R. Peter Decato
My daughter, Dr. Carrie Ayers served in the military for about a dozen years (brigade surgeon, then anaesthesiologist). Perhaps because she experienced combat or perhaps because she lived the life of a servicewoman, she is rather fond of the movie “A Few Good Men.”
In her favorite passage from the movie, Jack Nicholson (Col. Jessup) says, in answer to a question:
….Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines.
You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
This passage has taken on a new meaning for me as I have learned that the VA may be planning to change its traditional approach in the operating room. The VA appears ready to
replace traditional anaesthesiology teams for solo Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA’s).
I have no particular problem with CRNA’s. I suspect they are terrific at what they do, but I want the best for our veterans and the best treatment to me comes from the traditional team approach. I want my daughter on that wall. We need to keep her on that wall. Taking her off that wall and replacing her and her team with a solo CRNA is a reduction in care. Moreover, it will start a dangerous precedent that will ultimately affect us all.
A number of months ago, my daughter asked me if I would give some legal advice to one of her recently retired nurses. I was happy to do so. After speaking to Carrie’s former teammate,
she said to me: “You know, your daughter is quite amazing. She is indeed a great leader.” Hearing these words sent me into a state of pride. The retired nurse then told me: “You know, we would be in the operating room and a problem – a serious problem – would come up. Carrie would say to us: “Ladies put your big girl panties on, we’ve got some work to do.” She told me that was the rallying cry and every time the members of Carrie’s team would respond.
The team responded, not just one individual. “All hands were on deck.” If Col. Jessup were to address us on this subject, I suspect he would say: … “Who the hell do you want on that wall?” As a veteran of 28+ years in the New Hampshire National Guard, I want my daughter and her team on that wall. I don’t want people like this cast to the side.
It took heartache and sweat to get them up on that wall. Do not allow the VA to make this change. If you do, know this: things that happen at the VA have a habit of trickling down into the civilian
world. Who do you want on the wall at your operation?
Col. Jessup was right about one thing: the military uses words like honor, code and loyalty. But words and actions are two different things. Act as you speak and stop thinking about watering down our medical care!