What I think of the Philadelphia Veterans Hospital getting a new name…

U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey [Pennsylvania] introduced a bill to rename the Philadelphia Veterans Hospital. They would like to see the hospital named for the city’s one and only Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War, Corporal Michael J. Crescenz.

VA Hospital

Michael lost his life on November 20, 1968 while taking out enemy machine gun bunkers in South Vietnam. He was nineteen years young.

I think honoring Michael this way would be a beautiful gift to his family and I applaud the senators for their effort.

I also think about the three thousand veterans diagnosed every single month with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] and the more than twenty veteran’s who die every day of suicide directly related to their multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty two percent of all suicide deaths are former service members. We are not taking care of them in Philadelphia.

I think of last Wednesday when my husband, John experienced some pain in his side. As the day went on the pain intensified. He lifted two air conditioners a few days earlier so I thought he might have pulled a muscle. I was convinced that was the problem. I was only slightly concerned that it was heart related.

We arrived at the Philadelphia Veterans Hospital at 3:15p.m. I was surprised we were able to drive right into the complex and park. The three guards on duty were standing outside the gatehouse. They did not stop us for I.D.

We were able to park close to the entrance. I was taken back by the disrepair of the walkways in front of the hospital. Handicapped sidewalk ramps were taped off and curbs were piles of rubble.

As we walked into the facility, many were walking out. They were changing shifts.

In the small E.R. waiting room stood a man with an obvious infection in a horrific wound to the back of his leg, a couple and an older man. What a relief I thought, they are not busy. We walked up to the tiny window as the man behind slid the glass open and asked John “What kind of doctor do you want to see?” “He has pains in his side that get worse with activity, he is a cardiac patient and has a history of intestinal blockage, what kind of doctor would you recommend? The man took John’s name and told us to have a seat.

A medical type person came out from behind the locked doors to look at the wound on the man’s leg. She shook her head and disappeared back behind the doors. Two more patients arrived. The man with the infection sat down.

A straggly, rail thin he or she walked in dragging an overstuffed green garbage bag. This person left the bag to walk up to the sliding window and someone yelled at him or her, to take the bag with them to the window so no one would steal whatever was in the bag. He or she decided instead to lay on the floor using the bag as a pillow and fell asleep. It was a sad sight.

At 4:30 p.m. John went up to the window to tell the man behind the glass he was in pain. The waiting room was starting to fill up. Ten minutes later a nice physician’s assistant took us back and asked questions. She said she would order a urinalysis and blood work handed John the plastic cup and told us to have a seat back in the waiting room.

The homeless he or she was now wandering around and mumbling. Two medical looking folks were now examining the infected leg, in the waiting room. They shook their heads and went back behind the doors.

At 6:00 p.m. I asked John to ask about the blood work. I was realizing the doctor would need those results before deciding on a diagnosis. The man at the window told John to come back and he drew the blood.

A janitor rolling a loud cart went behind the double doors. I was getting so hungry but knew John shouldn’t eat so I decided I better wait. Besides the last time I was there, someone grabbed three -dollar bills out of my hand in the vending room. It was terrifying. If they asked I would have given them.

The restroom was coed and gross.

John was getting frustrated and his pain was at a level ten. He wanted to leave. I convinced him they would be taking us back any minute; the doctor would examine him, give him some muscle relaxers and send us home.

A woman sat down in the seat where the man with the infected leg had been sitting. She was wearing shorts. I wanted to scream.

A young man, maybe in his early twenties sat down beside me. He was visibly in some sort of mental crisis. After an hour, he got up and left. I prayed that he would be okay.

At 7:15 a woman wearing a hijab came through the double doors and mumbled something that resembled McGettigan. John was in extreme pain now and moving slowly. By the time we made it behind the double doors the woman was gone. We waited for her to reappear. She did and she pointed down the hall and then pointed to an examining room. She never made eye contact and she never spoke a word.

John laid on the gurney and shifted from side to side trying to get comfortable. I was grateful there was a chair in the corner. The last time we were here, I stood for seven hours.

The room had blood on the floor and there was a used IV bag hanging on the pole.  Another janitor rolled a noisy cart down the hall.

John was getting so upset. He was in pain and starving. He wanted to leave, again. I could not figure out what the hold up was. There was no noise and many of the examining rooms were empty. I only saw one nurse at the nurse’s station. She was staring at a computer screen.

A janitor came into our little room and emptied the trash -can and then put the same bag back in the can. I’m all for saving money but this was a hospital and that was gross.

At 9:00 a nurse, Leslie [the first person to identify herself] came in to take John’s vitals. She did a brief exam and instructed John to ring the bell if he had to urinate.

At 9:30 we rang the bell. At 9:45 a man entered the room never identifying himself. We told him Leslie wanted to do an ultrasound of John’s bladder. He left. Leslie arrived at 10:10 to do the ultrasound.

At 10:30 the nurse came back in to tell us the doctor would be in soon. She apologized for the wait. She said they were ordering another blood test to check for water around the heart.  That scared me. I called out of work. John called out of work. We both hated to do that.

At 11:45 p.m. a doctor entered the room. She was nice and apologized. She did a brief exam and said she was going to order a cat scan with contrast. Finally I thought.

At 1:15 a.m.the nurse came in to start the I.V. The barium was delivered.  John chugged the stuff.

At 2:45 a.m. the IV bag was hung and fluid started.

At 3:00a.m John was off for his cat scan.

At 5:30 a.m. the doctor reappeared and told us John had diverticulitis and she needed to start IV antibiotics immediately. She said after the IV was finished I could take him home with a prescription for two antibiotics and some pain medication. Wow after fourteen hours in an emergency room finally someone validates my husband may be in pain.

At 7:30 a.m. he was released. Just in time for the methadone clinic to open.

We ate and slept the entire day. Nearly two weeks later John is still in pain and not feeling well.

My husband is a disabled Vietnam Era Veteran. He was at the top of a missile silo as a two hundred pound motor was being lowered into the silo. When the motor started to fall John decided in an instant to push the motor further into the silo so it wouldn’t knock another man down and fall on top of him. He knew he was going to fall and hoped for the best. He landed flat on his back.

I am ashamed of the care he and our fellow veterans receive in Philadelphia. I remember a time when VA Hospitals were immaculate and the staff treated the patients like human beings. I think it is shameful that I could not walk out to my car to get my phone charger or go into the vending room because I feared for my life.

I have no idea what to think of the filth. There is no shortage of janitorial staff. They just were not cleaning anything.  The whole infection/germ thing is out of control.

I have no idea what it will cost to change the name of the hospital. It involves our government so I am sure the cost will be phenomenal. I still think it is a good idea.

I also think it would be a good idea for our senators to make a few unannounced visits to the hospital and sit in the E.R for a few hours. Use the rest room while you are there. Talk to some of the patients. Bring hand sanitizer…

We cannot even take care of the medical and mental health needs of our veterans and we are counting on our government to take over the health care system. Americans we are heading for disaster here.

Why are they still giving out methadone? Some of the same people have been coming to that clinic for more than twenty years. It is not working and should be shut down. Addicts should be referred to inpatient facilities that specialize in detox and recovery as well as dual diagnosis cases.  This VA hospital is a revolving door for addicts. The facility is also a revolving door for homeless veterans. They deserve more than to sleep on a dirty floor using a garbage bag as a pillow. Solve the problem!

Question Mark

Because the staff assumes everyone is a drug addict my husband was in level seven to ten pain for more than fourteen hours. This is cruel. Giving a simple ibuprofen would be an improvement.

Just maybe if everyone had to show ID and sign in before entering, the building would not only feel safer it would be safer.

Money is not the issue. Management is the issue. The building is completely devoid of respect for anyone including the men and women who gave so much for us.  How many more veterans will take their own lives, before someone steps up and cleans up this mess?

 

 

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