Some days are simply better than others. Take for example one day a week or so ago when I was called in by a VA specialist who told me, after reviewing my long medical history: “With all your medical history you shouldn’t even be here, but since you are plan on being around a while longer!”
For the past six or eight months, I have been trying to come to grips with what the Veterans Administration doctors had thought was a major cancer threat. Let me tell you, no matter how well you prepare for it your mind can play great games when the thought of the impending doom of a serious cancer confrontation is planted in it.
Illnesses and other maladies are no stranger to me. I have had a life-long skirmish with staph infections, malignant tumors, and serious clotting problems.
So much so that the Army missed them when I was inducted in the 1950s and 20 years later, after several bouts with significant medical problems for which there was never enough money to pay the doctors and hospitals, the government belatedly acknowledged the oversight and granted me a service-connected disability that has since provided me with excellent medical care.
I have never collected any compensation for my service-connected disabilities mainly because I never really pursued that portion of the claim that was filed on my behalf. What I got was exactly what I wanted: Affordable medical care at a time when no insurance company would write health coverage on me due to my medical history that was punctuated by some major incidents in my early 20s after I got out of the service.
The interesting thing about this whole adventure through the world of medicine has been the great VA care, assisted by at least one major teaching hospital at the University of Florida, I have received over the years.
Of course, since I am over 65 I now have Medicare coverage but to the best of my knowledge, I don’t even think it has ever been used unless the VA dipped into it to provide some contracted service needed to put me back together.
There have been many instances of that to be sure. Among them are the great implanted artificial lenses behind my corneas that enabled me to see like the average person for the first time in my life when I was nearly 70 years old; the surgery on my hands that opened up fingers that had curled due to Dupuytren’s Disease enabling me to type this essay with nine of my ten fingers on a regular computer keyboard; and, most of all, the constant monitoring of my medical condition – a system of preventive medicine that has saved my life more than once.
Where and when a condition has exceeded the skills of the staff surgeons at the VA the Veterans Administration has sent me to the finest available outside surgeons to perform the operations at virtually no cost to me.
For sure there have been some co-pays to make but they are minuscule compared to the services I have received.
Yet I hear a lot of people complain about the VA system. They complain about being too far from a clinic or hospital, about having to wait too long to be seen when they have an appointment, and the inconvenience of not having appointments made in groups negating additional trips to the clinic or hospital.
I have no such complaints. The VA is not always overflowing with Tender Loving Care. It is a system that demands a certain amount of responsibility on the behalf of the patient. If you are required to have a blood test at the other end of the hospital, no one is going to come and take your blood. You are responsible for getting yourself there, on time, to have your blood drawn. It’s not always easy if you are confined to a wheelchair as I have been from time to time. But, in my opinion, it works as part of the ongoing recovery system. You learn to do it, you learn to cope with your problems and adapt to the changed world into which they often thrust you.
I have always wondered, as I listen to the debates about Medicare and Obamacare, why this system that seems to work so well for many of us has not been used as a model for a similar preventive medical program available to all U.S. citizens.
We have had a Public Health System for eons but we have never developed public health clinics where people can show up on a regular basis for a checkup. I grew up in a small town where my uncle was the town doctor. “Doc” expected everyone in town to show up in his office, regardless of their ability to pay, for an occasional checkup. Our town had a low incidence of bad health as a result. My uncle took a lot of chickens and beets in trade for the services he performed, but the whole town benefited from this system of preventive medicine.
I’ve never understood why this would not work on a national basis. The cost would certainly be far less than we pay in our taxes and medical fees for our patchwork quilt of medical services that spend more time treating major medical incidents than preventing them.
I had a couple of surgeries to remove malignancies in the past few months and more CAT scans and MRIs than allowed on the radiation scale. There is not an opening in my body into which someone has not thrust a tube or camera and prodded away. It gets mind-numbing after a while.
And while my mind was playing mental gymnastics with all the things that “might” happen if I was faced with a long road of recovery my VA doctors and specialists were doing their job and the result was the good news that I most likely would spend a few more years on this earth without being inconvenienced by the Big “C”.
There are a couple of things, that doesn’t appear to be a major threat at this point, they want to keep a closer eye on for the next year, but overall the major threat has been turned back.
As I said, some days are just better than others. I sang “Amazing Grace” all the way home from the hospital the day I got the good news.
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