I feel the need to clarify, given my constant ranting and ravings, that yes, the bureaucracy of Tricare sucks sometimes. It sucks big, green, giant, don …. Well, you get my drift. But, try to find any health care monolith, which provides medical care and coverage to millions of people, that isn’t a maddening pile of red tape at times, and you know …. I don’t think it exists. And considering all we’ve been through, and knowing what we know now, with hindsight being 20/20, if we could rewind the clock, and turn back time, with the chance for a do-over …. Well, we probably wouldn’t do anything any differently. Given our personal situation, especially.
Yes, it would most likely have made things easier if we could have transferred to a military base with a comprehensive cancer center, instead of Blaine getting some of his treatments at the Air Force Base here, and some three hours away at Ft. Gordon Army Hospital, and flying numerous times clear across the country to Seattle. It’s been a complete pain in the ass, and one of our biggest sources of frustration, for him to have dozens of doctors scattered all over the country. But it worked out this way for two reasons. One, we REQUESTED to stay here so Kendrie could finish her cancer treatment, and begin her follow up care, at Scottish Rite in Atlanta. Five years in the same location? That is unheard of in the military, yet we've done it. Granted, Blaine’s care got put on the back burner when she was diagnosed six months after him, and some things possibly slipped through the cracks. That’s partly our fault, too, as we were paying so much attention to her treatment, and perhaps not as much to his. But even now, we wouldn’t trade the quality of care she received for anything. Blaine’s care had to be farmed out, if we wanted the best people for the job to do it, given that we weren’t willing to move. Not that moving was ever offered to us as a suggestion, but even if it had been, we would have said no.
And two, when this whole thing started, and throughout the entire process, it’s been a series of complications and setbacks that no-one, short of God Himself, could have foreseen. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, “Well, *that* should take care of it!” …. Only for a procedure to be unsuccessful, or an infection to set in, or a complication to develop, or for the radiation to kick his ass, or for the cancer to return. Nobody could have predicted that all these things would happen and that Blaine’s health would turn into a comedy of no-fault errors ….. that our lives, for all intents and purposes, would become a living, breathing example of “shit magnet” at its finest. No-one was subversively hanging out in the kitchen, making one crap sandwich after another to serve our family. Things just wound up being more complicated and drawn-out than we ever expected. So sure, its easy to look back now, with the advantage and wisdom of experience, and know that being stationed somewhere where he could have received comprehensive care would most likely have been helpful. But there was no way to know, going through it, that any of this would have been more complex than the doctors anticipated in the beginning. So even if we *could* have moved, we probably wouldn’t have, because we’ve always thought, and hoped, that we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just that in this particular case, that light has usually wound up being an oncoming train, headed right for us.
I don’t think Blaine has gotten bad care. I do think it’s inevitable that given all he’s gone through, over the course of the past four years, that we would encounter a glitch or two. Or three or four or seven hundred. It’s frustrating, and it’s annoying, and yes, we second-guess ourselves and wonder “what the hell?” and beat our heads against the wall with alarming regularity. In fact, I'm pretty sure that his doctors have been frustrated by his case, as well. Blaine is a living, breathing reminder that sometimes, even their best attempts can't heal or cure a person. But the care he has received has been good overall, and at times, exemplary. Nothing that has gone wrong with him is anyone’s fault; none of his providers have been malicious or harmful or negligent. There have definitely been situations where they’ve caught things and preemptively helped him. The Air Force dentist who found the tumor; the Army surgeons who removed it and saved his eye; the Army orthopedists who saved his leg when he got the MRSA staph infection after his first major surgery; and all the doctors and specialists along the way, who have helped, or tried to help, deal with the complications and obstacles that have cropped up. I just get frustrated because I want him well. I want him back the way he was before he was diagnosed, and I worry that’s never going to happen. And, like every family with a cancer patient knows, it’s aggravating that there is no one to BLAME for the situation, so I sometimes get irrationally annoyed with the people attached to the situation, ie, the medical staff. I can’t yell at him although I do sometimes but only when he really, really deserves it so who else can I gripe about?
In light of the Walter Reed situation, and the fact several of you have made correlations in the comments section, I feel compelled to state that although we have been perturbed and stymied over the years, we have never felt neglected. I think the military doctors (civilian, as well) that have treated Blaine have, for the most part, been competent and kind and capable. Sure, there has been an asshole or two, sprinkled here and there, but I think that’s to be expected in any career field. If I’ve given anyone reason to think, what with my bitching and moaning and griping and all, that he hasn’t been treated well by the military, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention at all. I have no doubt just the opposite is true, and had he been employed by a civilian employer, that we would have been unemployed and in bankruptcy by now. It’s just frustrating that with regards to his medical situation, not one damn thing seems to go as planned.
And if I could get up on my medium-sized soap box, regarding Walter Reed and the military in general, I have just one word to sum up the entire situation: Overburdened. Blaine’s never been treated at Walter Reed; we’ve never been there; I have no idea what has happened there. But you, (and I don’t mean YOU-you, but “you” in general) can only slash the military budget so much, so many times, and still expect top-quality services across the board. When people say they are tired of seeing money spent on tanks and bombs and guns, and the war in Iraq needs to end, they need to understand that cutting defense spending doesn’t only affect the war on terror. It also means less military personnel overall everywhere, which means less doctors and less nurses treating more patients; it means military hospitals don’t always have the funding for equipment and supplies and medications; it means benefits have to be cut, both for active-duty and veterans, it means less repair work on military bases and military housing; it means more and more Department of Defense schools being shut down; it means fewer and fewer active-duty members, who still have to do accomplish the same amount of work that was done when the military was 30 percent larger. Most appalling to me, it means allowing an environment where airmen with families are paid so little that they are eligible for food stamps. And that’s just wrong.
OK, off the soapbox now.
Actually, the authorization expiring makes me realize it’s been exactly four years since Blaine was diagnosed. Referrals are good for one year, which is why it’s time to renew his. Four years. March of 2003. Was that a long time ago, or what? And it reminds me that I don’t think I’ve ever told the story of when he was diagnosed, and how I found out. I’ll share it with you sometime, because it’s actually a little bit funny.
In the meantime, thanks for giving me the space to vent here about what is going on with him, but please know that’s all it is; venting. Me, letting off a little steam and fear and anxiety, the best way I know how. With insults and four-letter words.
Lots and lots of four-letter words.
They’re the best kind, after all.