I know a lot of bullcrap has been going on in the news and I’ll get around to talking about it. If you follow the news I won’t likely be saying anything new but putting my take on things. That’s not what this post is about. It is about health and in particular men and in relation to the Veterans Administration. Here goes:

For years after retiring I did not go to the Veterans Administration. There were 2 reasons. First, I thought it was best to leave those resources to people who needed them more than I did. I have Tricare so payments were low to civilian providers and I could afford it. The distance to my local Veterans Administration was 30 minutes and my local doctor 10 minutes. Add to that I had always heard horror stories about the Veterans Administration. Of course, that was one of my primary reasons for getting behind Trump and it paid off. I cannot count the complaints that I received about the Veterans Administration through the contact form on this website. That all slowly went away as Trump fixed the system.

Later I heard from friends that the Lebanon Veterans Administration was a good one and I should give it a try. I also learned that more vets that signed up increased the budget for the Veterans Administration. So, my staying away was not helping. As I grew older my health visits increased. In my 50’s I was diagnosed with Melanoma and had several surgeries that cost me a lot. I still see my civilian skin cancer doctor but if I need surgery or chemo I will go through the Veterans Administration and it will save me a substantial amount. In 6 months I will have Medicare to boot. That is still not the end of this quick lesson.

Last Saturday I came down with a sore throat. It was a bad one and came out of nowhere. It wasn’t China Flu but my Veterans Administration doctor’s office was closed so the Veterans Administration sent me to a local Urgent Care 10 minutes away. I ended up seeing a very young PA who took a throat culture and called me in an hour to say it was not Strep. I was told it was likely a virus and it would just go away. I know it sounds prejudiced of me but this young man looked like he could have been my grandson. I knew PA’s only require 5 or so years of schooling and he likely just graduated. Not his fault but I was not encouraged.

So, the old line was there. It only hurts when I swallow, then don’t swallow. However, all the instructions include drinking plenty of water. Swallowing spit was painful let alone a beverage. Even if I took liquid ibuprofen or Tylenol (acetaminophen)  the effects were short-lived. I trusted the system but I did Google it. I found the young PA was right. Most sore throats were viral and not bacterial. There isn’t much you can do about a viral infection of the throat. You know me, Mister Research and Mister Verify. However, that did not explain the sharp pain in my ear every time I swallowed. It was like someone was pushing an icepick from my throat to the outside of my ear.

Being like most tough guys I just pushed through hoping it would diminish in a couple of days of agony. I honestly felt like death would be a much better outcome. By Tuesday I managed to get a call in to my health care nurse at the Veterans Administration. She advised getting to the E.R. I could go to one in Lancaster or come to the V.A. in Lebanon. Both were about the same distance so I hesitatingly headed to the V.A.. I did not feel safe driving in that kind of pain but I was not going to risk giving what I had to a friend or loved one. I live alone now so I did not have a wife badgering me to see a doctor sooner as I had just seen a PA 2 days before. I downed a bunch of liquid Ibuprofen, waited 15 minutes, and headed down the road.

Thankfully, in the middle of a Tuesday, the Veterans Administration Emergency Room was not very busy. Triage handled me quickly. She called back and apologized to the nurse and said I have someone you need to see in less than 30 minutes. That was not a good sign. The doctor who broke the news to me about my Melanoma did it over the phone and didn’t make it seem that urgent but I knew Melanoma was the deadliest form of skin cancer you could get. At least he did ask me to sit down before he told me. Then he went on to explain they have made great strides and it was not the automatic death sentence it once was. Could I be taken out by something as simple as a sore throat? The answer was yes.

It seems the young PA did not have the equipment and or possible training at the Urgent Care that a Veterans Administration ER has. They took immediate action with swabs and a CT scan with dye contrast. You know, the kind that makes you get a sudden hot flash. They did not need that to see my throat was so swollen on the right side that it nearly cut off my airway to the left. No wonder I couldn’t swallow spit without wanting to die.

All I can say is modern medicine is amazing. They put some kind of steroid, anti-biotic, and pain killer in me all at once. They had a nurse, PA, doctor, and ear, nose, and throat specialist in to see me one after the other. They kept constant tabs on me. Within an hour I was able to swallow with no pain and my fever broke. The doctors had a meeting and decided to let me go home after about 6 hours. I’m still on antibiotics, steroids, and pain meds but I can guarantee I’m more comfortable at home in my own bed.

So, at 64 hear my cautionary tale. Veterans often think we are invincible. You may think your wife is a nag but if she says go see a doctor even if you just saw a PA listen to her. Sadly, I outlived my wives but one of you is going to go before the other. If you have decided to stay single as I have then you are going to have to shake that tough guy idea. If you live alone there is nobody to tap on the shoulder who can call 911 for you. Act preemptively. Doctors & PA’s et cetera are not gods and don’t treat them like they are. Trust but verify. If you are single you are your own best advocate.

While I am a sincere Christian other religious philosophies have made good points that do not disagree with the Christian faith. I am reminded of a saying from the recently deceased Vietnamese Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh: I will grow old. I will become ill. I will die. This is a shortened version of the Buddhist Five Remembrances. As Christians we would add at the end of those three sayings: I will not die one minute before the appointed time and while I am unworthy I will live again in my Father’s Kingdom because of the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ in whom I put my trust.

I want to close by giving a huge thank you to the professionals at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Lebanon PA! I hope your local Veterans Administration has improved over the years since President Trump put veterans first.

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