The End Is Near!

•11/04/2014 • Leave a Comment

Well not “The” end, but there is an end in sight.

24 hours from now a long and painful journey with a screwed up knee comes to an end as I will have a total knee replacement performed by Dr. Shannon.

18th Aviation Brigade

XVIII Airborne Corps

It began with about 2 years of misdiagnosis in the Army while stationed at Fort Campbell. I was consistently diagnosed with “jumper’s knee” although I knew there was a helluva lot more to it than just tendonitis. The standard treatment was an industrial-sized bottle of “Ranger Candy” (800mg Motrin), an Ace™ Bandage, a set of crutches, and a one week PT profile to rest the knee. After a flight surgeon finally recognized that that had torn 2 ligaments in my knee, I was discharged with medical disability.

I then began my 25-year captivity in the VA medical system with 9 surgeries to correct all of the ligament damage. The first surgery was December 19, 1990. The dates of the rest are lost somewhere in my head, but I’m sure can be found in my medical records after filling out 5 different request forms and waiting the standard 90 days to get anything from the VA.

Having had such terrible experiences with the VA since 1990, I decided to go to my own Ortho Doc. After getting x-rays and MRIs done, we have found that there is a lot more damage in the knee than initially thought. I’ll spare you the gory details, but the incorrect diagnoses and treatment I received in the Army and then the number of surgeries I have had left the knee in pretty bad shape. A lot of bone bruising, no cartilage, arthritis, and bone damage.

Shiny New Knee

I was hoping to get a new knee that would play MP3s and Blu-Rays, with 4G XLTE and 802.11ac connectivity, and Quad HD screen resolution, but I guess I’ll settle for the shininess of the new bling (even though I won’t be able to see it…) and be happy with the fact that after recovery I’ll be pain free for the first time in nearly 10 years. (Wonder where the knee components were made… any bets on China?)

I’ve even come up with an idea for a new tattoo after everything heals! I want to have bio-mechanical gears tattooed on each side of the knee and the scar tattooed to look like a zipper. If my old high school friend Derek was planning a trip back to the states with some of his gear, he’d be my choice to do the work. (How ’bout it Dex, got any travel plans?) The only problem is that if I need future surgeries the tattoos will get messed up, and I can’t have that!

The other tattoo idea I had actually came from a dream where the hospital made me design and build my own new knee to have implanted. But I’m not sure how cool a tattoo of a knee made from an Erector Set would look. Ha!

Erector Engineer

So, another 23 hours or so of anxiety before the big “TKR14″ show. Gonna be about worthless at work, so it’ll be a lot of Hair Band stuff on Pandora while I try to keep my mind occupied and also try to get something accomplished before I have to take several weeks off of and be a pain in the neck to my wife who will have to take care of my crippled ass for a while.

I’m sure in the very near future you will all be seeing some drug-induced quips and random thoughts. Until then, stay safe!


“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.” ― Steve Goodier

Kyia Dawn

•10/07/2014 • Leave a Comment

Since several people have asked, here is what we know of Kyia’s story:

Kyia was born June 7, 2013 (she is 16 months old today). The paperwork we were able to get on her says she is a German Shepherd mix, but she definitely looks all shepherd, of the long-haired variety.

She was living with 2 men near a friend of ours and everybody in the neighborhood loved this little dog. Kyia was mostly left outside and was tied to a tree with little food and fresh water. Neighbors would give her food and water when the men who “owned” her were not around for periods of time. Earlier this year, she bailed out of a moving vehicle and was bruised up pretty good.

While one of the men tried to work with her, the other yelled at her constantly and was once observed picking her up by the head and throwing her inside the garage. After being fed up with Kyia being neglected and abused, our friend Amy started the wheels in motion to rescue her from the home she was in. Animal Control was notified and they posted notices for the owners.

Amy was able to convince the men to sell Kyia to another friend of hers. Unfortunately, he was unable to keep Kyia because of his landlord. Amy then contacted me last Thursday about helping to find somebody to rescue her. Initially, I was not in the mind that our home would be her home with already having a rambunctious 7 month old Shepherd puppy and facing the possibility that I may be having my knee replaced in the next month or so.

But then I saw her picture…

First picture we saw of Kyia. Pretty girl!


I sent the picture to Carol and told her Kyia’s story. The replies I got were “I want her.” and “We’ll manage.”. We arranged to see Kayia that night and Carol, Shelby, and I went to see her that evening around 5:30. By 7 o’clock we were at a local park introducing her to Keisel.

The beginning of the meeting didn’t go well. There was clashing of the big teeth and we wondered if this was going to work. Then just as quickly as the barking and carrying on started, they started playing. By 8, we were loading up both dogs into separate vehicles and heading home. We kept all of the dogs (we have an older dog named Tink as well) separated the first night since it was late and nobody had eaten.

Somebody stayed with Kyia all the time for the first night and day, and we took all of the dogs to another park Friday night to work on introductions and such. About 5 minutes in we were walking a path with Keisel and Kyia walking side by side. Tink and Kyia aren’t getting along as well as we’d like, but we’re working on it.

On Saturday, Keisel and Kyia had the run of the backyard and had a blast. They horse around and bark at each other excitedly and cover the patio in water from their bucket. One thing that we thought was going to be an issue was toys since both of them have a high toy-drive, but so far it’s been nothing but tug-o-wars and keep-away with no bloodshed. And the speeds these two hit as they chase each other! It’s like having our own private German Shepherd race track!

Kyia had come to us with a choke chain on her that had been on her entirely too long and she had outgrown it to the point that I had to cut it off of her on Saturday. She now has a bright pink nylon collar with reflective dog paws on it!

On Sunday it became apparent that both dogs had been over-doing it as they had both developed a slight limp and Keisel had some minor issues with some bleeding we could never locate. Keisel’s bleeding stopped, but Kyia’s limp progressed to the point that she would hardly put any weight on her left leg. She’s had a visit to the vet and we found that she only weighs 54 pounds! (She’s fluffy enough that you can’t see it, but when you pet her you can feel her ribs, spine, and hips.) Being so malnourished, she had overworked the little muscle she has to the point of having some muscular inflammation and soreness. She was brought up to date on her shots and received some meds for her soreness and orders for some rest… Which has become an issue. She wants to play with Keisel and he wants to play with her. Constantly. Makes for some interesting conversations between the two of them!

Keisel has been trained with German commands and Kyia is picking them up fast! She’s had no accidents in the house, so house-breaking is not an issue. We’re working on kennel training and so far she’s progressing very nicely. Sometimes she’s a little unsure about what to do with treats, but when Keisel inhales his she gets the idea. She’s decided that laying on the couch and the bed is comfortable. She’s eating well, and has had very little digestive issues considering the drastic change in her diet and eating habits. (We’ll start giving her some of the same yummies we normally dish out at doggie-dinnner time like salmon, liver, and veggies with their regular food as soon as we get her used to eating twice a day.) This weekend we’ll focus on cutting out the matted hair and getting her coat brushed out better.

All-in-all, she’s adjusting very well and has been a wonderful addition to our pack! Many, many thanks to Amy, Rich, and Max for helping us rescue this little doll.

Kayia laying on the floor with her new dad last night.

Kyia laying on the floor with me last night.

Cheyenne VAMC Screw-Job

•09/23/2014 • 2 Comments

Grab a beverage, this might take a while…

91 days ago (June 24th to be exact) I had an appointment at the Cheyenne VA as I was having continued problems with my back and my knee. I have service-connected disability ratings for both and have had chronic issues with both since I was “fortunate” enough to get into the VA system in August of 1991.

I see my “new” “Primary Care” doctor who I only remember as having a last name that started with a “V”. During my appointment, the doctor looks at my blood work (which should tell him a lot about my knee and back) and talks to me about my chronic pain and specifically issues with instability in my knee. He asks when my last Compensation and Pension exam was done, and I told him it has been so long I can’t even remember. Eventually, he tells me there’s nothing he can do for the knee or back and will refer me to Ortho and order an MRI for both the knee and the back, especially since I continue to have issues and I haven’t had a “Comp & Pen” for a while, and they will be needed to show the degeneration in my conditions.

I leave thinking I might actually have some luck this time around rather than the typical boning I usually get from the VA. Until 3 weeks later when nobody has called to schedule MRIs, x-rays, or an Ortho appointment.

So I call the VA at the 307-778-7550 number listed in the “Contact Us” section of the phone directory on their website since I can’t find anything in the directory for “Primary Care” and can’t remember the doctor’s name. I called a total of 6 times and was transferred around from extension to extension each time and was actually told once that there was no doctor in Primary Care with a last name beginning with a “V”.

After about the 4th call and still not getting any results, I called the Patient Advocate‘s office at 307-778-7517 and naturally had to leave a voicemail because nobody answered the phone. Never got a return call. I left a second voicemail about a week later. Still no return call.

This past Sunday evening my knee shifts out of joint as I’m getting out of my truck. I’m already halfway out of the truck and gravity takes over. Somehow I was able to get my left leg out of the truck fast enough to put all of my weight on it and not end up in a heap under my pickup. Lots of pain, but nothing new. This has happened more times that I care to remember — just glad I caught myself this time.

After the Steeler’s game is over, I notice and show my wife, brother and sister-in-law that my right knee has swollen up to nearly twice the size of my left knee.

So after a day of rest and ice, etc., I get an appointment (next Tuesday) with the doc who operated on my shoulder 5 years ago because the knee’s really hurting bad now and something is obviously wrong with it.

Today at work all I can think of is that my insurance shouldn’t have to pay to cover anything that has to be done with my knee since I injured it in the Army and I have VA benefits. So I make a personal visit to the VA after work.

While waiting outside the Patient Advocate’s office (she was in a closed-door meeting), I hear a male voice inside exclaim “I constantly get complaints from vets about the lack of communication, we need to do something about this”.

I figure while I’m waiting, I’ll go to the Primary Care area and ask for the name of the doc I saw in June so that I know what name to give when I finally get to complain to somebody. The guy who helped me was very helpful, and explained that I had seen Dr. James Valenza, who is no longer seeing patients at the Cheyenne VA. My “new” Primary Care is now Dr. Brent. Well, isn’t that special…

I tell this guy that I was supposed to have had an Ortho consult and 2 MRIs scheduled as a result of the June appointment, but nobody has called. He replied that the consult had been submitted on the day of my appointment but had been “discontinued” by a Denise Curtis with no explanation he can see. For those of you not familiar with VA bullshit lingo, Discontinued = Cancelled.

Wait for it… Cancelled. The. Same. Day. It. Was. Submitted.

So of course, I go off, then apologize, because this guy is actually the first freakin’ help I’ve gotten since June 24th. He tells me,  “Of all the people in here you could go off on, I’m the one. I’m also a disabled vet and have to sit on the other side of the desk.” I have to reply with the most obvious, “But I bet your shit doesn’t get fucked up since you work here.” And apologize again.

I ask him if I can get a copy of what he’s looking at. He says that he can’t give it to me and that he could get in trouble for that, but I can get it from Release of Information. Not wanting to screw the first person to shed some light on this bullshit and actually help, I told him not to do anything that would get him in trouble. I thanked him for his time and headed downstairs.

I go to “Release of Information” and give a brief yet distinctly pissed off account of why I’m there and that I want a copy of the “Discontinued” information. While I’m filling out the release form the guy who is helping me calls somebody who handles “consultations” to get a reason for the “discontinuation” of my consult.

While he’s on the phone, he too finds out that Dr. Valenza is no longer seeing patients at the Cheyenne VA and that my new PC is Dr. Brent. (At least everybody seems to be on the same sheet of music with that story…) He then finds out that the consult was discontinued with a comment, “Provider, please order appropriate weight bearing and spine x-rays for review and submit orthopedic consult after appropriate images are obtained. We will not see pt.s without images.”

The lady tells the guy helping me that what I need to do is schedule an appointment with my new Primary Care (that would be Doctor Brent) and have him/her submit an order for MRIs and x-rays and then order an ortho consult.

Kiss my what??

So, my consult was cancelled because MRIs and x-rays were not done. And according to the note left by Denise Curtis, Primary Care physicians within the Cheyenne VA cannot request an consult with an ortho doc within the same fucking building until “after appropriate images are obtained”. Evidently ordering both at the same time, ensuring that the images are done first is a no-no.

So after 91 days, here is what I have learned.

  1. Dr. James Valenza apparently did not follow proper procedure by requesting an ortho consult at 11:53 on 6/24/2014 before not ordering the MRIs and x-rays he told me he was ordering.
  2. Denise Curtis then “discontinued” the ortho consult at 16:29 on 6/24/2014, entering a comment into the notes of the discontinuance, which apparently is all she needed to do with no further follow up.
  3. Between 16:29 on 6/24/2014 and the time that Dr. Valenza stopped seeing patients at the Cheyenne VA, he and an unknown number of other VA employees either did not see Denise Curtis’ note, or chose to do nothing about it.
  4. Between the time that Dr. Valenza stopped seeing patients at the Cheyenne VA and approximately 16:00 today, 9/23/2014, absolutely nobody followed up on Dr. Valenza’s patients to ensure everything had been addressed prior to being assigned to a new PC. To include my new PC,  Dr. Thalia Brent. (Great continuity of care. One of the several reasons I hardly ever go to the VA unless I have to.)

You’d think after gaining national attention about the system and employees screwing vets in Cheyenne, the processes would have been cleaned up by now and there would be some freaking checks and double-checks in the processes.

I plan to raise hell with the Patient Advocate, contact the American Legion Service Officer at the VA, and contact the Wyoming Veteran’s Commission. I plan to keep my appointment with my own doctor and bill the VA for it.  My insurance shouldn’t have to pay! And neither should I!

I also expect to get the usual and customary post-op compensation and pension benefits outside the VA as I would receive from within the VA. Even if I have to go to our Senators and Representatives. (This would be the second case Mike Enzi had been involved in for me.)

Oh, I forgot to add that I did learn one more thing in those 91 days:

The VA is just as fucked up today as it was in 1991.



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