Welcome Back! Last week, we visited with Jan Guttormsen, and her thoughts on trust. I know we heard from many of you who share her experiences. This week, we get the pleasure of hearing from one of America’s finest! Charity Payne is the wife of a Sailor. She comes to us with a unique Doctor/Patient experience. Let’s grab a Cup of Coffee and listen to her story…
As a Navy Wife for many years, I learned some things about the U.S. Navy that pertain to life, but also to the medical system. One, “hurry up and wait,” is a true statement and is practiced. Two, military doctors will you give “Vitamin M,” (800 mg. ibuprofen to fix any ailment you might have). Three, learn to be your own advocate and lastly, just like in the civilian world, there are great doctors, and some not so great ones too.
Like anything, there are positives and negatives to the military medical system, also known as TriCare. Things can get “lost in transition” easily, when you are assigned to a group, rather than one physician. Not seeing the same physician at each visit, can become frustrating, having to explain your situation repeatedly. Doctors in the military often get re-stationed, so even if you find one you like, they may not be there for long. There can also be “hoops” to jump through to get referrals, tests, etc.
I was given a quick lesson in this, as the ink was still drying on my TriCare and DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System), stack of forms. Just a month after marrying my husband, a United States Navy Sailor, he, my daughter and I, were involved in a bad car accident. Being that my Sailor was a Recruiter, we were taken to the nearest military hospital, Madigan Army Hospital, at Fort Lewis, Washington. We found out the hard way, that even though the accident wasn’t our fault, and the driver that hit us twice was insured, because TriCare didn’t offer certain treatments, we wouldn’t be able to receive them. These treatments are: Chiropractor, Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, and Homeopathic Medicine. They are all considered, “Alternative Medicine.” So even with a bad case of whiplash and lower back pain, we were told “No” for that coverage. Instead, I still have back pain nearly 17 years later. These treatments are still not covered today. What a difference they would make!
“Hurry up and Wait,” is kind of a joke with military personnel and their families, but a true statement. Military members hurry up to pick orders, then wait to hear where they will be re-stationed to, standing in line at the barber for a haircut, training, preparing for deployment, PCSing across the country, and waiting for your household goods to arrive, you name it! Though military hospitals have improved immensely in the past decade with Triage units in Emergency Rooms, it is not uncommon to wait six hours to be seen. On more than one occasion, I have sat with my husband or daughter for the six hours in the E.R., to then have to wait an additional two hours, (sometimes until 2 a.m.) waiting on the prescriptions the doctor just wrote, to be filled by the pharmacy. “Hurry up and Wait,” – the story of my life, as a Navy Wife and Mom.
The next two things, in my experience, go hand in hand. One, change is constant, and two, learn to be your own advocate (and that of your spouse and child when necessary.) This became an immediate lesson for me when were stationed in San Diego, California. Upon arrival to his new ship, my husband was told, “Pack your bags! We are leaving on an unscheduled deployment in six weeks!” Talk about Change! We missed all the debriefings and were quickly gathering supplies and trying to schedule all the necessary doctor and dentist appointments before the ship was to pull out. Fortunately, deploying Sailors get priority, so they can get their inoculations before deploying and going to foreign ports. At one point, we had 23 schedule changes in 18 days! Learning to “Flex and Roll” became vital, and I discovered that Navy Wives are some of the most resilient and flexible people I have ever met! I learned during that deployment how to stand up for both myself and my daughter.
As a Navy family, we lived all over the country. One duty station we were at was considered a “remote duty location,” which meant our nearest military medical facility was over 100 miles away. We were then able to go to civilian doctors and dentists in our local region. While stationed at a NASA base in a small town in Virginia, our doctor and dentist were in a larger city, a 20 minute drive into Maryland. We loved our Doctor! Dr. Whittaker was wonderful to all of us, and the kind of man that still took his little black bag and did house calls for patients too sick to come see him in his office. And when we had a blizzard his Office Manager, his wife, went and picked up his elderly patients, so he could still see them. We had fantastic care and in a small town with few options for doctors, we were grateful! Dr. Whittaker also called TriCare several times on our behalf, to get tests coded correctly, so they were covered, or to help us get the referrals we needed.
While running for Physical Training required by the U.S. Navy, my Sailor’s knee buckled and he later collapsed as he walked in our front door. I took him to Urgent Care, then onto the Emergency Room soon after. A major asset to being active duty military was, we didn’t have to pay co-pays. With my husband on shore duty pay, which is significantly less than pay on a ship, (about half of sea pay), there is no way we could have afforded his care. We were so grateful for TriCare!
He went on to see an Orthopedic Surgeon, and had exploratory surgery shortly after. It was discovered that there was a gap of cartilage under his right knee cap and it would require more surgery. He was then referred to Dr. Mark Boytem a couple of states away, in Lewes, Delaware. Dr. Boytem was a “Pioneer” as a surgeon, in a procedure that required, what he described to me as “Space Age Technology.” For my Sailor’s second surgery, Dr. Boytem did a cartilage harvest from my husband’s thigh. The cartilage was then grown in a laboratory all Summer. The third surgery, called a Carticel Implant, was placing the laboratory grown cartilage into a bowl shape formed out of bone, and inserted back underneath his knee cap! The fourth and final surgery, was to trim the cartilage that had grown too much.
After each surgery, my husband worked with a wonderful Physical Therapist, Dr. Steve Daisey. At the time, my husband’s Naval career was in jeopardy. It was probable he would be medically retired at 17 years, and would not receive a pension. Because of Dr. Boytem’s expertise and with the stellar experience of Physical Therapist, Steve Daisey, my husband was able to continue his Naval career and became worldwide deployable. He went on to complete one more extended deployment and retired after completing twenty years of service in the United States Navy.
As a Navy family, we have had many experiences with TriCare. Yes, there are “hoops” to jump through at times, but that can be found almost anywhere. Overall, our experience has been a positive one. Without TriCare coverage, my husband literally would not be able to stand today, nor would he have been able to fully retire from the U.S. Navy.
To say that we are appreciative or grateful would be an understatement. While my Sailor served our country, TriCare served us well!
I so appreciate your description of the challenges and the benefits of medical insurance.
It is inspiring that despite many challenges, you view situations from different angles and with an open perspective.
I also appreciate your reminder that change is a constant. As our healthcare system evolves, our willingness to explore new options and advocate for the aspects of care that we feel are integral to healing is essential.
Your response highlights the importance of the relationship between a physician and patient over our lifetime. As you mention, when a patient changes from physician to physician, it can be frustrating to repeat his or her history or concerns, and at times, information can be lost in transition. Yet, when physicians and patients are given time to establish and develop a relationship (as you and your family and Dr. Whittaker were), the value is immeasurable.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights.
About Deb Roman:
Deb Sheinbach Roman, D.O. www.finding-health.com Dr. Deb Roman has worked as a family physician in clinical medicine for over 30 years – with a focus on enhancing the body’s inherent ability to heal and express health. As a Board Certified Family Physician, she offers integrative medicine consultations and hands-on osteopathic medicine to individuals of all ages. She integrates advanced training in nutrition, mindful practice, biodynamic osteopathy and integrative medicine into her work. She is an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine at the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, teaches classes on osteopathic principles and practice, and mentors medical school students and residents. Dr. Roman also serves as the Director of Physician Wellness and Chair of Continuing Medical Education for the Idaho Osteopathic Physicians Association. She is the Founder of Rediscovering Meaning In Our Work – a consulting and educational program with a focus on the well being of physicians and medical school students. She teaches workshops, organizes retreat-like conferences, offers presentations, provides consultations to individuals and organizations, and facilitates a monthly physician discussion group. The next Rediscovering Meaning In Our Work conference for physicians is scheduled for September 28-29, 2018 in Boise: finding-health.com/2018conference. Dr. Roman offers Meaningful Work physician to physician consultations. She contributes as a speaker to medical conferences nationwide, exploring ways to enhance physician health and well being and facilitating interactive discussions on the science of mindful practice and the cultivation of compassion in healthcare.