May 25, 2011 Ken Jackson Uncategorized
I recently had the experience of being directly involved in the treatment of someone who was in need of services offered by the Veterans Affairs. Like most Americans, I didn’t have a clue as to how the process works, especially in case of an emergency.
Let me say, I’m not going to rail on doctors or staff because, from what I saw, they all hustled and did the best they could, given the availability of staff on a Saturday night. The problem is not the staff, it’s the system.
For most of us used to having health insurance and using regular hospitals, the veteran’s hospital is an eye opener. I would have thought that complex — whose massive infrastructure is creeping down University Hill — would be better equipped to handle life-threatening health crises.
My first emergency room visit was to determine a proper needle for insulin injection, and after waiting from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., the needles were given to the patient. I thought, “oh, they’re just busy today,” since it was the middle of the week. (By the way, they happened to give him the wrong needles!)
What happened next was like watching a bad medical show on television (to be fair, I don’t watch hospital shows since I find nothing entertaining about being sick).
Imagine going through kidney dialysis and realizing partially through the process that the blood is not circulating as it should. In fact, it’s pooling, bulging in your arm.
Not to worry, you’re told, “just use ice, 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, and use heat the following day.” That’s what they told a veteran at the local dialysis center, where he was sent by the VA while visiting Syracuse from Portland, Maine.
Blood began flowing into his arm, pooling at the arm pit from inside and then cascading internally down the arm, working its way down to his fingers like water filling a balloon.
When I arrived he was in excruciating pain, the kind of pain that morphine can’t diminish. The intensity of pain caused by blood filling your arm — blood that was destine for cleansing, circulating through a machine and returned back to the body.
As we near Memorial Day and focus on our veterans and the service they’ve given to our country I have to ask out loud, are we giving our service veterans the best medical treatment available?
The system is so overwhelmed that patients in the waiting areas are happy to share their tales of waiting all day for a script or visit.
As our Congress, and most notably our own Congresswomen Anne Marie Buerkle, vote to eliminate the best working medical system for the aged, they need to spend a day or two at the Veteran’s Administration Hospitals. They’d be shocked at what they would observe.
Perhaps a better lesson for our elected officials would be that any member of the United States House and Senate must use the exact same medical services made available to our brave men and women through Veterans Affairs.
When it comes to the health and wellbeing of our veterans, we are dropping the ball and if you think this is a challenge, just wait until thousands of men and women return from their multiple tours of duty in our ongoing wars.
What are we fighting for, if we can’t take care of the medical needs of our own veterans?
Ken Jackson is the editor of Urban CNY and a weekly columnist for The Eagle. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.