Dear VA: I Messed Up. V/R, the Forgotten

My husband is veteran, proudly serving his time in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee. His years included peace time and war time, with him on the Kuwait and Iraq border as Operation Iraq Freedom officially began in 2003. He was tasked with maintaining electrical services to the base camp, and his battalion was instrumental to multiple branches during that time. He didn’t relish in or crave war, but did what was needed.

Before that, he spent another deployment building a college on a Navy base, and spent homeport times training (and golfing and fishing). He was good at what he did as an electrician, and truly contributed during peacetime and wartime.

But we’ve messed up. I made a mistake.

Are you ready for the horribleness to come?

I dared to have our family try to be normal. To try to have vacations, to have outings, and even to have birthday dinners. I don’t do it often, I don’t let myself forget that we aren’t able to do so many of these normal things. But sometimes I do.

Had a ‘stand in’ husband since mine had to leave because he got sick.

On this recent Veteran’s Day weekend, I was again reminded that we are missing much of what others take for granted because of an illness that we have managed and suffered through for 18 years. It has stolen so much from us, and made it difficult to have hope that things could ever be different. His illness started shortly after boot camp, and to this day no one knows the cause. Something triggered that first episode of nausea and vomiting that couldn’t be controlled. Something kept triggering it through 18 months at a Navy hospital that didn’t even try to find answers, but would send him home still vomiting with a shrug of their shoulders. A move to a new command and episode on day one in a new town meant a new hospital, and our first glimmer of hope from a doctor who researched through the night to find what may explain his thick chart. Tests were ordered, deployment was pronounced impossible, and it seemed that we might find help. But, as we later learned to expect, that communication fell through and off he went. A new hospital, four major episodes and admissions and the only person who knew what was going on with his health and care thousands of miles away. But then, home he came. Back to the hospital trying to find answers, and trying to find successful treatments. But again, it was an Air Force facility, who again determined him not deployable, but again had the communication to his command fall through. So more tests and hospitalizations continued until it was time to deploy again. This time to the very edge of war, weeks before it was declared. And off he went with his battalion. The field hospital could only keep him hydrated and monitor him. And give a sigh of relief when his deployment was shortened due to his enlistment being up.

We believed that he’d be taken care of after, and blindly hoped that the end of his time in the Navy would improve his health. It didn’t. And 14 1/2 years later, here we are.

A mess.

Trying too many times to make birthdays, events, holidays or even trips happen. Trying to make jobs happen. But so many things trigger his extreme nausea and vomiting, that it’s almost impossible to really plan on him being anywhere. Most routine things go okay, but anything out of the normal schedule is a trigger. Especially good things. And we’d need a whole day to talk through the mental health affects and life impacts of those. Too much to tell.

So yes, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, I messed up and believed he’d get the care he needed, and believed time and time again that we could make something good work out. But it’s just not working. We believed that you’d see the reality of his need for 100% disability and truth of being unemployable. That hasn’t happened either. Yet. But we won’t give up hope. I’ve made a lot of errors through the years, but that won’t be one of them.

Last week, he had a last minute appointment scheduled with one of your doctors, who has previously told him that he should be rated 100%. We don’t know what next steps are or where the process is, or what we’re waiting for, because he got too sick during the appointment to even ask. He spent the next 12 hours in a hotel room to use the hot shower to get it under control so that he could drive home. That’s just not how it should be.

So yes, we’ve messed up and forgotten the limitations and realities and finally get it. This is where we are, 18 years later, still needing the military to take care of him in all the ways we can’t do alone. And like 18 years ago when I was asked by a nurse to help him get dressed to leave the ER because he was too sick and out of it to do it himself between vomiting, I’m still here.

 

Still waiting.

V/R,

The forgotten.

Just Do It

We all remember the Nike slogan, Just Do It.  If you don’t remember, then you’re too young for me to be okay with, so just pretend.  It was such a genius slogan, one that still is quoted regularly.  And about so many things, from sports to business to life in general.

I don’t actually think to myself ‘Just Do It’ when faced with challenges, but it is what most of us do.  I’m surrounded by people who are dealing with issues that they never would have thought they could handle, would never have wanted to handle.  Things such as the loss of a child, the loss of health, sometimes even the loss of dreams.  But they get up in the morning, and they face them.  They just do it.  With the ‘it’ sometimes being as simple as getting up and getting dressed when they want to stay under the covers and pretend another day hasn’t come.  The ‘it’ is sometimes as monumental as holding a loved ones hand in their last days and hours.

I’m amazed by what the human spirit can survive, and even thrive through.  God made us in an awesome way, able to do things we never would want to.  He gives us the strength and the courage to just do it.  And He gives us the friends and support we need when we can’t. 

Today, whatever you face, know that with Him, all things are possible.  (Philippians 4:13)