LowerManhattanite: "Thoughts of Hospitals"
Soap Operas...every one of 'em
Thank you, LowerManhattanite, for this great post - YOUR FANS
Folks, it’s been a hospital-rific last week, what with Steve laid up with the Mother Of The Mother Of All Bugs, (And get better quickfast, ya big galoot!) and with this not so little piece of news…
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey resigned Friday in the wake of recent reports of substandard conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a key facility treating troops wounded in Iraq.
Troops recuperating from wounds they suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan were discovered to be living in substandard conditions in Building 18, an adjunct structure at Walter Reed that was once a hotel. There also were complaints of too much bureaucratic red tape.
Earlier Friday, Bush said he is "deeply troubled" by the reports from Walter Reed and will form a bipartisan panel to assess medical care for wounded U.S. service members.
"This review will examine their treatment from the time they leave the battlefield through their return to civilian life as veterans, so we can ensure that we are meeting their physical and mental health needs," Bush will say in his weekly radio address, which is to air Saturday. A transcript was released by the White House on Friday.
Now, there’s a wild bit of symmetry at play with all of this news from the world of medicine. For one thing, probably foremost in our minds again, is the health of the main barkeep who slings the libations ‘round here. And while I consider myself fairly perceptive, I’m not a mind reader—but I’m pretty sure I have a bead on something on the big fella’s mind beyond his own health. And that something is the above noted story. Why you ask? Because in my daily, Monk-like, OCD-fueled tripping about the blogosphere, Steve is one of the few who has focused on the issue of what happens to our soldiers in VA hospitals, should they be injured on the battlefield—physically and mentally. And he is pretty much the only one who has taken this issue up as a personal crusade—well before the revelations of the ill-treatment and “Willowbrook-ing” at Walter Reed that came to light in the last two weeks.
In the reading of this blog, Steve has been uncannily prescient on so many elements of the war in Iraq, that the wrong-as-puppy-kicking Victor Davis Hansons and Fred Kagans of the world probably voodoo-dolled the brother into his hospital bed out of analytical jealousy. And his mounting of the VA hospital hobby horse here comes from life experience. As he’s noted here many a time, the treatment of our soldiers post-war was a kitchen table discussion for him. His dad worked in a VA hospital, and the tales of those places and the men who found themselves in them were part of the everyday conversation. I’m fairly certain that there were times when he would pit-bull chomp on that subject around here and some eyes would glaze over with an “Again with this sh*t?” silent sigh from certain readers. But damned if that concern, something so very few have chosen to discuss with any clarity—wasn’t again prescient, as the story of the now infamous “Building 18” at Walter Reed Hospital broke. I thought of his many mentions of the hell that is everyday life for patients in our V.A. hospitals, and how impassioned they were. And the symmetry became clear—worrying about him in the hospital, as he worried about our soldiers in their hospitals.
That symmetry hit this weekend as I drove my kids to their Grandpa’s house for a visit. Grandpa lives not far from my folks in Southeastern Queens, and getting to his house takes you past an odd neighborhood called Addisleigh Park—a weird, little enclave in Jamaica where Black entertainers like Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and James Brown all owned homes. And just across Linden Boulevard from Addisleigh, was the big V.A. hospital—a mean, imposing place where sullen men drifted in and out for treatment that always seemed to be—well, according to them, less than good. Driving past there, I remembered the old OTB parlor and the bars dotting Linden along that brief stretch near the hospital—funny how those places wound up so close by, and how those places always seemed to be overfull of, to the point of spilling out onto the streets, of angry, apparently ill-treated men. There was a comic-book store us kids frequented on that block, and on those sojourns you would always hear the men carping and ranting a litany of V.A. hospital horror stories—sometimes in front of the aforementioned sad haunts, but also in the luncheonette/comic book store we hung out at where they’d come in for ciggies and cheap cigars.
“I got better care in the middle of the f*cking jungle than ten minutes from my house” I remember one gaunt, afro-ed outpatient growling to a friend at the counter one day. I Briefly dated a girl who lived in Addisleigh, and I noted one day sitting on her porch that we only seemed to see the patients coming in and out of the place--never employees, and how I never saw the doctors out on the Boulevard.
“They ain’t crazy.”, the girlfriend pointed out. “They come in and go out the back way, otherwise some of those dudes’d jump ‘em. It’s a rough place, and they hold the doctors responsible. One got f*cked up at the bus stop a few years ago, and ever since then, they go out the back door—and get the bus a few stops back ithe other way.”
I hadn’t thought about that conversation until this (Sunday) morning. What kind of treatment would lead patients to wanna whip a doctor’s *ss? And move not one doctor , but drive ‘em all to use a crappy back door near a loading bay for entry and egresss? I shudder to think of what had so many of those olive-drab clad vagabonds who wandered up and down Linden so incensed about that hospital. Well, at least I used to shudder.
And then, about a month ago, in my usual late-night movie crawling on cable, I stumbled across Oliver Stone’s “Born On The Fourth Of July”—a movie I’ve seen every scene of but never in one continuous sitting (much the way I’ve seen “Dirty Dancing” at least nine times, but never in one uninterrupted shot) I figured I’d sacrifice a drowsy workday morning to see the damned thing that late night, from start to end, and put bluntly, the film was a revelation. Stone worked a bravura turn at the helm—with the usual visual genius he fairly oozes, and with the performances he got out of his actors. Cruise was I think at his best ever in it, as he made the trek from callow youth, to wounded, cynical adulthood (as opposed to Cruise’s usual “Callow-Youth-to-Smarmy-Thinks-He’s-Cool-F*ck” turn) as Ron Kovic. But the sh*t that struck me about the movie was the sequences in the V.A. hospital. Those harrowing, Hieronymous Bosch-like scenes of the hell that a V.A. hospital could be kind of haunted me. They were jarring as all f*ck, but…as much as I appreciate Stone’s talent, I figured he was ramping up the ugly for dramatic license, as he is prone to do—his Achilles Heel--sometimes to creepy excess.
And then you see the news from the past week from Walter Reed, and realize that some 35 years hence, what Stone was depicting—those seeming nightmarish bins where our military wounded would sometimes end up…was a f*cked-up, and evidently chronic reality.
The shadows of the Washington Monument, Capitol, and White House fell across that pit of despair, Walter Reed every day. Yet the bleat, the simpering bleat of the truth-starved cowards on the right, a mewled “Support The Troops”, somehow passed their lips repeatedly, as they actually abandoned them twice over. First to an ego, hate, and hubris-driven war they were lied into—and then abandoned again when they came home with injuries from that awful folly in the desert.
Left to rust and seize to the point of discarding, like a careless mechanic leaving his hand tools in the damp—because in his mind, they’re cheap and can be replaced.
It’s not a scandal. It’s a national Goddamned outrage. Thank God it’s come to light—because folks…there’s a multitude of our people passing through these places, and when I recall the damaged men I saw those days on Linden Boulevard, and what they had to contend with, I shudder thinking about our meaner, cruder and more selfish world of today—and how this world now could do so much more damage to today’s grievously wounded soldiers. Say a prayer for them, people. And then say a prayer for those who’ve championed their care—like Steve has for ages, and I’m sure when he is able, will continue to do. While you’re at it, if you have insurance and decent health care, take a moment to think about the 40-million-plus Americans who don’t. 40-plus-million of us. Nearly one sixth of the population in the country, simply *ss-out health care-wise.
And Goddamnit, let’s press these people running for president to really do something about it—make it a “vote for you/not vote for you” issue and let the chips fall where they may.
- posted by LowerManhattanite
Labels: Bush, US Army, Walter Reed. hospital