The reality is, for most people, nursing homes are repositories for those wasting away, waiting to die. No matter how hard nursing homes try to defer the attention away from reality, reality always returns in the lonely hours of solitude.
Having been placed in a nursing home prematurely is a frightening, frustrating, and depressing condition thrust upon me unwittingly.
My orientation contained carefully crafted dialog which omitted the term “nursing home.” In fact, those words were never mentioned when discussing my treatment, therapy, or future. It was always referred to as “the Veterans Care Center.” I had no idea I was being cast aside like waste.
My last memory in late July, 2011 was traveling down Hull Street in Richmond, Virginia on the way to the emergency room at Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Medical Center.
I remember waking up several days later in bed at Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center after being admitted on August 3. I had never heard of the facility. I didn’t know it was a nursing home where people were left to die. I lingered and languished at the Veterans Care Center in a daze, in and out, with only vague memories of what transpired.
Seven weeks later I was told I had an abscess between T-8 and T-9 vertebrae which was putting pressure on my spinal column caused by the MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria. I was transferred back to McGuire Hospital where the VA Medical Center performed a laminectomy on September 21.
I am now a paraplegic confined to a power wheelchair for the rest of my life. I have not walked since the surgery.
After the surgery, I was an in-patient at McGuire Spinal Cord Injury Unit being fed medications through a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) until early December.
During this time, my memories are vague, but I do remember some of the nightmares vividly. Most were about the hospital room moving, losing my balance, and the fear of falling.
I was coerced and led through administrative doors that permanently closed behind me. There were no alternatives offered, no turning back. I was ushered through a bureaucratic maze filled with omissions, half-truths, and misleading information. I was never told I was being transferred to a “nursing home.” It was always referred to as the Veterans Care Center or it was for continued “rehab.” No one alluded to the fact the move was permanent.
I was told I needed to provide the VA my “financial records” for Medicare to facilitate the transfer. I was never told details about Medicaid or the ramifications.
Those revelations would not come until December 19th.
I was transferred back to Sitter and Barfoot on December 9, 2011.
All during this time I had only the clothes on my back and $41.00 when I got into the ambulance back in July. During my stay at McGuire, I received some books, and my neighbor brought my laptop from home. That was it!
I was to learn later that was all I would be left with; $2,000.00 after the required “spend down” after a lifetime of work. Several books, a laptop, the clothes on my back, a pair of Sperry Top-Siders plus $2,000.00.
In just over a week, I would find out I would be either homeless or hopelessly and forever in debt.
Below is an excerpt of my progress notes from the VA dated 09/21/2011 on page 630:
Epidural abscess & Back pain: The source is probably the bovine valve which was replaced on March [30th, 2011] since there is no other obvious cause of abscess in this otherwise healthy gentleman. No history of pneumonias or admissions for sepsis. No hx of IV drug use.
The bovine heart valve surgery was performed at McGuire Veterans Medical Center.
This is what the Veterans Administration can do to you!