MVFORCES: Military & Veteran Forces Blogosphere

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Forgotten Vet: A Military/Veteran Horror Story

Washed away by the tide.

I will be sharing a series of articles that detail my journey to becoming disabled and the thirty-plus years of horror that followed.

My story encompasses multiple layers, including the military and veteran aspects, as well as personal experiences that I will only touch upon briefly during this series.

This initial segment pertains to the cake's preparation (metaphorically speaking, my disability represents the cake), which involves gathering and mixing all the ingredients before baking.

However, I must warn you that this is not a story for the faint-hearted, as it can be quite harrowing. 

The Beginning

To provide some context, I spent my childhood in the military, and it was all I knew.

As I grew up, I became aware of military elective surgery, which allowed patients to have corrective surgeries, so military surgeons could maintain their skills to prepare for combat.

After joining the military, for my initial evaluation, I visited the dentist, who suggested I was an ideal candidate for elective surgery to correct my bite.

However, I declined his offer, and over the years, other medical personnel would make similar suggestions. 

The Problem

I had a bite that wasn't an over-bite or under-bite; the front teeth didn't touch. I had eating issues and embarrassing eating situations because of it.

I could bite into a burger and strip off the bun from the meat and lettuce, just like a wire stripper. Or if I were eating ice or candy, items would shoot right through the gap in the front teeth.

That resulted in uncomfortable situations where food would spurt out of my mouth.

Digestion was also an issue, as biting proper size bites was difficult. This led to a habit of swallowing large portions and not properly digesting food.

The Decision

Three years in, I finally accepted the offer to correct my bite. I was at Bergstrom AFB and would travel down to Lackland AFB to do pre-op for surgery.

After taking multiple dental casts of my bite, they reassured me that this was a routine surgery and nothing significant to worry about.

Before the surgery, I had to undergo orthodontic treatment and wear braces to slightly shift my teeth. Furthermore, they would use braces to wire my mouth shut after surgery.

Being young and inexperienced and having witnessed a person I knew go through lower jaw surgery, I believed my upcoming surgery was not a significant issue.

However, my situation was different as I was scheduled to have my upper jaw removed, reshaped, and repositioned, which was far from simple or routine.

Despite this, I was unaware of the gravity of the situation at the time. 

The First Surgery

On July 3rd, 1989, I had my first surgery, but it did not go smoothly. Due to my body's hypomania response to stress, it was challenging to sedate me.

During the surgery, I overheard the surgeon's frustrated remarks about being unable to fit my jaw back in place. I attempted to speak, but the medical team panicked and immediately put me back under anesthesia.

Following the surgery, I was horrified when the surgeon informed me that they messed up, some corrections were necessary, and that I would need another surgery.

They would have to install temporary plates to brace my upper jaw, and they assured me these plates would be removed soon. 

Unfortunately, I believed that they were supposed to be temporary.

The Second Surgery

On July 5th, 1989, I underwent the second surgery, during which the medical team installed plates to hold my upper jaw in place.

They assured me that the procedure went smoothly and that the bone would heal and fuse without any issues.

They reassured me, and at the time, I had no reason to doubt them.

It was not until decades later that I discovered the truth - their words were a complete falsehood. Nonetheless, at the time, I had no choice but to trust them completely.

Strangely, after the second surgery, I was transferred to a different medical team and never saw the original team again. 

And thus began a three-decade-long game of 'kick the can' and 'toss the hot potato.'

The Third Surgery

During my follow-up appointments, the new team gave me the impression that everything was healing correctly.

In September 1989, I attended a follow-up appointment, and during this visit, x-rays were taken. The head doctor appeared alarmed and asked if I was aware of the massive infection in my skull.

Unfortunately, I had no idea, as my body's response to stress or trauma had kicked in, sending me into hypomania.

After discovering the massive infection, the third surgery was an emergency in-office operation.

The medical team quickly placed me in a chair, had assistants hold me down, injected my gums with anesthesia, and proceeded to cut open the gum over one of the four plates.

However, the surgeon could not unscrew the screws because they were one-way screws that were never meant to be removed.

What I had thought was a careful process of removing screws turned out to be the surgeon grabbing the entire plate and wrenching it back and forth until all the screws were pulled out at once, along with massive pieces of bone. 

At that time, I believed that the entire skull was successfully repaired and that removing the screws would only leave small holes which would close up. 

Unfortunately, this was far from the truth.

After the plate and screws were removed, the surgeons drained a significant amount of puss from my skull, providing tremendous relief; relief I didn't realize I needed.

I had no idea the infection was even there and was amazed by how much the amount of infection was drained; it looked like two cups worth.

They stitched me up, and I stood up to thank them. The head surgeon was astonished and asked, "How are you standing?" I didn't understand why he was so surprised since I felt great.

They scheduled me for another surgery to remove the remaining plates.

The Fourth Surgery

The fourth surgery occurred on October 30th, 1989; they removed the three remaining plates. 

At the time, I believed everything went well removing the plates.

However, I later discovered that they had used the same technique as the third surgery and wrenched out the plates and screws, along with massive amounts of bone.

Now, not only did I have a massive gap between my skull and upper jaw (it being disconnected completely), I now had craters where the plates were located.

It was revealed decades later that the plates were never intended to be removed. 

Conclusion

The medical team assured me that everything was fine and I wouldn't need to see them again at Lackland AFB. They instructed me to go to primary care at Bergstrom AFB for any future complaints or issues.

At that time, I felt relieved as I had conquered all the surgeries. However, I was unaware that it was just the start of my troubles. 

There were a plethora of complaints and issues that would arise, but unfortunately, they were ignored. The damage had been done, and the cake was in the oven. 

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