Medical Need or Just Whining

March 30, 2010

There has been a bit of feuding going on for the past few months between CC and the personnel department of the pain and rehab clinic. Relations began swimmingly well, but deteriorated once CC got his wheelchair. He needed things to go with the chair. A cushion to sit on. That took a couple of months. Wheelchair gloves. He begged for those and finally got his first pair from a sympathetic prosthetic department in Atlanta. But they couldn’t do a thing about his wheelchair which pulled to the right.

Each time CC had an appointment in Dublin, he popped into Ms Nichols office and made his requests. At one point, he told her he was on a mission to get all that he was eligible for. Not long after that, she told him she was only there for the paycheck and her retirement. After both had made their declarations, things got downright antagonistic whenever their paths crossed.

When she misplaced the order for new all-terrain wheels and put him off for seeing the wheelchair company representative for yet another month or two; CC filled out a survey and complained about the treatment he was receiving.

He’d been waiting to get his wheelchair adjusted since receiving it — it pulled to the right. Finally, after being in the chair for seven months, the wheelchair representative paid a visit to our home for adjustments and to put on the new wheels. Turned out the ball bearings on the front wheel had been damaged since manufacture and were causing extreme resistance in the wheel. As far as the knee pain, the representative told him to make himself a foot extension with a piece of wood.

CC asked for a new chair because his knee pain worsened after he began using the chair — the unmovable foot rest keeps his knee bent further than it his range of motion. He discovered he needed a chair which he could fold for flying (so he can go to the the Disable Veteran Olympics soon!) The wooden foot extension he made kept knocking into obstacles and causing more pain and distress.

“Why didn’t he know all of this going into the first chair? Why was he given a different chair than the doctor originally prescribed? Why does he wear his brace when he is in the chair? Which brace does he wear? Why wasn’t a VA representative present when he was fitted? How come we couldn’t predict his needs would differ from the make of the chair?”

These are questions asked by the major medical board reviewing his request for a new chair. Actually, these are the questions asked by the Southeastern Director of Prosthetics who happened to be at this review.

The meeting was significantly more hostile than the review for his first chair. We were sent out of the room for twenty minutes while they discussed CC’s case.

When we were brought back in; we were told his request for a new chair had been approved — based on medical need, not his personal desires. Hmmm. The crux of the matter. But then we were also quickly told he would get the Quickie brand, just to make him happy. Just because it was his personal desire, not because it made a more sensible alternative to the brand of which CC has spent his first 8 months.

CC may keep his original chair, but the VA will only maintain the new chair. He is not eligible for another chair for 24 months.

This is what I think: Ms Nichols took his complaints and requests for service as CC whining for things he wanted. She perceived him as a pest who had it out for the VA and had entitlement issues.

I’ll be the first to admit that since going into the wheelchair, there have been personality changes in CC. In fact, I had to reveal this to him so I could blog it. With great reluctance, I told him he now behaved in a way often attributed to short people — loud, incessant talking, begging for attention.

In typical CC fashion, he replied to the revelation — “hmm, I wonder how short. We’ll have to measure when we get home. 3' 6”? Later in a more reflective mood, in a restaurant after someone took a long look at him; he said, “either I’m totally invisible to people or extremely noticeable.”

This is my stance. I don’t care if CC is irritating in his constant requests. He is sitting in a wheelchair in constant pain, not because he had a motorcycle wreck or has a disease, but specifically because he spent eleven months participating in a war which culminated in a 120mm mortar round landing his fighting hole.

CC’s leg and arm were very nearly blown off, but saved by VA doctors. Some of the best doctors in the world accompanied our soldiers to this war because this was the arena of cutting edge medical developments. And they were drafted…

This nation has a contract with the men and women who serve in the armed forces. A man who is 100% combat disabled is eligible for lifelong medical care at the cost of the taxpayers. Think about that next time you are angry about paying taxes. You helped buy an appropriate wheelchair for my husband.

In the travel pay line, as we were leaving, I noticed a slight young man, with a dark complexion and hair sitting in a wheelchair. His knees were tucked in and he sat very contained in a body crippled by war, but otherwise fit and healthy. He was grim and quiet and when he turned; he revealed a big bald spot half covered with a sheath of hair on the back of his head. Brain injury. Will he be able to self advocate for forty years?