Monday, October 28, 2013

Free Health Care- Part 2

When my husband joined the army he was 19 years old.  We had a one year old, and it was a good career choice for him.  It gave him a way to provide a steady paycheck and health coverage for his family.  It was an honorable thing to do, and as I think back, I know we were blessed to have that stability in our lives, when we were a young family starting out.

When I think about my husband's experience as a disabled veteran using the free health care system the government set up for him and others like him, I always feel a bit torn.

I don't want to seem ungrateful for the life the Army gave us at such a critical time in our lives.  I am not ungrateful for  a modest disability pay, or for Josh's free college education.  But what good is any of that, if the veteran is hurt or sick and the system that is set up to help him almost kills him?
The world is not black and white....experiences are not only good or bad.  The Army gave us our start, but robbed us of our future.

I don't know that all VA hospitals will fail their veterans in the way they failed my husband.  I am just lucky he is alive and well.

Josh fought with the 3rd ID as an Infantry mechanic in 2003 when the US sent in our troops to over-take the cities and ultimately take control over Baghdad.  Josh was 23 years old and often faced hand to hand combat.  He later told me he only had one thought in his head...I have to make it home to my family.
All of the details aren't important.  Suffice it to say that my husband was not a violent man, who loved guns and joined the army to get the chance to kill people.  It was to take care of his family, and hopefully have a promising career he could be proud of.  He was sweet, sensitive and charming.  He did what he had to for his family and for his country.

Seeing friends die and children used as bombs and shields still haunt him today, as it does thousands of soldiers.

After they reached Baghdad, he and his unit were cleared to go back to Kuwait.  Not long after arriving, his foot was crushed by a two-ton trailer.

Even after a few surgeries and pins to keep the bones in his toes together, it was the mental scars where the real damage was done.

We struggled with his patience with the kids, spending sprees, and alcoholism over the years.  It seems he was always disconnected and trying to find a new way to cope.

He finally agreed to go to the VA clinic to be treated in 2007/2008.  He even asked me to go with him, and I was happy to take off of work to be there to support him.  We spent the day being evaluated at different clinics.  We learned occupational therapy techniques to help him.  We learned physical therapy techniques to help him.  I met with a female case worker who was so kind and supportive and understanding to me, the wife, and shared some of her own experiences.  She gave me a card with her personal cell number and told me to call her anytime.  I was again, so grateful to have these services available so finally my husband could get the help he needed and our family could heal, grow and move on.

But that's where the hospitality ended.  In the next visit my husband made by himself, he was prescribed a half a dozen prescriptions.  It was a whirlwind of a nightmare over the next few years.

The pain and anguish we the family endured over endless side-effects from the medication paled in comparison to the shock and disbelief of the lack of help, support and care for us during this pain-staking time. 

Trembling and shaking and at my wit's end, the first call I made to the case manager who had given me her card, she listened and only instructed me, that if I ever felt my life was in danger I should call the police.  She said I shouldn't be afraid to leave him.  I told her of all the tics and convulsions he would have in his sleep and how they terrified me.  She said she would give the message to the nurse. 

They took him off the Tramadol and put him on Oxycodone at his next visit.  I couldn't believe it.  And they added more meds.

Everyone knows how addictive oxy can be. 
He worked his way up to taking the whole month's supply in the first week of it arriving.  The next week would be a come-down that was horrible.  The third week, he was starting to be more coherent and I could try to talk to him about how he was acting and what the drugs were doing to him.  He was unable to urinate, sleep or even speak coherently.  He was wasting away...his skin was blueish and hung off his bones.  His eyes were sunken into deep black pits.
He would not listen to me.  He dismissed everything I said...even the videos I took of his convulsions, and the pictures of him falling asleep while opening Christmas presents.

I tried calling the number I had before.  No answer.  I left messages that were never returned.  I called the clinic and left messages.  I was finally told I was no longer allowed to participate in his medical treatment.

I called family members out of desperation.  Surely, he would listen to them!  They gave me numbers  to drug abuse hot lines.  They all told me the same thing....take my kids and leave.

But, this wasn't Josh!  He was being enabled to live this way by being sent over a half a dozen drugs each month without ever being seen by a doctor....only once a year.  I think he may have talked on the phone to a few here and there, but there was no scheduled therapy...that he attended anyway.

So, maybe those reading this would say, this is not the VA's fault, it was Josh's.  He chose to take more meds than he should have and missed appointments.

I disagree.  I think the VA clinic should know enough about the medication they so freely prescribe, to know what it does to an individuals state of mind.  They should know they have deep rooted issues that need to be talked about in a therapy session rather than drowned with drugs.  They should have a responsibility to their patients to take the best care of them, and to have a caregiver they can talk to so they can have a real idea of the situation.  People on drugs do not realize reality!  He couldn't tell if he was good or not!

To this day, he swears he did not take me off the list as people who could discuss his health care.  He might have an doesn't remember.  There needs to be a better system in place so this doesn't happen.

I remember being so scared everyday, when I came home from work, I would rush to the basement to see if he had over dosed.  I tried to take his medicine and hide it and he threatened to call the police on me.  I gave him the prescribed amount for a while, each morning before I left for work, and he was horribly mean about it.  The next monthly supply came and he hid it from me.  I searched the house, vehicles and garage for it, but could not find it.

I was so exhausted from the daily fear of what he was going to do or how he would treat the children, I secretly started to wish he would overdose, so I wouldn't have to be scared anymore.

It was a nightmare of a life, and I choose not to go into anymore detail, as I have put that chapter of my life away.

My point in sharing this story is that, just because it's FREE doesn't mean it's GOOD. 
Do you think if we had to pay for the meds, Josh would have been so quick to try them all??  No.  We would have done research together and talked about what was most important and least risky.  But for free, heck, why not?

What a huge let down by our government...who promised to take care of my husband in case of being injured fighting for our country.  He was abandoned in his time of greatest need.  I felt very alone and betrayed.

Our story has a happy ending.  During a brief time of clarity, Josh agreed to go to the chiropractor with us.  We just started chiropractic care for my son in the Autism Whisperers program at our local Maximized Living clinic.  The doctor offered my husband a free year of chiropractic care in their Veteran's program. 

Within two weeks, Josh was feeling so much better.  He started listening to me about the side effects of his medication and decided to stop taking them..

It was a day that God poured out his blessings on our I will never forget.

I often wonder if it hadn't been "free" if he would have ever tried it.   I know the doctor who offered it to him was inspired to do so.  He didn't have to.

Josh still has the American mindset when it comes to "free".  If it's free, "why not?".  Thankfully, we used that mentality to our advantage to get him chiropractic adjustments....not everyone is that lucky.

I hope and pray that American can wake up from the "free" mentality and see just what mainstream medicine can do to a person.  It's not a joke....this is your life, and the life of your loved ones.  Be smart.  Do your own research.  Think for yourself.  Give yourself the credit the doctors want to take away from you. 

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