Friday, February 06, 2009

Alex, the VA, and Me

Blogging isn’t easy with a furball using the keyboard as a pillow and a paw rest!

I must be really getting old when I start thinking of a trip to a medical clinic as an adventure! Therefore, I shall attempt to tell you are bout yesterday’s trip to the Veterans’ Administration Hospital is as unswervingly as I can:

  • I have been attempting to obtain this appointment to be assessed for a wheelchair for several months.
  • I received the appointment for 8:45 AM yesterday in a letter from the VA about a week ago.
  • As you may remember, I have pulled a muscle in my right thigh and am unable to lift my right leg more than a couple of inches from the floor making it impossible dangerous for me to drive.
  • I needed transportation to the appointment: neither of my sons was available; my pastor and friend, Doug, was attending a clergy meeting; the company for whom Tasha works said she that she wasn’t permitted to transport me anywhere; the VA transportation unit is booked up through next November (!?); the only reasonably priced medical transportation service I located was not available at the time of my appointment.
  • By Wednesday afternoon, I had given up and telephoned the number of the physical therapy clinic provided by VA and, after listening to one robot voice transfer me to another robot voice to another robot voice left a message requesting whatever human was around to telephone me so I could reschedule the appointment.
  • Shortly thereafter, Tasha’s employer telephoned me and said that their policy had changed: Tasha could drive me if I was willing to pay her mileage because the VA, who is paying for Tasha’s services, refuses to pay mileage.
  • Of course I agreed and again telephoned the VA physical therapy clinic and, after listening to one robot voice transfer me to another robot voice to another robot voice left a message stating that I would be able to keep the appointment at 8:45 Thursday morning.
  • Jump forward to Thursday morning: Tasha was supposed to arrive at 8:00 AM to transport me to the clinic; when she hadn’t arrived by 8:15, I was concerned because I know how slow I move about.
  • At 8:30 Tasha’s company telephone and said—as if I hadn’t already figured it out—that Tasha was “running late.”
  • Concerned because of the notice on the VA appointment letter stated that I must be on time for the appointment, I again telephoned VA and, after listening to one robot voice transfer me to another robot voice to another robot voice left a message that I was running late.
  • Tasha arrived just as I hung up from the call and, as I was getting my portable oxygen tank on, a real human being telephoned from the VA and told me that if I couldn’t make my scheduled time the appointment would have to be rescheduled.
  • Since the appointment was at 8:45 AM and the time at the moment was 8:40 AM, I had the appointment rescheduled to the next available date, February 27th.
  • Just as I was getting out of my coat and portable oxygen tank, my telephone rang; it was the VA physical therapy clinic and I was told that, if I could make it there at 10:00 AM, they could still see me today.
  • I said, “I’ll be there!”

Enough of these bullets! I’ll tell the rest of the story without them.

Getting me to Tasha’s car wasn’t easy because there is still snow and especially ice from the top of my front steps all the way to the street. Had I not remembered the hiking stick I bought when I was stationed in Germany, I would not have made it:

(I really must remember to photograph all of my sticks and share them with you as I promised a long time ago!)


Tasha dropped me off at the main entrance of the VA Hospital and then drove off to find a parking space. By the time I walked into the hospital, I was exhausted and sat down at a table in the snack room where I could see the front door. It took Tasha half an hour to find a parking space; because it was almost 10:00 AM, I had begun walking toward the elevators when Tasha arrived. I asked her to get me one of the loaner wheelchairs. She returned without one and told me that the room had used to have the wheelchairs was now filled with file cabinets and the woman in the room said that she had no idea where the wheelchairs are now stored.

So, I very slowly hobbled  and wheezed to the elevator and off the elevator and hobbled even more slowly down the hallway to clinic 240A and down another hallway to where I told a woman behind a window my name and the last four digits of my social security account number and she told me to go back down the same hallway to the small waiting room and wait. So I did.

I waited for 45 bloody minutes before someone came for me! So much for my not being late!

Now here’s the wonderful part! I have been approved for a wheelchair that is my size and strong enough that my bulk won’t break the thing. It has a special reinforced back so that if I plop down in it I won’t break it. And the arm rests can be retracted so that I can get close to my desk to blog and to my table to eat. And it has special handles on the wheel brakes so that I won’t have to bend down to lock and unlock the wheels. And I got to select the color of the chair and the color and fabric of the seat and back! The chair will be delivered to me in about three to four weeks.

Wow! It was sure worth all I went through to get to the clinic yesterday!




  1. sometimes it seems we are alone in our bouts witht eh beauracracy etc, but I have 3 friends close by that go through much the same.

    Wondeful that cats want to be in your space- the colder it gets the closer they come hahah

    what a special friend..

    Also keep bloggin your adventures are less exhausting when put out there.They become and adventure !!haha

  2. Being that my job is transporting individuals (and advocating for them) to medical appointments I can totally relate-especially the whole entire hurry up and wait debacle which I was stuck in yesterday.

  3. I think that government employees are hired on their inability to care. Either that or they leave or develop a thick skin.

    I'm glad it finally worked out for you, though.

  4. SO glad you got what you needed. That doesn't happen all the time.

    You have described modern life to a "T", REv. T! Not just the VA, but all over.

  5. Well, Nick at our age it is an adventure. I am so thankful for Tasha and Alex. While quit disconcerting, the trouble was worth while. I become a crazy woman when I have to deal with all those robotic voices. Take care my friend and have a great weekend.

  6. That was quite a story! I hope you are doing okay!

  7. It looks like Alex is merely trying to help you type.

    So what colors did you pick out? Or is that supposed to be a surprise?

  8. As I read this I was transported back to similar experiences with my husband. Frustrating as it is/was, I also know the total elation of hearing "Approved"!! The chair sounds wonderful! Enjoy it!

    Love the photos of Alex!

  9. It's good to hear a success story from the VA. I have heard so many to the contrary. I am so glad they didn't screw you over.

    I know what you mean about cats. Artemis lives in my shadow; she even sticks her paw in the water when I take a bath. And she thinks nothing of sprawling over the computer; it's warm, it hums and I'm looking at it, so now I can look at her. I cannot tell you how much data I've lost thanks to her!

  10. Well it was a long haul but at least you will get your wheelchair! :)

  11. Sorry you had to go through all of that. The waiting and the whole process of "hurry up and wait" must have frustrated you some.

    Feel better, NIck and enjoy the weekend! You said it was like spring there??? Tomorrow NY is supposed to get spring-like weather..err..I think Sunday. That'll be SUCH a relief!

    Be well! :)

  12. I think that was an adventure. The robot voices are a pain.
    Glad you got the wheelchair.

  13. Glad everything worked out! I enjoy all your recent comments over at my place, too. :^)

  14. Great news about the chair Nick! But I was really excited about this..

    And I got to select the color of the chair and the color and fabric of the seat and back


  15. Mr Tucker does the same thing! I have a laptop desk, and I figured he would appreciate that I use the computer while sitting on the sofa so he can snuggle next to me.

    But he remains jealous of the laptop and works every trick he can to get it to move over. Cats!

    But what an ordeal to get something you really need! I'm glad that finally worked out for you. That added sense of independence and security must feel wonderful.

  16. well done, a sense of achievement! and alex looks sure cute napping on your keyboard there ...

  17. i beati: Yes, it does at times seem as if we are alone in our bouts with bureaucracy! It can be as if those robot voices come out of the mouths of the bureaucrats as well as across telephone lines.

    I know you are right about cats and our space. It’s warming here, so much so that Alex asked to go outside this morning even before he had breakfast. However, all last night, each time I awakened, I found Alex sleeping curled up either on my left side, right side, or on top of me.

    silverneurotic: Yes, the you had better not be late, but the physician can be very late because his/her time is valuable and your time isn’t attitude of U.S. medical practice has been around for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, like the U.S. making war, I think that the doctors do it just because they can.

    Squirl: You may be right—or perhaps the way the bureaucracy is set up encourages them to rapidly develop that attitude!

  18. Candi: Thank you. It feels great to know that the system finally came through to meet my needs. Especially after all of the frustrations I have had dealing with the VA.

    Yep, it isn’t just the VA that causes us frustrations! I am having an even great frustration with the company from whom I am buying—no, already bought because I have already paid for it—the lift chair. But that’s another adventure!

    Finding Pam : You are so right! I suppose that everything in life can be termed an adventure if we are willing to see it as such.

    Yes, I have excellent colleagues: faith Tasha and my Lord Alex.

    The Lone Beader: Thank you! Yes, I doing OK and even already on another adventure!

  19. Thomas: Alex seems to be always helping me type! He has recently gotten into the habit of walking around the computer when he tires of watching the birds outside the window. That means that, each time he gets to the keyboard, I have to pick it up or risk gobblygook being typed or even worse, the deletion of whatever is on the computer.

    The color for the cloth part of the computer that I selected in royal blue; the metal part is supposed to be silver and black.

    Lynilu: Amen! Hearing the word APPROVED is the ultimate payoff for putting up with all of the bureaucratic rigmarole!

    Vishwa: Yes, it was an adventure. If one turns one’s life into elements of what Joseph Campbell called the hero’s journey there can be lots of spice in life!

  20. Enemy of the Republic: Yep. I think the “secret” of dealing with the VA (or any bureaucratic rigmarole) is a combination of perseverance and patience.

    Cats do seem to seek out interesting (to them) places to perch, don’t they? Alex, who is presently perched on my desk looking at the birds outside, says purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr to Artemis.

    Akelamalu: Yep. I am looking forward to that wheelchair! I am at the point of wheezing whenever I walk and can hardly make it across a room without needing to sit down.

    ~Deb: Thank you! The spring-like weather arrived here yesterday with highs above 50F. Tomorrow the forecast is for a high temperature above 70F!

  21. Dr. John: Thank you. Now, if I can just find out what is delaying that lift chair! That’s my next adventure, this time with the world of commerce.

    Willow: You are most welcome! I enjoy your delightful blog!

    Phishez: Thank you! I, too, was surprised that they consulted me in the details of ordering that wheelchair!

  22. Travis : I wonder what it is about cats and laptop computers! The warmth? The humming sound (which I understand a cat can hear even if I can’t)? Being close to one’s human?

    Yes, it was an ordeal. I expected it; however, I am glad I still have the perseverance and patience to deal with it.

    Maxxo: Thank you! I do feel as if I have achieved something. If I were a rich man, I would have simply purchased a wheelchair myself. Since I am not, I had to have the adventure to get one.

    That gives me concern for those folks in need who do not have the experience, education, perseverance and patience that I had to have to navigate the VA. It also gives me concern about my own survival when senility strikes me!

  23. Sweetie, you should know by now that doctors are NEVER on time with their appointments.

    Congrats on the new wheels -- I look forward to seeing pix of it when it arrives.

    Speaking of pix, looks like Alex fell asleep while he was trying to update HIS blog, lol. Very cute.