Tag Archives: gulf war

VA Healthcare Should Change


Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think VA hospitals should be called hospitals because they are not like any other hospital I have ever been in. About ninety percent are great people but there are some employees that are just a mystery to me how it is they ever got into the medical field. They obviously don’t like people or taking care of them and they are very angry. There are doctors who refuse now to give people with chronic pain like myself anything that helps with the pain claiming that too many veterans have committed suicide. However, I fail to see how that can happen if they are the ones dispensing the medicine. It’s a crazy environment at times.

The first VA hospital I was in was in Minneapolis. I had my back surgery there. They did fusion on my back and then they went into my spine, without permission, and they said they enlarged the cavity due to stenosis. Then when I left the hospital they forgot to refer me to physical therapy and so that is part of the reason why my back is so bad.  But while I was there some strange things happened. The day after the surgery a young man came into my room and said it’s time for your appointment, get into the chair. I said, “I just had back surgery and I can’t walk.” So he said, “Hey, Charlie, come here and help me with this guy he can’t walk – we need to get the sling.” Now if I had not said that I did not now of any appointments he would have hoisted me out of bed too soon and could have crippled me  for life is what the doctor told him. I found out later that he had just gotten into an argument with the janitor and he got the wrong room. The janitor said he was an asshole. I think I would concur.

Then I had trouble urinating so they wanted to put a catheter in me. I said okay and the nurse didn’t put any lube on the end of the thing and shoved it in my poor member hard and I screamed and she said, “Oh stop being such a baby.” I said, “Hey, how about I shove that up your…” well you get the idea. Needless to say me and nurse ratchet parted ways and they got me a new nurse.

Then also after I got out of the hospital the neurologist forgot to order physical therapy. And then when I called in and told my doctor he said to walk. I said, “It’s extremely icey out and cold and I can’t walk in that shit because it makes me hurt and I am afraid I will fall. I do after all have a lot of arthritic condtions. ” The doctor didn’t care so I called the neurologist and he says, “You should be in pt -you mean your doctor didn’t put you int physical therapy?” So then I went round and round between those two about whose job it was to assign physical therapy and I never ended up getting it which at the time I did not reaiize how much that would messs me up further.

The next day I was made to get up and walk around which I know you have to do. I have learned that the last thing you want to do is lay around with back pain. I try to stay active but they did what they just did to me in Ann Arbor – they pushed me too hard too fast. They didn’t believe me when I told them how much it hurt and that I thought they were pushing me too hard. Where am at now is much better. They explained to me that this is a rehabilitation center and that the VA uses forced physical therapy and I believe that. They go, “Come on, push it – go, come on – you can do it.” And if you don’t do it then they get short with you and make you feel like a wimp just like boot camp all over again. Except now – I’m not in the military anymore. So why should I be made to feel like I re-enlisted every time I go to a VA hospital?  Should I suit up and get on my boots again every time or could I possibly be treated with just a little human dignity and respect. Don’t think it’s a lot to ask for all of us.

The next time was in Las Vegas. I had a strict Phillipino nurse who didn’t want me to take pain meds. Her logic was that if I slept during the day I must not be in that much pain. She didn’t realize I had only gotten about four hours of sleep.  That was the first time I learned how to use a patient advocate but all they did was give her a stern talking to. Big deal.

Then I was back in Wisconsin and got yelled at for having pain again. I brought a pamphlet into the room with me that I found in the VA waiting room that said, “Speak UP!” It was great. It was all about speaking up if you are in pain. So when he said no I showed him the pamphlet so he increased my pan meds to a stronger one and I am not going to say what because I am sure that they will read this or some mother of a veteran or wife in Cleveland or something will be e-mailing me about how I should not take those drugs! But I was pain free for the first time in a long time. for the most part and that’s all I ask for. I know that I am never going to be down to zero pain level but I am tired of living up at seven to ten.

So then when I got down to Florida I was sent to the pain clinic where this doctor told me that Florida was tired of being considered the pain capitol of the country and would not be giving me any more narcotics for pain. They sited some news stories about veterans commiting suicide with narcotics. I never saw that story and got the same damn speech this last time four years later from the pain clinic here in Michigan. I’ll be damned if I’ve seen this story. I searched for it online and all I could find was some sporadic suicides by narcotics, but not ilke the epedemic they make it sound like. They want to use the ‘new age’ way of curing with a friendly smile and a shaking of the head they wave away and turn up their noses at anything that might actually help me. They then prescribed citalopram which I told them I did not like and would not take again because it made me more depressed and does not help with pain but they did it anyway. Of course. God forbid that the patient have rights at a VA facility as a veteran with a bunch of dumbledorfs who could not find their ass with two hands, a flashlight, and a mother-fucking search team.

And to top it all off – they put some wonderful things about me in my record. Apparently it is a crime to move from one city to another when you are going to a pain clinic because then you are using “multiple pharmacies” and then I have gone to several providers seeking narcotics. What they did not write is that I did not break the law. I moved up from FL in August of 2015. I went to an ER and he prescribed enough to get me to my provider. Then he prescribed me enough to get me to my pain clinic and I have been hospitalized twice and told pain clinic doctor this but he sees so many patients that he has no idea about me and assumed the VA was right and told the he agreed and now I have no idea if I can go to a pain clinic or not. I am going to go ape-shit on somebody if they leave me with nothing.

This may sound like a conspiracy theory and you can discard if you want but what I really think is happening is that they are discarding veterans with pain from the Gulf War just like they did the Vietnam veterans because they don’t want to admit to their mistakes and on top of that – the whole veterans suicide theory is bullshit. I think they want us to commit suicide from lack of pain relief and nights of fitful and lack of sleep. Pulling your hair out because you hurt so much so you either take a handful of something non narcotic like the VA’s favorit go to – Neurontin or the generic name Gabapentin and say goodnight or you blow your head off. It’s a victory for the US Government because that is one less veteran they have to treat and possibly pay for the shit we were exposed to.

I tell you fellow veterans – DO NOT GIVE UP THE FIGHT!! Hold on and we have to stick together. We can’t beat them alone, but together we are an army and that’s exactly what they want. We need to coordinate with the old duded from Nam and figure out a way to get our broken asses up to the capitol to protest and there is a lot of good research being done at Georgetown so maybe while we arae there we can go by there and get some godamn answers! I am sick of the bullshit. It’s time to get some feet on the ground out there in the nation’s capital and protest the treatment of veterans with Gulf War Syndrome. We could make the press and stay there until we get what we need to get by. I am calling the fucking VA on their bullshit!

I want to hear from you out there dear readers. I know I can’t be the only veteran who feels this way. I want to hear your experiences and maybe we can get together some petition or something. They have some goo stuff online for that these days. But we need a physical presence in D.C. to make a difference. I know that people read this blog so I need to hear from you. E-mail me at rockstarinart@gmail.com and say hey, Dave – we need to do this shit and let’s figure it out. I don’t have any money but I do have a six year pending claim and finally got an attorney and they just filed a brief to try and get me my shit so if I do I will be buying a Winnebago and heading up there and I hope that somebody will be joining me. If not I will roll up in my chair out there and stay until I am heard. Like the guy from the movie ‘Born on the Fourth of July.” Ron Kovic. I will tell them, “In the great words of Ron Kovic, I am your yankee doodle dandy on wheels, I am your sad reminder of war that nobody wants to face or something like that.”  I am paraphrasing because I forgot and I am too damn tired and lazy and in pain to look it up.

I am now in a nursing home and unable to walk. Haven’t taken a dump in two weeks and now I have to catheterize my pecker when I am in too much pain to punch out a piss because my prostrate is too damn swollen. I don’t know if I will be here a week or a year but I am not giving up.

I have tried it all. I contacted my senators. I wrote to the President and I even called the big poobah himself, the honorable secretary Bob. I got a few letters saying how concerned they were for me and how much they want our veterans to get the help they need and their hearts all go out to me and wish me well. I think it’s a form letter that they all have with a rubber signature stamp. I got a few calls when I contacted Secretary Bob and they tried to help but it’s like they don’t get it. They are healthy and they don’t seem to understand what is like for those of us with multiple conditions that make it impossible for us to work and causes so many side effects from multiple medications and some Gulf War vets have even got MS or Lupus or ALS and so far I thank the lord that i don’t have that at least, but I don’t know what the future brings and I know one thing is for sure – I will not be going to the VA hospitals ever again. I am so glad I have Medicaid after my separation.

So here’s my final thought on a solution. Do away with VA health care all together and give us all the best health plan in the country and all veterans are given preferential treatment at all hospitals in our country and if they are in pain they get what they need and if they want tests – they get the damn tests and we might even find a damned cure for this curse of a disease ! but then I woke up.

Contact Dave now with your thoughts on this article if you are a Gulf War veteran or family member of one at rockstarinart@gmail.com.

The Kurdish Catastrophe


daveinhospRecently I have been in the hospital after having a series of mini-strokes or T.I.A.’s. They are brought on from high blood pressure and stress and my entire right side went numb. The good news is that there is no permanent damage, but it is a long recovery because I am still very weak. I am recovering in an assisted living facility. The bad news is that it could be the sign of a regular stroke coming or an underlying disease. I am hoping it’s neither. However, while in the hospital I met a woman who worked in housekeeping and she noticed I had a Desert Storm veteran hat and she said my brother was in that war and never came home. I am constantly reminded of the fact that no matter how low my depression may get, no matter how bad my pain, no matter how bad my problems – there is always someone else who either has it worse or is no longer with us.

The world is full of pain and suffering which lives next door to beauty and passion. It’s been hard for me to see the beauty and passion in things lately with some of the things I have gone through in recent months. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and get caught up in self-pity, but I think that it’s important to try to find a way to rise above all that and do my very best to hold my head high even though it hurts, to smile in the face of adversity, and to laugh when I just feel like crying all day. I refuse to let the bastards who put me in this condition win. I will have my day in court and that day is coming in June – next month. I can hardly wait. My very first hearing with the VA in Detroit.

But getting back to the housekeeper in the hospital; her brother was in the Navy and he supposedly fell of the back of a jeep in Guam and was killed. Her family has always suspected this may have been a cover story for some foul play, but either way he is gone and it was during the war and he saw his share of the war. She gave me the following poem to publish and she said that General Colin Powell, Army (Retired), himself, read it and gave him an award for it posthumously. It is no wonder because it is truly inspiring.

The Kurdish Catastrophe
by CM2 Douglas Lanning, USN
May 1991
US Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 133
Zakho, Iraq

SADDAMI can’t explain all that I’ve seen, but I will do my best to say what I mean

The glow on their faces is almost enough, but you can still tell they’ve had it rough.

You look around, it seems so unreal, and you try to imagine how they must feel.

We came to provide comfort to the people here, they seem to trust us – it’s him they fear.

african american soldier in iraq_soldier_criesThe leader of so many – Saddam Hussein, has caused their suffering and their pain.

From the land mines that he placed all over the place, to the napalm burns and blisters on a young child’s face.

From the people living out in the street, to the ones in town without power and heat.

From the people washing clothes in the muddy waters, to the many who had to bury their own sons and daughters.

amputeeYou see a child selling whatever he can, all of this and more because of the man.

I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s all really all true, think about it a second, I’m not even through.

I’ve been to the hospital to visit a small boy, who picked up a hand grenade, thought it was a toy.

tankerYou cannot blame him, he’s just a curious kid, I can still remember vividly what his new toy did.

I really can’t believe they were able to save his hand, then I also can’t believe this was once all beautiful land.

The mountains from a distance, an eye-catching sight, they really are beautiful with their snow caps of white.

FE_DA_130319IraqIt’s just sad to think all of the people up there, a quarter million people, but he doesn’t seem to care.

When our operation is finally through, I cannot help but wonder what the people are gonna do.

Will they go on living the way they were before, or will the one man, their leader, kill even more?

I guess that is something only time will tell, from my observation, they’ve been through living hell.

 

Fighting the Pain and the V.A.


gulffires3  This has been a strange year for me so far. In some ways it was really great, but again my health has stopped me from enjoying life the way I want to. My daughter gave birth to my grandson, Colton James, two months ago and in April I published my first book. You would think I would be really happy, and I am trying, but pain is a real big problem and I keep having to go to the hospital.

Since I moved to Florida at the end of 2012 I have noticed that the V.A. here is just not really that together. I had my share of problems everywhere I have lived, but Florida is just really screwed up for the most part. I sgulffires2eem to have to fight with clerks, nurses, and doctors – sometimes on a daily basis. I should not have to do this. I don’t have a lot of fight left in me.

Today is a scary day. I am fighting to breath and fighting severe pain from my neck to my feet. gulffires1I just got a catheter taken out, but now I am again having to push hard to urinate and I seem to have to go every five minutes. I don’t sleep much these days; maybe three or four hours if I’m lucky. After a few days of this I pass out for about six hours and then I wake up with chest pain and trouble catching my breath.

In case you were wondering where I have been and why I haven’t been writing here I think the last paragraph sums it up. I also have been in the hospital for various serious issues six times this year. I just don’t really have a lot left to say sometimes. It’s hard to write when you feel like you’re dying.

I can’t help but wonder if this is maybe what the VA wants. I am a problem child to them. Every time I go to a doctor they are like, “Okay, tell me what your priorities are – I only have so much time.”

I understand thamean doc 2t other veterans are waiting and I don’t want to take up too much time, but this last time I asked for a longer appointment and the clerk assured me that the doc would take as long as I needed. Of course, he was wrong. So it would be much easier if I passed on than to take the time to actually deal with me. I also have a claim for service-connection so I am a big problem to them. They don’t want to pay me what I deserve and what my family does for sure because they are the ones who care for me and watch my back, they deserve it. My time is short, I know that, but they deserve something for taking care of me daily. My wife has health issues too, but yet she does everything for me and I am helpless to do anything about that.

This was taken on a day when I was having severe pain and nothing seemed to work. But I made it and I am just documenting it - not looking for anyone's pity. Do not pity me - just ask your congressman, your physicians, the VA or whoever is supposed to be working on trying to help vets with symptoms of Gulf War Illness. And I also want to say that I am not complaining. I am merely trying to make a point. I talk with so many vets that say they don't know where to turn and I am just trying to use myself as an example of a vet with the same problems. I have been told by certain individuals that I would rather not name because I don't want to implicate any one organization. Let's just say that certain people working at vet orgs have conflicting views with the way things are supposed to be according to the mandates or regulations or press blurbs or whatever you want to call them - the sec of the VA says that he wants to help us and that's great - but then I am told by certain people that it would take years to help me and that I am looking at conspiracy stuff online and getting excited about that. I have not dilusions about what happened to me. I was obviously exposed to something that made me unable to be employed at the age of 38. I would say that is a good reason to be inquiring why. I have a letter from the VA that states that they do take responsibility for the rare condition I have called Polymyalgia Rhematica or PMR. (look up on wikipedia) if you don't know what it is - it basically makes my joints hurt all the time especially when it is raining or snowing etc.. and on top of that I have arthritis, and fibromyalgia. I just want to be seen by specialists. I have an appt with a new doc next week and I am hopeful that I can be sent to places like Wash DC or JAX, Fl = there are supposed to be testing places for gulf war illness there. I took the test for GWI and then they wanted me to take it again for some reason. I can't afford to go to all these appt's. on the pension I get. The gas is too expensive and now with sequestration I can't get my travel pay! But I am trying to remain positive.Thanks for all the support and I know that you guys are going through it too - I am thinking of you first - I want you to know that. Of course, not all the time, this day I certainly wasnt, but my hope is that this blog might inspire more vets to try and get the help they need. More on my next post! God bless...
This was taken on a day when I was having severe pain and nothing seemed to work. But I made it and I am just documenting it – not looking for anyone’s pity. Do not pity me – just ask your congressman, your physicians, the VA or whoever is supposed to be working on trying to help vets with symptoms of Gulf War Illness. And I also want to say that I am not complaining. I am merely trying to make a point. I talk with so many vets that say they don’t know where to turn and I am just trying to use myself as an example of a vet with the same problems. I have been told by certain individuals that I would rather not name because I don’t want to implicate any one organization. Let’s just say that certain people working at vet orgs have conflicting views with the way things are supposed to be according to the mandates or regulations or press blurbs or whatever you want to call them – the sec of the VA says that he wants to help us and that’s great – but then I am told by certain people that it would take years to help me and that I am looking at conspiracy stuff online and getting excited about that. I have not dilusions about what happened to me. I was obviously exposed to something that made me unable to be employed at the age of 38. I would say that is a good reason to be inquiring why. I have a letter from the VA that states that they do take responsibility for the rare condition I have called Polymyalgia Rhematica or PMR. (look up on wikipedia) if you don’t know what it is – it basically makes my joints hurt all the time especially when it is raining or snowing etc.. and on top of that I have arthritis, and fibromyalgia. I just want to be seen by specialists. I have an appt with a new doc next week and I am hopeful that I can be sent to places like Wash DC or JAX, Fl = there are supposed to be testing places for gulf war illness there. I took the test for GWI and then they wanted me to take it again for some reason. I can’t afford to go to all these appt’s. on the pension I get. The gas is too expensive and now with sequestration I can’t get my travel pay! But I am trying to remain positive.Thanks for all the support and I know that you guys are going through it too – I am thinking of you first – I want you to know that. Of course, not all the time, this day I certainly wasnt, but my hope is that this blog might inspire more vets to try and get the help they need. More on my next post! God bless…

I recently tried to receive home health care and I got called by a nurse practitioner who had a problem with my request. She said I was too young. I agree, I said, but I didn’t choose to be sick. I have so many issues that I have to carry around a list of meds and conditions. She was so rude. She asked me a series of questions about whether or not I was in diapers and things like that. I think she missed her calling as a drill sergeant. She kept harping on my age and I have heard it before. Kids get cancer – why can’t I have gulf war illness? I was, after all, in the gulf war! If you go to the website for home health care at the Orlando VA they state that age does not matter. I guess she didn’t get the memo. Typical.

 

A Day in the Life


pain6It’s not easy to bare your soul and let complete strangers into your life. I realize that this blog isn’t terribly popular, but this is on here as long as I don’t delete it indefinitely and anyone can view it. That being said, I want to let you into my life and what I am going through. I also want to tell you that I know that some of you may read this and think I am whining, looking for attention, or maybe trying to get sympathy. That is definitely not the case. I cannot emphasize this enough. This blog has never been about me. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want help, but I am not a selfish person and I would like to think that my creative gifts are being used to help others, not just myself. If my blog can in any way help even one other veteran get the benefits they deserve than I should think GIV has accomplished something and would hope it continues.
painThere is a serious injustice in the world today. When I joined the military in 1988 I was only 20. I never gave any thought to the government’s control over me or the fact that when I was older and not able to fight that maybe I would be a discarded veteran at the mercy of a bureaucracy like the Veteran’s Affairs. As I have said before, when I say this I know there are many great workers, some of which are veterans themselves who are trying to do their best. I am referring to the people who run the VA at the top echelon. The decision makers and policy makers. The civilian-contracted corporations who provide cut-rate medicines, medical equipment, medical services, and preside over compensation exams and more. In short, the part that is broken and needs fixing. This is where my anger at the system lies. I also don’t claim to be an expert on the subject. I am still learning every day. I am constantly asking questions and learning from other veterans. Especially our Vietnam, Korean War and WWII vets who have been fighting for a better VA for years. Without them we might not even have a VA.
Now, as I said before, I am letting you into a glimpse of my life that I don’t usually tell many people about for several reasons. One of them is that most people have their own problems and don’t want to hear mine. Since you’re still here reading this I will assume you’re okay with it. Another one is that I believe I have been conditioned by doctors and society to not tell anyone everything because everyone is in such a hurry these days and maybe because they don’t know how to deal with me. In the five years I have been with VA health care I have not had a doctor who could take the time to listen to my medical problems and try and work with me the way a civilian doc would (as it used to be when I was making 50k a year as an Art Director and had very good insurance). They don’t want to hear everything and they certainly have not been interested in doing any of the things that are listed as advice on the VA website such as “work with your healthcare team.” Or ask your healthcare team this or that question. I have tried this and it rarely gets more than a strange look and a question about me wanting to see mental health because they think I’m crazy. I have been so confused about what the VA is thinking when they post these things that are on the website, give out pamphlets, and blog about all these lofty ideals and concepts that in reality just don’t seem to happen. (at least not for me anyway).
pain3I have talked with my doctor and nurses about how much pain I am in and they just keep telling me that there is no solution, but to take pain medications. I have no problem with that and I have come to the realization that I may have to take them the rest of my life due to the overwhelming amount of pain I am in. But, if there were a way that I could survive without them I am all for it. I am not some scumbag sitting around plotting ways to get high. I sometimes feel that is the way I am being viewed if the subject comes up and by what is being said to me. However, the doctor is the one who is responsible ultimately if they do not provide treatment alternatives. For example; I went to a rheumatologist about a month ago. I was told by my main provider in April that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Then at the rheumatologist she says no. I asked why my doctor said that and she did not know. I was confused. Apparently they have not or will not communicate about it. As always I am in awe of this lack of communication and the lack of concern that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing on all levels of the VA. So next the rheumatologist says that she wants to know what is wrong with me. So I go over all the many problems I am dealing with on a regular daily basis and she tells me to stop halfway through – as usual not even my doctors want to pain4actually hear it all. (I guess I complain too much. But they asked, right? So I told them.) Next she says some stuff about how my x-rays showed I have extensive arthritis throughout my body. She said the only way to deal with it is pain medications. She offered to give me a shot of cortisone. (which rarely has worked in the past). She asked me where I wanted it and I said I would like to try my knees because they hurt bad a lot of the time, especially at night. She did it and no help. She told me to call in a few months and set up another appointment to have another cortisone shot. I was so confused about this lack of help that I just sat there looking at her until she told me to leave. This was the appointment I had been looking forward to for months and no help. The other thing that bothered me about the visit was I asked about arthritis medicines and she said, “Like what?” I just throw my hands up. I know there are arthritis medicines, but I just asked and she didn’t know or didn’t want to talk about them or god knows what this doctor is saying or doing and that’s pretty much where I stand with every single doctor I have ever met at the VA. I have never felt like they have my best interest in mind or they could care less whether or I live or die as long as they keep their job. This just makes me want to give up, but I won’t. I will keep on fighting until hopefully some day I may be able to either see a doctor outside the V.A. or I can say that I am actually happy with the treatment I receive at the Veteran’s Affairs.
pain5Perhaps it’s not the VA. I don’t know. Maybe the entire medical establishment is in a “who gives a shit” state-of-mind due to recent changes with Obamacare and Malpractice suits, rampant drug abuse… Whatever the problem is I guess it’s a terrible time to have serious medical problems! (what was I thinking by going to war!) Before I had all these issues I felt bad for people like me, but I could never truly understand how badly it affects your every day life until it actually happened to me. It affects every asset you have – your weight, your body, your mind, your spirit, your values – it takes all you got to get through it and the movie can only end badly.
My life is depressing and I try to keep upbeat, because I have a family. I am a man who has always been tough and tried to do my best to be a good dad and husband. My wife had a rough life. She grew up in a small town in Florida with not much money and she was abused by her first husband and so were her two boys. When I first met her I was still in the service. I was stationed in the small town she grew up in. She had three kids when I met her and she dreamed of meeting somebody some day. I am glad I could make that dream come true. I had been drinking heavily when I met her and I promised here I would stop and I did. I’ve been sober for 20 years aside from when my Dad died – I raised a few for him. I had no problem raising her kids as my own and that’s what we did. The kids are all grown up now, my daughter, the youngest – just turned 18.
pain7Now, I am 45 and every day seems worse than the last. I am going to start with the last weekend. It’s Sunday afternoon to you, but in reality to me it’s more like Sunday morning. I don’t always have the ability to sleep so I never know from day to day what my schedule will be. Let’s start with Saturday. I started having severe pain in the afternoon. I hadn’t slept more than four hours the night before and maybe a couple of ten minute cat naps here and there. The severe pain is about an 8 on the scale to start with and gradually works it way up to a 10 on that pain scale the docs love so much. If I could go higher it would go up to more like a 20. (keep in mind this is with two different types of painkillers.) Sometimes it comes down to about a 4 or 5 at the lowest, but that doesn’t usually last long.
pain8The pain starts usually in my thighs. It feels as though a piano wire is being wrapped around the meat of my thighs. I am used to it happening every day so I try to ignore it. I do whatever I can to keep my mind off of it. I read, I listen to music, watch a movie, try to talk to my wife or daughter, I surf the internet or I write. I mostly write. I am trying to finish a book I am writing and I work on this blog. Anything to not have to think about the pain.
pain9The pain in my lower back is always there. It hardly ever completely goes away. I do stretching exercises twice a day to try and keep it loose. This has helped my posture and maybe in some other areas, but the pain has not gone away. I also have stretching exercises I just started for my shoulders. (all my joints are in pain every day due to fibromyalgia, arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica). The pain in my back gets worse and worse as I move around. I don’t work (disabled) so this is just daily movement to try and make meals, grooming, dressing, etc… and I try my best to try and do slow purposeful movements as I was advised in physical therapy – keeping in mind how I used my body. I was advised to do certain things that may help you if you have this problem – I have been just recently buttoning up shirts ahead of time before putting them on or putting on a belt ahead of time in pants etc.. that way I don’t have to reach, although I mostly where loose fitting, easy to put on clothes.
pain10I am usually able to handle the pain during the afternoon because I have been living with it for years. I used to work with it and I tried my best to ignore it when I was younger. However, when I got older it just seemed to beat me down. I have a high tolerance for pain and I don’t usually talk about it so this is hard to write.
On top of the pain I fight the mental problems which I think is the hardest thing. I am fighting depression, anxiety, and a mood disorder. I wonder why? I don’t like crowds, I don’t always do well talking with others and I get pissed sometimes – so sue me. I don’t know who wouldn’t be pissed if they had to live in pain, couldn’t work, and was broke all the time. I live off a VA pension and I have been waiting five years to try and get the service-connection I know I deserve that would give me twice the amount of money I am getting now. If you don’t like what I am saying or you don’t think I have a right to complain I would be happy to trade places with any of you who are not as sick as me and have a job any day of the week with no questions asked. Ever see the movie with Eddie Murphy – Trading Places?
Moving on, about dinnertime, I am getting the full pain gamut that I havpain11e daily. My guess is because the temperature is dropping. I think arthritis is a lot of my problem because temp. changes are a big factor in my pain level. I start getting severe, sharp pain in my knees, I feel like there’s pins and needles in the top of my feet, and my neck and shoulders hurt. During this time I am also dealing with some other problems. I have chronic diarrhea or IBS. I have a constant ringing in my ears or tinnitus – this is just in the last few months. (no cure for that). As the night goes on the hissing in my ears also seems to gradually get worse. I have no idea why. I also have stomach cramps up under my left rib cage and I don’t know why that is either. I have told doctors and they don’t know either. Of course they also haven’t offered to try and find out why by testing.
pain12So I am dealing with all this pain and I am always tired, but I can’t sleep as much as I may try. Saturday night I tried to relax because I hadn’t gotten much sleep for a while. Four hours is not much, but that’s better than nothing which also happens. I try and relax and watch a movie or listen to music. I played a video game on my PS2. I tried laying down about 10:00 PM. I fixed up my pillows so that I am sitting up because I have sleep apnea and I am afraid that since I can’t handle sleeping with the mask on that I might die in my sleep if I lay flat. The reality is that I don’t think it matters. I wake up gasping for air, my heart beating really fast and I am always constantly thirsty and tired. I still can’t sleep after 20 minutes.
So I try and watch something on television. There’s not much on basic cable after 10pm. I can’t afford to buy more channels or rent movies or any of the extras that most people enjoy. My friends ask me if I used the DV-R to record a show and I say I have never been able to afford one. This is life without a job. I don’t have HBO, I don’t have any extras – I just am lucky to have a roof over my head and clothes on my back. Three years ago I was homeless. I am thankful for what I have, but on nights like last night it would’ve been nice to have something to keep my mind occupied. But I try and get into some old black and white movie.
pain13By 2 AM I am going crazy. I try listening to an audio book, but I can’t concentrate. My wife and I don’t sleep in the same room. She is sick too. She gets SSI and she has daily stomach problems to deal with thanks to a botched ulcer surgery. I am up most of the time anyways, but she doesn’t like our mattress. We haven’t been healthy enough to make love in years either so it’s not that big of a deal. She is asleep sort of. I hear her get up often. We both don’t sleep anywhere as much as we used to. I lay in my bed and notice that the ongoing sea of crickets chirping in my ears has gotten worse. I am really tired now. I can’t stand it. The pain makes it so that I can’t possibly get comfortable. I have taken the daily dosage of pain medication so I have no outlet there. I decide that I have no choice but to take a sleeping pill. They’re prescription, but when I take them I tend to sleep so heavily that I am seriously afraid of dying in my sleep due to the sleep apnea which causes heart attacks and strokes. It’s a catch-22, but I try and avoid them when I can. I would hate for my family to find me dead.
pain14I woke up this afternoon at noon. I slept from 5:30 AM to noon. (six and a half hours). This is about as much as I can sleep. This is a typical cycle for me. I average about 4-5 hours of sleep all week and then by the weekend my body is craving sleep so much that I have to take a sleeping pill and get an extra hour. I don’t know why – I also have chronic fatigue syndrome. This makes me tired all the time.
So now it’s about 7 PM, Sunday evening and the whole vicious circle continues. Another day and more pain, another restless night, and more wondering how it’s all going to end if ever.
I want to mention that I also have some other problems I deal with daily. They may be considered minor things, but in the scheme of things when you are dealing with a lot of medical issues these things certainly can hinder everything else. I have to take my blood pressure every day for hypertension. Not a big thing for me. I take a couple of meds for this too. My BP is usually higher when in pain. I also have elevated white blood cell count. I have no spleen so I am told this is normal, but I have heard that many veterans who were in the gulf have this. It concerns me, but I doubt it concerns anyone else. When I wake up in the morning my body is asleep. My legs, my hands, my arms all have to be woke up – they’re cold. My hands are curled up in a ball. I have carpal tunnel syndrome too. (not a big deal considering the other things.) I have trouble walking as well and walk with a walker. I can’t walk very far before very severe pain sets in and I have to rest. I have trouble sitting or laying down for a long time and have to stand or move around a little bit so I am up and down all the time.
pain15I also have a serious problem with bright lights and sunlight. I don’t like it. It gives me headaches. I also deal with severe headaches that can come on at any time and just are the kind of headaches that knock you on your ass.
In addition, I can’t stand the smell of chemicals such as common household cleaners, perfume or cologne, or bleach or anything like that. I start to cough and sneeze and get a headache from that. I have asthma and COPD and take several inhalers daily so I’m guessing it’s this or some sort of effect from some sort of exposure. I may be leaving things out even because I never know what’s next for me. I don’t like it and I don’t want it, but the fact is that I seem to be having a lot of compounding problems for the last five years and I never know what’s coming next. Throw the flu or a cold in the mix and I am wiped out for days.
pain16Well, this is a day in the life for me. I have been brutally honest and I know that if you are still reading this and you don’t know have these type of problems it may be hard to understand. You may be thinking that I am complaining or that I’m not thinking about the people that are worse than me. That’s not true at all. Those thoughts keep me going all the time. I know that it could always be worse and it most likely will. I am documenting my experiences as a veteran of the Gulf War. I have Gulf War Illness or Gulf War Syndrome –- whatever you want to call it and all I know is that some day it will be the end of me and none of that will matter. Perhaps it will matter to future generations and some day we will stop subjecting our kids to these horrific mistakes that could have been avoided. Recently there has been a lot of testing done and it looks like we are closer to getting better treatment possibly — it only took 23 years to prove it’s not psychological. 75,000 people could have told you that a long time ago.

The Burn Pit Registry


burnpitRecently the president approved a new burn pit registry for veterans who were exposed to burn pit fumes in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is in order to keep track of the veterans who were around the pits and to notify them of new treatments and monitor their existing health problems and health history. This is a long over-due step in the right direction. The provision was strongly supported by the Disabled American Veterans and other veteran’s organizations and is part of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act. Many veterans lived and worked in and amongst burn areas and it was painfully obvious that health risks were there, but as always following orders is what the military members do. For the troops deployed in support of contingency operations in a location where a burn pit was used are encouraged to register as well.
The National Adjutant of the DAV said, “This is a long overdue step in the right direction.” This same legislation also ensures the VA provide a casket or urn for veterans with no known next of kin and sets aside funds for a military cemetery in the Philippines.
burnpit2In addition the president also signed legislation that will give veterans access to better resources to achieve a quality education. It is called the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunites for Veterans Act.
For more information about how to register for the burn pit registry:
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/action-plan.asp

As of this post I don’t believe the registry is ready yet, but the VA is working on it and if you have questions you can contact your medical facilities’ Environmental Hazards Coordinator.

PTSD Dogs are a Veteran’s Best Friend


dogs1There is scientific proof that people with pets live longer. They also help you lift your mood, help to relieve stress, and provide emotional support. Personally, I like the fact that my dog doesn’t talk back and loves me unconditionally. Not only that he is always happy to see me. I know that since I got my dog a few months ago my mood has improved with him around. He is a very smart dog and loving too.
For veterans who suffer from various mental conditions such as PTSD it can be a great step in the right direction and provide you with therapy at home and everywhere you go because service dogs are allowed anywhere. All you have to do is talk with your mental health team at the VA and it is possible you might qualify for a service dog or emotional-support dog. In addition, you may be giving a dog a home that might otherwise be put down. I think that’s a definite win-win situation.
dogs2These dogs can help bring feelings of love, companionship, get you out of the house, and they are a great way to meet new people. The dogs are well-trained and used to taking orders. They are also very fun. If you are able to do physical things they can be trained to catch a frisbee or a ball which is a blast at the park.
dogs3Recovering from PTSD is no easy task, but these dogs have been known to literally save the lives of many veterans. If you see one with a service dog just ask them and they will tell you. The last time I talked to a Vietnam veteran with one he said that his wife died and he was very lonely and that’s when the PTSD started to get worse. He told his mental health team and they got him a dog. He told me that before that he was seriously thinking of suicide. He was smiling and petting the dog like it was his angel. I was almost in tears because I love it when these therapies work for my fellow veterans.
dogs4Have you ever felt uncomfortable in crowds or felt uneasy standing close to a stranger? Have you scanned a building for danger? Evidence-based treatments have proved that these dogs can help you deal with some parts of living with PTSD and you no longer will feel uncomfortable in these situations.
Of course, there are some people who still feel uncomfortable. For example, the dog may keep people from coming too close so that you could become dependant on the dog to provide security. success comes when the veteran trains the dog to allow certain people closer. I have heard from one veteran that he didn’t care for the dog because it would not allow him to branch out more, but he did learn from it somewhat and he was able to do more on his own and gave the dog back to help another veteran. Like any other therapy, everyone is different. However, on the whole, this is a great program for most.
What’s the difference between service dogs and emotional-support dogs? A service dog is one that is trained to do specific tasks for disabled veterans. They are able to pick up things, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. They even can be trained to get dangerous objects out of the way in case of seizure.
dogs5An emotional support dog is the one used for veterans with PTSD. They provide protection, give emotional support, or they can be a companion, your best buddy. They are also called comfort or support dogs. Usually a regular pet can be your emotional support dog if a mental health provider writes you a letter stating that the owner has a mental health condition or disability and needs the dog’s help for treatment.
The emotional support dog is not always allowed in all public spaces such as restaurants or stores, but in some cases you can get permission to have them in places such as an apartment that doesn’t normally allow pets or an airplane. Most veterans I’ve seen with them take them to the VA where we all know that you will most likely be asked to hurry up and wait.
dogs8Of course pets require constant attention and that may not be up your alley. You have to be a responsible owner. They can cost a good deal of money as well between food and veterinarian’s bills. If you are unsure about this situation you should discuss it with your doctor first. If you have PTSD and you’re unsure if you can provide a safe and caring environment for a pet you may want to wait until after you have completed some treatment for PTSD first and then see where you are at.
For more information visit these sites:

dogs7http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/dogs_and_ptsd.asp

http://maketheconnection.net/conditions/ptsd?utm_source=adcenter&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=ptsd%20for%20vets&utm_content=ptsdveterans&utm_campaign=ptsd