CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 2, 2017 – Before getting too far into this story, let me first say this is not a criticism of the Veteran’s Administration so much as it is a glaring example of how government bloat can be detrimental to the efficiency of any organization.
In every instance since being diagnosed with ALS, the personnel at every VA office have been kind, caring, compassionate and as helpful has possible in any given situation. That said, recent dealings with Veterans Affairs have been less than satisfactory, and the primary reason is that the organization is so large that nobody ever knows all the information necessary to operate efficiently.
Two weeks ago, while attempting to arrange for a wheelchair at the airport prior to embarking on a cruise to Bermuda, I stepped back and stumbled over a small piece of hand luggage.
It was enough to send me to the floor where I hit my head and bruised my right arm.
As the day progressed, the lines for seats on flights to Boston grew increasingly larger thanks to summer storms that had rolled through the area on the previous night canceling numerous flights.
As luck would have it, after three attempts to stand-by for seats, we returned home with my gimpy right arm now looking like the Northern Lights.
Not to be defeated, the following day we flew to Bermuda where we spent the night before arising early enough Sunday to meet the ship as it glided into port.
Other than losing a day at sea and spending an unanticipated night in a hotel in Bermuda, the cruise was delightful, and we returned the following Friday without further calamities.
By midweek, my arm still hurt and the bruises had not gone away, so I decided to go to the VA for an x-ray. It was at this point the Keystone Kops and the Three Stooges began operating the asylum.
Though I have been interviewed by a VA primary care doctor, I learned that he would not be the medical person I would see on a regular basis because he was only a substitute who had been helping out due to a backlog in Charlotte.
Thus, I had never met my “real” primary care physician which automatically created confusion upon my arrival at the administration offices.
Once the red-tape had been cut and I was able to meet with my doctor, he told me he didn’t think there was anything seriously wrong with my arm but I should have it x-rayed just to be sure.
Next stop, two floors down at “Imaging” where they took three pictures of my bruised right arm and shoulder. When the process was finished the attendant said, “You need to go back upstairs and see your doctor.”
Back up to the third floor.
Penny, the nurse, was surprised when she came into the waiting room. “What are you doing back here?,” she asked.
“The technician told us to come back up here after the x-rays,” I explained.
“Oh no,” said Penny, “You’re through here. You can go on home.”
As we were driving out of the VA parking lot, the phone rang. It was Penny. “You need to come back,” she said, “The doctor needs to talk to you.
Several minutes later we were back on the third floor where the doctor informed that I had a small fracture and needed to either go to the VA in Salisbury or the Orthopedic Hospital in Charlotte. After two weeks, it seemed the hour drive to the VA in Salisbury where the treatment would be free was the better option and off we went for the 40 mile junket to Salisbury.
After two weeks, it seemed the hour drive to the VA in Salisbury where the treatment would be free was the better option and off we went for the 40-mile junket to Salisbury.
Once again we had to check in with the VA before meeting with the triage technician and being officially signed in for our appointment. By now it was 1:30 pm and nothing had yet been accomplished since beginning our adventure at 8:30 in the morning.
Finally a nurse came out and called us into the office. She checked the charts, looked at the x-rays and then said, “We don’t do this kind of treatment here. You need to go back to Charlotte and see the orthopedic people.”
“Ortho Carolina is just five minutes from my house. We passed it twice this morning on the way to get the x-rays,” I said dejectedly.
“I am so sorry. They should have let you know in Charlotte that we are not equipped for this. I will call Ortho Carolina and have them set up an appointment for you while you are driving back home.”
As we pulled into our driveway an hour later, Ortho Carolina called and the person at the other end of the line said, “Mr. Taylor, we have you lined up to see a specialist about your spine later this afternoon.”
“That’s fine,” I replied, “But my right arm is fractured. I don’t have a problem with my spine.”
After a long silence the voice at the other end of the line said, “Let me get back to you.”
Half an hour later the phone rang again. “Sir, you can go to the Urgency Care facility which is open from 5:30 until 9:00 pm or I can make an appointment for you for tomorrow, Friday.”
At this point, being tired, confused and already two weeks after the fall, I chose to have an official appointment with a real orthopedic doctor.
Ortho did not call the next morning, so we called them instead. With different personnel in charge, they had no record of the case from the day before as a reference.
“What we can do is schedule you for a doctor to see you on Monday,” said the nurse.
“Well that’s fine, but earlier today there seemed to be more urgency in this process than there is now. Now I have to wait until Monday to see someone?”
Status report: My right arm is still fractured. My appointment is scheduled for Monday at 3:30 pm. By then I could be in surgery or a cast or in Timbuktu.
To be continued.
This is just one tiny incident among thousands each day. Suggestion, next time you step into the voting booth, it might be wise to choose the person who can reduce the size of government, regardless of how compassionate and friendly the personnel may be.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up