Veteran Talk – Urgently Needed Care

(Pensacola, Florida; Jan. 15, 2022) – Well, that was new!

These past several months have been rather crazy.  I bought a house, moved in, got settled, checked into the VA medical system here in Pensacola, spent the holidays with family stretched from Florida to Tennessee, dodged those horrible tornadoes in Kentucky last month, and finally began this calendar year with a lovely case of strep throat.

Ah, strep!  My least-favorite of all sore throats this side of an alien facehugger laying an egg in my esophagus, and something I haven’t had for, oh, twenty years at least (strep, not the alien thing; I’ve fortunately never met an alien facehugger).  I honestly don’t recall having strep since I was in my late 20s.  Sadly, even though strep is a bacterial infection and not viral, it’s highly contagious and transmitted through aerosol droplets, manifesting symptoms within 24 – 72 hours of exposure.  That means I contracted it right as I left Florida for Tennessee for New Years with my family there, or while I was in Tennessee itself.  (Good news: I gave it to no one in my family!)

I’m a 100% disabled veteran, so I’m fully covered by the VA for health care.  It’s a system that, largely, has worked well for me since I decided to take advantage of the benefit back in 2019.  There have been hiccups, yes, but nothing like the horror stories we used to hear.  It ain’t perfect by no means, but it’s getting better.

Up to this point, I’ve only had routine contact with the VA clinic; regular appointments or email exchanges that resolved the issue.  The last time I went to an ER was in 2012 when I got nailed by a norovirus that was touring the Norfolk area.  I’ve never gone to urgent care in my life, but that’s what I had to figure out last Monday while wanting to use a rake to remove my own throat (strep kind of hurts REALLY bad).   The staff at the Pensacola VA clinic were great; I emailed them about the situation and they explained the urgent care option that exists.  They also helpfully provided a list of local urgent care clinics affiliated with the VA that I could go (they even highlighted the one closest to my home—talk about customer service!), and the page on the VA website allowing me to find a facility.

Being sick as the proverbial dog, I just picked the first clinic on the list they emailed me and went.  I will not mention names here because no one did anything wrong, and I won’t cast aspersions.  However, when I got to the first clinic on that list I was unhappily surprised to learn that particular clinic is not taking VA patients at this time. Seems the VA hasn’t renewed their contract with that health care entity, so I can’t blame that clinic for not accepting VA coverage.

I also didn’t get snarky with the poor people at the clinic’s desk.  It ain’t their fault I was getting mashed between the teeth of misaligned political gears while a bacterial infection continued turning my throat into something out of an X-Files episode.  I politely declined to pay out of pocket and headed back to Sarah Jane (my Kia Sorento).  Remembering the fact the VA website has a ‘find facility’ feature, I pulled out the trusty phone and navigated to the VA website via the miracle of 4G!

Finding the ‘find facility’ feature took a moment, but I found it.  Typing in my zip code brought up a bevy of bullets bouncing brightly on the Pensacola map, each cheerful icon marking the spot of a clinic (supposedly) affiliated with the VA.  I skipped over the clinic I was at (the one no longer accepting VA coverage) and picked the next one on the list.  Sweet—it was only a mile away!

…Except it doesn’t exist anymore.

I got to the location, but Elvis had long since left the building!  The place was an empty structure begging someone to rent or demolish it.  I confess my temper, already raw due to fever and extreme pain in my throat, was about ready to blow.  Fortunately, I was alone, so it was easier to stay in control than it might have been.

Navigating to the third entry on the list of facilities resulted in finding a clinic that both exists and takes VA coverage with no problems.  I checked in, got tested, had strep throat verified (yay!), and got a prescription sent to a local VA-affiliated pharmacy.  To their credit, the clinic also tested me for Om1cron, but my affliction was confirmed as simply and solely good ole’ strep throat.

So last week was quite an unexpected and unpleasant adventure, but I’m much better now.  The only thing contagious about me now is my infectious good humor!  I mean, my jokes are just sick!

The idea of getting familiar with urgent care facilities never occurred to me since I’ve never been to one before.  This is a small thing, but if you’re covered in part or in full by the VA, it’s something you might ought to look at when you have a moment.  I was fortunate that the resources exist and I could find them when I needed them, but, frankly, I wish I’d gotten at least a bit familiar with this option before actually being sick.

I’ve linked the VA’s ‘find facility’ below.  It’s pretty easy to use (credit where due!).  I let my local clinic know about the issue with the two clinics I encountered, but I’m not sure how far up the chain that will go.  One of my next projects is to research who up in the VA food chain would be the right office to alert to the fact one entire health care entity isn’t taking VA coverage even though they’re listed on the site, and another specific clinic just doesn’t exist anymore.  Still, there were more than enough options listed for me to find a provider.

This is a small thing, but it’s one of those things a lot of us veterans might not be expecting to run into.  I’ve been retired since 2017, but this is the first time something came up that required me to get seen immediately, but didn’t require an emergency room visit.

Not all veterans’ issues have to be, much less are, huge events that impact us with the force of a tornado throwing a refrigerator.  Many times the issues we encounter are simply the small aspects of navigating the more mundane aspects of life, such as urgent care.  These can still be frustrating, but they’re part of adapting back to civilian life.

As I said, I’ve linked the VA’s ‘find facility’ feature below.  I’ve also linked the Veterans Crisis Line in case anyone reading this is in a bad way mentally and needs immediate help.  If you are suffering feelings so bad you’re contemplating self-harm, please use the Veterans Crisis Line.  I’ve used it myself since I retired, and the people staffing it steered me to the right help when I needed it.

Stay strong, stay aware of each other, and always remember to go and do great things!

Fall out, and carry out the plan of the day!

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– C- Check out my video on this topic at:  https://youtu.be/Z0W1_itzCo4

– Use this page on the VA website to find medical facilities near you.  This is everything from VA Clinics to civilian ERs and urgent care clinics:  https://www.va.gov/find-locations/

– Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, and press 1; or, go to: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/hotline

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