Veteran William Shockey served in the Marine Corps from 1975-1979, but upon discharge didn’t seek to use his VA benefits right away. It wasn’t until recently that his VA journey began after a coworker encouraged him to visit the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic for some minor health concerns.
“I really had not used VA for much before that first visit,” said Shockey. “But they got me in quickly to see someone. I received good care and my experience was easy. The clinic was readily available so I decided to continue going there.”
Soon after Shockey established his care with VA, he began experiencing pain in his hands. When the pain grew more intense, he turned to VA for help. After a visit to his doctor and a few tests, he learned that he had diabetes.
Shockey’s blood sugar levels were running dangerously high and putting him at risk for complications. He immediately began to receive support from his health care team to manage the disease.
Has full support of VA health care team
“So many people took the time to teach me about diabetes and how to take care of things the proper way,” said Shockey. “I even had a dietitian to help me change my diet. I had my VA health care team’s full support to get on track.”
Things began to improve for Shockey with the help of his primary care team. However, he took a turn for the worse when he developed a sore on his foot that wouldn’t heal, despite him taking care of it.
Veteran William Shockey tells Nurse LeAnne McWhirt a joke as she listens to his breathing during a routine exam in the Wound Care Clinic.
Upon seeing the infected wound, the clinic sent him to the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee for further evaluation. Unfortunately, due to the severity of the infection, Shockey’s foot had to be amputated.
After the surgery, Shockey spent a month in the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit where he credits the Rehab team with helping him get through a hard time.
“It was a shock and a lot of things just didn’t make sense to me,” said Shockey. “But the people who took care of me at the hospital made my day better each day. They taught me things I needed to know, even when I really didn’t want to know them. And they encouraged and motivated me. They were people I looked forward to seeing because they cheered me up.”
VA teams worked to make transition easy
While the Rehab team was focused on helping Shockey gain strength and prepare to go home, other teams at the medical center were working to ensure Shockey and his wife would have the necessary tools and equipment to make his transition easier.
“I expected to come home and find a little dinky wooden ramp but they built me a big metal ramp that goes from my front door about 15 feet out in the yard. It was more than I expected,” said Shockey. “VA also gave me a wheelchair, nursing care at home, the medicine and medical tools I needed, and soon they are going to remodel my bathroom so I can have access to it in my wheelchair.”
Shockey was discharged with a plan of care in place that included frequent monitoring with the Wound Care Clinic due to risk of infection in his remaining foot.
“I told them I wanted to keep my foot. It is important to me that I am able to walk, and they have done everything they can to help me,” said Shockey. “They have not given up even after I had another bad infection and now I have feeling returning and nerves growing back.
On VA health care, he encourages Veterans to “Go for it!”
“It’s looking good and it’s all because of the people at VA taking care of me. They are some of the most caring people I have ever met,” he said. “I would like to say thank you. I do not know any other words to describe how thankful I am… just thank you all.”
Shockey hopes that sharing his experience might encourage Veterans who are hesitant about using their VA benefits to give it a try.
“I would whole-heartedly encourage any Veterans thinking about using their VA health care benefits to go for it. Contact VA and they will point you in the right direction,” said Shockey. “They have already done so much for me, it’s amazing.”