This past summer, I began the process of having my knees re-evaluated for service connection disability with the Veterans’ Administration. My knee problem developed in boot camp.
To explain: In Navy Basic Training, if you’re in a division with both males and females, your division is paired with another one, and they are given neighboring compartments in the dorm. One of these barracks chambers is your division’s, and the other is your brother division’s, and the members belonging to that division will cross over to spend time together for certain activities and exercises. My division’s (102’s) girls were in our brother division’s (101’s) compartment, and we were in the back half of the chamber—farthest from the Petty Officers’ office.
My division’s girls would get loud.
One of our brother division’s Petty Officers had a particular discipline he liked to use. Kneeling at attention in silence. He would pop out and make everyone do this when the girls in my division got loud. My knees did not take well to this form of discipline, and, eventually, after enough of those exercises to silence my divisionmates, I could bend my knees only about halfway. When I suggested going to the infirmary to rehabilitate my knees, my Petty Officers all said if I did that, I’d be discharged and that it would be better if I sucked it up and graduated boot camp first, then worked on my knees when I got to my A School.
Nowadays, I have a consistent pain of about one or two each day. Sometimes it increases to a three or four, rarely a five, and usually when I’ve been very active with a lot of walking on cement or the weather changes. My knees are a little stiff in the morning, and I force them to bend as much as I can despite pain and discomfort because I refuse to let my knees restrict my life. My diagnosis at this point is Patella-Femoral Syndrome, a condition where the kneecap slips out of place.
Yesterday, for my adventure in Medical Care, I got to go to a doctor’s office for an evaluation. This could have been simple, but the VA apparently has a contract only with a doctor who’s way out on the outskirts of the city. It took two long bus rides to get there.
I pulled the cord for the correct stop on the second bus, but, in my initial view of the area, it appeared somewhat rural, without any business buildings, just houses on a hill. So I asked the bus driver if there was a shopping plaza or something ahead, and when he said there was, I told him I’d rather go on to there.
Let me say, it was a very good thing I’d started this journey about three and a half hours before the appointment printed in the explanation and FAQ letter the VA sent me for this visit.
So I got off the bus at the shopping plaza and was, at first, quite reassured. Businesses, including a Dan’s Grocery and Einstein’s Bagels. I could work with this. After making a pit stop at a corner gas station for restroom and a snack, I trekked the length of the shopping center with the grocery store on my search for the doctor’s office—without success. The shopping plaza was one level, and the suite given for the doctor’s office was #310. So I came to the end of the plaza and considered things for a moment.
Well, I was at 3900 south, and the address given was around 4700 south. And I’d had the bus stop way back yonder near 4500 south. Which meant I probably had to get way back to that rural-looking area and hunt around for some sort of office building complex.
This involved a mile-long trek on a sidewalk only partially cleared of snow—did I mention we had snow the day before and it was about 25 degrees F? It was cold, and the sidewalk was treacherous with snow, right beside a street with people driving pretty fast. I laugh now, but that road had me so nervous, all I could do was hope that my crocheted rainbow scarf was bright enough to alert people to the idiot walking alongside the road.
I eventually reached the first stop I’d had the bus stop at and this time noticed the buildings on the hill across the street from it. This gave me hope. After searching for the entrance to this little office plaza, I found the driveway and headed for the nearest building. Whose directory did not list the clinic I needed to go to. Despite my disappointment, I knew I had another building to check, so I crossed the vast parking lot to it and entered to look at its directory. Eureka! The doctor’s office was listed on it. Greatly relieved, because I’d spent most of my extra time hunting this place down, I headed up to the office with about 15 or 20 minutes to spare before my written 12:45 appointment.
I got into the office’s minuscule waiting room and draped myself on the receptionist’s bar behind her computer, asking if anyone was in since no one sat at the desk. The receptionist and a nurse (she wasn’t really a nurse, but had some other medical-related degree I’ve forgotten, but I’ll call her a nurse for convenience) came out and told me my appointment was for 2:45. I had to laugh about this. They invited me to have a cup of hot tea or a bottle of water, and I chose the latter, then sat to read until they called me back.
My early arrival was good, though. After two other patients were seen, the nurse called me back early and the doctor evaluated my knees. This involved much bending and twisting of my knees, him pressing on them to find tender spots, and a great deal of pain. He also asked me a series of questions to get a thorough picture of my day to day issues with my knees. During the process, I received some ibuprofen, which I needed by this time, and I don’t usually take pain pills. Also during the course of this interview and examination, he notified me I was expected at a hospital downtown to have my knees X-Rayed, which was news to me! (LOL)
After he finished, I bundled up again, X-Ray order folded with the FAQ letter in my satchel. Then I took the bus I’d ridden out to the light rail station at the other end of its line, stopped at my bank downtown for laundry and transit money, then headed out to the hospital. I must say, I was quite glad the hospital was downtown, because I live nearby, and it was two short bus trips back home.
Now, at the hospital, I had a little side adventure. Signs pointing to the main entrance seemed to indicate a tall building on the northwest corner of the block the hospital on, so I passed the driveway to the entrance to the hospital proper and entered a building which seemed deserted. In my explorations of the entry halls, someone came in from a back door into the building and allowed me to follow her to where she was going. One of the office personnel there was kind enough to give me directions to the hospital—I happened to be in a building devoted to various clinics and doctors’ offices which was affiliated with the hospital. He took me to a window in the waiting room and pointed things out, and I thanked him for his help, then made my way to the hospital.
Check in took fifteen minutes, and I received a wristband before being directed to the radiology department. Within five minutes of my arrival, I was taken back for the X-Rays, and they proceeded quickly and easily with a minimum of additional discomfort. That completed, I was free to leave, and the westbound bus I needed came within two minutes of my arrival at the bus stop. From there, it was a block walk off the westbound bus to the southbound bus to take me home, and I must say I was glad to be home.
Now I get to wait for the results of this day-long excursion. I won’t be surprised by a confirmation of Patella-Femoral Syndrome, or a diagnosis of arthritis at this point. Either way, I’ll have exercises to do to rehabilitate my knees or some sort of care plan to deal with the arthritis, so it’ll be good.