May 23, 2007

Home Again

After a full day of travelling, I am back home in Austin for a few weeks. It sure is nice to be home... More soon.

May 22, 2007

More Leave

With everything going on here, I forgot to mention that I am taking leave to go home back to Austin starting... well... today, May 23 through Jun 11. My flight leaves at 1100. I'm done packing and need to get to bed. I have to catch a bus at 0800 to the metro station to be at the airport around 0900. I sure am looking forward to being home again for a while!

May 16, 2007

Finally moved and settled and G6PD

I know I haven’t posted in a week. I have actually been very busy here and have been so tired at the end of the day that I just can’t find the energy to post. Anyway, know that I am doing fine here in DC. I have been taking classes all week on transitioning out of the Army. The classes are really for people that are retiring after 20+ years or are getting out after their contracts are up. I already have a job and don’t need most of the training, but it’s good to learn anyway.

Last week I started a post but never finished it, so here it is. This is from last Thursday…

“I finally finished in-processing yesterday. The last thing on the list was a meeting with the Company Commander. He’s a fellow Texan and he also ‘pinned’ me on Friday. So, that’s finally done. It took me about three weeks to get it done.

Yesterday I also had a physical therapy evaluation. I asked to get a little more PT in since I’m here and have a good amount of free time. I figure anything I can do to improve the strength in my right leg and arm is good.

I also had an internal medicine appointment with my PCM today to review the lab results from two weeks ago. They confirmed that I do have a G6PD Deficiency. It really is not a big deal. You can read more about it on Wikipedia and MedlinePlus from NIH. I just can’t take certain drugs or eat certain foods. But I’ve lived for 32 years without a problem (except a brain tumor… ahem) so I think I’ll be okay. But Mirna and her kids need to be tested. And I most likely got it from my mom, so she should be tested too.

I told you yesterday that I’d get you up to speed on my housing issues. As I mentioned before, I have to move out of my nice dorm style room now that I’m an E-7. Just so you know, right now my room has plenty of storage space, 11 drawers to be exact, and plenty of cabinet space. It has a twin bed, walk-in closet, restroom with a stand up shower, kitchenette with a sink, stovetop, microwave and fridge, an iMac (which I don’t use), an LCD HDTV, internet access that I use with my laptop, and a small love seat. The setup is pretty cushy, if you ask me. I have windows that open and HVAC that works really well. Really… a very nice setup! This is for the junior enlisted soldiers.

I called the Malogne House on Monday and spoke to the day manager who has been trying to get me a room in a building they call the Guest House. Well, today she let me know that my room was ready. I went over to check it out and boy was I surprised. It was a much smaller room with a twin bed, very small closet, the HVAC did not work and the room was hot as heck, there were only three drawers for storage ad the best part? It had a shared restroom with the room next door. Okay, so you tell me – who has it better? The juniors on the seniors? Anyway, I went back to tell them that the AC was not working but the manager wasn’t there. I know another SFC who fought tooth and nail against moving out of here, but he lost. I know I’m not going to win that battle either, so I’m going to at least fight for a decent room. I’ll let you know how it goes. Maybe I’ll post pics soon so that you can see the difference yourself.”

Okay, that was last Thursday. Well, last Friday Tamra once again helped me move into my new room. I am now staying in a building called Delano Hall. It’s just okay. The room is definitely smaller, but it has a full size bed, mini fridge, mini microwave, an iMac (that I don’t use), an LCD HDTV (which I do use) and it has enough storage space. And the best thing? The AC works! I do share a bathroom with someone, but there are locks so that neither of us can intrude on the other. He’s a little loud and has all kinds of crap all over the sink and lots or protein drink mix everywhere. But I have never seen the guy. I imagine him as a huge guy that could probably squash me like a bug. I hope I never find out.

So far it has been pretty quiet here, but tonight some jeep has been sitting in the parking lot (which my window faces) with its music all turned up. It has been there for the past half an hour with the engine running. I think I just heard the doors close. Oh good… he just left. Now I can go to sleep.

May 9, 2007

Order Mania

I haven’t really posted much since the promotion. Life here at WRAMC has been steadily amusing. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Let me take you back to last week. Here’s a little teaser of things to come in this blog. You read my last post, right? The one where I got promoted? You know how I found out I actually got promoted? I happened to log on to our HR website and noticed that my rank was changed there. Nobody called me to tell me the good news; nobody patted me on the back. In fact, I didn’t even get any orders. When I went to the staff here, they said they couldn’t pull up my orders. They told me to go to another office on base. I walked there and they could not either, they sent me to another office. The last office said they could not either. So here I am, I know I got a promotion, but I have no way to prove it because I have no orders. Without the actual orders in hand, and can’t wear the new rank. I’m going to stop here on this story. Remember where we left off, okay?

Speaking of orders… I needed orders assigning me to WRAMC. Easy enough, right? When I came over here the week of April 23rd, they started to in-process me. My other orders were set to expire on April 27th, so they put in a request for orders (RFO) assigning me. They finally came on the 26th, but I thought the start date would be the 28th, they came with a start date of the 23rd! This really worried me since I had already paid for a week’s worth of lodging in Rosslyn. Anyway, without getting too complicated, they amended my original orders that ended on the 27th to end on the 22nd, and then they amended them again putting them back the way they were to end on the 27th, finally they cut a new order rescinding the original order that brought me to DC in the first place so that the medical retention processing (MRP) order bringing me to WRAMC could take effect. Confusing? You bet. That’s three orders, remember that. To make matters worse, I then had to go to the Malogne House, which is like a hotel here, to get what is called a statement of non-availability (SNA) to say that the hotel was full and I had to stay in Rosslyn so that I could get paid for the week I was worried about. Here’s the clincher… you remember the three orders? Nobody here could produce those for me either. One guy gave me one of them, but I needed all of them.

So I had three assignment orders and a promotion order somewhere out in space that I could not get. So you know what I did? I made a few phone calls to the place I was working here in DC. I called up my co-worker Angela and she gave me some numbers for people I knew could help me. I called up the office that could help me and within fifteen minutes I had all four orders in my inbox. I love having connections.

Other than that, last week went okay. I had a dental exam and they didn’t see anything to worry about – I just need a cleaning in the near future. I also talked to my neurosurgeon, Dr. Rosenbaum, and he is going to work to get my NARSUM completed. In fact, I got a call from one of the neurologists over at NNMC who is working with my neurosurgeon and neurologist to get it done. He said it should be completed early next week. You see, that’s why things here take so long here. One thing has to happen to trigger something else. And if one thing gets delayed, everything else gets delayed. Patience is key, but it is hard sometimes.

Lastly, Friday afternoon, I got a call from my Platoon Sergeant. She said that since I got promoted, I was no longer eligible to stay in the room where I am now. I was going to have to move out into another building that is supposedly a step up from where I am now. That has been an adventure in itself, but more on that tomorrow.

May 4, 2007

I got promoted!!!

I'm going to make this quick... I got promoted today to Sergeant First Class (E-7). Tamra came this morning to take pictures for me (thanks again Tamra). The company commander pinned me (or velcro'd me.) Anyway, this was three years in the making. Thank God!!
Roger SSG to SFC Promotion 003Roger SSG to SFC Promotion 014

May 2, 2007

Almost done in-processing

I had another long day of briefings and classes. I started my day with a class that taught us about the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) process. The people that will be handling our cases were there – and they knew what they were talking about. They gave us a lot of material that I just need to sit down and read. But overall it was very informative. I also learned that the average time it is currently taking for Reserve Component (RC) soldiers like me to get through the process is 157 days. So, the estimated I have received of 5-6 months sounds right. Eesh! Anyway, I may be taking some leave here in the near future to go back to Texas for a week or so. We’ll see.

My next briefing was about the programs and benefits offered to us by the USO and MWR to do things here in DC while stuck in the area. They basically encourage us to get out there and see stuff when we have off days. I was already planning to do that… so nothing new there.

The last briefing was about all the VA and the benefits they provide and also help in getting a job for the future. I already have a job in Austin, but they’ll be good classes to take regardless. Those classes last a whole week. So they will keep me occupied for a while.

Overall, lots of good information today! I also met an Active Duty Army Major who also had a brain tumor removed, but his was from the front of his brain. We have similar situations, so I’m going to keep in touch with him and his wife, who I also met, to see how things go for them. It was neat because I kept on running into them. I saw them in the Dining Facility and joined them for lunch, then I was waiting for a briefing and they walked up for the same one, so it was cool.

Tonight I went to the community house again for dinner. My fabulous friend, Allison (or Allie, as she prefers to be called) gave me a ride from the Court House metro there. Matt P cooked a fabulous meal and we ate outside in the cool breeze. It was a great meal and the company was excellent, as always. After, Allie gave me a ride back up to WRAMC, but I felt bad because she printed out directions, but I made her go a different way. And in DC you can’t seem to ever be able to make a left turn, so it was a real pain because we could not get turned around to go the way we really needed to go! Well, we figured it out and I obviously got home safely. I’m sorry, Allie, for the crazy driving tour of DC. I hope your trip home on 495 and the parkway was easier!

Tomorrow I just have to stop by the dental clinic for an exam and cleaning and then I am done for the day and then will be pretty much done in-processing. All that is left is a meeting with the Company Commander. Tamra needs to turn in some keys here, so we might meet up for lunch if she has a chance. I think that next week I’ll have a better handle on where we go from here. We’ll just have to see.

May 1, 2007

No surgery now and Almost done in-processing

The weekend went well – but it was very tiring. I went with Amanda to the house we worked on at 7am on Saturday morning… yes!!! 7am! We really had a good time working out there all day. I personally worked on a few projects. First of all, I took over 150 pictures for Amanda. I also worked on fixing a toilet, installing smoke and carbon monoxide sensors around the house and then repairing the fence that surrounded the house, which involved hammering in probably a hundred nails! After we cleaned up, we ended up back at John and Tamra’s for some pizza and games. Sunday we went to church and then John took me to the PX so that I could buy cleaning supplies for the room. After that, we headed back to the house to try to finish the fence. The fence was repaired, but needed to be primed and painted. We were able to finish priming and painting the outside of the fence, but only got as far as priming part of the inside of the fence. I guess we’ll need to go back and finish the job in the future. I left with John, Tamra and Zach, we had dinner, and then they dropped me back off at WRAMC.

Walking back into my room was a shock. I hadn’t realized what a mess I had left it! I decided to start unpacking and I just kept going and going until I felt like it was habitable. When I looked at the clock, it was 3am. You know… it was worth it. I’m just one of those people that unpacks first just to get comfortable. I’m glad I did because it was done! Yeah, I had to be at a formation at 0830 Monday morning, but I could get sleep after. I got a few hours of sleep and walked into the Gym across the street from our billets and was surprised to see a gaggle of people just sitting on bleachers. Apparently, a formation just means we show up and they account for us. I was expecting to stand in lines of platoons and squads, but I guess we don’t do that here. After that I ran off for a quick breakfast and then met with my social worker who talked to me about my options regarding choosing to stay in the reserves or elect to have a board where I will be medically discharged or retired depending on what disability rating I get. Well, I’ll have more on that later. The rest of the day I just went from place to place to continue in-processing. I was exhausted from all the walking around and decided to go back to my room to take a short nap. Well, the short nap turned into a long nap and I missed dinner. I set my phone to wake me up, but dismissed the alarm. Thanks to my friend Jill N. who called to say hi, she woke me up before I slept way too long! Luckily, there is a little place in the hospital, called Walt’s, which is open rather late where I can use my meal card. I got a hot dog, a salad and some other items, and headed back to my room. I watched some TV, worked on a little paperwork and went back to bed.

This morning I was awakened by a phone call at 0630 by my new squad leader. I knew it was him because I put all the numbers I needed in my phone and the Caller ID tipped me off. I’m not really sure what we said to each other… I guess he was checking on me to make sure I was ok. I went back to sleep thinking that I didn’t have to check in now and decided that I was going to sleep in to get some rest and finish in-processing in the afternoon. My phone woke me up again at 0900 when another squad leader from the platoon called to see if I was okay. Man… I told him about the earlier call and he said he never talked to the guy who called earlier, so they didn’t know what my status was. Anyway, I hope that never happens again! Okay, so I finally got my lazy butt up at 1100 and got going. I must have been extremely tired from the weekend and Monday. I did all the in-processing I could for the day and got ready to go to community group. I made it from WRAMC to where we meet in Arlington in only 40 minutes, which I think is pretty good for mass transit. After the meeting, friends Kezia and Jana gave me a ride back here.

Okay, last thing… my neurosurgeon has wanted to fix the incision on the top of my head for quite some time now. He just doesn’t like the way there is an indention and no hair across it. We talked last week and I thought we were going to do it this week. But after my neurologist said they might be able to go back in to fix the seizure issue, everything got confused. I finally talked to him today and here’s the skinny: My neurosurgeon doesn’t think that any surgery in the brain should even be attempted until all other options have been exhausted and no earlier than 36 months after the end of my radiation therapy. Not only that, but he doesn’t even want to work on my scalp until 12 months after the end of my radiation therapy… which is mid-July. So, no brain surgery for at least two more years, and no working on fixing the scalp until after this July. But he and I are confident that they won’t have to go back into my brain. I know I’m in good hands and he’s pretty sure it will resolve itself over time.

The other issue I have been having here is that my Narrative Summary has not been completed yet and I still don’t have the permanent profile that I need to get this process started since my new doctor last week changed it to a temporary one. Well, I explained all of this to my neurosurgeon and he is going to do both. It won’t be this week, but he said he’ll take care of it. With him involved now, it looks like I am in good hands. I’m going to let my case manager know and put them in touch with each other, if necessary.

Tomorrow I have to attend three briefings throughout the day, so it should be an uneventful long day. But I’m almost done in-processing! After tomorrow, all I’ll need is to have my teeth checked and I’ll be done.