I won’t begin under false pretenses. I went to Womack Army Medical Hospital today ready to fight. The past year of challenges and being bound by red tape finally hit a head last night when I refused to hit my head against a wall of bureaucracy any longer. I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but I was ready for action. I’ll caveat by saying I didn’t expect what happened. It was the most epic 2 hours I have had at Womack since my son was born.
The Armistice Breaks
As past blogs indicate, I have been applying for and searching for respite care for months. After my ER trip I finally qualify to have someone come to the house every week and watch the boys so that I can get groceries, take the other child to appointments, or just take a walk without being clawed at like I am the last non-zombie on the street. After leaving messages on two lines for three straight days, I received a call back from the Exceptional Family Members Program respite care office. She asked if my children were enrolled. I affirmed it and gave her the information. At that point she said, “No, you don’t seem to be enrolled. “
You have GOT to be kidding me. I’ve rolled my stroller and hauled my kids past her office weekly for nearly a year.
“Really? I registered right there across the hall from your door.”
“Oh, maybe you’re in the section that doesn’t show up on our database. You have to physically come up and request a copy of the paperwork or sign a medical release so that we can get it from storage. Then I can see if you qualify and get the ball rolling. Just come up here tomorrow and get it to me, okay?” After 3 more phone calls and a maddening search to confirm that I did not receive that paperwork (in my meticulous, color coded files, thank you so much) I was at a loss.
Sitting in traffic I called the woman who is the very best when it comes to handling these kind of issues; Momma. She has a degree in these things and years of experience. She said, “You’ve been a good Southern woman all year. Now it is football season. Go hit someone- verbally, of course.” Thanks, Momma.
Turning to the Dark Side
Let’s review. I enrolled in the EFMP office. EFMP did not give me a copy of that paperwork. It was filed and disappeared from the system. I can’t access it. They can’t access it. My command’s health care can’t access it. I called one more time to ask about my course of action if my paperwork couldn’t be accessed. These two offices are literally 1,000 feet from each other. I need to visit EFMP to give EFMP proof that I am in EFMP to get respite care from EFMP.
With one more call to a helper who couldn’t do anything, she apologized saying, “I’m sorry. You’re on what we call ‘The Dark Side.’”
“The dark side? Am I a storm trooper?”
Yes, I really said that. It is so much more fun imagining that the hospital is the Death Star.
Going to the Mattresses in Battle Dress Uniform
I woke up after another rough night of nightmares and getting used to the sounds of a new house. No one sleeps the night before a battle anyway. Promptly at 6:02 the day started with the care of the boys. I was determined not leave until the matter was resolved, even if the boys napped in the waiting room. By 8:20 both kids were bathed, fed, dressed nicely and playing quietly. Then I got all my files and packed the bags. I began to dress for battle.
My hair was actually washed, dried, and fixed. It was bigger than the baby when I left the house (regular sized when I arrived, thanks to the humidity.) I was dressed to kill like I had money and no time, and I knew it. There is something very powerful in the walk of a woman who is on a mission to get some positive attention and a call to action. High heeled stiletto boots make an impact when you kick butt. A good swift kick gets more done than saying “Please” sometimes, right Chuck?
As I pushed that double stroller through the revolving door, no one stood in my way this time. Everyone said hello. They smiled. They held the elevator. That sealed it; I simply HAD to wear these earrings more often. When I arrived at the desk to check in for my 9:30 appointment, I was greeted with this little gem.
It reads: EFMP will be closed for training on Thursday 9:00-11:00. Please be seated and someone will be with you.
Rather than sit in the waiting room with another exhausted mother of three, I wheeled back to the hallway with the records room. It was deserted, except for the head doctor who I’d seen last week. She remembered us and was amazed at my issues getting simple paperwork. When we walked back to the front desk the fill-in receptionist was there and was ANGRY that I hadn’t stayed put. The other mom had clearly tattled. “Are YOU the mom who came to check in? Why didn’t you stay? Didn’t you see the sign?” I smiled sweetly and explained that I needed paperwork before checking in. There were a few more heated retorts as I smiled and killed her with kindness. If she was dealing with these folks on a regular basis, she was already caught in the crossfire.
A New Title
At that point I saw my savior. An attractive, blonde, nicely dressed figure came around the corner and smiled at me. This amazing doctor and advocate since Secondborn was two weeks old came to the waiting area, saw what was happening, and shut the receptionist up with a simple, “Don’t be upset with her. Don’t you know who this is?”
Holy crap. My day had come. I was somebody! Wait, who was I, exactly?
She turned to me and smiled. “You’re legendary up here after last week. You have a nickname up here now!”
The receptionist was baffled. I was too, so I smirked and gave a coy, “Oh, stop.” She continued, “I shared your cookies with only my favorite people and by the time I got home I was fishing out crumbs from the baggie with my finger. It made my day. They taste like fall! We call you the COOKIE MOM-STER.”
Matthew 7:20 says “By your fruits you will be known.” Well, at Womack Army Medical Hospital I am not known by my fruit. I am known by my cookies. That’s good enough for me. When I told her I had two more bags of slightly gooey molasses cookies for her in my bag, she looked a bit like this.
I briefly explained the stupidity I was sorting through, the problems with the receptionist from the week prior (and the week prior, and the month prior…) and she jumped into action. All agreed that my ordeal was utterly ludicrous and advised that I file a complaint with patient advocacy again. I went to the appointment while the Red-Tape-Ninja got out her “I have a badge” abilities. Before Secondborn was done with feeding therapy she came in with three copies of the orders, told me they were already electronically sent with personal “Get this done” memos, and she gave me her card. I handed her two more bags of cookies. She smiled. I did too. Best hostage exchange ever.
Can You Hear Me Now?
As I buckled up the boys we wheeled over to audiology for a hearing test on the big one. “Oh, the cookie lady! I had a cookie last week. Thank you!” The rumor was true! At least we were off to a good start. Now, if you’ve ever tried to hold a two year old boy still in your lap, ride a bull, or stand still as a tornado swept overhead, you know where this is going. Keeping Firstborn still on my lap so that he could hear soft and high pitched noises was NOT happening. No kid hears anything soft when he looks like this:
The tester was very patient and gladly took her bag of cookies. Therefore, I was told I had to test again in four weeks. Oops, I told her I would be gone to Texas when she wanted us to return but I’d be happy to see her afterward. She looked up with an annoyed look and with a slight staccato in her voice asked “Why? Are you getting tests done or something?”
Oh, for the love of all things. I could take it no longer. A Texan should NEVER have to justify a homecoming.
I raised my eyebrows and said in my mommy “don’t touch that if you want to keep your hand” tone, “I’m going home because I haven’t been able to get respite care for four months. I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep since I knew my baby has Down Syndrome, I have a heart condition that is wearing me out, and quite frankly, I need my Mommy.”
I had finally snapped. She was a bit short with me afterward, so I apologized for ranting at her and she was gracious. She even ran after us to give us back a dropped shoe and wished me the chance to get some rest with some hope. Thank goodness I made her cookies. When I left the office and opened the door I was greeted by a uniformed officer. I smiled and said, “Sorry, Officer. I didn’t think he was screaming that loudly.” He sternly said, “It was pretty loud, Ma’am.” Then he broke into a smile and wished us a great day. At least someone has a sense of humor. As I exited I saw several more uniformed officers, so I am sure something exciting was happening. Still, it is a great feeling to have Momma ask, “How did it go at the hospital today?” and answer, “Great! They have the nicest police officers!” I’ll always enjoy giving her white hair.
When I got home I wrote multiple complaints to the ICE complaint system and patient advocacy. It feels really good to ICE someone who has it coming.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad day. The boys took fantastic naps, I enjoyed the company of wonderful friends and watched the boys play nicely, and I finally got the ball rolling. Yes, I am the Cookie Momster. I wonder what would happen if I made some brownies or cakes. It wasn’t a perfect day, but it sure was an improvement. Tomorrow will be another fight and I am thoroughly exhausted, but in the best of ways. It sure feels good to win a round of fighting. I can’t wait to see if anyone does the job they are paid to do tomorrow. I better wash the cookie sheets.