I had little contact with the VA Medical Center in Huntington until, at the bidding of a fellow veteran friend of mine, I went up and signed up for the Veterans Health Care system. After all, he said, "We've earned it"!
Neither of us had service connected disabilities, but we were eligible for the program, including prescriptions, with provisions of co-pays, etc.
I had never thought much of the old "VA Hospital" up on the hill off Spring Valley Drive just outside the city limits of Huntington. It is where my grandfather (a WWI veteran) had died from lung cancer in 1959. I always thought of the hospital as the place "where old guys went to die". Not a very good image, but it's what I thought, nonetheless.
A pleasant surprise awaited me after I became eligible for the system. As I begin to get treatment for my feet and vision care related to my Type 2 Diabetes, my opinion of the facility began to change. Dad had been going out there for years, and I began to realize what good care he was receiving. I learned that it had become associated with the Marshall University Medical School, and there were some outstanding teaching physicians who were there on site. In fact, in the past year an a half, I have actually been treated by two excellent physicians who are practicing there, whom I had previously seen in private practice here in my hometown of Ashland, KY!
A couple of years ago, we began to see some bad reports on television about the VA Medical Center in Phoenix, and as the news media often does, they "dug up as much dirt" on the VA health care system as they possibly could. While I realize that there may be some VA facilities that are not performing well, and I do know that there is a shortage of good physicians system wide, my experience has been nothing but positive.
I have been having issues for some time with diabetic ulcers on my right foot. In March of 2014 I was admitted with osteomyelitis (in layman's terms a bad infection) in my right foot, with sharp pain shooting up my leg. They determined that the infection was MRSA, an antibiotic resistant staph infection, which left untreated, would be extremely dangerous.
To make a long story short, I had two stays there in March and July of 2014, resulting in amputations of toes number 4 & 5 along with part of their metatarsals as well.
On both occasions, my room was located on "5 South", which I understand to be the surgical floor.
Just after my 65th birthday, in late October of this year, the symptoms recurred. I had continued to be dealing with an ulcer on the bottom of my big toe, which, no matter how hard we tried to keep it clean and properly dressed, continued to resist healing. It turns out, I had either contracted MRSA again, or it had never completely gone out of my system. At any rate, in severe pain, and a tremendously swollen foot, I was admitted back to the VAMC. Within a couple of days, I endured
another two surgical procedures, the second one being a resection of the bone in my big toe, where the MRSA had already infected part of the bone. Thankfully this procedure was designed to save my "Piggy that went to market" from the "chopping block". The surgery was successful.
Once again, I found myself in a private room on 5 South, and renewed old acquaintances with many of the same nurses who had taken care of me last year. I was so happy to see them again, as I could never describe the wonderful care they had given me after those two painful amputations last year.
Well, I was with them for nine days and the treatment from "my friends from before" and nurses that I had not previously met, the nine days of my "Incarceration" were made more bearable, and at times, even bordering pleasant. My one big regret was that last year, although I thanked them profusely for their care, I failed to let anyone higher up the chain of command know how much I appreciated their help and professional care on my two periods of confinement. So, upon arriving home last week, I wrote a letter to the VAMC Director to commend the guys and girls on 5 South who provide such excellent health care to me and our other veterans on that floor. Here is the text of the letter I sent to Director Nemo. Hopefully they will receive the recognition they deserve from higher up, and if not, perhaps some of them who are now my Facebook friends will see this post and share it with the others.
November 4, 2015
VA Medical Center
Huntington, WV 25704
Dear Director Nemo;
VA Medical Center
Huntington, WV 25704
Dear Director Nemo;
I recently spent 9 days as an inpatient in room 5124 in your facility, I underwent a couple of surgical procedures, and was treated for having MRSA in my bloodstream, as well as a serious infection in my right foot.
The reason I am writing today is to bring to your attention the quality of care I received from the Nurses on 5 South. Every employee I encountered, from the housekeeping, dietary, and other areas was top notch, but I cannot say enough about the nursing staff on 5 South.
I was also a patient on that same floor, twice in 2014 as I underwent two partial amputations on my right foot. That is when I first learned what a wonderful group of men and women served our veterans in that part of the hospital. I had several of the same nurses this year who had cared for me before and I was blessed to have them care for me again.
As a pastor I have spent a lot of time visiting in hospitals in the Huntington and Ashland area. I have also been a patient, myself at Our Lady of Bellefonte, Kings Daughters, and Cabell Huntington Hospitals. While I received good care at each of these facilities, none of them compared with the kindness, caring, and professional bearing of the nurses on 5 South of the VAMC Huntington.
The nurses who primarily worked with me were Rainelle, Paige, Beth, Marc, Scott, Abby, Susan, Rhonda, and Brittany. There were others, too, whose names escape me now, but each of them went above and beyond just “doing their jobs”. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the wonderful care they provided for me and, I’m sure, for the other patients as well. I was impressed with the comprehensive personal care they provided, even with a large patient load.
It’s hard enough to be a patient in a medical facility, sometimes in great pain, and always concerned about the outcome of one’s illness. These wonderful nurses made the hospital experience not only bearable, but helped raise my spirits by actually seeming to care about me as a person, not just a patient in the crowd. I believe these dedicated professionals deserve recognition for a job well done.
Just allow me to close this post by saying a big THANK YOU to EVERY nurse, doctor, resident, student, housekeeper, food service personnel, social worker, therapist, and chaplain with whom I came in contact. Every single one of them provided professional, caring service, always ending every conversation with a hearty, "Thank you for your service."
May I say to each of them in return, "Thank you for YOUR service, and may God bless you abundantly!"