Our Day at the VA

The day was going to be a crap shoot from the git-go.  I had all the documentation. I had my discharge papers. I had the injury that guaranteed a pitiful look when I graced the doors of the Veterans Administration at 9:00 am.

What I didn’t have was an appointment or a VA Card saying that I was certified to receive veterans care. I knew with any kind of government bureaucracy involved, I was going to have to have a combination of luck and the right people sitting across the table from me as I went from triage to some kind of care.  Honestly… with everything I had heard about the VA, I figured I had a 50-50 shot of getting seen today.

So I did my part.  I looked as sickly as I could.  It wasn’t too difficult considering I was still recovering from the Lortabs they gave me at the ER on Sunday night. Couple that with the broken wing in the sling look and I had turned pitiful into an art form. Debi kept saying, “You look pretty sick to me.”

I wasn’t acting. I felt as bad as I have felt in many years.  At that point in time I had stopped taking the Lortabs almost 30 hours before, so I didn’t have to fake the pain – it was real and on my face.

The first stroke of luck happened as soon as I hit the ER.  The triage area was empty and they got me right in to see the nurse.  Considering I was not in the VA computer, she could do little more than take my vitals, I suppose to make sure I wasn’t on the verge of keeling over dead, and then send me to Roy.

Roy is the guy that looks at your paperwork and makes sure that you have everything you need to be put in the system.  My heart sank when I handed him my DD-214 (Discharge papers) and he said, “This is the wrong paper.”

I sheepishly responded, “That’s what they sent me from records.”

His, “We’ll make this do,” was very encouraging.  Fifteen minutes later, I was a full-fledged, bona-fide, patient of the Veterans Administration and the rest of the day was more about waiting.  Waiting, I could do.  At least I was going to be seen.

Long story short, they sent us up to the Urgent Care unit.  It’s more of a Doc-In-The-Box kind of place, except it seems to move at a little slower pace.  We waited there for an hour or so before the triage nurse there steps out and shouts, “Michael Mills!” (Okay, now you know the truth. Mickey is a nickname. As far as the VA and the IRS is concerned, I am a Michael. Keep that between us, okay?)

So the nurse takes be back and once more takes my Blood Pressure one more time.  I was shocked to see it much lower than it was Sunday at the ER.  It was 131/84, much lower than it has been.  She sets me up with a Physician’s Assistant.  By now it’s around 11:30

The PA gets us in and he starts asking me all kinds of questions about what happened, how I landed, did I hear any pops of bones breaking, and on and on.  Then he does something kind of strange.  He starts Googling something.  We were a bit taken back by the Doctor googling symptoms.  I think he picked up on our obvious distress and explained, “There is a specific view I want the x-ray tech to provide and I wanted to make sure I called it the right thing.”  I suspect that topic will be covered in some upcoming class at Med School.

So…. Off we go to Radiology to get x-rays done. By far, the worst part of the day. To get the special picture of the shoulder the PA wanted, the x-ray tech had to get my arm in a position it did not want to go in.  The pain was excruciating, but he got all the pictures and then some.

After a bit of lunch, we went back to the PA’s office for a 1:30 appointment, which didn’t start until 2:00.  It was the moment of truth.

The Humerus is that bone that runs from the shoulder to the elbow.  It has the ball on top that fits into the rotator cuff.  I have a hairline fracture in the bone just below the ball.  The PA had a consult with an orthopedic guy and the verdict is:

1-      No surgery needed
2-      Six to eight weeks to heal
3-      Don’t screw it up any worse

After picking up pain meds (not Lortabs) and an anti-inflammatory at the pharmacy, we got out of there a little after 3:00.  All in all, the day was a resounding success.  We have a recovery plan.

A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever. ~ Jessamyn West


5 thoughts on “Our Day at the VA

  1. Diane Klengson

    All in all, that was a pretty short day for not being in the system to begin with. Govt. workers seem to work outside of time. I used to be an Accountant ( I was paying karmic debt for something awful I must have had for a job in a previous life) for Oncare which owned Cancer treatment facilities all over the United States. Well, believe it of not, they don’t make appointments in Hawaii. They just show up when necessary and g0 on Island time. It drove everyone over here CRAZY. That’s what I would think the VA would be like. I think you got lucky with Roy, who apparently would think for himself and actually help you. I hope they gave you something strong enough to deal with the pain, since you can’t do anything it will be hard to be distracted. I will send one of my all time favorite comedies since you are probably going to be sitting around a lot. I think you and Debi will crack up watching it. I have to warn you though, it is pretty twisted. We are leaving early Friday am so I probably won’t have time to do it until we get back. I have tons to still do to get ready. How about messaging me on f.b and letting me know where you want it sent? Here’s hope to a speedy recovery and effective painkillers. I do not believe in needless suffering.

  2. Deborah Winter-Blood

    You forgot to mention that your pharmacist was Bunny Swan.

    I agree – the day was productive and reassuring, and all in all very hopeful. And we had six whole hours of laughing and talking and being together almost entirely uninterrupted, except while the x-ray tech was torturing you.

    And you bought me pizza. 😀

  3. Rose S

    Being an Army brat, I’ve been in and around my share of military medical facilities. As a child of 8, Walter Reed Army Medical became almost as familiar to me as my home while we waited through rounds of chemo and radiation blasting the monster growing in my father’s body – I remember nurses and doctors with quiet voices patting me on the head whenever I asked if Daddy could come home today. As a youngster and then into my teen years, Army facilities saw me through sprains, strains, cuts sutures, an ovarian cyst at 14 ( GODS I thought I was dying!) and many assorted fevers, nosebleeds, bonks on the head, etc. As an adult, I have accompanied my mother on numerous trips to the VA hospital in Baltimore for everything ranging from her “Lady Visits” as she calls them, to eye surgery, to treatment for severe bronchitis. While they DO seem to exist out of time, the doctors and staff there have never treated my mother with anything less than compassion and efficiency. She gets follow up calls, meds, reminders for appointments, and even a shuttle ride to the VA hospital if she chooses not to drive herself.
    Mind you, there have been other aspects of dealing with the VA that I have been less than pleased with, but medical care is certainly not one of them. In fact, I’d have to say that some of the most wonderful people I have ever met have been the Vets and volunteers who work at the VA hospital.

    Glad that you had such a positive experience there, Mickey.

    What kind of pizza, Debi?

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