Today was my appointment to get back on birth control at the local Veterans Administration. As I entered the nurses room and began answering her questions she asked me what type of birth control I was currently using. I told her I had been using a vaginal contraceptive film and she stopped typing, turned to look at me, and asked quizzically, “a what?” A bit stunned, I mummered a vaginal film and she again asked me what I was talking about. My face began to flush as my two year old daughter sat on my lap. I finally said, “it’s a film that dissolves when inserted in the vagina.”
Upon answering her questions she turned to enter the information in her computer and I thought to myself what kind of nurse in the gynocologist office doesn’t know the kinds of birth control available. As she proceeded, I got further confused. I had been told in September that I was up to date on my papsmear and other female care checks by my primary care team and this nurse was telling me I was overdue. Mind you I was sitting in the exact same office my primary care sits in on the days she is working at the VA.
When she asked me what kind of birth control I was interested in I responded the copper IUD. She then asked me why. I felt a little taken aback but I responded I wanted a non hormonal birth control option. She again asked me why. This time I answered with a hint of annoyance, “because it is my preference.” She then asked me if I would be able to talk to the doctor with my daughter as he might get “upset” because she was present.
At this point I was a bit flabbergasted; my husband was at work, the VA is the only place I have healthcare, and I had no babysitter. I coldly replied that I had done it before and this should be fine. She escorted me to the doctors room for my consult and he went through the entire spill about every option the VA offered again. I told him my preference and he informed me I would have to wait for my next period to get it inserted.
I was annoyed, but I understand why the doctor had to wait to get me back on birth control. While he was calling in my prescription and on hold with the pharmacist he says, “you may have to tell your hubby to howl at the moon until you can get your IUD.” I have no idea what the expression on my face was but I was pretty much humiliated at this point. I thanked him for getting me what I needed and the nurse gave me a card to call for my return to get my IUD scheduled.
As I walked to the pharmacy I reflected on the numerous times I had tried to get and/or remain on birth control from that particular provider. I remembered the time in 2010 when we had moved from Massachusetts to Arkansas. I transferred from the Brockton, MA veterans administration back to my previous provider in Fayetteville, AR at the local Veterans Administration there. I had all of my records forwarded to the VA as well as brought my records with me when I left in May and I believed that everything would be fine when I was ready to return in Arkansas for my next dose.
When my depo shot was due that summer I called to get an appointment. I was stunned when they told me I would have to be re assigned a new health care team and visit a primary care physician before I could get my shot. I made the appointment, however the soonest the could get me in was a month after my shot was due. I went to my appointment that August and was immediately informed I needed an EKG. I asked why I needed an EKG to get a depo shot and the male nurse told me simply because I was due for one.
Bewildered, I made my way to that technician for my heart check. She plugged me into machines and began the exam. She got a concerned look on her face and asked me if I was feeling alright. I responded I was fine and she asked me what I had been doing that day and if I was on any drugs. I told her I had just finished cleaning a home in Goshen and come right to the VA for my appointment and that I was not on any drugs. She looked at my tie-dyed grateful dead shirt with disbelief and said well you have bradycardia, your at 50 beats per minute.
I asked if it was a problem and she said no, just that most people my age do not have this. I returned to the nurse in hopes to get the go ahead to get my depo shot and he was also concerned about my results from the EKG. He asked me if I was a marathon runner; I laughed and said I wished. He finally sent me to my primary care physician and I was allowed to go get another papsmear and pregnancy test to get back on my depo shot.
I do not remember how many months it took before I was allowed to get my shot again but it was several. You would think birth control would be an easy enough thing to give to female veterans as we always had simple access to them in the service. I often wonder how much money is spent on the numerous procedures that one must go through to get a simple shot. I mean an EKG for a depo shot at the age of 27? The multiple letters that are sent for appointment reminders that arrive after your appointment, and the lack of communication between VA health care systems are likely costing the taxpayers, which I am also one of, countless dollars on uneccessary and dysfunctional procedures both medically and administratively. As a veteran that depends on the VA for my healthcare and has whitnessed multiple veterans turned away from treatment and medication for various reasons, I would really like to see money being spent on fixing these issues and serving more than continuing to waste money on a broken system that keeps loosing veterans at a daily rate. I also find it disturbing that I know more about sexual protection than the registered nurse the VA has hired to take care of me; this is the reality of the VA medical care system.