Left Right, Or Maybe Not

Filed under: — lana @ 3:54 pm

I am starting to wonder about myself. Some would say that is long overdue, but that is not currently the point. I will deal with those individuals later.

Each time I go to a doctor, they ask me to describe, honestly and in detail, how I am feeling. I tell them. Then they usually look at some things, check some pieces of paper, and make their determinations.

In recent months, each determination has been nearly the complete opposite of the symptoms I describe to them when they ask how I am feeling. If I tell them I feel fine, they tell me that is strange, because there are a million things wrong. If I tell them something hurts on the right, they tell me it should hurt on the left. It goes on. Each doctor can find a list of things that are not quite right, but none that can explain the symptoms and none of the symptoms can be directly related back to anything.

Today, for instance, I went to the ear, nose, and throat doctor. He is just as much fun as he sounds. A very nice guy for someone who takes thin pieces of metal and shoves them up your nose much deeper than any child could ever lodge a raisin. So he asks how it’s going. I tell him I don’t breathe so good on the left side of my nose, but the right is doing just lovely. Up go multiple pieces of metal, jabbing my tear ducts and possibly muddling up my brain a little, though I can’t be sure. He checks the right. He checks the left. He grunts and asks which side I can’t breathe from. I mumble back at him since by now my throat is numb. He grunts again, shoves a vacuum into my head, and giggles a little. I think some people become doctors for the specific reason that they can legally torture others.

When he removes the metal from my face he comments that I should have had problems on the right. I disagreed, and even breathed for him so he could note that the problem is in fact on the left. Up goes the metal, but he still insists I should have more problems on the right, although he admits that I am not breathing so well on the left and seem to breathe fine on the right. But then he shrugs, removes the metal, hands me a tissue, and tells me to have a lovely day. Apparently not concerned that the evidence does not support the overall conclusions, nor really interested in figuring out a suitable excuse.

So I continue, for about another week, to wade through this medical conundrum that has become me from the neck up. Whispers of another medical board, referrals to other doctors halfway around the world, and an awful lot of shrugging has accompanied the past two weeks, and I figure it can only get better from here. But it has caused me to question myself, to make sure that I do in fact know my left from my right, at least well enough to figure out which side hurts and which side does not. Having done so, I then wonder if perhaps the doctors are unsure of their left and right, or if maybe someone in the lab is playing pranks again because they know how much I love to have blood drawn repeatedly.

Next Wednesday I should be able to escape this hall of torture and find my way to the greener pastures of leave and then, perhaps, Germany for at least a little while. I haven’t seen my Soldiers in a bit and I understand one is on crutches, one got promoted, and the third is probably still pouring coffee out the window with no one around to make him strong for it. Crazy or not, I really should get back and make sure all is in order before whatever other adventures the Army can throw my way.


Hidden Levels

Filed under: — lana @ 4:28 pm

An interesting observation today:

There are multiple secret floors in the hospital.

No one really seems to take the stairs in the hospital, and usually with good reason. If you are in a hospital, in all probability you are in some sort of circumstance where it is probably just healthier for you to take an elevator. That and the stairs are not terribly well marked, usually tucked around a corner, and it tends to be fairly hazardous to just go randomly opening doors in a hospital looking for stairs.

I, on the other hand, get headaches from elevators now, so I usually try to find the stairs and plod my way up or down instead to get at least a little bit of the exercise the doctors have forbidden.

Taking the stairs, one would think, would be quite straight-forward, if not as much as just wandering into a moving box and pressing a button corresponding to the desired floor number. Alas, nothing in the Army is ever as easy as suspected. Here they have even come up with having half-floors.


Half-floors. When traveling, say as I did today, from floor 2 to floor 3, you must first come to the landing for floor 2 1/2.

These floors are not indicated on the elevator. While observed on previous trips up and down the elusive stairwells, today I paused at the landing to determine what could possibly be going on, and why the building doesn’t just have 12 floors instead of 7 with half floors. My math is correct, by the way, as I have yet to find floor 1 1/2. The vacuum didn’t remove that piece.

Back on track, I noted that while the regular floors have little windows in the fire doors looking usually directly to the wall about three feet in front of the door because no stairwell in the building opens to a main hallway, these half floors did not have even a peephole. Further, located next to the door I observed little black scanner boxes, presumably for a specific identification and access card in order to open the door onto the floor. I have never seen someone go into or come out of these doors, not surprising as I rarely see anyone else in the stairwell in general, but the little red light atop the scanner glared ominously enough at me that I did not attempt to scan my own identification card to sate my curiosity.

And it is probably better that I didn’t, anyway, as really what need has a hospital for hidden levels? What goes on upon these levels? Are they full-sized levels, or half the height? Who works here, and do they have windows? Why does the exterior of the building not seem quite that tall?

I probably should let it go. Nothing good has ever come out of me asking too many questions of the Army, and seldom do such questions lead to answers anyway. And I suspect that these may be things I don’t really want to know.


Would You Like Salt With That?

Filed under: — lana @ 1:18 pm

Diabetes Insipidus. If spelled properly, that is what I can toss into an Internet search engine to determine what it is the Army has given me this time.

While mucking about inside my dome trying to chase down an intergalactic battlelord, it appears that the doctors may have jiggled something that didn’t appreciate being jiggled and now my brain, and possibly whatever remains of Xenu up in my skull, is taking revenge. Diabetes Insipidus, from my understanding, is called the “salty” diabetes instead of the “sweet” diabetes and means that my body isn’t holding onto or processing water that I take in, leaving my blood and all those other important fluids to be extra salty. What is good for a plate of fries is apparently not as good for me, as it just makes me thirsty and perpetually looking for the closest bathroom.

However, it is not the kind of diabetes that makes it a tragic sin for me to eat cookies or ice cream, so at least in that I am still able to maintain some semblance of sanity.

Can it be treated? They can try, with a spray that is the same stuff that didn’t work very well when I was in the hospital.

Will it ever go away? They have no idea.

Is this what is causing the headaches and nausea? Headaches, probably not but possibly. Nausea, a definite maybe.

So my life in the fine care of Army medicine continues unfettered by pesky things such as “answers.” Meanwhile my unit continues to try and figure out how to get me back to Germany without a layover 2000 miles in the wrong direction and I spend my days trying to avoid the particular ward full of doctors that have threatened to stamp me “non-deployable.” Despite my new tendency towards acute dehydration, I still find that the Army is much easier sitting in the warm sand trying to discern if that was Akmed or Akhmed that put the bomb in the ground, and knowing that no matter if the group wandering in the distance is sheep or goat, either way it can make a tasty dinner.

Hold the salt, please.


What Am I, Chopped Liver?

Filed under: — lana @ 12:49 pm

I feel like an old, neglected, Jewish grandmother. Sitting here in the dark, no one to talk to, and no one even closed the window so now we are cooling off the whole outside and I might catch my death over here because I haven’t got a sweater on.

The torch of responsibility continues to get passed. I am back now for more fun and excitement in the general vicinity of Walter Reed, so I opted to stop in and pose the question to the lovely folks over at the Medical insurance section how it is I am supposed to get paid back for all of this fine, upstanding Army care I have been receiving since sometime in the middle of June.

Their answer? Who knows.

I was sent here at the demand of some doctors in Landstuhl, two of which I never actually met. They ordered the doctors in Arizona, where I was happily minding my own business, to strap me onto a plane and ship me over to Washington D.C. The folks in Arizona cut me a set of orders. Those orders, when prudently examined, were to fly to Washington, have someone shove a tube in my brain and suck out whatever doesn’t belong, and then to apparently get back on a plane and head back to Arizona immediately following. No allowances made for outpatient care or, coincidentally, the fact that I actually live in the opposite direction of Arizona and have no real reason to return there for some months yet.

But fly out here I did, and vacuum my cranium they did, and I thought all was well and good, having been told in Arizona that all would be taken care of and not to worry about it. So I, foolishly, did not worry about it. Until, that is, this morning.

Arizona does not pay for outpatient care. Walter Reed does not either. The unit, it turns out, is supposed to pay for outpatient care. My unit is across quite a large pond and thought that these fine medical people would take care of it all, since it wasn’t exactly their choice to send me here in the first place and it was all doctor meddling that got me into this. Well, actually it was the meddling of a large explosive in Iraq a few years ago that really made a mess of things, but goodness knows the Iraqi government isn’t going to pay for my hotel in Washington.

Meanwhile, the insurance people are thinking I have to fly back to Arizona in order to fly back to Germany. I pointed out that I really have nothing to do in Arizona until at least the middle of October, so it would really help me out to not have a layover there. Were it three weeks later, I could just go kill some time at a school in Arizona before finishing up the class I was already in the middle of, but those three weeks would really put a damper on things. The answer I got was “But your orders state you have to go back there. We have to send you back. We don’t particularly care that there is no reason for you to go there and it is a waste of government money and your time. Have fun, see you later.” I’m now laid up in my hotel room that no one wants to pay for with a massive headache from trying to figure out the logic behind this one. I’m fighting a losing battle.

It’s appears just that no one particularly feels like paying much attention to me over here, only long enough to argue a little about finances while still trying to shuffle me off to someone else to take care of the problem.

So now the game begins as everyone goes back and forth trying to determine who is going to pay me back for the five or six weeks unaccounted for, spent largely with needles in the arms and people shoving cameras up my nose to see if my brain is still somewhere up there.

If it is, I do hope it has the sense to leave before this gets much more complicated. As long as it shuts off the lights on the way out.


Broken Down

Filed under: — lana @ 9:36 am

At last check, the only fully functional body part between my esteemed husband and myself was a right arm. That means that, in five years of military service, both of us have managed to keep that arm out of trouble.

That’s it.

My right ankle and both feet. His left ankle. His knees and hips. My tailbone. His spine. My left shoulder. His left arm. My head. His head. The results come back Monday for his neck. We can’t wait.

Join the Army. Explore new places and occupy them. Meet exciting foreign people and shoot at them (and get shot at by them). Learn things about yourself, like the tensile strength of the human bone.

He is starting to make his transition to prepare to re-enter the civilian world after more than five years, sparking a hint of jealousy from his ever-supportive-but-still-a-little-cranky wife. His post-deployment medical assessment was a learning experience for the doctors and for him, and I have to remind him that when his doctor says that he shouldn’t even be walking too far pending further evaluation he should probably talk to his command about jumping out of a plane at low altitudes in the coming weeks. But what do I know… He points out that I’m the one who had headaches, memory problems, and strange vision issues after a little impact shoved some foreign matter in my brain around an artery and it took two and a half years for someone to shove a vacuum up my nose to clean out some of the scrambled mess.

People ask if we intend to make the military a career. Lucky for them it takes us too long to get up and get moving these days to make chasing after people who ask that a very effective threat.


Who What Where?

Filed under: — lana @ 2:42 pm

As suspected, the Army seems to be having a little trouble with the tracking chip put into my neck sometime during basic training. That thing must malfunction an awful lot, because as soon as I leave a unit for a little while everything goes a bit haywire. I really ought get the batteries checked.

After a conversation with my First Sergeant, who is well aware of where I am and what is going on and even provides fun suggestions for hotspots in Fayetteville though really I’m not sure I want to or should be attending some of those clubs, it was finally decided that I find a finance office down here and try to straighten out at least some of this travel fiasco. My trip was supposed to be straightforward: Head from Germany to the States, take a class, head back, deal with Xenu later. Instead it turned into head from Germany to the States, get shuffled around, get on different orders to Walter Reed which were supposed to actually send me back to the class after six days even though I was still in the hospital on the day those orders ran out, try to fix those orders which still hasn’t happened, stick around Walter Reed for longer than expected because the pickling solution in my brain was off, head out on unpaid convalescent leave, and I still have yet to head back to Walter Reed and then, eventually, to Germany, to return to finish the class at a time still undetermined but hopefully in November when we can have all this fun again.

What makes it more confusing, as always, is automation. Part of the travel is accounted for on an automated, new, improved, and thoroughly useless travel system. The Walter Reed portion will be accounted for with the old paper system. The leave isn’t accounted for much of anywhere. The flights, which have to be rescheduled, are on the automated part. My government card is out of money and somehow I need to fix that.

So my first sergeant said to head to finance. They got confused and sent me to their headquarters. Their headquarters got confused and told me to go see people in inprocessing. Inprocessing said I don’t belong there and sent me to the main area for the automated system in the hopes that at least I can clear up a little piece of this, which is really all I wanted to do in the first place.

An hour and a half of sitting with the poor lady, who was all by herself today as her collegues were all in training, of course, finally got it to where it “should” be fixed to where I “should” get a partial payment.

“Should” is probably one of the scariest words in the Army. At least if someone is shooting at you, you know what to do, where to be, and which end of the metal boomstick is dangerous. With “Should,” particularly in the context of anything dealing with Army finance, it probably means more along the lines of “I don’t know, but you are probably going to end up worse off then when you came in here.” It means no one knows anything, where they are, where you are, where you are supposed to be, and they certainly have no idea which end of anything is dangerous.

So I let my first sergeant know that at least it “should” be fixed in the hopes that he can work some sort of crazy magic and make something appear on my govermnent card so I don’t have to sleep on the street when I head back to Walter Reed. Goodness knows I can’t walk back in that poor lady’s office or she might try to bludgeon me with the random pieces of pottery and wooden sculpture sitting on her windowsill. I think she considered it once or twice while I was trying to explain to her that all I needed was payment for a rental car and a hotel out in Arizona and I would leave her alone and work out the rest when I got back to Germany, while she was trying to figure out how I ended up at Fort Bragg. I tried to explain that seems to happen a lot recently, but she was busy muttering something and clicking on a lot of little dots trying to make sure I got paid for something somewhere so I didn’t want to interrupt much.

But in all likelihood, my command can figure out something. They should, anyway…


Back Again

Filed under: , — lana @ 8:42 pm

Is there no way to escape this place?

Fort Bragg. Nothing changes. I was here two years ago. I was here last fall. I think one of the restaurants closed and there are probably seven new barber shops along the main roads leading from post replacing the sew shops because with so little sewing to be done and desert boots with the new uniforms there isn’t enough business to keep eight million sewing/boot polishing places open. A tragedy, really.

The restaurant that closed, unfortunately, was a pretty good one. Micro-brewery. A shame. Not like I am supposed to drink, but as usual I assume that means “to excess,” and really, that is quite subjective.

But no one, at least not yet, has stuck a needle in my arm since Monday, which is a lovely change of pace as my track marks start to heal so I can help my husband look for a place to live without getting nasty looks from landlords wondering if I intend to perpetuate my apparent habit while staying on their property. Two of them pointed out the “no illegal activity” clause in the leases specifically while eyeing me rather pointedly.

While I sit here, I have time to figure out things such as how to begin clearing the atrocious amount of money racked up on my government travel card for the sojourns in Arizona and Washington, which caused a little bit of a stink as I was trying to leave the premesis in Washington and was told I couldn’t go anywhere while the front desk tried for an hour to reach the bank in order to authorize my transaction just to check out. I wondered, actually, what they would do if the bank had said no, I couldn’t check out, because they wouldn’t pay yet. Would they then have to let me stay in the room because I was not allowed to leave?

Moving along, I also have time to ponder my remaining years in the Army, which have suffered a slight setback with this little tumor problem. The original plan was simple: go to a course. Graduate. Deploy. Come back. Be a platoon sergeant. Get out. The step missing, the graduation, interfered a tiny bit and now I find myself bound to head back to Germany for about a week and a half before some already-signed-off-on leave, then come back, then maybe a month, then maybe come back to go graduate, then back to Germany, then possibly another trip out for a mandatory school I won’t be able to avoid forever though I will certainly try, then back to Germany, then fingers crossed deploy, then maybe be a platoon sergeant? But what to do in between all of this? I reenlisted for the course and the deployment, so the stink will be large should they attempt to shuffle that around too much. It was not really my fault that five doctors, at last count and probably an underestimate, chatted with each other and avoided chatting with me and yanked me from a class to have a tube shoved into my head. Not so much my choice, but certainly threw a wrench in things.

But then, I know all too well that decisions such as those are made at echelons higher than myself, and sooner or later someone in the Army will let me know what is happening with my future and where I need to be, when I need to be there, and in what uniform. The Army tends to be fairly easy in that way.

Now if I could just find a decent microbrewery left in this state, we might be in business. At least for now.



Filed under: — lana @ 4:45 pm

Ear-tag in place, I am free to move about the country. To a limited extent, anyway.

My sodium levels are right smack on the upper limit of “acceptable,” putting me back in the borderline diabetic category, which is superb for the bottled water industry but really not so nice for me as I feel like a 75-year old getting up several times during the night to either drink water or get rid of water. I do, I point out, prefer the diabetic side of the fence as the other side had me gain ten pounds in a week and then lose it in two days in various not-so-pleasant fashions. But since it is right on the border, the doctor grudgingly allowed me to go since I will be taking thirty days of leave right outside a major military base and therefore can get medical care without a seriously large amount of paperwork should I do things like pass out, have a seizure, or anything else one might notice as being a little off.

Speaking of seriously large amounts of paperwork, the past several weeks have not, unsurprisingly, resulted in a general fixing of my orders. There may actually be several people in the Army wondering what country I am in at the moment and, once determined I am stateside, exactly which state I am in and why. I am sticking with the state of plausible denial at the moment, though I might move to one of general apathy given long enough. The problem is really who will end up paying for what, and with the controllers of my government card already looking for several thousand dollars attached to my name, it might be something nice for someone to figure out. Important people, such as my first sergeant back in Germany and that general command, know where I am and why, but I have a nasty feeling someone in Arizona might be calling my name to an empty waiting room somewhere and the lab technicians in Washington are going to wonder on my whereabouts because they undoubtedly have a needle or three with my name on it ready for the sticking.

But other than the headaches, the general dizziness when I stand up, nausea when I don’t eat for a few hours, odd-colored liquids piddling out of my face from time to time, and the occasional accidental (or so he says) headbutt from my husband to a still painful nose, things are improving day to day. The doctors, unhappy with my admittance to regular attempts at physical activity particularly when I discovered the aforementioned ten pounds or so though it turned out that was all water and chemicals, put me on a profile in which they actually found the few things I was still allowed to do with my almond feet and promptly cancelled those out for the next few months. I am still taking somewhere upwards of ten pills a day with no relief until my return in a month. Then two more weeks of monitoring, scans, and general poking and prodding before they can remove any tracking devices they may have implanted and send me on my way back to Germany, from which I will promptly turn around and take some regular leave.

Good times had by all, if not most, and namely probably not so much by me.

But I should be a gold frequent flyer in no time.

My evaluation report for this year should be entertaining for whomever has to write it.

With all this drama and attention and overall hooplah, one would think I just had brain surgery or something.


To and Fro

Filed under: — lana @ 3:55 pm

Back and forth and up and down. Apparently the general vicinity of the pituitary gland is not something messed with lightly, and for the annoyance of all of this I can certainly see why.

They kept me in the hospital because my body said water wasn’t important enough to hold onto. They released me, finally, upon determining that I would at least probably not pass out on the way to and from the hotel when I came in for labs and follow-up appointments. They now find that my body doesn’t feel the need for salt. They actually predict it may swing back and forth like this a few times before it settles. In all honesty, I have no idea how people could be just that interested in various fluids that come out of the human body, but the analysis involved here has been an educational experience. I periodically have to go in for lab work while they get me into some sort of stable balance, which could take up to another week or longer, and even the professional lab technicians who spend all day drawing blood have had to stick me three times in one sitting just to find working veins. People have begun looking at my husband askance as they see the condition of my arms, what with a new bruise nearly every day. I’ve been in such a mood that they should really be more concerned about his welfare.

At least the deficiencies in hormones and various levels have been able to explain some of the interesting symptoms that, while not there while I had a tumor the size of an egg, now cause me to bump into walls and need to sit down after walking a few blocks. Hopefully that will improve in time; I really don’t need any more bumps.

What I have found, wandering around Walter Reed, is that for a hospital providing long term care for seriously wounded Soldiers the place isn’t as depressing as one would think. A friend of mine, who lost both his legs last January, met up with me a few days ago and I watched them make him a new leg as he explained that he intends to stay for a long time though he doesn’t really have to just because of the care he can get and the benefits, such as multiple legs for different activities. Most of the Soldiers seem to feel that way, which is good, as who knows what will happen once they leave this little enclave.

What I don’t understand, however, is the planning that seems to have gone into the main hotel on the hospital campus. I know that I cannot possibly be the only person here with a brain injury, so it makes me ponder why they would install carpeting with a pattern I am convinced is specifically designed to make one seasick. Even in the best of health I am not sure that I would be able to walk the hallway without needing a hand on the wall for support. Then again, while still in the neuroscience ward last week, there was a promotional event where a man dressed as Santa Claus came bumbling in handing out movies. He was also ringing a loud bell and yelling quite a bit. In the brain section. Good thinking. Really good. I, being attached to both incoming and outgoing tubes at the time, declined to go out, even to give him a piece of my mind, at least what I could still spare of it.

Overall the experience has been passable. My orders, as usual, are not correct, I have trouble getting to the main lobby without weaving, I am not allowed to go to the gym and my hormones are taking advantage, and my husband is bored which only makes him cranky. But educational and fun, just like the rest of my Army experience, and once they figure out how to stop my water and hormone levels from going back and forth, to and fro, up and down, I should be able to head out of here and enjoy what remains of my summer.

Until then, I think I hear the lab rats calling.


Xenu Remains

Filed under: — lana @ 7:49 am

I know the nurses are only doing their job. And I feel very bad for them that they have the job that they do when I walk through their doors.

My arms resemble those of a leper with a heroin problem who also has little to no upper body coordination, mostly because apparently my veins are the most difficult things to shove a needle into. Repeatedly. Every few hours or so. The tricky part is actually getting blood from me, because I am convinced that towards the end of day four I was actually running out which is why they were starting to stick me two or three times just to get one little vial of blood to send to the thirsties downstairs in labs. I never actually verified that the labs were downstairs; the nurses all talked about the labs like a place of desolation and frightening mole people whose sole concern was the amount of fluids going into and coming out of my body for nearly a week, so I avoided all floors below those upon which I was assigned. I had enough trouble where I was.

The surgery took place as hastily scheduled, the day after arrival to Walter Reed. They brought me in, hustled me to a flurry of doctors all over the hospital, and by 0530 the following morning I was in hospital pajamas getting a tube shoved into my arm and a vacuum crammed up my nose. Six or seven hours later, or so I am told, I was fighting with the doctors to take the tubes out of many places other than my arm and yelling at them to get my husband. And so began their fun week of having me as a very cranky patient. A day or so in the Intensive Care Unit and then off to the main ward where I could still complain about having both in and out tubes and wondering why my veins would only support an IV for a few hours before they would have to make a new orifice, which was a process that involved at least three nurses each sticking me twice until they could get something that would work for a few hours.

The overall surgery was mostly a success. Xenu found his way around a major artery, so the doctors opted not to vacuum around that area and just left him in. Something about the risk of cutting off the blood supply to the brain that they found daunting, and I was not going to argue. They punched a hole through the back of my nose, sucked out what they could get, and left me to dribble whatever else I could through various holes every time I have a significant change in elevation, such as standing up. I carry around a walking pharmacy and am still dealing with borderline diabetes caused by the impact of the surgery on the general brain vicinity, but really for having someone with a suction tube in the brain less than a week ago I am doing fairly well. My husband, who was let go early from Iraq to take care of me, has been very supportive, enough to yell at me to tell the doctors all of the issues, feed me my pills on time, and take care of me whenever I sneeze and lose a chunk of brain and cause massive headaches.

For now I have been released to medical wildlife preserve status, not yet ready for full tagged release into the wild. I stick around the Walter Reed area for about another week to see all of the doctors one or two last times before they can slap a tag on my ear for tracking and send me on leave for thirty days, after which it will be something of a catch-and-release program for awhile so they can continue monitoring. While Xenu continues to whisper in my ear, at least for right now they will let me sleep through the night without sampling fluids or putting tubes places that tubes really do not belong. Soon enough I can get back to general harassment of my Soldiers, but for now I would just like to blow my nose without losing some of my Master’s Degree.


A Nice Warm Day

Filed under: — lana @ 1:01 am

Well there certainly aren’t any snowballs sent astray from Hell these days. Just when I thought the Army might do something logical, they went and did the usual.

I asked the doctors to give me a stay of execution for about two weeks. Surprisingly, they said yes. They said sure, two weeks really doesn’t make a difference, you’ll be fine for that long, it will give your husband a chance to get home, your parents time to make arrangements to get to the hospital, and give you time to finish the course so you don’t have to stress about it.

Then twenty minutes later someone made another phone call.

The following morning I was pulled out of class for at least the second or third time that week and told I was being released from the course to head to the hospital for immediate treatment. I explained that the situation was all fixed. I explained the logic. Everyone got it. The devil got a slight chill and may have shown signs of a cold.

Then he took his medicine.

I found myself that afternoon sitting in the local clinic with the nice lady who arranges all coordination between various medical facilities as she tried to explain logic to people and for an entire afternoon it was stay, then go, then stay, then go. They settled on stay, with consent of all doctors involved.

By the next morning it was go. That would be this morning. All the doctors rehashed and changed their minds and then got together and set appointments for me on the other side of the country with nary a phone call to the patient. They did call the course Sergeant Major and a few others, though, so by 1000 I had been lectured, reprimanded, and told once again that my logic was no good here and to get on a plane. My books were turned in by 1030 and I was out of the course by 1100. The flight isn’t for a few days yet, but there would be no more fun for Xenu and I in the course.

The sun was out, the volleyball nets were up, and Hell was having a regular ol’ beach vacation in nice warm weather as the Army patiently ignored good sense once more and cut me some orders ten days before everything would have worked out just fine and just in time to screw up just about everything going on around me. I’m glad to know someone at least is having a lovely time…


Crafty Like a Fox

Filed under: — lana @ 8:52 pm

One would not think that one should have to be sneaky when it comes to two things: dedication to a job and general health and welfare.

On the contrary, sneaking about seems to be my standard lately for both my dedication to the job I am trying to learn and for my general health and welfare. While the doctor called my bluff last week, the stakes have now been upped and in order for me to ante my share I am pulling out whatever stops I can find. It is the all-or-nothing bid, and my crafty skills are being put to the test.

It is particularly challenging because at this point suspicion has been raised. The course managers are onto me, doctors here are onto me, doctors in Germany are onto me, I think even the clerk at the Walgreens down the street might have an inkling as to my general game.

All I need right now is two weeks. Two weeks in Arizona before flying to Walter Reed and I can go through an insanely hectic version of the end of the course and graduate to meet my career goals. Then I can head over to Washington and watch the doctors poke at my brain with sharp objects. The schemes have been initiated, so now all I have to do is wait. I am sure I can push out an appointment two weeks from now at Walter Reed, it is just getting the various other doctors on board so they don’t moan enough to move the appointment up at all.

I acknowledge that something should be done. Xenu is acting like a typical intergalactic battlelord and appears to want more space, presumably on the outside of my temple from the way I feel day to day. The endochronologist, who may well have the longest-spelled title in Doctor World, informed me this morning that the tumor hanging around atop my pituitary gland is probably the largest one she has seen in years and that, lucky me, it might be too large for them to remove through less-invasive cranial maneuvering. So overall, the general health and welfare part of the equation is fitting in a bit more than usual. While I tend to take care of myself, I admit that larger things such as gangrenous feet and intergalactic battlelords in the brain sometimes take a backseat when there is work to be done.

But all I ask for is two weeks. Enough time to get results from opthomology, which moves at the general southwestern pace of uberslow, enough time for my husband to get home through the early summer dust storms of the great Jihad, enough time for me to eat the groceries I just bought before the weekend, and enough time for me to wander out of here with a graduating certificate from this course, all while getting there in time for the neurosurgeon to pull the namesake of the worshiped being of Scientology out of my head and into a jar so he can get his name in a medical journal.

The gauntlet has been thrown, and the conniving has begun. Two weeks is the wager on the table, and a reasonable one it is, I think. Place all bets, the table closes tomorrow.


The Game is Up

Filed under: — lana @ 10:19 pm

The doctor is onto my game.

I went to the opthomologist the other day with the understanding that there was some sort of critical test that needed to be done to determine if I need surgery with some sort of urgency. Apparently back in Germany there is some disagreement on various issues regarding my budding relationship with Xenu, the alien egg hatching in my brain.

Well, the opthomologist office wasn’t conducting that test that day. They only conduct that test once a week or so, and that was not the right day. Naturally. Critical schmritical.

So they did the other parts of the exam and told me to come back, but from what the doctor could see it wasn’t an emergency. So they offered me a date about a week further but the course schedule suggested I find an alternate time. The next available appointment was two and a half weeks later, but the technician checked with the doctor and he said that shouldn’t be a problem. So I scheduled the appointment.

I have about eight weeks left of my course. Two and a half weeks would have put me over halfway through the course and well into the realm of finishing out everything with minimal complications and just some pesky headaches.

The next day I got a call from the doctor. She is onto my game. She gave one of the senior course instructors a bit of a talking to, and then when I got on the phone she was relatively adamant about things. The jig is up, reschedule the appointment for the earlier date. We came to the agreement that provided the appointment next week doesn’t show the need for speed, we can postpone further appointments as necessary and try alternate routes for the headaches.

But she is onto me. Tactics must be adapted…


I’m Free! Oh Wait…

Filed under: — lana @ 11:43 pm

This morning, in an effort to find out why the medical system here can only access my records from five years ago and not my present records, I found out that for the past few weeks I have tasted freedom and been unaware. Unfortunately, they fixed it.

I wandered by DEERS, which does enrollments for family members, ID cards for everyone, and so on. The theory was that the local folks never updated to my married name and that was the problem with the medical system. So I signed in, waited the usual half an hour or so for my name to be called, and within five minutes they determined that the error was not in their system because they had me in their system as my married name. Since this is the base where I made the name change, that made sense, so it was unexpected that it turned up properly as few things that make sense in the Army ever come to fruition. Regardless, they then pondered why I was having trouble accessing systems using my card, why the medical system had bumped me out, and so on. So they scanned my card to get some more information.

It turns out that no one ever updated my extension last October. Nor had my reenlistment processed yet. According to the information in the system, I should have left the Army on 14 May, the second of many potential escape dates, but not accurate for about seven months now. As a result of this, various systems had simply booted me, to include medical insurance, DEERS, and a few other related systems of which I am still mucking through. Technically, I could have wandered off about two weeks ago and few people would have actually noticed.

The main problem with this is that I didn’t know, particularly since my pay appears to have made it through unscathed somehow so I could have gotten two weeks paid vacation. I know the course I am in would have noticed, but the Army would have been hard pressed to do anything given their lack of knowledge that I was still a member of the uniformed services. Not like it would have worked, but a girl’s gotta dream.

The nice people at DEERS fixed what they could on their end of the system, which should fix most of it, and printed me off another ID card so I can try to function and do things like sign documents, a function critical to my unit. Unfortunately that also closed any slight crack in the door for the next three years… all views to freedom now blocked, so back to work I go.


Technology Strikes

Filed under: — lana @ 9:21 pm

The wide world of technology sometimes seems to cause more harm than good. The Army, in its habit of never making anything easy, has naturally keyed in on the challenges and amplified them.

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away but at least several years ago, it was a simple matter to complete and sign various documents. Well, Army simple. For instance, a non-commissioned officer evaluation report, or NCOER. The supervisor writes the report. The report gets sent to the supervisor’s supervisor, maybe the first sergeant, maybe whomever, for some review. That person sends it back with corrections, then sends it higher for still more corrections. The report goes back and forth, gets lost, found, recycled, reviewed, trashed, rewritten, changed back to the original, and lost again, and eventually makes its way back to the original supervisor for a signature. Now none of that has changed. That was the simple part.

When I first started writing these reports for my Soldiers I would get the report, print it out, sign it, scan it back into the computer, and send it to the next signature authority. They do the same, and on it goes. Quite easy.

Now, with technology, the Army is using a program which can use a digital signature which is stored on the Army Common Access Card, a card which everyone in the Army is required to possess. This saves the printing and scanning and such, so one would think this would make life much easier.

Or maybe not.

This weekend I wanted to sign an award for my Soldier. I am in the United States, nine hours behind where my command is lounging with their beers and schnitzels, and so everything has to be done electronically with about a day lag between communication. I was told the award has been reviewed and is ready for signing, so I found a kind soul with the card reader and programs installed on his computer. I wandered by his place and went to sign the computer.

The computer, in a technical fashion, basically told me to pound sand. His system was configured so it could not read my card.

Today, back at class, I asked if I could use one of the school computers. Not a problem. Or maybe it was. I attempt to put my card in the slot and the little computer gnomes giggled a little and spit my request back in my general direction. Because I am in the European domain and not in the domain for anything in the United States, I could not get into the system, much less sign anything.

Hemming, hawing, and general cursing ensues.

After several other attempts and various ideas tried to bypass the system, the course manager and senior instructor get involved. Eventually, it is determined that no one knows what to do. They make a few phone calls on my behalf. An hour or so later, they get in touch with the computer gurus in the joint command center, who agrees to meet me at lunch tomorrow to try signing the document at his office, where he has multiple card readers and hopefully more know-how than our addled brains could come up with.

My command no longer accepts, at least with any form of pleasantry, documents signed the old way. Too time consuming and unclear. Instead, it has taken me roughly a week and counting to find a way to sign this document digitally.

But it’s much easier this way. Surely it must be…


Medication for the Medication

Filed under: — lana @ 4:01 pm

Every time I step into an Army clinic I seem to only increase my need for medication. This is largely because every time I wander through the doors I seem to get a headache, and one that has nothing to do with my alien egg.

We have settled for now on the name Xenu for the little mishap wandering around in my brain, named after the intergalactic battlelord of Scientology. Mostly because it’s completely absurd.

Moving along, I went today to try and get some medication for the headaches that come along with the spawn of an alien race kicking around in the center of the brain. The large amount of PowerPoint every day, plus several hours of talking to people in small rooms when those people are paid to be difficult has been rather trying on the concentration when your brain is trying to escape through your temple.

The first problem came up in making the appointment. I called to get a telephonic consult because as far as I could figure that would be faster than going in, and since they weren’t going to crack my head open and take a look anyway I may as well just do it over the phone.

Well, apparently logic failed, as I was told that the doctors were too booked to make a phone consult, but could I come in for an appointment at 1100? I asked if it wouldn’t make more sense for the doctor to just call me at 1100, but that only confused them more and set the whole conversation back again so I just agreed to come in instead.

Then came the confusion that I am in the system on this base as my maiden name, despite having changed it numerous times in various Army systems. If I went to another, random base it would be fine, but because I was here about five years ago it threw off the whole program and mass confusion ensued.

Once the doctor finally figured it all out, she realized several important things. First, that the doctor in Germany put into her notes that I had her email address. Not quite accurate. I think she has my address, but I certainly don’t have hers. Though it is possible that I simply forgot. She also determined that she had no idea how to get in touch with the doctor in Germany, because apparently the system wasn’t linked the way she thought it was. Then the doctor here poked into my lab results and realized she could only read about half of them, because the other ones were for tests of which she had never heard.

The good news was that the labs she could read said that the grape has yet to poke into the pituitary gland or affect the thyroid. The downside to that is that means any goals I might have of reaching 350 pounds in the next two months lays squarely on my shoulders and those of the local steakhouses. If the Germans would only learn how to make a good steak, the temptation would subside a little.

So the end result was a mix of medication to try and make the headaches bearable, and to just move along until I get back to Germany and become Someone Else’s Problem once again. Since here they barely even know who I am, that should actually be a fairly easy task for everyone involved. Not to mention the less time I spend in an Army clinic, the fewer headaches should be induced by silliness and confusion. So solutions, however temporary, are abound.

I think Xenu and I will go celebrate with a steak.


Joys of Tombstone

Filed under: — lana @ 5:28 pm

What I like about the town of Tombstone is not the above-average number of staged gunfights in the streets, the overwhelming number of tourists crammed into about eight square blocks, or the perpetual smell of horse feces. While all of those things certainly add to the general character of the town, they are not the reason I continue to go back.

What attracts me to the town is just how genuinely nice the people are. The people that work in the shops are nice. The people you meet in the bars are nice. The people that serve you dinner are nice. Everyone checks both guns and attitudes at the door. They don’t look askance at those dressed in the high fashions of the late 1800’s, nor do they give you the evil eye for going for dinner, drinks, and dancing in jeans.

And speaking of which, it is impossible not to be put in good spirits when a woman who has been dancing for half an hour turns to you and reminds you that she is 77 and has no intention of sitting down anytime soon, or when an 80 year old man insists that you learn the two-step or he will have to find another dance partner.

I think everyone could stand a trip to the town, a trip that includes that time after most of the tourists have gone home for the day. If only to be reminded that there are still places in the world where it doesnt really matter what you wear or what you drink or where you are from, only that you have a good time and are willing to at least try and learn the two-step.


A Slow Death

Filed under: — lana @ 8:20 pm

Someone better start writing my obituary, and they shouldn’t feel the need to include anything about the grape in my brain or a tragic alcohol-related incident.

No, the cause of death will be much simpler: that of Death By PowerPoint.

Many are familiar with this tragedy, but today it was actually combined with a monotone, slow speaker who may very well have been giving the first brief ever in his lifetime. If we hadn’t happened upon lunchtime several of us were considering trying the theory that by putting a pencil in your nose and banging your head to the desk you wouldn’t feel the pain of death. Also, none of us had a pencil handy, the course requiring pens.

The week, being the first week of a long course, has been all slideshows and chitchat, and the natives are starting to get restless in the classroom. This is a common pattern in most Army courses, so it was to be expected, and luckily most of the instructors seem to understand. Except this morning. Even when one of the contractors let out a whimper and a loud sigh when he realized we had at least one more section to plod through, the poor guy just kept going. Even the practical exercise was PowerPoint for the block of instruction. 147 pages of PowerPoint, to be exact, with quiz formatting. One of the questions actually asked if you were enjoying the test or if you were bored. The Master Sergeant sitting next to me opted to select “bored” and was promptly mapped back to the beginning of the PowerPoint. So much for honesty.

At least I have finally recovered from the weekend. Overall it was productive. We succeeded in getting the one private silly enough to go drinking with the big kids to throw up in the middle of a strip club, we saw some random American on the streets of Prague get hit in the face with a train and then ask for a pack of cigarettes while using his cell phone on the injured side to call for assistance, my first sergeant argued maps with the alien in my brain and won, we had a Flashdance-style dance-off with some Canadians in what might well have been a gay club, and hung around with a bunch of British folks in homemade superhero outfits. Sunday we supported the few sober enough to run the marathon and headed back in time for me to realize that I barely had time to pack. Oh, and my battalion commander was kind enough to rope me into three more years of my life supporting the Army just before he took off to run 26 miles, leaving me to figure out the puzzle of which of us might be crazier.

So in retrospect, I suppose that after a weekend like that it is nice to sit back and not have to use my brain this week. My hope is that at least some of the cells might regenerate before the course starts getting difficult towards the end of next week, or at least enough to support perhaps a Vegas trip over the upcoming four day weekend without total neurological failure. We all must have our priorities…


Last Day

Filed under: — lana @ 2:20 pm

So it appears in retrospect that yesterday was my last day of real work for about the next ten weeks or so. The doctors decided, after sending me to have half of my blood removed from my body, that at least I can wait for the lab results in Arizona starting my class. They don’t intend to pull me back from the class, regardless of the results, as they can make treatment arrangements somewhere within a three-state radius for the duration, so off I head on Monday.

First I have to get through the weekend, however.

My first sergeant, in his infinite wisdom, has convinced me to head east for the weekend with him and a few other higher ranking non-commissioned officers for debauchery and a marathon. I am not crazy enough - yet - to run, but I thought the first bit sounded rather entertaining. We added the new warrant to the party, and will be joined on day two by other runners, the battalion element, and who knows who else, but we don’t intend to be sober enough to remember outside of pictures. I mentioned that perhaps this was a dumb idea for me to head out for a weekend when I have yet to fully pack for a ten week course, but my first sergeant pointed out it was in the best interest of my health. He reasoned, possibly with some medical backing though I much doubt it, that the more brain cells we can kill off the less likely the growth sprouting in my head will be able to latch onto living cells and therefore slow the spread. It seemed fully logical, so tomorrow off we go.

My husband and I have had some discussion as to what the thing in my head might be, since I will be in Arizona during the time someone would normally take a biopsy. We came up with several possibilities.

1) An alien egg to sprout and take over the world
2) A malignant virus which will fester in my brain and cause me to crave the souls of the living
3) An unborn twin now acting as another personality

However someone recently pointed out that Athena sprouted from the head of Zeus, so I am going with your standard War Goddess, which are really something of a hot commodity these days and I should be able to sell it on the black market for a decent sum later on.

Further evidence of my deteriorating mind is my reenlistment. Finally finding the retention NCO, we mentioned the trip to Prague and the NCO said we could just do the ceremony in Prague. So on Sunday my battalion commander, whom is running and so I expect will be in running shorts and a tee-shirt, will sign me up for another three years. We are having trouble getting our hands on an American flag, but figure we can find enough beer coasters on Friday and Saturday to make something of a semblance of one. My battalion commander, whom I have been under the assumption either didn’t know I existed or rather wished I didn’t exist at all, apparently likes me enough to spend 13,000 dollars on me for a course, so he gets to be the one to hold a straight face while I grumble through the reenlistment.

I might not have that many brain cells to spare after all.


In the Name of Science

Filed under: — lana @ 2:39 pm

In the midst of having plenty to do and not enough time to do it, my new warrant and I nevertheless came up with an experiment today.

Having found some Pop Rocks candies in a basket of treats in one of the private’s vehicles, I mentioned that we should test the exploding head myth that has been around for years about eating the candy while drinking a can of soda.

And that was how it began.

We brought the find upstairs and I summoned the other NCO into the office as well as the young Soldiers. I handed a packet of candy to the NCO and said he could take the opportunity to take one for his Soldiers, and mentioned I would put him in for a Certificate of Achievement at least should his head explode. I even let him choose the flavor between the three, to which he responded that if he was going to go, he’d best go with watermelon. He then pointed out that isn’t this what privates are for, at which point two of the privates began arguing about who ranked lower, so I stopped the quarrel handing each of them a packet and reminding them it was all in the name of science. The NCO still tried to escape his doom by passing his off to a specialist, but I pointed out that an NCO should never expect his Soldiers to do that of which he was unwilling. He clammed up at that, having just graduated from his first NCO academy. And so the science began.

Three packets, in their entirety, into the three mouths.

One glass of warm soda each to wash it down.

Zero exploding heads.

Despite the initial disappointment, success was deemed about a half an hour later when I received an email from one of the privates who was in the process of completing a report I had assigned her, and upon sending the report she included a status update which detailed that she felt a bit lightheaded and thought something was moving around in her stomach. The other private reported similar, and the NCO wasn’t looking entirely well. I called them all in and mentioned that I felt fine. I asked the warrant, who happily noted that he felt just peachy, and asked the specialist who said he felt well but that we hadn’t used a placebo so could we really be an effective control group. The warrant was momentarily unhappy, saying that the results could just be psychosematic. To this, however, I noted that to assume such would be to assume that, for instance, the private who until very recently thought that pouring coffee out the third story window was an acceptable alternative to going down a flight of steps to a sink actually had a brain. Since we have come to assume that he in fact does not, we therefore concluded that psycotic symptoms could not possibly be at fault and therefore the entire experiement was deemed a success.

Score one for science in the midst of an office and with low budget experimentation. I will be waiting for my letter from the Nobel committee.

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