iraqistan

8/27/2008

Moving On

Filed under: — lana @ 5:29 pm

Moving right along, I have made good my escape from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Quite frankly, it was not the happiest place on the planet. By and large, the general population of patients seemed to be grouped into amputees, the very elderly, and the crazy. I have all of my limbs and do not consider myself in the elderly category, leaving only one thing for me to become should I remain much longer. I opted instead to convince them to let me go.

It took some doing, as do most things in the Army. They had to straighten out my orders, which was only complicated because apparently everyone was just waiting around for me to fix them myself on the new automated payment system. That would have been fine if 1) someone had mentioned that was what needed to be done and 2) if I had any access to the system aside from begging people off their computers. In the end, I found someone willing to let me onto the system and fix what needed to be fixed, and a week later it had wended its way through the system for the 108 digital signatures it needed for processing. Then it was a not-so-simple matter of switching my flight to something in the same time zone as my intended location, packing up my strewn belongings, and convincing the doctor that it really was time for me to go instead of running a few more tests to make sure my brain was still tucked away inside my skull somewhere.

So now I am on leave, my unit having the sense to recognize that flying back to Germany for what amounted to two working days and a four-day weekend was not really practical, back in the comfort of New Jersey. Yes, some people do find New Jersey comforting. Once you leave the area immediately surrounding the airport, it actually is a lovely state. We designed it that way to keep undesireables out, so once they land at the airport they think there is nothing to see and will just keep moving along while we can live in general peace.

Meanwhile, I wait for word on what the Army has in store. Deployments, classes, Soldiers, medical appointments, all are options on the table. There is a bit of a conflict as to what I want to do as opposed to what I really should do, so I left the general decision-making up to those in higher echelons somewhere in Eastern Germany while I mill about and watch Animal Cops on Animal Planet and enjoy pizza that can only be found better in Italy.

I know that soon enough the Big Green Machine will call me back with some description of where I need to be, when, and in what uniform. Until then, I have every intention of taking advantage of having nowhere to be, at no particular time, and with my uniforms tucked safely away in the bottom of my suitcase.

Two years, eight months, and counting.

8/22/2008

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.

8/18/2008

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?

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.

8/15/2008

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.

8/12/2008

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.

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