A few weeks ago I posted a blog on this site about a dreadful situation at Ralph H. Johnson VA Hospital, Charleston, SC. If you’ve read it, you recall I discussed a situation with a nurse named Hannah and her abrupt demeanor. Perhaps she was having a bad day. Perhaps she was fighting PMS. Perhaps she thought I would simply slip under the woodwork. Hardly! Nevertheless, her excuses for her behavior are unacceptable and I hope she learned from this experience. All of us have difficult days; however, we must remember that when we are in the service or a professional industry, we are dealing with people. If we come across as ‘bitter’ many times, people will retaliate with defense mechanisms. Fortunately, I inhaled. Exhaled. I took a deep breath and gave her a piece of my mind — only with diplomacy!
The next day, I compiled my notes while caring for my husband and his neck pain. Writing the story, I posted it here, sharing the experience with my reading public, in hopes to educate others. I sent a copy of the blog story along with a letter to the appropriate authorities at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.
An Apologetic Reply
Last Thursday, I spent a bit of time on the phone with someone from the hospital. Unfortunately, since I was packing to go out of town, I failed to jot her name down; nevertheless, it was apparent from the phone conversation that the story has been publicized a bit at the hospital and there is an ongoing investigation. Later, on the way to Atlanta, GA, my cell phone rang. Since I was driving, I did not answer. After checking into the hotel, I pulled voice mails, receiving a call from another medical professional at the hospital. I phoned his cell phone and we had another interesting conversation, along with more apologies for the situation.
So, the bottom line for this posting — who cares — perhaps you are saying? As an advocate for Veterans, I would like to share — diplomacy pays when dealing with situations at the Veterans Administration, or at a Veterans Hospital. While it is true that many veterans get annoyed when waiting, like cattle headed to pasture, diplomacy does pay. If you are dealing with illness, or anxious to hear from the VA about your claims, it is best not to go on the attack. As I’ve stated many times in Mail Call, a newsletter publication I write for a local VFW, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. If you approach with kindness and diplomacy, people listen. Yes, it is true, the VA appears to move in slow circles — but if you go on the attack, are rude or impatient — this only leads to negative actions and reactions. My husband has filed many claims related to his illnesses from Agent Orange, PTSD, Diabetes, etc…etc…etc… At times it appears that he is lost in the shuffle, but — still we practice the rule of diplomacy! I do find it an interesting footnote that when our Veterans return from war, they still must battle an intense, emotional war to get what they were promised and still deserve.
Coping with the Stress of PTSD and Other Situations
My husband is a Vietnam Veteran who suffers intensely with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It doesn’t take much to push his buttons — especially me! Perhaps that is why he prefers that I deal with difficult situations because he knows he has a short fuse and will blow up! When the situation occurred at the VA Hospital, I was thankful he did not hear the nurse’s comments. All he heard was me, when I spun on my heel and retaliated. It took all of my self-control not to go on the attack with the nurse. I am certain that now she probably regrets saying, “You can always go somewhere else…” I hope her words taught her something about biting her tongue — and being diplomatic.
Perhaps some of you have not lived with a Veteran who battles with PTSD. My husband only shows his true behaviors of the PTSD side effects behind the closed doors of our home. Yes, there are times he gets impatient with others, and some people have asked me how I tolerate these situations. I simply smile, inhale, exhale and say that ‘this too shall pass…’ I’ve lived with him for many years and I know the triggers, along with the curious, vacant stare in his eyes. It’s a look I do not like — the look of a warrior, headed to battle, facing the unknown.
It is true — I haven’t forgotten the loneliness, apprehension and fear that a wife, husband or family member experiences when a loved one leaves for war. And it is also true, I anticipated that when he returned, he would still be the young, happy and loving soldier he was before he left to fight for our country. Trust me…when a soldier returns from a combat zone — life is changed — significantly. No one can understand what they experienced, and perhaps that is why they NEVER talk about these situations.
I suppose my husband is appreciative that I tolerate what PTSD does to him. As his wife, I do not hold it against him. I made the commitment to be with him, ‘in sickness and in health,’ when we married. After he returned from war – a stranger who refused to discuss the war — I read articles about PTSD, recognizing he had many of the symptoms, and when he finally admitted he might suffer from it, I replied, “I may not be a medical professional, but I live with you and I KNOW you have it!”
Sharing Our Experience
After our experience at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, my husband shook his head when he discovered I was composing a story about the incident. “You’re just wasting your time,” he said. “It won’t do a bit of good.” How thankful I was that he did not hear the nurse’s comments, just my response. When he saw the anger and emotions in my face, he knew something had happened. As a professional writer, I am accused of wearing my emotions on my shirt sleeves and no doubt, my heart was about to burst from the anger I was struggling to hold back on that date.
After completing the story, I printed it, read it to him and packaged the composition ready for mail. After posting on my blog, I was curious if people actually read it. Last Thursday, I discovered the story was making the rounds and people were listening…
So, the bottom line — when dealing with a difficult situation — be diplomatic. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. And if the anger cannot be controlled — simply walk away. Document everything by collecting names, dates, times, etc. Assert yourself about the situation by placing your feet in the shoes of the situation. While it is true there are many complaints about the length of time it takes to get service at a VA Hospital, or with the VA Administration, we are still dealing with people and I fully believe every situation is unique. As for the response from Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, I truly appreciate that they took the time to read the story and to do a thorough investigation. Our Veterans deserve diplomacy and patience. After all, they have been fighting wars and most of them never share their experiences during those traumatic times. We as caring family members and medical professionals must treat them with respect, especially if they are suffering from illnesses, PTSD, and the little incidental sufferings only a Veteran can understand.
Thank you, Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center for listening to me and my husband’s experience. It is nice to know that you are listening to us and working towards providing some of the best medical care you have available. Yes, Diplomacy pays!