19 August 2012

A Little Vacation - Blog will be off-line for a couple days

This is sort of a personal entry in our C-123 veterans blog...hope you don't mind the editorial privilege after 226 earlier posts.

We will be off-line for a couple days beginning Monday. I'm in for another round of surgery at Oregon Health Sciences University...great place, great docs, and a great cafeteria. The reason is a problem called Avascular Necrosis (AVN) which will force replacement of my hips, and perhaps my knees also. This will be my 12th surgery since the end of the Gulf War. And AVN is now associated with Agent Orange. Oh, the joy!

OSHU...first university to identify C-123 dioxin exposure!
And my AVN, like our Agent Orange exposure,  also has a VA connection. Last year, in significant pain, I sought care in my local VA emergency room. The ER x-rays showed AVN, and the next month I was seen by a VA orthopedic surgeon. He dismissed the AVN diagnosis made in the ER, according to the notes he entered, because I had no history of being on a specific medicine which causes about a third of AVN cases. Patients who have joint pain, and who have a history of using that medicine, are supposed to have AVN considered during their doctor's examination.

And if this doctor had read a few pages back in my VA medical records...which were right before him on the same computer he was entering his notes with, he'd have seen I had been on that medicine for two years...two years of treatment by the VA.

I didn't learn of his error until later this year at the VA when I was having a procedure guided by fluoroscopic imaging, and the doctor mentioned the AVN that he observed, and mentioned also that my hip was fractured.

Ten months had passed since the ER visit in the same VA facility...ten months of increasing discomfort, and ten months of progress of the AVN disease which might have been halted, or at least slowed, by medicine. Maybe even tomorrow's surgery prevented.

The VA couldn't get me reviewed for the necessary surgery for a couple months which would have meant waiting even more months until the surgery itself. So off to a civilian facility where I was seen and surgery arranged within two weeks by an outstanding professor of medicine. Tomorrow I'll wake up with a new steel hip and a tray of hospital jello for dinner...yuck. Four weeks of rehab - double yuck.

Comrades, we've had a miserable year struggling through this C-123 contamination issue trying to get the VA to care for our Agent Orange illnesses. We're not there yet although a tremendous amount of information has been collected to support our position, and we have also gained the support of outstanding scholars in this field, journalists, legislators and veterans organizations. We'll prevail. But the problem is that there will be fewer of us to prevail than when we began...because the VA continues to refuse recognition that our decade of flying the dioxin-contaminated C-123 exposed us to that dioxin. The VA says "contamination-yes, exposure-no."

Even though the VA sometimes misses the mark as seems to be the case with my AVN disease, the VA are the go-to guys for Agent Orange presumptive illnesses, and the VA is where veterans must go when they lack other insurance. So it is a problem when the VA pretends that we haven't been exposed to dioxin.

Speaking for myself, I wish the VA would spend more time and effort properly caring for me and the guys I flew with than in preventing C-123 aircrews from being eligible for VA care!

I want to shout out my sincere appreciation for my VA dental service, for my primary care provider, for my prostate cancer team, the ER, and the imaging services. I'm blessed with the freedom to bitch and moan about the VA and still turn to the VA for treatment by people who truly care about me.

I wish that all our C-123 maintenance personnel, aerial port guys and aircrew could get the VA care they deserve!

I wish that all our C-123 maintenance personnel, aerial port guys and aircrew would shout at their elected officials, demanding that the VA grant service connection to our Agent Orange veterans! We need people like Senator Patty Murray of Washington to be beating on the VA for us...as has her ranking member Richard Burr.

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