here in Tampa, Invisible Reader. Others I know don't have it so easy. There is a huge double standard in the way Veterans are cared for around the Country and I don't know why that is. I don't know what to do about it. I have a dear friend who is suffering because of it.
I know a woman who has the same condition as I do. I don't want to say the name of the VA Hospital where she gets treatment because they know her name well there. She's been battling this particular VA Hospital for more years than she cares to count. She is in a lot of pain, Invisible Reader. Pain that I understand well. Pain that I can relate to. In addition to having a frozen shoulder, she also has bone spurs in her shoulder. When she went to Orthopedics, the doctor prescribed physical therapy for her. Even the physical therapist agreed with my friend that having a bone spur would only aggravate her condition further. Needless to say, armed with this information, my friend won't go to physical therapy. Would you do physical therapy if you knew that it was going to hurt you more? Would you do physical therapy if it was going to cause more harm than good? Of course you wouldn't, Invisible Reader. You're more intelligent than that.
My friend went back to her doctor and asked for a second opinion. As Veterans, we're entitled to that. At least I believed that until I heard back from my friend. Any time I've asked for a second opinion at the Tampa VA, I've gotten it. It doesn't work that way at her VA Hospital though. She was denied. She tried to use the normal channels to get help. She went to the patient advocate. Denied. She went to the hospital director. Denied. She tried the VAOIG and was denied. They told her medical issues were out of their jurisdiction. Say what?
To add insult to injury, after a particularly heated conversation with the patient advocate this morning, two police officers showed up at my friends door. They told her they'd gotten a phone call from the VA Hospital with a report that my friend was suicidal. Suicidal??? She was angry, not suicidal. The police whisked her off to a civilian hospital. The staff at the civilian hospital couldn't believe she was even brought in there and they released her within an hours time. Suicidal or just a pissed off patient advocate getting even because my friend interrupted her break? That's right. It was the patient advocate who called the police. My friend was able to confirm that.
I've made my friends story much shorter and more simple than it really is. This has been going on for a very long time. Things I find so simple to do at the Tampa VA are a huge struggle for her at the VA Hospital where she receives treatment. I will say, without giving away her location, that she's in the same State as my friend Jane, the transgender Veteran, who fought such a long battle for treatment. What does that tell you?
I ask you this, Invisible Reader. Why is it so easy for me to get my shoulders treated by an outside source? Why are they telling my friend, with the very same problem, that she can't see an outside provider, can't get a second opinion, and has to spend ONE YEAR in pain before they will even consider surgery? Her doctors solution was to offer her stronger pain medications but she doesn't want those. She doesn't want to become a legal drug addict like I am and I don't blame her. Who wants to be a morphine addict? But why should she have to spend a year in agonizing pain? Why can't she get the same things at her VA Hospital that I get from mine? Why is there such a double standard between VA hospitals? She's a 100% disabled, service connected Veteran. She should get anything she needs. I'm only at 80%. The first shoulder of mine they operated on wasn't service connected yet they got me in for surgery as quickly as they could. And I'll say this again .. they outsourced me to a civilian facility. I asked for a second opinion and I got it, no questions asked.
I did try the traditional treatments first, Invisible Reader. I tried the steroid injections in my shoulders. I went back a couple of times to the VA and had them done. My friend has tried them, too. I tried physical therapy but it hurt me more than it helped me and when I had my first visit with Dr Frankle he stopped the physical therapy immediately. He believes that anything that causes more pain when you're injured is not helpful. This is from an award winning surgeon, so believe it, Invisible Reader.
So here we are, two Veterans with the same problem, "Frozen Shoulder". I'm being well taken care of by the Tampa VA. In nine days I'm going in for surgery to correct my second shoulder and then hopefully I'll be done with surgery's for a while. In the mean time, my friend over in another State has the same issue that I have and is being treated like a second class citizen. No one wants to help her and she in excruciating pain each and every day. I say again .... WHY THE DOUBLE STANDARD of treatment between VA Hospitals? Why isn't she getting treated the same way that I'm getting treated? Why is she having to fight for something that is so easy for me to get at the Tampa VA Hospital? We're two Veterans with the same problem using the same health care system. Why the double standard???
Think about that for a while, Invisible Reader. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I'd love to hear your experiences on this topic. Please send them directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put "DOUBLE STANDARD" in your subject line.
Until the next time .....