Monday, November 2, 2009

My VA Experience

Just like a recurring nightmare, I'm back. Been a couple of crazy days here in my little corner of the universe, and, unfortunately, my blog took a back seat.

On Friday, I had to take my dad to the VA hospital in Pittsburgh for a routine pooper snooper (colonoscopy). While I wasn't crazy about getting up at 3 a.m. in order to have him there in time for his appointment, I'm so glad I did. I had a great time.

How do you have a great time at a VA hospital you may be asking? Well, I guess it depends on what makes you happy in this life. For me, it was about the vets.

After getting my dad checked in and settled into his place in the short-procedure unit, I had a few hours to kill. Stop number one? Where else? The smoking shelter outside. This was my favorite place to be. Not only did it give me the opportunity to satisfy my nicotine craving, but the people there were great.

I had the privilege of striking up a short conversation with a few vets who were also partaking of tobacco. One was a black man who appeared to be in his late 50's, and the other was a white man who looked to be about 48. Both were there for medical care. In fact, the black man was being released later that day after a stay.

We talked about a myriad of things. The Steelers, their satisfaction with the care they had received, etc. I avoided the political issues of the day as I didn't want to ruin this precious time we were enjoying. I couldn't help but think that in some manner I was an honorary member of their respective units due to the fact that I was treated with such respect. If BHO says he was humbled to receive the Peace Prize, maybe he should talk to these vets. THAT is humbling and well worth every second.

After going to the waiting area and trying to cop a few z's before the hubby called and woke me up, I decided to explore other areas of the hospital. I headed to the cafeteria for a Diet Coke and took some time to read a few more pages of The Fountainhead. Not wanting to fall asleep in the cafeteria, I went to the store down the hall. I looked at all the merchandise available without buying anything (although I saw plenty I liked). Had to stay in motion to keep from crashing. But my heart and my thoughts were still out in the smoking shelter, so I headed back there.

My former conversation mates were gone. My heart sank. Then, checking the time, I decided to call my BOF, Amusing Bunni. It was so nice to finally be able to speak to her, and we chatted for about a half hour before it was time to go up and see if my dad was done. I will be the first to say that she is a real pistol! We laughed and expressed frustration over the way the country is going while relishing the time we were able to talk.

I headed back up the the ninth floor and was glad to see that Dad had returned from a procedure that would make me feel like I've been to prison. He was alert and hitting on the nurse while complaining about wanting to go home.

The nurse on duty was absolutely great. Pretty, outspoken, and funny, she made Dad's stay better with her radiant personality. She brought Dad a breakfast tray as he hadn't eaten since Wednesday and, being diabetic, he needed to eat. Dad was eating his food and saying how it really wasn't bad food for a hospital. The ray of sunshine at the nurse's station then told Dad to enjoy it now because, on orders from the VA, trays of food in short-procedure will be a thing of the past. Crackers and juice are going to be the standard because the VA muckety-mucks said that the beds need to be made empty faster. In other words, treat 'em and street 'em. I was appalled. If ANYONE should get red-carpet treatment in the healthcare industry, it's our veterans. To rush them out the door just screams disrespect in my eyes.

When it was finally time to make the trip home, I thanked the nurse for everything she did and headed out the door to the car. On my way out, I saw the black man I had seen on my first trip to the smoking shelter. Seeing him fumbling for a light, I gave him my Steeler lighter and told him to keep it as I had another. I saw the gratitude in his eyes not for the lighter, but for the respect and admiration I tried to show him. I left the VA on a high.

My only regret is that I don't live closer to the VA hospital. I guarantee that if I did, I'd be volunteering in any way I could. These guys are a great group, and the Pittsburgh VA gave excellent care to my dad. I know that this seems to be the exception in the realm of VA hospitals, but it should be the norm.

To all vets who have served this country: Thank you. You will always have my undying respect and gratitude, and you will always occupy a special place in my heart. God bless each of you.


bluepitbull said...

A positive experience at the VA Hospital!!

It's good that you were able to talk to the vets because they need someone to talk to.

Since I retired from the Army last spring, I've decided to bring Soldiers to the house for Thanksgiving.

Nice post.

blackandgoldfan said...

Thanks, blue. And thank you for your service to this great nation. What a great idea! Our soldiers (yourself included) are a great group. Bless you lots!!!

j summ said...

volunteering is a great idea. some of the guys are just grateful for someone to talk to. the message over the doors at our VA hospital says "through these doors lies the true cost of freedom". glad you are back, was beginning to worry about you.

blackandgoldfan said...

Those guys were awesome, jsumm. It's about a 2 hr. drive for me, so I can't really volunteer there. I think I might look into somewhere closer. Maybe it's just because my dad, grandfathers, 5 uncles, and numerous cousins have all served that it's near to my heart. It's sad that in some ways they're discarded and ignored by today's society.

No worries, but thanks for your service and concern. :-)

Bungalow Bill said...

It's nice being able to thank them for what they have been given--even if it's through a lighter.

blackandgoldfan said...

He was my favorite vet down there, BB. Just a wonderful man.

Anonymous said...

Great post, B&G.

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

Thank you Fan, It means so much!

Dr. Dave said...

A very nice post, B&G. Everyone should always treat Vets like they're gold.

blackandgoldfan said...

cbullitt: Thanks, pal. I had a great time with the vets!

blackandgoldfan said...

Odie: You don't know how much it meant to ME to be able to spend some time with our veterans. I'm the one indebted to them.

blackandgoldfan said...

Dr. Dave: It's the very least they deserve. I like to treat them like they're BLACK & GOLD! ;-D

Amusing Bunni said...

Ah, Denise, this was such a wonderful and heart felt post. I was worried about where you've been the last few days, but I figured you were really busy, and then the weekend holiday and all.

And, what a nice surprise to read about our phone call! I enjoyed talking to you SO much, and you are just as charming and real and smart in convo's as you are writing on here.

I'm happy you were able to brighten a Vet's Day.
It was kind of bittersweet I bet, because then you learn about the shameful way they are going to treat our Vets. I'm happy you're back, I survived today, but the next few day's it's gonna hit the fan. I will have some super interesting developments to tell you, no doubt.
Thanks again for the shout out and Link, Your the best. God Bless You and your Family.

blackandgoldfan said...

Bunni: It was a blast to talk to you! And the shout out is not a problem at all. You're my BOF, for crying out loud!

It definitely is a bittersweet time when you see how SOME people treat our vets in a place where they should be getting top of the line care and compassion. They've sacrificed so much for people they don't know all in the name of freedom. Those who will disrepect their service are scumbags.

I keep praying that things go well for you. Remember: Wear protection when it hits the fan. You don't want to be splattered! :-D