i know it seems like no one ever has anything good to say about military living. the only time people talk about it is to complain. why? because when it’s good, it’s good. but when it’s bad, it’s bad. i regret to inform you that i am no different.
it was right after christmas 2009 that i woke up with a stuffy nose, that to this day has never gone away. i had just moved back to the fort drum area. for some reason they never really processed my Tricare (health insurance paperwork) and i was never assigned a PCM (primary care manager). a few months had passed that i had not been feeling well. i broke down and went to the Tricare office. finally, they assigned me to a health care provider. i went home and called to make an appointment, i was told there was a 4 month waiting list to be seen. a few weeks went by and i felt worse and worse. i broke down and went to an urgent care and paid out of my pocket. i saw a PA that told me i had strep throat and a sinus infection. she prescribed me some antibiotics. it changed nothing. at this point i have been gargling salt water every night for months. so, again i go back to Tricare and tell them i need a new PCM.
FINALLY, they assign me to someone at an urgent care. the urgent care doctor checked out my nose and said he thought it was just “springtime allergies.” HAHA. he prescribed zyrtec and nasonex. neither of which helped. the nasonex made it worse. i gave up. we were going to moving in a few months anyway.
its now june, and we are in florida. the tricare system was much different in our area. i was assigned to a military treatment facility (MTF) and would see a military doctor. the first appointment they made for me was for a (cringe) pap smear. anyway, the doctor asked me if there were in other concerns i wanted to address, so i mentioned my nose. he took a look and put in for a referral.
i was referred to a civilian ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor). i go to my appointment. im led back to the exam room by a tech. i imagine it looked exactly the same in 1979. the tech proceeded to spray sanitizer from a filthy bottle onto the chair, the nasal endoscope, and table. she then used kleenex to wipe the sanitizer away. i should have walked out then. i waited an hour before the disgusting doctor walked in. he was making off color jokes and looked dirty and unkempt. i was so desperate. he examined my nose then moved to the endoscope. he didnt put any kind of shield over it, he didnt numb my nose, or use any lubricant. he literally just jammed it into my nose. it was awful. he immediately said he thought all my problem were caused by a deviated septum that could be corrected with surgery. they did some blood work and made a follow up appointment. i would never go back.
i went to the tricare office to explain what happened. i wanted to see if i had to go through my PCM to get another referral. and i happened to be talking to one of the nicest most professional tricare customer service reps. she took care of it right away and referred me to a new ENT.
the new ENT was great. he was an excellent listener. in my opinion he and his staff did everything they could to make it a positive experience. after having a CT scan he saw that i had a severe sinus infection. i was put on antibiotics for about a month. that ended up causing a lot of other problems (that i am still dealing with 7 months later). i was also put on every combination of allergy medications allowed. my sinus infection got better but nothing else did. the allergy medication didnt help. he recommended me for immunotherapy (allergy shots). but i was only covered for 5 visits with his office and would now have to follow up with my PCM. and that he would forward his conclusions to my insurance company.
i call my PCM’s office to make the appointment. i specifically said they need to get my records from the other office. i show up to the appointment and the guy had no idea why i was there. he said because we were moving again soon he couldnt really help me. he told me i should just buy some sudafed until i could get it straightened out.
now we are in north carolina. when i re-enrolled in tricare north they gave me a list of providers to choose from. the first five providers i called were either no longer working at the facilities listed or the facilities were closed down. i end up with the 6th one down on the list. a care provider at an urgent care facility that makes no appointment and does walk-ins only.
this past month has been almost the worst i have felt since this started. bloody noses, sinus pain, swollen glads, sore throat, and almost impossible sleep. today, i finally broke down and drove myself to the urgent care. there was a sign on the door saying they have been closed since last week and will reopen next week. i felt so defeated. i called my insurance company to ask if there is anything else i could do temporarily till i could get into to see my PCM. the representative told me that i would have to start over with the list and just find a new provider. there was nothing they could do to help me. i told her it felt more urgent but she repeated herself, as if i didnt hear her the first time. i thanked her for her time and hung up.
i think there is a misconception that the army/military takes care of its own. that there are support systems and protocols for any and every situation. but there isnt. if i had to describe it, i would say this life is kind of like trying to navigate through a labyrinth that keeps changing. repeatedly, i have reached out for help, and literally even begged. one time i was literally told that i should just feel lucky that i can say i have insurance. i feel like most family oriented programs in the military community are targeted to families with children, and i certainly will NEVER fit into that category. where does that leave me?
i wish i could believe that someone important would read this and want to help. that someone would hear my voice. but i am not that naive. and frankly, its why i keep my mouth shut so much. i keep asking myself this question, what good is my voice or even the collective voice of military spouses/families if no one is listening? why bother?
im sure you are thinking that its just a stuffy nose, that it cant be that bad. but imagine your worst head cold, and what it would be like to have it for a year and a half. i would also like to note that i dont want anyone to feel bad for me. i wanted to log my experience should i ever need to recall it. also, i want people to want to help change the way things are. not just for me but all military families that cant get their health insurance (that we pay for) to work for them.
if youve read all the way down here, im sorry. if you dont care, thats ok. thanks for reading.