Our family has had some experience with Walter Reed in the past and it’s disappointing that the hospital hasn’t improved. While it does do some great work our troops deserve better.
Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.
I have never been a fan of Army hospitals. Back in the nineties our daughter was referred by a doctor to Walter Reed to be checked for scoliosis. I will never forget the day she had an xray at Walter Reed. The technician had returned from leave and didn’t seem to know what he was doing. After the xray the doctor asked us if our daughter had had a belt on her hospital robe that could have been tied in a knot.
She was still in the robe and he examined the knot in the belt. He showed us the xray and she appeared to have a tumor. He referred her for a bonescan and an MRI. We had to wait anxiously for over a month to find out that the results were negative. No tumor at all. Just a bad xray. She didn’t have scoliosis either. So Walter Reed was just a bad memory, I thought, until my husband had to be medevacced from Germany for a kidney stone that would not go away.
The doctors at Walter Reed tried to blast the stone away but that didn’t work so he had to have surgery. After the surgery my husband was wheeled into a hallway and just left there. For hours. The attendants told him they were trying to find a room or a bed for him but his bed had been given away during his surgery. (I wasn’t allowed on the med-evac flight so couldn’t be there to help him.) He finally got sick of being there and got off the gurney and walked back to his hotel room which wasn’t in the hospital at all but in a military BOQ up the hill.
The doctor called him in his hotel room that night and asked him why he had left the hospital. My husband answered that they obviously had no room for him in the ward and he wanted to rest. He was tired of lying on a gurney in a hallway.
That Walter Reed hasn’t improved isn’t surprising but something needs to change for our troops. They deserve so much better.
Welcome Sissy Willis Readers!