Saturday, May 11, 2013
For those of you with bad eye days (like I often have) my apologies...this is the best I could do for you. But this is good news. We are becoming more mainstream. When this issue first became an issue, when I joined AOL back in 1997 and started talking to a friend in Intel and a couple Generals and lower echelon "brass" who were just political junkies like me--just explaining how I was not feeling well and about the rumors I'd heard while at McClellan and the discrepancies between my immunization record and how many injections I got, and some other stuff--I thought they'd laugh at me. They did the OPPOSITE! They encouraged me to start writing about it. I was so surprised, and THEY were so intense about it. Looking back it makes sense now. They KNEW! At least the main General I spoke with did. He was... I guess you'd say connected, and he was the one who pressed me the hardest to keep at it. I felt like I was being a major conspiracy theorist, but this was before 911, before so much innocence was lost. I was so young for my age. I really did earn that nickname, Polly Anna. Now they'd be more likely to call me PANDORA!
Anyway, they said I should get in touch with as many people as I could remember (not easy to do when you have fuzz-brain most of the time) but I did it, and I found out that every single person I spoke to had significant health issues. That isn't just statistically improbable, it's off the charts.
To complicate the issue further, the majority of us seemed to have had "issues" getting our benefits from the VA because our service records had been 'lost'. I was not the only one who had to have my member of congress threaten a congressional investigation in order to get a home loan or educational benefits. Freaky deaky right? I seriously thought I was the only person who'd ever had to have that done. When they told me that ridiculous story about the fire that only destroyed records of McClellan vets even young me thought, "Uh, yeah... .sure." ...but beyond that, I never really gave it that much thought, at least until my tendons and ligaments started popping out of my bones for almost no apparent reason.
Seriously, I rolled my ankle stepping into a pot hole, wearing tightly laced BOOTS, and tore the retinaculum (the little U shaped piece of "cartilage" that holds your outer ankle ligament, the peroneal ligament, to the ankle bone). I had bruising all the way up to my butt and was in a cast for weeks before starting PT. It was such an unlikely thing to have happened with someone as young and healthy and fit as me that neither me, my own sports medicine doc nor the physical therapist (who was becoming increasingly frustrated by my lack of progress and what he saw as dramatic tears, which I was doing everything but asphyxiating myself to keep from shedding because I'm so damned over-proud of how tough I am) ...he just never thought to look for it until he finally heard/felt something when he moved my ankle a certain way. I knew what it was right away and it I hadn't known it meant immediate surgery I'd have been tempted to tell him, "IN YOUR FACE!" It was the subluxation of my peroneal tendon which was going all over the place because it was shredded almost to snapping totally and the retinaculum was completely torn off the bone...and I'd been doing PT on it for WEEKS. Immobilizing a simple sprain would have healed it, and it just never occurred to them I'd torn that retinaculum all the way out like that or shredded my ligament so badly just rolling my ankle. I was just too young and apparently healthy and the injury was not that severe...or so they thought. They just figured I bled a lot and got the bruising because I was taking fish oil AND garlic oil, which are both blood thinners.
Sorry this is getting long, but there is a lesson coming, I promise. The poor PT went exceedingly pale, exceedingly red, then back to pale again, apologized profusely and had the doc come to see me, at which time he heard/felt the same thing, cleared his throat, smiled reassuringly and called the surgeon who does all the ortho surgery for the professional football team in town.
Aside on how important it is to be assertive in your own medical care: I had worked with a certain anesthesiologist and knew him to be very personable, the life of every "attitude adjustment" (party) the staff ever threw, but highly unprofessional while working and incredibly, as in, 'how on earth does this guy keep his licence to practice medicine, much less his malpractice insurance?' careless. Needless to say I requested that he NOT do my case.
Fast forward a few days. The Surgeon calls and says he's doing an emergency surgery the following Saturday on one of his athletes and will fit me in too if I want so I can get back to my own patients sooner rather than waiting for his next opening a few weeks later. I'm thrilled, say yes, call the OR to make sure Dr. Dopey isn't the Anesthesiologist on duty that weekend, and CRAP...he is, but there's also a Nurse Anesthetist, so I say, "Okay, just PLEASE make SURE I get the Nurse Anesthetist! I want it official, on my chart, in writing."
Day of surgery I get there, all is going well, and in walks Dr. Dopey. I won't repeat the string of words I uttered under my breath. "I know you requested not to have me do your anesthesia," he cheerfully blurts, "But do you mind if I just do your pre-op? The Anesthetist will do your actual anesthesia as requested." Then he winked, and it dawned on me. He thought I didn't want him to see me naked because they scrub the whole leg! The egotistical LECH!
WT inglorious F. This is where I should have been assertive and said, "Actually I do mind, please let the RN or Nurse Anesthetist do it." I suspect Dr. Dopey couldn't quite place who I was given we practice different specialties and he'd known me by my married name when last we'd partied together.
That was the time my then-husband impressed upon him the importance of our marital bond after Dopey, who was especially so that night, so maybe he was Happy, no, actually his nose was runny, so maybe he was Snorty, I mean Sneezy, asked me, for the third dance in a row, to slow dance, to fast music. (Somewhat hypocritical on my husband's part given future events in our marriage, or outside it I guess you'd say, but hilarious at the time.) I have since changed back to my maiden name and Dr. Dopey no doubt simply wanted to see who'd had the poor taste to value her health over the whimsy of having the doctor with the Pee Wee Herman doll in his anesthesia cart. Not that I have anything at all against Pee Wee Herman!
I am strongly against continually letting little kids' oxygen saturations go from the high 90's where they belong-nice and pink, to the low sixties or worse-very blue, for minutes at a time because Dr. Dopey can't flirt with the new nurse or surgical tech du jour and properly operate an ambu bag at the same time and likes to run "his OR" with alarms OFF ...and it's the same if not worse with his adult patients. I had visions of waking with a CO2 headache the size of Texas and barfing for the next four hours. No thanks. I never trusted that all those narcs he signed out went to his patients either. His patients always seemed to come out of anesthesia faster and in more pain than everyone else's while he always seemed to be happier and happier the later in the day I saw him. You do the math on that one!
I once saw him berate a professional nurse, BSN, for insisting that he check the numbers on a bag of blood with her per hospital protocol instead of just handing it over to him, saying "I AM the double check, sweetheart, M and D as opposed to R and N." She blandly stared at him over her mask without blinking her rather striking green eyes for just an extra beat or two before calmly beginning to read off the numbers, which did not match, which was all the more embarrassing for him because he had already signed off on that unit and would have given it to the patient, which would have resulted in a severe transfusion reaction because of the kinds of blood involved. Transfusion reactions can be deadly. If that kind of thing happened only on the times I attended surgeries with my patients, I cannot imagine how many other errors the man made on a regular basis! So, as you might now better understand, I really did not want him anywhere near me in the role of Anesthesiologist.
But then I thought to myself, what possible damage can he do starting an IV and giving me my pre-meds before surgery? I have difficult veins and the nurses can rarely start my IV's anyway, so he'd probably have been called to do that anyway. The surgeon was already kind enough to fit me in. The least I can do is keep his day moving along smoothly. Surgeons REALLY value that! It was kind of a way of saying thanks and repaying a professional courtesy in kind.... or so I thought.
That jack-ass, Pee Wee Herman doll waving, skirt chasing, a-hole almost killed me! That's what damage he could do. He gave me a med, one the hospital had recently begun receiving from a new supplier, and instead of READING what the vial said, he went by the COLOR OF THE LABEL and gave me ONE HUNDRED TIMES the maximum human dose (like for a 300 pound human!) of a very dangerous drug (and he gave it all at once instead of over a fifteen minute period as it should be). It's used to raise blood pressure, and what I was supposed to get was a simple anti-nausea drug so I wouldn't barf after surgery. The thing is, I will never know if he subconsciously did it intentionally or not. One of the hardest things I have ever done is stay calm as I requested to be hooked up to monitoring immediately because I believed I was having a bad reaction to a medication or may have been given the wrong thing, because my head literally felt like it was going to explode. I now KNOW for SURE what a 10 on the pain scale feels like, but through that haze of pain I HAD to stay calm because if I "lost it" they would think I was just getting hysterical about the impending surgery and try to talk me down, wasting precious time during which I NEEDED OXYGEN, STAT and whatever the hell they give to counteract a massive overdose of what he just walked over to the med cart and almost passed out when he realized he gave it to me before quickly throwing it into the needle sharps disposal container, from which it is irretrievable, and therefore unable to be witnessed by anyone else, the evil bastard. His shaking and pallor gave it away anyway, not that it did me any good, but that slow motion thing really does happen.
And now I know what "my" heart attacks feel like. I don't know if I'll have the head exploding thing with it, but the chest being squeezed, compressed to 1/4 its size is unmistakable. And yes I thought of How the Grinch Stole Christmas--THAT was almost my last thought--the cartoon of that tiny, teeny little too-small heart and that stupid dog with sticks on its head with the belt squeezing around it--amazing the mixed images your mind comes up with under duress. But if the "big one" ever hits again, I'll know it for what it is. Odd thing is, I was in denial about it for years afterward. Even through the lawsuit, neither I nor my HORRIBLE lawyer (who I later found out usually represents insurance companies) thought of the fact that a squeezing band around one's chest might mean one had a heart attack and might have life long heart damage. That is how damaged my brain was, and how long it has taken me to return to "myself."
At least I was able, along with Dopey's ashen color and shaken appearance and call for the Anesthetist to come and take over for him STAT, to convince them that I really was in trouble physically and they finally took my BP and it was off the limits of the machine. When it finally registered it was 262/210. Prior to that it was 72/50 because I was in good shape and on pain meds. Quite an abrupt change, hm? Normal/ideal is 110/70. My guess is if I didn't have any aneurysms at the time, I may now though my pulse pressure wasn't really that wide, so who knows. Thank GOODNESS I was still fit at the time! I honestly believe my devotion to...well Tae Bo itself saved my life. Thank you Bill Blanks!
They gave me oxygen, tilted the bed to Trendelenburg, and shot something else into my IV. My guess is it was Versed, and LOTS of it, but bad luck for him, it does not cause amnesia in me for some reason--in fact since it did do half its intended job and put me to sleep immediately after the incident it was like cementing the memory in my mind for all time--otherwise there's no WAY I would recall it all so clearly ...a gift of the McClellan Cocktail is our outright WEIRDO reaction to a lot of medications, am I right or am I right?
But that was the final insult that began the cascade of events that led to my disability. So, lesson: BE ASSERTIVE AND STICK TO YOUR GUNS! ALWAYS! Doctors are not gods, they are people and YOU know YOU better than they do! If something makes you think, "Hmmm" SAY so! Doctors make mistakes, and when they do, it destroys peoples' lives. Don't let that happen to you. If you disagree with your doctor, no matter how NICE he or she is, or get a bad gut feeling about that person, do not hesitate to get another opinion. It's not like you're getting a car fixed. You only have one body...one life. It may suck a bit more than someone's who hasn't had the McClellan cocktail, but it's worth caring for! And for the record, no, I did not make money on the incident. There's an old adage among the medical community. If it's not charted it didn't happen. I'll let you take it from there. Nurses are easily bullied, especially in small town Catholic hospitals. If enzymes aren't run right away after a heart attack it can't be proved to have happened. If someone has brain damage on MRI and they only have a clean CT to prove they didn't have brain damage before, it's not good enough. Given a choice between helping a colleague stand up to another doctor or helping cover another doctor's butt, doctors will ALWAYS opt to help cover another doctor's butt, and that is why there are so many crappy, unsafe, disreputable doctors killing people in this country! They really like small to mid sized towns so beware and look up your doctor's record. If he's been sued for malpractice or disciplined by the State you can find that information online.
To return to what happened when I contacted people I knew from McClellan...
The health stuff among the people I contacted started sounding very familiar from case to case. SO many of us had had early term SA's (SA means spontaneous abortion-the medical term for a miscarriage) as opposed to elective abortion or terminated pregnancy...or the 1960's standard euphemism, D&C. Almost all of us had had at least a couple early term SA's, which is just plain unheard of as far as statistical significance goes, and they all happened with our pregnancies closest to when we'd been AT McClellan. As I've told my patients countless times when they grieve over miscarriages, often there is good reason for them, and in the time since I've started studying the chemicals we were exposed to at McClellan and the birth defects associated with them, I have no doubt that my own SA's were a mercy. Those chemicals are highly teratogenic. Its amazing how the reproductive systems in humans are so hard hit, from the organs themselves to multiple miscarriages to birth defects. I had issues, and lost my ability to have children which lost me one extremely significant relationship, maybe my most, and no one really knows what early loss of ovaries as well as the uterus does to women. I was barely thirty! That is a LONG time to be on unopposed estrogen. I know I have suffered from the loss of testosterone and that my entire endocrine system is FUBAR (nice military term, that). From thyroid to hypothalamus ..none of it works right, though my doctor is a "by the numbers" man, not realizing that over time organisms, especially humans, adapt. Those adaptations are not always healthy though, or for the best...just a struggle for homeostasis. If I wanted that I'd be on some numbing antidepressant and just stop experiencing my life all together. NO THANKS.
Worst is what they've allowed to happen to our children though. WE volunteered to serve, and like it or not we became property of the US military when we did so. Our kids never made that deal and it's just not right they THEY are suffering for OUR mistakes. I have little doubt that my oldest child has McClellan-related neurological and connective tissue issues, while my much younger child appears less affected, though not completely healthy either. Both have issues with bones and my elder child has spina bifida occulta with negative history in both his father's and my side of the family. I took plenty of folic acid before and during my pregnancy too, so it SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED!
So, thank you very much for the knowledge that my son works every day in excruciating, crushing pain, Monsanto--glad our pain and suffering has increased your damned profit margin and made life nice for whoever you paid off to keep the heartless and hapless VA in charge of our health and well being. And thanks to the lobbyist or other military-industrial complex enabler who got service members and their families EXCLUDED from both the Agent Orange settlement AND the Anniston, Alabama, v Monsanto settlement, and most of all thank YOU, Veteran's Administration for continuing to deny us the care and compensation you were COURT ORDERED TO PROVIDE by continuing to insist that proof of cause and effect does not exist, despite the fact it absolutely DOES exist, IN PUBLIC AND JUDICIAL RECORD NO LESS! ...or do you really expect us to believe Monsanto lost that long and hard-fought case against such a tiny little town in Alabama because they, the multi-national corporate GIANT, despite still swimming in billions of dollars from no bid contracts awarded to BLACKWATER which it also owns, could not afford lawyers powerful enough to take on little ol' Anniston, Alabama.
Without logic, compassion or a legal leg to stand upon the VA spits in the face of the judge who ordered that we be cared for and compensated based on the notion, CLEARLY disproved in Anniston v Monsanto, that no cause/effect exists between the chemicals leaked into the environment by Monsanto and the high instance of diseases, reproductive issues, cancers and premature death...therefore CONTINUING against all reason, logic and HUMAN DECENCY to sweep us and our suffering children under the rug like yesterday's spilled coffee grounds.
How long are we going to stand (or sit) silently and let them get away with it?