Sunday, February 27, 2005

Piles of paperwork

Sorry for the couple of days without a post, Doc and I have been burning the candle at both ends to get the Post Deployment Health Assessments out before our admin team leaves the area (btw, my new Doc works his butt off and isn't afraid of paperwork (good!)). Each one of these questionnaires is filled out by everybody that's about to go home. The Doc reviews them with the patient going over any possible medical problems or questions and if there is need for specialist care, he writes a referral for when we get back and fills out the Doc questionnaire on the back page. After the patient is done, we take the forms down to Admin and type everything that was handwritten into a data base, each form is 4 pages, 3 of questions filled out by the patient and 1 by the doc. I can type in the patient part then Doc has to fill in the provider portion. Over the last 36 hours we've done well in excess of 100 but less the 300. Sorry one of the rules in OPSEC is that we can't give out our troop strength, specially on a blog, just let me say it was quite a few.

It is a good process and we're not allowed to leave the country unless we have one of these forms in hand. It's just labor intensive for the medical staff while we're doing them but I'm not complaining because I like the program.

Things that are covered:

How many times were you sick, what illnesses or symptoms did you have (with 24 choices) during the deployment, vaccinations given, meds taken and possible environmental hazards that you might have been exposed to (lots of choices here too, if it's bad for you except smoking, it's covered here).

Then it gets into the psychological portion, asking if you had seen dead people, coalition, enemy or civilian. Have discharged your weapon, felt in danger of dying or interested in receiving help for stress that might have been caused by this deployment. It also asks about stressors, the answers you can check are none, some or a-lot, the questions are, interest or pleasure doing things, are you feeling depressed, thoughts that you would be better of dead or hurting yourself. My favorite question is "Have you ever had any experience that was so frightening, horrible or upsetting that, in the last month?" then it gives multiple yes or no answers underneath it; had nightmares about the experience, tried not to think about it, were constantly on guard, felt numb or detached. I've had the last one, just not in Iraq. In a past incarnation of myself, there was a period in my life where I was doing aircraft mishap investigations (part of my job as an Aviation Med Tech), after seeing so many shocking things. Shocking things become the norm. I've since recovered from that portion of my life but it did build a shield that has so far protected me from much of what bothers people in combat stress situations.

This form is a big step since the first Gulf War, we don't want some mystery Gulf War illness to sneak up on us, when we get back, everyone gives a blood sample that is stored at a repository in case something happens in the future (there was also one taken before we left to compare the two). After typing these damn things all day long the thought ran through my head that most of my readers have no clue about what we do for the troops before they come back and that we leave them for the wolves, yes there are those that don't get the help they need. This form physical is a step in the right direction, it's not perfect but it does concentrate on the problems that we have been running into with this current war and continuing further care once we get back to the rear.


I was talking with the corpsman down at Wing and we were discussing how much a pain in the ass these are to type in. An idea came up that maybe we should have the patients fill these out these forms online. Save a few trees, maybe something attached to the members MyPay account? It would keep us short staffed medical folk from sitting at a computer for days at a time, retyping everything. Once entered the patient presses a submit button, if something was missed, it would tell him. Submitted by the patient, it would be able to be pulled up by the doctor for the personal interview and digitally signed and printed there. A nice side onto this you can digitally write the consult at this time. Of course it likely won't happen because it makes too much sense. But if it does, you heard it first here!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Warrior Training

A sign that my little trip is almost to a close. Today I went to the Warriors Transition Brief. It's a class that reintegrates us back into regular civilian society. Today's class was smooth compared to some of the earlier briefs that I went to. All of the speakers actually had the hard questions included on each of their speels. If you have gone through many military classes, difficult questions were mostly pushed off till later. You either had to ask them after the class, email them or visit them in their office so they would look it up. Medical went over Leishmaniasis and Gulf War Illness (along with all the major illnesses possible out here) and told the Marines the proper questions to ask to get the correct follow up care. Legal went through wills, rights that deployed troops have and taking care of credit. The Chaplin's speech didn't change that much from prior speeches, today's Chaplin was a pretty good speaker, most of the same stuff covered prior classes about suicide prevention, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anger management, counseling services offered by a bunch of different agencies and getting along with co-workers and family. Each person had 800 numbers to call and websites to visit if more questions popped up in the future.

My only beef with the brief was watching the same suicide prevention video again. Every time I see video, it makes me want to choke myself. I feel like I'm a kid watching Blues Clues, those of you with kids know what I'm talking about. Five days a week they show the same episode (like living through Ground Hog Day over and over but instead of having cool people to hang out with it's these depressing people who want to kill themselves.) I've seen the video 11 or so times in the last year and a half. It's a video made of skits of people that are showing the warning signs of suicide. Half of them turn into pricks and the other half do something self destructive. Some of the reasons they give for screwing up are because their wife leaves them, they're stressed out about finances, their girlfriend ran up their credit card then dumped them (I blogged about that subject after leaving here last time, actually it was after watching the damn movie, it made me paranoid) or they got a DUI because their home life sucks. All of these are real problems that I've seen more then one time or other, none of it's fun. Then someone in their chain of command intervenes, the member gets counseling to handle the problem but what the video leaves out is what happens then. If the member had done something wrong or broke the law, after they go through all the good counseling and support, they're going to get roasted over the coals, money taken away, maybe loss of rank, possible discharge. This is going through everybody's mind that watches this video. Maybe that's the subliminal message behind it. If you're going to wig, do it in a calm manner and talk to somebody before it gets out of control, don't get in trouble doing it. I know suicide is a very serious subject and with my job, it's something I deal with on a regular basis. I just think this video gives mixed messages or maybe I'm just tired of watching it and I'm being overly critical, but this movie does give me the serious eeebeejeebees. Maybe it's time for a new one that doesn't give me more nightmares then combat? Mental illness is something that never has a clear or clean answer because of its objective nature, each case is different. At least we're getting over some of the stigma that has been attached to it.

PS Congratulations to my cousin Phillip and his wife Kim for their new baby son, Kyle Cooper!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

morning circus

There was a conspiracy going on this morning, I was off yesterday because I had duty the night before. Guess the word was passed that we're back to Flacks and Kevlar's starting at 0600, just wasn't passed to me. So I wake up, do my normal morning stuff and head out to the bus stop. I'm sitting there waiting when a high ranking officer sneaks up besides me and yells in my ear,

"Where's your Flack and Kevlar?!"


"The word was passed to everyone on base!"

"Yes sir, I'll go get it"

Grumble, grumble. I had talked to the duty minutes before and not a word was spoken about it as I walked out minus the armor. So I walked back to my room to put the gear on, bitch at the duty on the way out and then headed back to the bus stop to sit for another 20 minutes till the next bus came along. While sitting there, saw the same guy come out and yell at two other people for the same reason which made me feel a little superior because I was now wearing the stuff. At least someone out there cares (or had nothing better to do that morning). The next bus comes and I hop on, it goes through most of the route till right before the road I need to go to and turns down a side street. The drivers a local and he pulls into the bus barn, fly's out of the bus, slamming the door and runs into the building. Not a word to me, I'm mildly worried. So open my book (I always have a book in my pocket) and start reading. After sitting there for a few minutes, started thinking about going in and asking what in the hell is going on when an Army motor transport person comes out and tells me that I was on the last run of this bus and I had to get on another bus.

Argh, okay, I get on that bus and it goes through the entire route again before coming to my stop. What is normally a 15 minute bus ride ended up taking an hour and a half. Sigh!

Other then that, SSDD, working on my waking/sleeping routine, missing my future bride and just passing the days. On hindsight, this mornings circus was sort of humorous if you weren't me, well even I laughed after a while but then again I laugh at most things after a while. At least I had a book.

Shows me for having a day off.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Damn snoring roommates

I woke up the other night to a horrible sawing sound, it kicked me out of sleep like a falling dream. I looked around into the darkness, what in the hell was that? It dawned on me that it was my new roommate snoring! My first plan was to ignore it and try going back to sleep. I spent the next half hour trying tossing and turning, put ear plugs in my ears, pillow over my head but to no avail. Time for plan B. Beside my rack (I'm on the top rack), I had a box of shampoo samples that had came in someone's care package. Silently I moved my hand into the box and pulled one out and leaned back a little bit and chucked it with all my might at his body, it made a loud wapping sound as it hit.... Nothing. I did this till my supply of ran out (8 or so), it didn't even cause a break in his evil rhythm. Probably because I aimed at his body which was covered with a sleeping bag (if I poked him in the eye, I would have had to take care of him, first rule of medicine is do no harm and I was in no mood to sew someone up at 3 in the morning). I stared into the blackness some more and thought, mmm, no don't want to damage my books, no I like that pen, bottle of water is too heavy, no not the fan. Ahhh, what about my super bright LED head light? So I crawled to the front of my rack till I was leaning over his head and bam, almost like a blow, the light hit his eyes, I was also blinded with it's briliance too.

Know what?

He stopped snoring and almost woke up.

I slid quietly back to my pillow with a chuckle to myself and into the blissful sound of silence once more. I was asleep in seconds.

The next morning, he woke with a puzzled expression on his face. He couldn't figure out where all the shampoo packets had came from. I told him about it later (and about this).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

How can we make a difference?

How many of you out there take time out of your busy schedule to make a difference in someone else's life? I've just got done reading a long and lengthy article on Human Consciousness (thanks aunt Lynda) and just what one person can accomplish. Most of us are tied so closely into making ourselves happy or plain survival that we don't pay attention to what's happening to the little bits community that swirl around us. I personally know many selfless people that give more then they take in, they cultivate the people in their lives and are the bonding agent that keeps people together. Each day there's a conscious choice to make improvements to something or someone around them, selflessly. In time these small steps add up and eventually successful communities get started with the seed that they've laid.

One of the problems that we're having in Iraq is that we have people that are trying to break apart the sense of community. Public figures that are trying to make this country a better place get gunned down which takes out another link between today and a better future. Iraqi's are so focused on survival that they have a hard time concentrating on making a difference in the bigger picture, not all of them but enough. They're sole goal is the survival of their immediate family and themselves. They're numb to most of what is going on and I can't blame them, the human body can get used to almost anything. I wish there was an easier way to break this cycle that we're in. Until then myself and people like me will be here working a difference one day at a time.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Thanks Pop!

For the nifty cursor! He's the real computer guru of the family.

Valentine's Day away from loved ones

My first Valentine's day away from Tragic, sorry hun. Duty calls, believe me, I'd rather be home with you. Soon! I miss you! One of the sad things about being in the military is how many holidays we spend away from our loved ones which is never any fun. Wish everyone out there a Happy Valentine's day.

My co-padre and I are switching days on who's staying the night at work. Just till he gets on the plane for home in a few weeks. Then I'll be solo for a while. Glad I'm not flying CASEVAC this time around, not because it's dangerous but because it's freezing out there! I'm wearing all of my warm weather stuff on the ground and still cold. I'd be a doc-sickle at a hundred and fifty miles an hour hanging out a big open window. Burr!

So far most of my job has been paper shuffling and submitting reports, no new injuries, just sniffles. A few mortars hit a couple of days ago but it was off base, we heard a couple of dull thumps. I didn't even look outside, it's always the curious guy that looses an eye.

Da Goddess and LCdr Smash and their Protest Warrior's did a nice thank you gig to the armed forces outside of my home base of MCAS Mira Mar, sorry I wasn't able to do a flyby guys. Maybe when I'm back in the rear. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Cold wind, Warm heart, SMH=HMS

It's dried out only to be replaced by freezing wind, glad I'm not in a fox hole. I was going to go visit the guys down at HMM 774, the replacement for my old unit today but it's to cold and windy. I'll just huddle here in my office and drink coffee. It's actually warm in here. Looking forward to the warm beaches of San Diego again and hanging out with Tragic. She's the only thing that's making this little trip seem long (it's not).

If you have gone through your whole life searching for that missing piece to your puzzle and never finding it, what should you do when it suddenly appears? I've found mine. No clothes have ever fit me this good, no taste has been sweeter in my mouth, you light my day and I bask in your radiance. I thought someone like you couldn't exist and now you're in my life, the search is done. Thank you for existing and being you.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Sorta wet

First time I'm out without my gortex jacket and it starts raining cats and dogs which soon turned into hail. Brrrrr! Then we had to stand in a huge line in front of the chow hall. Sigh! At least it was warm inside. Have been spending most of my time getting introduced to the medical elements around base and seeing what has changed (not much except the security is better), planning on visiting the unit that replaced my old one in the next couple of days. Just getting back in the swing of things.

The Super Bowl was on last night at 2 AM, I haven't been following football at all this year so I didn't bother getting up for it (I know Tammi and Holly it's un-American not to watch the Super Bowl, sorry!). Yes it was showing all over base and many people did watch it. Currently our medical is on a 3 section duty, one guy stays the night here every third day. After the other corpsman leave, I'll probably be up here on a full time basis. I'm only here for a couple of months so it's not that big of a deal plus I'll have a room all to myself and don't have to worry about the hassle of roommates.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Seem's like I'm home again

It does seem like I've hardly left. The only thing that's really changed is that it's cold and rainy this time. Glad I'm in an actual building. Have been making my visits around base letting everyone know that I've made it on one piece. Met the new PAO, first thing out of his mouth? "So you're that Dustman, what hell are you doing back this soon?" I've spent more time here then back in the states.

I'm doing fine, friendly people all about and have heard nothing go boom. Don't worry about care packages, I'm here less then two months and there's left overs from many other care packages to choose from. I'll be home soon.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Canned entry that I couldn't upload from my memory stick

Well this blows, my product key for my Microsoft Office Suite expired just now, so I'm typing this on Microsoft Works. Right when I pull into Kuwait, figures! Doesn't it seem like I was just out here? I might be the first guy from my old unit to have made it back. I've been assigned to a different unit, right up the hill from the last place I was at. Haven't actually got out there yet though. Arrived in Kuwait an hour ago just in the deadline for getting the month of January tax free, now just hope they count when we land and not when we go through the check in process (0130). If they do, there's going to be a plane load of happy Marines and Sailors.

The plane ride was 19 hours, we stopped off at Germany to refuel and change over crews but weren't allowed off due to some heavy traffic the airport was having (anyway it was cold and sleety outside). The first flight crew dressed up some male Marines in Wigs and makeup and stuffed shirts to serve the first meal, of course took pictures and they'll appear on my fotopage once I get a faster internet connection. The entire aircraft was decorated red, white and blue, balloons, streamers and messages of support taped to every bulkhead. American Airlines definitely does a great job of supporting the troops. The crew was the friendliest crew that I've ever had the pleasure to fly with (but deluxe class on EVA Air had better seats) Staff NCO's and officers got to take first and business class. The rest of us packed into general population, I've been doing too much of this flying month!

At least this flight out here didn't feel as unreal as my last one out. I didn't know what to expect last time, we were just going to war, didn't know where I was going or what our mission what going to end up being like. Today's flight was just another plane flight to new mission with a new squadron. It's a new squadron but I don't feel quite like I'm stepping into the unknown.
Kuwait is pretty much the same, sandy, dusty. Lots of big tents, the port-a-johns are cleaner and there's a few more shops on base, a pizza place and a nice USO. More computers at the free internet cafe but the speeds are real slow. Chow hall is still the same but the base personal seem a bit more user friendly. Waiting for word on, my stick (people that are on the same flight out of here) are waiting on word when the next flight out of here is going to be, till then just passing my time and trying not to get the Kuwaiti crud that I got last time.

Miss you Tragic, using a picture of you standing next to the pillar at the Balboa Park as a book mark and while reading, I pull it out and just look at you. Who would have thought it would come this far? Don't worry, I'll keep my head down and you know that you're always on my mind. Remember the hard part is over, we've found each other. Now we have to hang on a little bit till we can see each other again. Stay safe and don't forget me!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Kuwait take two

Made it in before midnight on the 31st! Which means I'm tax free for the month of January, I had a nice canned blog post on my memory stick but can't install it on this computer. Just wanted to say a big thank you to our flight crew from American Airlines, the inside of the cabin was decorated red, white and blue and they were very friendly and supportive of the troops(even though my Delux seat on EVA air was more comfortable). Gotta go take care!

later the same night......

Night life of a military camp in the middle east, 3 AM and theres 30 people in line waiting to get on the phone, people that can't sleep or making their calls on a loved ones schedule back home. The BX would make a mint if they were open 24/7, middle of the night, folk are wide awake with nothing to do but get online or call home. At the base I'm at in Kuwait, it's a holding tank for people going in and out of Iraq. We're dropped off here waiting for the plane ride to our next destanation. So there's quite a few people who's only job is waiting. It does give you a chance to catch your breath before heading out. Doesn't it seem like I was just here?