Sunday, April 24, 2011

Part 2 30 years ago today

This is the second part of a longer story part one is here
We took pictures outside the chapel and there were lots of hugs and kisses. We were planning a reception back in town the following weekend so we all went our separate routes home not too long after the ceremony ended. The long wait with the unruly children had worn out, “them that brung em” so there was some justice that day.

Cary, Mary and I planned to drive back in the morning so we went back to the casino for dinner and drinks. The luck had shifted and now Cary couldn’t lose while I was struggling to stay even. The law of averages gets us all in the end. We ended our gambling up enough to pay for most of the trip so that was cool. Everyone jazzed we went ahead and drove back to Mary’s place in the foothills that night sparring her another frosty nights sleep.
On Sunday we picked up Cary’s kids from the babysitter and they were immediately pissed because the other kids were there. We went home and got ready for life in the married lane and work on Monday. With the both of us being sick we were not able to take any leave for a Honeymoon. We both had to be back at work at the hospital.

Cary’s folks were back on the east coast at the time in the process of selling their place to move back to California. A complicated situation I will spare you the details of. We were renting a house from her brother and they were going to be moving in with us. We went to work and thought that life was good, and it was for 5 whole days.

The morning of the first of May my new bride woke up with a splitting head ache. This was about 3 in the Am after an hour of not being able to relieve it I loaded her into the car and took he to the ER at David Grant. Little did I know at the time that this was merely the beginning of a 20 year odyssey of doctors and government bureaucracies and uncertainty on a level I can hardly believe I survived. Her blood pressure was 210/140 and the Doc thought that she was having a stroke. He ordered her intubated and when they did a crappy job of it causing her to vomit the dude thought his genius was positively prescient. They stabilized he BP with Drugs and sent her off for an emergency CT scan. This gave me a chance to run back to the house and get a hold of Frank to take care of the kids and to get into uniform to report for work.

They admitted her to intensive care and by that afternoon she was doing much better. The thinking was still stroke but the Scan had not shown a bleed. The first of many anomalous test results in a diagnostic mystery worthy of a House episode. 4 years later they would use one of the first MRI scanners on the west coast to confirm the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Along the way they would misdiagnose and miss treat quite a few ailments. The most embarrassing was a false positive Syphilis. This caused quite a bit of strife as I had been TDY for training in Texas for 3 months just prior to the test and until I tested negative my name was mud. I always held a bit of a grudge over the fact that she didn’t trust me when I didn’t jump to conclusions about her but she had been through quite a bit with dudes in the past and I like to think I made up for that for her eventually. For the record I was always faithful to my vows.
That trip to Texas was the last time we were apart for any length of time until the fiasco of the house building. I lived in a tent on the property for two months in the Washington rain while we farmed out the kids to friends and Cary stayed with her mom. I was doing a lot of labor on the building but it was in truth only supposed to be two weeks. You know how it is with contractors. At that point she was still self sufficient in the activities of daily living. That changed about a year later and then she required my care 24/7 for the last 5 years of our life together.

Our life would come to be defined by uncertainty in those years. Relapsing remitting MS is a disease that ravages the body a little bit at a time. It is an exhausting disease as your muscles work poorly with one another due to bad communication between nerve cells. This was compounded by the bureaucrats that deal with the disability insurance portion of our society as they are not very good at uncertain things. The doubt gets internalized in strange ways and now it is easy to diagnose and they even have a mildly successful treatment that was not the case until it was too late to do us any good. I always found it ironic that we were both in search of some stability and security in our decision to go into the military as a career and that is how we met.

One of the reasons I take up this tale is related to the latest round of attacks on the sick and the weakest among us as the target for all of the pain. I think for some people our constant struggle with the government to retain our health insurance and to receive even the basic insurance benefits that we had earned. We are in the process of destroying the social safety net established in the latter half of the 20th century. A safety net that is woefully inadequate and capricious. Because one doctor refused to admit he was wrong even in the face of overwhelming evidence we lost about 40 thousand dollars in benefits and lost thousands more in opportunity costs. I present this as a cautionary tale as anecdotes are just that but that is how we govern in our nation. The most compelling tale wins.

In some respects Cary was lucky with the diagnosis. Our clinic doctor figured out it was MS after only about a year of weird symptoms he called it. Unfortunately there was no definitive test. There are some people that have a protein in their spinal fluid but only a moderate percentage. Now they use magnetic resonance imaging MRI to find the plaques but that was just becoming an option and the doctor that was trying to rip Cary out of her benefit was not interested in spending the big bucks on someone he had already diagnosed as a malingerer. We forced the medical board to order the test, an advantage of reading the regulations and knowing how to use a letter to a Senator. The test showed plaques all through her brain but the scumbag doctor did not alter his summary to reflect that he was wrong. That dogged us for years and every time a reevaluation of her disability came up they used that to cut off her benefits and force us to appeal. Every other year losing a significant portion of your income for a year or 18 months can screw with your life in profound ways. Not including the time I was unable to make money taking care of her. It works to make sure you can never accumulate any wealth. Bear in mind that they were doing this to a veteran with a service connected in the line of duty disability. This looks like a good place to close an already too long piece. Thanks for reading those that stuck it out.

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