Living with ALS while battling the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and common sense
CHARLOTTE, NC: The love-hate affair with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) continues. At the risk of sounding ungrateful or cynical for all the positive things the VA has done for me over the past two-plus years of battling ALS, I hesitate to complain. On the other hand, some things defy logic and that is when the frustration and, ultimately, anger, begins to boil to a crescendo. Because Veterans Affairs and Common Sense is an oxymoron of gigantic proportions.
Loss of Unit
According to the protocols we were given by the VA, as ALS progresses, we are supposed to inform them of further deterioration or “loss of a unit” as they term it. Assuming my arms are one of those “units” I have entered a phase where whatever limitations I previously had from my wrists to my shoulders have become greater.
My arms from my shoulders to my elbows have atrophied so much that I am not sure they have enough meat to qualify as Grade-A chicken wings. So, following the guidelines as given, we notified the VA.
Eventually, we were told that we needed to be seen by an outside medical provider to determine whether the new stages are significant enough to merit concern. So far, so good.
That’s when we were told we needed to visit a clinic in Grover, N.C. some 40-odd miles south of where we live to have the necessary examination.
The Lost Village of Grover., N.C.
Grover is small; population 750. It’s one of those southern places where the railroad track runs directly parallel to Main Street through town.
Charlotte, on the other hand, where we live, has a population of nearly a million people with three major hospitals and clinics galore. Never mind that. Grover, it is. So we headed out to a place that rarely even finds a spot on a map.
Given that we knew the general direction and that Grover was situated a few miles off Interstate-85 beyond Kings Mountain, which, by the way, is another relatively small community, albeit a recognizable name to most Charlotteans.
Using GPS, combined with printed instructions sent to us by the VA, we passed through Kings Mountain at 8:40 a.m. We turned off, heading toward our destination in plenty of time for our 9 o’clock appointment. Or so we thought.
Plenty of time, that is, until we found ourselves in front of a livestock feed store just outside Kings Mountain at the location we thought was supposed to be the clinic.
Obviously, something was wrong, so we headed back to the interstate only to discover we had made a circle 4 miles north of our original route.
Nine a.m. was now looming as we began to search desperately for the “Lost Village of Grover.”
Welcome to Grover
Just before we came alongside the railroad track, the town sign popped up in front us with a picture of a skinny furry blue character with a giant round head and spindly arms that had the words “Welcome to Grover.”
I’m joking, of course, but the Sesame Street impression was now clearly imprinted on my mind.
We crossed over the tracks and turned left onto Main Street, missing the clinic which was in an old unmarked house directly in front of us to the immediate right.
A rapid u-turn about two hundred yards down the road brought us back to the correct location where we immediately turned into the parking lot and unloaded our five and two-year old grandchildren while I stumbled as quickly as possible into the office.
Upon entering the room at 9:07, I looked to the right where one female patient was waiting.
Otherwise, the waiting area was empty.
Your appointment has been canceled
I walked up to the window and gave the receptionist my name. “Taylor,” I said, “we have a 9 o’clock appointment. Sorry, I’m a few minutes late but we couldn’t find the clinic.”
“Last four,” replied the attendant, meaning the last four digits of my social security number in military jargon.
I supplied the numbers only to be stunned at the next words out of her mouth.
Without so much as a pleasant “hello” or “good morning”, the humorless woman behind the desk said,
“Your appointment has been canceled. You’re five minutes late and there will be a penalty for the late arrival.”
My mouth dropped. I was stunned. Fortunately, that’s when my wife and the two kids came in. Otherwise, there would have been no roof on the building. My arms may not work so well, but my temper is fully operational.
I steamed off to the corner to allow more diplomatic efforts take control of the situation.
Eventually, concessions were made and the doctor saw me despite the lengthy inconvenience of my tardiness in the overly crowded reception area.
I went in for the preliminary blood pressure readings and checking of vital signs, fully expecting to see the doctor momentarily given his overly crowded appointment schedule.
Veterans Affairs and Common Sense = Not
However, as the nurse began pumping the blood pressure bulb, she glanced up and remarked,
“Oops, just a minute. There’s a roach on the wall. I better get that first.”
Little wonder my blood pressure was now at an elevated level.
The rest of the procedure went fine and some two hours later we returned home from Mayberry still wondering how and why we were sent there in the first place.
Cynical? Perhaps, but sometimes common sense loses all relevance in a world of inefficiency.
Then again, it was just another day in the ever-evolving world of ALS.
Lead Image: Not the VA – historical image Grover NC By Mr. Joe Rountree – Local historians collections, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4788563
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