Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blood & B-Vitamins: Adventures at the VA Hospital

Patience has never really been one of my virtues, when someone tells me they're going to do something I think it's perfectly fair and reasonable that they either actually do it or at least make the attempt. Since I'm a Veteran, under my Honorable Discharge which grants me access to health-care at any one of our nation's VA Hospital Campuses, I'm exempt from having to purchase any form of health insurance under the new Affordable Care Act (Which, I'd like to note, isn't perfect but at least it's a start.) I can purchase extra if I want to, but it is not required under the new law. It had taken me a good long while to get myself an appointment to begin with, largely my own fault due to procrastination, but I did EVENTUALLY get there.

It's a very long drive from where I live into Fayetteville (Arkansas, that is) so I was awake the moment sunlight infiltrated my bedroom window. Since this was my first time going to a VA Hospital, I had previously been told that I would need two appointments in successions of each other: The first one was originally at 9AM, to draw blood and do other lab-work, the official processing appointment was at 11AM for actually speaking to a Primary Care doctor. Despite us driving as fast as the law would let us, I was ten minutes late for the first appointment: I'm rarely late for anything, but I had to consciously remind myself that this isn't Fort Huachuca, and that being a sneeze late no longer carries an instant Company Grade Article 15. 

The first desk I came to so happened to be the Emergency Room reception area, from which I was directed to the Primary Care office on another floor. However, it would seem that due to some renovation and repair work being done, the elevators weren't working. I was directed to a stair-case, which upon my search for them, were nowhere to be found according to the first set of directions given to me. I did, however, have the good fortune of finding a small group of people headed to the same place and they let me follow them.

Good for me, until I got there.

Already a bit panicked inside for having been (Gasp!) late for my appointment to begin with, when I tried to check-in with the receptionist he told me I was at the wrong office: The Women's Clinic was on the other side of the building. Wrong again, I guess. It's happened before, but I was getting very irritated at this point. Huffed, I walked down a very long and open hallway until it reached the end... a dead end. Um, what am I doing wrong, here? A nearby attendant pointed out to me that there was a wooden door, admittedly not very visible, near the corner of a wall. I found it, the desk of the Women's Clinic (well enclosed within the confines of the building, presumably for a feeling of privacy) awaited within.

Composing myself, I checked in at the desk and waited for my name to come up so I could get my blood-work out of the way before the main appointment. I was three chapters into Richard Dawkins' "An Appetite for Wonder" before I noticed that several women who'd arrived after me were, indeed, seen before me. This struck me as extremely odd, and when I verified my appointment with the clerk she confirmed that it was at 11AM.

Nooooo... I was supposed to have a needle jammed into my arm on or around 9AM, it's now 10:30. Either I screwed up really hard, or no one in this hospital knows anything about anything at all.

I do my damnedest to maintain myself when I'm frustrated or upset, despite my "erratic" reputation I really do try to keep my shit together when I'm mad. Despite my best efforts, though, I think the clerk picked up on it right-quick. She brought me to a set of elevators not far outside the wooden door, brought me to the correct floor and essentially escorted me into the lab itself (for which I was actually rather impressed for being so thorough in her effort, good on ye lass.) Though I had originally been told that the lab-work would take at least an hour, I was done in about ten minutes.

Another crisis averted, I guess. Despite the hustle and hurry of the morning's events, the rest of my time there seemed to go according to plan. After putting away my Kindle, I happened to glance at a small wooden table bearing a display of tracts and prayer cards: So the VA is outwardly endorsing the messages and ideals of a chosen religion now, is it? Really? Let's get one thing straight about me: I don't have a problem with people having beliefs on their terms, so long as it doesn't bleed into my ability to conduct myself. But I find such things being advertised and endorsed by ANY government organization to be wholly inappropriate. 

This is a federally funded medical institution set up by our government to care for the people who served for it: A HOSPITAL is not, nor ever should be, A CHURCH.

Sure, it's annoying, but that's not what I'm here for. I COULD start ripping up the tracts and tossing their remains into the bin, but at this point it would just seem counter-productive. Yes I am an atheist, a very loud & outspoken one at that, but I'm trying very hard not to be an asshole about it. I have more important things to do with my time than wander around this place and rip up anything with a bible verse printed on it, though were I in any position to do so covertly, I totally would.

Once my name is FINALLY called (after all of this running around) I'm sat down in a doctor's chair and asked a series of questions not unlike those typically asked of me by medical staff back at Fort Huachuca: Are you having thoughts of harming yourself or others? Have you ever attempted suicide? The like, which of course THIS TIME AROUND I had given several different answers than I would otherwise have done were I still in the Army. There's no fucking way I would have told those burn-outs in Arizona that I had tried to off myself in Iraq, I think on some level if I had done this (or even succeeded with my attempt) it would have only served to give my Unit exactly what they've always wanted: ME out of the way.

To my rather pleasant surprise, they are very thorough and efficient here: The analysis of my blood is already in their computer system by the time I actually get to see the doctor. It does reveal that I am a bit B-Vitamin deficient, B-12 to be specific: The doctor said that everything else on my panel looked pretty much perfect, she almost didn't believe me when I told her that I'm a vegan. Though apparently it makes sense, she said she'd seen some B-Vitamin issues in vegans & vegetarians before, though she said this was nothing too serious for the time being she insisted that I get a B-12 injection before I leave for the day. I am also told that while it's not mandatory in my case, that after I told them everything that happened in Iraq it was very highly recommended that I speak to one of their psychiatrists (something they STILL don't have at Fort Huachuca, to the best of my knowledge) so that after I was done with my business at the Women's Clinic they would bring me over to the Mental Health office and set up some initial appointments for me.

Surprise-surprise, we were BOTH misdirected to the wrong building afterward. 

Look, I can appreciate people who really want to make sure that their job gets done AND does it right, but the fact that nobody (so far) seems to know where each department is in relation to what service they provide... that's a NO-GO. 

But if THAT'S the worst thing that has happened since I've been here, I can live with it.


  1. I sure hope the VA hospital in New Orleans (including that new one under construction right now) isn't this messed up... Also, it's good to know that I'm already exempt from Obamacare. Not a single thing about it's MANY missteps and failures surprise me. That's essentially S.O.P. with a new government program.

  2. Looking back, I think part of my confusion was from being a first-time-visitor and not knowing where anything is, but the lack of staff knowledge and communication certainly did help things.