This is a photo of my hubby after he came back from Iraq and Medical Hold down at Fort Gordon GA. He came home in early April 2006,and this photo was taken a few weeks later. We were trimming back the saplings by the road to open up that part of the yard more. Work like this was very simple,and he could do it for hours. Not anymore. Notice how nice and straight his is standing,with his shoulders back. He can't do that anymore,either. He now walks bent forward. It takes pressure off his knees. He was in great shape. Now,since he can no longer do anything to the extent where he burns calories,he has gained weight,of which he is embarrassed.He can walk,albeit very slowly, without his crutches,but the crutches help takes pressure off his knees.Some days he has no choice but to use the crutches. The amount of pain he is in has aged him a bit.
As I said in my earlier post,"Dartmouth Has the Answers" he went to Dartmouth Hitchcock and got the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Degenerative Arthritis in both knees. The arthritis would keep eating away at joint cartilage in his knees.Half of it is already gone in both.Once we had the diagnosis,Dartmouth sent the report to the VA. So we were waiting for some word on what would be done. Would they try steroid injections? It wouldn't solve the problem,just give minor,temporary relief. Would they approve the surgery?This was in February.
So we waited.....and waited.....and waited.
We were down at the Somersworth VA Outpatient Center for Rick's monthly appt with his PTSD counselor,Ken, in March. We asked if Rick's primary Dr was available to talk to. Dartmouth had sent the report to him,but we hadn't heard anything further.Ken told us that the Dr was gone and wouldn't be back for a couple of weeks,but he looked in Rick's record and indeed,there was a notation that Dartmouth had sent an email to the Dr. OK,we will give it a couple of weeks,then try again.
It's now the beginning of April,and we are in Manchester for Rick's Polytrauma /TBI appt. with Dr Whitlock. We mention what's going on,and he suggests that we contact Lisa Cardullo,who is Rick's TBI case manager. We know Lisa well. She was Rick's first PTSD counselor,until she transferred to the TBI unit. We popped in her office,and she was in a meeting,but we did speak to her intern,Gordon,who took down all our info and said he would speak to Lisa about our situation.
We were on the way home,when Lisa called . She said the Dr had left for the day,but if we wanted to try him ourselves to ask questions,she gave us his extension.She would try again on Monday herself. When Rick called it on Monday morning,he got a secretary who told Rick that the Dr never received anything from Dartmouth. Well, we knew she was mistaken,but that was enough for Rick. He knees were getting worse and worse. Something had to be done,and SOON. So he called Lisa back,and told him what was going on. She said if we could get the report from Dartmouth,and fax it to her,she would give it to the proper people and get this ball rolling. Dartmouth sent us the report,and we faxed it to Lisa. I included a cover letter telling her that Rick was in so much pain,that he was getting very depressed and that he "didn't know how much longer he could take the pain." The morphine barely even touches it. I also explained how not only would he get his quality of life back,but he could now get healthy again,it would help his hypervigilance because he wouldn't feel so vulnerable,etc. Though he will always have issues mentally,if he could at least live his life like he used to be able to physically,it would make all the difference in the world.
Last Friday Rick was on line when his cell phone started to ring (we have dial up). It was a message from Lisa,asking him to call her back. No explanations. He called her back,and I heard him say... " what referral?.......I've already been to Dartmouth.....oh......Surgery?.......for both knees?......I've been approved? Are you serious?!........." As soon as I heard him say it was approved, I started crying. I couldn't believe it. After he got off the phone I threw my arms around him,crying,and kept saying,"I am so happy for you.......I am so happy for you!" I couldn't say anything else. That is what kept popping into my head. We were in shock. We had waited for over two years for just a diagnosis,let alone the surgery! Rick informed me that the VA told him he could go "anywhere he wanted" to have the surgery,but that they figured he would go to Dartmouth. Hell yeah! Dartmouth is one of the best hospitals in the US! We hope he will have Dr Bernini,who gave us the diagnosis. We like him alot.
Fee Basis is sending out his approval paperwork on Monday,but Lisa said Rick should go ahead and schedule his stress test and surgery on Monday. Rick will need a stress test because of his stroke and previous heart surgery. They want to make sure his heart can put up with the stress of undergoing surgery. It shouldn't be a problem.He will also need to stop taking his Plavix for a bit and get a pneumonia shot. Once it set in that they were going to do the surgery,Rick started to cry a bit. I think we are all still a bit on the shocked side. Rick says he can't even imagine being without pain,he has had it for so long. Just walking without pain,let alone being able to do any type of physical activity like he used to! And he can get off the morphine,which will be great. It will make such a difference in all our lives. I can never enjoy going anywhere or doing anything because of the pain I know he is in. I am always worried about it.No more pain! We can go hiking and walking in the woods again! He can wrestle with Zach! He will be able to run! No more handicap parking spaces! No more lugging around crutches that get in the way. My honey is going to at least get his life back!!!
Life is very exciting right now,and Rick is counting down the minutes until he can call Dartmouth and get this going.....we all are!