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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Emotional upheaval

I have had a sort of a traumatic evening that was completely unexpected, and which was almost totally the result of television. I watched the ABC evening news with interest because I had seen some of the "trailers" that related to Bob Woodward's return to the newsdesk after traumatic injuries in Iraq. He received traumatic brain injuries that kept him unconscious for over forty days, and which involved lengthy therapy. He seems to be doing very well, but his short visit to the evening news hour was gripping, in part because many of the symptoms that resulted from his injuries seemed so similar in nature to the symptoms that affected Janet in the first two weeks after she awoke after her surgery and strokes.

I found my self absolutely drawn to his one hour special this evening in which he dealt, not only with his own situation and therapy but with many others, some, much more severely injured than he, and some who were perhaps not more seriously injured but whose result was not as fortuitous. Two things drew me so seriously to these programs.

One, I have mentioned, that for many of these people, symptoms seemed so close to some of the things that affected Jan as a result of her stroke. Whole segments of vision seemed missing. What vision there is, is modified and sometimes seems untrustworthy. The varying muscular results, almost all of them more dramatic than Janet's, but she still is palsied so that she has great trouble hanging on to anything. (One doctor seemed to be trying to reassure her as he stated that he was pretty sure she didn’t' have Parkinson's Disease.) The evolution of the speaking problems of the varying patients was, in cases much more dramatic, but I recognize in Bob Woodruff's words about his own speech so many things that paralleled Janet's. I spent the entire program in tears.

The second thing was something that has jarred me for almost twenty years, and it was the inadequacy of care from the Veteran's hospitals. Some of it was excused on the premise that they had no way to prepare for so many traumatic brain injuries, and that therapies were "logically but unfortunately" not available in the more scattered areas of the country, but much of it mirrored stuff I have heard for years from friends who are retired military and disabled veterans. For more than twenty years it has been clear to any objective observer that the congress, every administration, and in fact, the country has been nickel and dime ing our obligations to those who served, and to whom promises were made clear back to the second world war.

Back in the early seventies, I was in a meeting with a congressman (regarding some grant stuff) that had become very friendly until, partly because the first Iran crisis was going on and we had hostages taken etc., veteran's care came up and I confronted this congressman about how budgets seemed to be shrinking and care was becoming so bureaucratic and I wondered how it could be explained.

"Dick", he said, " You can hardly imagine how concerned we all are, but everyone is living so much longer than was estimated by the (I would swear he said underwriters, but there must be another word) when the laws were written and the veterans and retirees, particularly from WWII and Korea are just eating up money at incredible rates. We want to support them, but we can't bankrupt the country to do it."

I said something at that time that changed his smile to a frown, removed him as a sponsor for my grant (and really irritated the colleague who was with me though he confessed after we left that he agreed. He just felt that it was not a diplomatic place to have been so emphatic (read mildly profane, I think my comment began with "Bullshit" and went downhill from there.) Polanco (United We Lay, I have never been able to make good links)posted on this subject last year, using her experience as a military dependent, and though there are lots of subjects wherein Polanco and I disagree, this is certainly not one of them. There are organizations like the DAV and VFW that have been fighting this fight for years and receiving polite smiles from the government as they do. If I were to get back to writing about politics, I would advocate the formation of an organization that would put this issue at the top of every election campaign for every party. Our entire nation should be ashamed if not actually humiliated at the treatment of veterans, especially of those who stayed with it to retire, or whose lives have been disrupted if not destroyed by military injuries. (Oh my! Back to bloviating! )


At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, Dick. Politicians are eager to shake hands with veterans and to triumph the nobility of armed service. But put their money where their mouth is, and support vets with the medical care and mental health care they need? Nope, they get lip service instead.

The same thing happens at the state level as well. The Utah state legislature recently praised the heroism of officers in ending a shooting at a shopping mall. But that same legislature gives officers only a fraction of retirement benefits that the legislature gives itself and other state employees. (Details are available at http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_5297800.)

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Kathleen said...

I agree with you 100%! Where is my sign? I'll put on my marching shoes again for this one!

Great post.

At 10:54 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

There still is not an emphatic explanation for Parkinson's. It may even be the result of multiple small strokes and even one stroke can cause similar symptoms.

Underwriters are called "risk management consultants" in big corporations (other than insurance companies.)

I didn't know that Mormons were allowed to say "Bullshit!"

And, yes, VA medical treatment can be iffy depending where you are in the country. Base closings did away with a lot of the best hospitals.

Maybe it's time for the USO to do some "benefit concerts" for civilians not only to raise money but to draw attention to the inadequate medical treatment for vets.

At 7:07 AM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

Patrick, I suspect that we are particularly not supposed to say Bullshit in congressmen's offices.


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