Jerry reluctantly entered the WTU, the unit I oversee as a doctor, just recently. This soldier has achieved about as much as anyone in the non-officer ranks can achieve. He’s been in the Army for 24 years. After 20, you can retire with full military benefits, but this guy hung on by voluntary extension for another 4.
He entered my unit because of a health problem list that runs to 6 or seven issues. The primary ones being kidney disease and hypertension. He’s had both for years. All untreated.
“Why haven’t you taken care of this stuff?” I ask, ready to get all righteous on the Army.
“Well, you can only do what you can do, sir.” He says, politely pretending that I would outrank him if actually a soldier myself.
“Um, do you know how long you’ve had hypertension, and how bad it’s been?” I say, trying a different angle.
“Listen son, I know exactly what my blood pressure was averaging before my last deployment downrange.”
“How many times have you been deployed?”
Making no effort to hide my surprise, I reply, “You’re peeing out half a bicep in protein every 24 hours, your blood pressure is 190-101 today, and you’ve been deployed 3 times? Each time for over a year?”
“Son, when the time comes, you gotta get on the plane.”
“So, you knew about all of this prior to deployment?”
“Well, sir, yes I did. But I told my men, ‘When it’s time, I’ll be getting on that plan. If I don’t, I’ll be dead. If YOU don’t get on that plane after me…I personally hunt you down, I will find you, and then YOU’LL be dead.”
“There’s doctors downrange, though, right? Couldn’t you be seen by one of them?”
“Look, I cain’t treat myself too well with the boul-ets whistling over my head. And I’m not gonna tell nobody that I got problems at a time like that. They’ll send me back home and leave all my boys there to fend for themselves.”
“Right. What was your blood pressure prior to your last deployment?”
The thin, muscular man thumbs through a huge stack of medical papers, “Hmmm. I remember that day. Headache, bad. Seeing spots and stuff. Hmmm. Oh, here it is: 224/112.”
“That was your blood pressure before you left for a war zone!!??”
“Son, you won’t understand because you ain’t never worn no uniform. But when the plane is for you…you get on that plane. It’s pretty simple, really.”
“Do you think, just maybe, I can get you to take some blood pressure pills now?”
“Oh sure, doc! You bet. Army brought me back safe and sound, see? Doing fine now. I’ll take them pills. Hooah, boy!”