Monday, March 2, 2015

#DearVA I'm A Combat Wounded Infantryman...

#DearVA,

I'm a combat wounded infantryman and a disabled veteran. I am also a fat and grumpy father of two and the husband of a woman with an indomitable spirit. When I was injured in Iraq, my dreams of continuing my Army career went away. Yes, I know there are guys out there who lose legs or arms and stay in. That's wonderful, and I wish I could be like them, but that's not the point of my letter to you.  

I'm writing this to share with you what has been going through my mind when my doctor told me that I would soon be weened off of my narcotic pain medication. Due to the nature of my injuries, multiple parts of my body hurt, and at different intensities and frequencies. I use the narcotic pain medicine to help me stave off some of the more intense pain so that I may be the best father and husband I can for my family. I understand that there are risks involved with medicine, especially narcotic types. I understand that there is a chance for addiction, overdose, and other physical ailments down the road. Recognizing these risks, and in sound mind I say to you that I do not care. Doctors take an oath to do no harm, and I can appreciate that, however I am not interested in a long, healthy life. I want to manage the pain associated with my injuries as best I can so that I can continue to be a part of my family. I want to live with a little pain as possible - not for as long as possible.

Now you might have read those last few sentences and thought that I might be suicidal. I am not. Suicide is counter-productive to my mission. You also might have gotten the wrong impression, and figured all I want is my drugs. I am more than willing to try other things. I would be willing to be prescribed fewer pills. I've been prescribed a TENS unit and an Alpha Stim, and they get used regularly. I've also gone through physical therapy, and I'll be doing it again very soon. Considering all of that, I still feel that the narcotic pain medication provides relief, and without it I would be totally useless to my family. I wouldn't be able to complete my mission, which would leave me in a bind. Do I admit defeat (not going to happen)? Do I become a criminal? Thoughts like this have been keeping me awake for the past week now.  

Another thing that I found interesting: I'm not the only guy out there who thinks the same. Here's an article ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/veterans-struggle-to-renew-their-prescriptions-amid-new-opioid-rules/2015/02/18/4d42d63a-acb3-11e4-9c91-e9d2f9fde644_story.html ) full of other veterans who depend on opioids to cope with their pain. Also, like the veterans in the article, my wife is my biggest supporter. She is the fail-safe between me and an overdose. She spends her days managing my medications, appointments, the budget, the house and the children. It truly is a wonder this woman hasn't lost her mind and exploded like the exhausted celestial body that she is.

VA, I know you won't see this. If you do see it, I know you won't care. I understand that, as sad as that is. I just hope you know one thing: we are your junkyard dogs. At a young age, I learned a powerful life lesson that I fear you haven't: those who snatch from junkyard dogs get bit.

-Disabled Combat Veteran