National Guard Veteran Ken served as a doctor in one of VA’s spinal cord injury centers, then he deployed to Iraq. After an injury, he could have gone anywhere for treatment, but he placed his trust in VA. The following is a brief Q/A with Ken explaining why.
Tell me about the day you were injured.
On September 12, 2004, I was involved in a suicide car bombing incident. I woke up in Baghdad hospital. I had an open head injury with multiple shrapnel, nerve damages all over my body, and twisted ankles and thumbs.
And what happened to you then?
Surgery, five months of rehab, and after rehab, I went home. All my physician colleagues were all telling me to come to see them, so they were willing to take care of me. But you know what, I decided not to. I wanted to go give VA a chance to take care of me.
I’m the chief of spinal cord injury at the Milwaukee VA. And as a physician, it was embarrassing to admit that I have PTSD. So for about a year, I would refuse to take that diagnosis and not see anyone. But it was my eight-year-old daughter who all-of-a-sudden said, “Dad, you don’t smile anymore.”
And then something rang in me, and it just hit me like a brick wall. And at that time, I decided I’m going to go to VA.
You are a Veteran and you are a doctor at VA. So you can talk from two perspectives.
When I stepped into VA – not as a provider there but as a patient – it opened up a whole different world for me.
I had a choice. We have a great community cardiac center. It’s one of the best in the world in there. And colleagues were telling me, you need to go there, and not go to VA. But again, I decided to stay with VA just to see. And I was thinking, God, there is one of the best cardiology centers in the world here, and I’m going to go to VA. Am I screwing myself over for this? And it wasn’t. The tests they did on me, the things they did, the treatment they gave me was fantastic. So, VA has been designated as my care facility, period. That’s it.
So what would you say to a Veteran who struggling to find their way after an injury?
You know, if you’re in a dark place, and you’re having trouble getting out of it, you’re in a hole. And it seems like the world’s caving in on you. You don’t have any escape route to do. You don’t really have to look too far or go into too much of a detail. You just need to do one thing: just try your VA one time.
People are choosing VA over other great health care systems because it is the place to go now. I’m proud to say, come to VA. Why would you go anywhere else?
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Bronwyn Emmet is a public affairs specialist for the National Veterans Outreach Office.