Monday, September 22, 2008

Clean Bill Of Health

This morning I got up early to catch the American Legion van (Post 28, the largest American Legion Post in the United States) to the Wilmington Veterans Administration Medical Center. I had a 9 AM appointment with the dermatologist. I didn't get much sleep last night because I worked at the Inn until 11 PM. I had to get up this morning around 4 AM to put myself together. One of the downsides of my retiring to Delaware is that I am quite a distance away from the nearest VA medical center. When I lived in Downingtown, I was 10 minutes away from the Coatesville VAMC. Fortunately for me though, the local American Legion Post 28 provides a van four times a week to transport us veterans to the Wilmington VAMC. Although I now have full insurance coverage through Medicare Part A and B and AARP supplemental insurance, I still use the VA for my medical care. Why? Because they take great care of me. Their focus is different. Unlike private medical care, the VA doesn't operate by how many patients they get in and out of their offices just to generate more income. Also, and this is a special pleasure I take, I don't have to wait in a waiting room with a bunch of squalling kids. Nothing against kids and family practices, but I've always felt that we old folk didn't get the same care a the youngest patients. Selfishly, I feel more comfortable with a bunch of old men (of which I am a charter member) than I do the moms and kids of family practices. The good news this morning was that I had my annual examination for skin cancer. Twenty years ago I had my first case of keratosis, which is a precancerous skin condition. On that fall day in 1988 I paid a visit to the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia to check why my left cheek hurt every time I shaved in an upward direction. The doctor looked at my face and said immediately that I had a precancerous skin condition called keratosis. Of course when I heard the dreaded "C" word. I thought I would fall off of the doctor's paper covered table. Cancer. I thought my life was over. However, Dr. Uy soon explained to me that I had a precancerous condition that is probably the result of prolonged exposure to sun. Yep! That was me. A sun bather from way back. Now was the time to pay the price for all those years laying in the sun baking. To make a long story short, I had to undergo a painful topical chemotherapy treatment which removed the upper layer of skin from my face. Since then I've had to visit a dermatologists at least once a year to make sure the keratosis skin lesions have not return. Over the years I've had several instances of keratosis. The different dermatologists I've visited have removed these lesions by burning them off with dry ice. Painful? Yes (not as painful as that kidney stone I passed though.) All around me I have friends, including my Mother and brother, who have had more serious forms of skin cancer. So, you better believe that I see my dermatologist once a year at least. The problem when I moved down to Slower Lower Delaware (aka Sussex County, Delaware) was the lack of dermatologists. Surprising, since I live in a sea side resort community. But, that is the state of health care in this country. I even had trouble finding a general practitioner. I did find one but had to make an appointment many months in advance. So, this morning me and seven other veterans rolled up Route 1
to the Wilmington VAMC. Entering the main lobby, I headed towards the elevator and got off at the sixth floor of the building. I scanned my Veterans ID card in the machine in the dermatology unit. The Veterans Administration is very efficient in this manner. I went to the waiting room to await my 9 o'clock appointment. It wasn't too long until I was talking to my fellow veterans who were also waiting in the waiting room. Gentle banter was passed back and forth. I've always found at whatever VA waiting room I'm in, I easily make friends with the other veterans waiting for their appointments. Not so in a general practitioner's office. There, I'm just trying to stay out of the way of the screaming kids and demanding moms. It wasn't too long before the doctor appeared and asked me into their office. The doctor examined me and pronounced me clean. Big whoop! I made another year without a dangerous skin cancer problem. My next appointment is next September. Interesting fact, the dermatologist team that now services us veterans at the Wilmington VAMC are from the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. What goes round, comes round. Again, I am indeed fortunate. Another good day for Retired In Delaware.

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