Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A New Confession

OK it's confession time! I will admit it. I cannot call Bethesda, "Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda". I realized this yesterday when I said to someone, "This is Bethesda, we stayed in the real, original Walter Reed," to someone. So you are probably thinking well, why not. It's really easy, Bethesda is not Walter Reed. I truly don't think it ever will be. They are totally different places. Am I bashing Bethesda? No, not at all, but Bethesda is Bethesda. It is a well established medical facility that has it's own great reputation.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose Bethesda because the he felt the area resembled the healing waters of the biblical Bethesda. FDR took frequent trips to the healing springs. He would go and sit in the springs because they made him feel calm and in control of his disability. He sketched out the hospital on a napkin (if my memory is working correctly today) and he even laid the cornerstone of the hospital we know today.

Major Walter Reed embodied a different kind of fighting spirit in regards to medicine. He focused on discovery and research. To me, it seems like the premise is to combine the fighting spirit of Reed with the healing spirit of FDR, which is on the face of it a great idea. But I truly believe Bethesda will never be Walter Reed. They are just too different. To me, Bethesda is and should remain great in its own name.

At the original Walter Reed, you were greeted with a feeling of welcome and comfort. At Bethesda, the feeling is heal and get out. Yes this is how we all feel. I have no problem admitting it. It's very interesting to talk to those of us who experienced both hospitals. We miss our places to fellowship. We miss the family atmosphere of the hospital. The staff at Bethesda is really trying to recreate what we had, but only time will tell if it all works out. In the meantime, we're all just doing our own thing. But you have to ask, why weren't those areas constructed before the merger. The answer is people assumed what we needed rather than actually asking us.

The important part is the medicine is the same. Chaz has received the same level of medical care that he received at Walter Reed. Luckily Bethesda took on the amazing surgeons, nurses, doctors and staff who have seen more things then I ever want to imagine. We'll all agree the medicine is the important part. What I will never understand is if you have a facility like Walter Reed dissolving into your facility, shouldn't you plan more efficiently for the merger?!

We have a huge parking problem, which signals that the right research wasn't done. I think that hospital administrators grossly underestimated the patient/staff flow of traffic they would be taking on. We had a huge parking problem at Walter Reed so I am sure someone mentioned this fact during the merger. We still to this day do not have buttons for our guys to use to open the bathroom doors throughout the campus. The public play ground may be opened in August 2012. The families really don't have a place on campus to go and retreat from the crazy. You might be thinking, lady it's a hospital. You are correct, but we have families living there. The average wounded warrior family will spend 19 months at their Military Treatment Facility. So shouldn't we make them as comfortable as possible?!

I guess my biggest problem with all of this is inefficiency. I don't like seeing my tax dollars wasted right in front of my face. The BRAC was passed in 2005. So we had adequate time to make everything happen that is just now beginning to happen. The bottom line is Walter Reed should not have been closed, until Bethesda was actually ready. I really feel that it should have renovated instead of closed. I will always feel this way. We've been at Bethesda for months now. The staff is amazing and there are a lot of team players, but if you can't get everyone else to join the team you will fail. I cannot count how many times I have said, "I don't care what branch of service you are. We are all on the same team. It's one military with branches coming off of it." I work with people from all branches and non-profits to make things happen there and I'm not giving up anytime soon.

I had to face a harsh reality the other day. The families are fighting the upstream battle of a never-ending train of egos. Well I'm sorry but it's time to chuck your damn egos in the trash and look at the human beings who need help on their journey to healing. It's still the same story I've told before the people at the top really, really care about those at the bottom, but the ones in the middle are the dams holding up progress. It's not fair to the true team players to constant have to fight to make things better. I understand change is difficult to face, but sometimes changes are good things. I disagree with the closing of Walter Reed. I cannot undo that in any form shape or fashion, but I can get on board with the team players who want to make a difference and help make Bethesda better.


  1. You know I almost feel sorry for the people at Bethesda...they don't know what's coming their way! But they will!
    Praying in Seattle!
    Psalms 91:14-15 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
    My email address

  2. Jessica, I could not agree more. WRNMMC is too big and the feeling is just not the same as at the original WRAMC. I could go on for hours, but one example? The Marine families get a weekly newsletter telling them all the fun activities for the upcoming week. The Army families don't. I had a Marine mom e-mail me the newsletter, so I e-mailed the woman who put it together and asked if the Army families could get copies either through e-mail or hard copies. I never received a response. You already know my story about the Navy wanting to kick my husband out, so I won't repeat that.
    If you haven't met Hugh Fisher yet, hunt him down. He's a wounded warrior, British, a bit older than I am. When I complained about the Navy, he explained it this way: the Navy is about ships. The people serve the ship, the equipment. People come and go, but the ship remains--hence the emphasis on the ship, not the people. In the Army, the focus is on the soldier. The soldier uses different pieces of equipment, but it is to help the soldier, not the other way around. So, in short, the Army's focus is on people. Hugh said it much more eloquently than that, but it made a lot of sense.
    One last thing, we lost our PT because of the merger. He said he lost his autonomy to do his job. He said he no longer felt trusted to do his job, that there were too many bosses and too many people trying to micromanage. Losing him was huge; it broke my heart. If the merger caused people like him to quit, it was not worth it.
    I love your honesty.