Letter to VA: Veteran gives thanks for life-changing experiences


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Our friends at the White River Junction VA received this heartfelt letter from “A Grateful Veteran” who graduated from the MOVE Program. The Veteran has physically and mentally turned his life around, and he wanted to give thanks to those responsible for his excellent care. The letter has been edited for clarity.

It has now been a year since my first visit to the White River Junction Medical Center. I would like to share my life-changing experiences with your facility and to thank the amazing men and women responsible for them.

A year ago, I washed up on your doorstep. I was morbidly obese and rapidly heading towards diabetes. My heart was performing erratically and it looked like I would have to undergo repeated cardiac procedures for the rest of life. My mental state was horrible and my depression had turned into despair.

Today, I am seventy pounds thinner, my cardiac condition has been tamed with oral medications, and my despair is largely behind me. I still have my issues, but I am far better able to handle them through the knowledge gained over the past twelve months. [I wrote this] to share my successes about the incredible people who proved that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

My nurse practitioner, Kate Van Arman, is remarkable. She is spirited and smart, and her enthusiasm knows no bounds. I have never had such a wonderful relationship with a medical professional. Kate outlined, in a stern but compassionate manner the life I would be living if I did not make some serious changes. It was not a pretty picture. She made some incredible suggestions, notably joining the MOVE program. Any success I merit, I owe to her.

The problem of my erratic heart was given over to Jessie Cullen. Jessie had the audacity to actually involve me in the decision-making process. How refreshing! We decided to try controlling the rapid heart rate with medications rather than repeated shock treatments. The result is that my heart condition is no longer driving my day-to-day decisions; rather, it is in the background of my daily life and is something I no longer fear. Many thanks, Jessie.

I think it is impossible to overstate just how bad my mental state was this time last year. The depression was colliding with anxiety and made me an emotional wreck. It seemed like I was heading for some form of electroconvulsive therapy. A popular anti-depressant was prescribed and seemed to help a bit. However, I firmly believe that anti-depressants work best when paired with therapy. I was truly blessed to be paired with psychologist Casey Allington. A good therapist will get a patient to dig deep within themselves and come up with solutions. Casey is very good at this. He has subtly gotten me to open up in ways I never thought possible. For the first time in a long while I feel that there is definitely light at the end of my long dark emotional tunnel.

I really need to talk about the MOVE program. What an inspired idea… pairing a nutrition expert with a food psychologist. The lessons I learned from healthy eating will be for naught if my food trigger issues were not addressed.

I need to give special thanks to my dietitian Laurel Ross and Dr. Mark Detzer for their leadership. The enthusiasm and support that came out of our small group was largely due to their efforts. I understand that “Dr. Mark” is about to retire. I wish him all the best and hope he finds another outlet for his knowledge and limitless energy.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the front desk staffs at Green Mountain and White Mountain. They are a tremendous group of men and women who are always friendly, professional and courteous. It seems like I was continually getting lost for the first few months; their kindness and their impeccable directions were greatly appreciated.

There is one more thing I would like to bring up.

Last December, I was in inpatient care for several days for a battery of tests. The large room had four beds in it and reminded me of my old USAF barracks. [My three roomates and I] talked a lot and laughed a lot. It felt really good, much like the old days. Just for the record, your hospital food and your nursing staff is the best around. I received a hand-drawn Christmas card from Otis, a local third-grade student who thanked me for my service. It is the sweetest card I have ever received and it holds a place of honor on my desk at home.

Leaving the hospital was bittersweet. My tests came back negative and I was happy to go home. Unfortunately, my roommates were not so lucky. Their conditions were far worse than mine and some of them were facing long hospital stays.

As we head into this holiday season, I just wanted to stop and give thanks for all the good things that have happened to me over the past year. Truly, my incredible experiences at White River Junction Medical Center were more than life-changing… they were life-saving.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. James B Wheeland    

    Re: Disabled Veterans’ Pain Medication

    Why do service connection disabled veterans have to secure illegal opioid pain medication when the Veterans Administration could provide legal opioid pain medication?
    I am an 83 year old service connection disabled veteran with a 90% unemployable rating. I have suffered with leg problems 65+ years that started when I was in the U.S. Army in 1954. I had been using an opioid pain medicine (OxyContin) several years until the Veterans Administration stopped prescribing opioid pain medicine in 2017 without replacing it with another pain medication. I was prescribed Tylenol. I was told the reason for stoppage was that 21 veterans a day were committing suicide. I don’t know what percentage of these suicides was caused by opioid overdose but I doubt all were. I read recently that now 22 veterans a day were committing suicide. What did the VA think would happen when they stopped the disabled veterans’ pain medication? I think that maybe the veterans wanted to stop the pain one way or the other. After being in pain for 65+ years I definitely understand wanting to stop the pain any way you can. Stopping the pain medication only penalized the veterans that use the medication as prescribed. It did not stop the suicides.
    I asked the VA to restart a low dose of OxyContin. They refused.
    It is so depressing and demoralizing to know that there is pain medication that can help with the pain and suffering and you are unable to obtain it.

    Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for providing vital services to America’s veterans.
    The VA motto. “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
    They should do their job and help the disabled veterans get their pain medication back.

  2. Gregory Nelson    

    I have been coming to the VA for ALL of my Health Care for 16 years now and in a couple different states and many different facilities. I have gone through everything from Cancer, Heart Conditions, Diabetes and even had an Amputation. I also suffer from Dysthymia and PTSD and the Mental Health Care and Services have literally saved my life from myself.
    I have always received the most Comprehensive and TOP NOTCH care and I have always been treated like a KING, no matter where or what I was being treated for. The level of Professionalism has been unmatched and I GREATLY appreciate everyone who has had a part in my care. The only reason I am alive and have hope today is because of the Great People at the VA.
    Thank You,
    Greg N.
    USCG

  3. Larry Stone    

    its not a cat walk, let me tell you this. HNY 2020!

  4. Veteran    

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day

  5. Robert goodreaux    

    It should not be a hitter Miss situation. It all depends on which VA you go to. Summer Good some not. You are getting your service at 1 that is not so good you experience a downward spiral of hopelessness. Doctors won’t work with you and staff is indifferent.

  6. Tom White    

    Wish they would bulldoze my VAMC, bumbling and overbooking and stonewalling a FOIA request is what they do best.

Comments are closed.