Every time Roland Perry swings a golf club, he feels knee pain.
“It’s frustrating because I know what I’m capable of doing,” he said.
The professional golfer and director of golf at the Mars Hill Country Club has been dealing with knee issues since the 70s. He’s also an Air Force veteran – and says in these last 40 years – he’s had little to no help from the VA hospital in Augusta.
“I’m just a number that’s it, that’s how they treat you,” he said.
The first time he wanted to have work done on his right knee – it took him two to three months to get an appointment at Togus. That appointment, he says, consisted of the surgeon feeling his knee and saying there was nothing wrong. That forced Perry to have his knee operated on by a civilian doctor. Years later, he needed more work done – and says he kept getting put off until Senator Susan Collins and Representative Mike Michaud got involved.
“Here we are willing to give our life for our country..and the country doesn’t care about you,” he said.
It was last year when Perry finally had his knee operated on by a surgeon at the Togus hospital. He says the pain now – is ten times worse. And when he asked about it, he was dismissed.
“After all these years of waiting and that’s the best they can do…is very frustrating,” he said.
He’s also been wanting to have his left knee replaced for the last ten years. And he says he has a bad valve on his heart that the VA is also putting off. When he asked about why it’s taken so long, the response has been that Togus is limited on doctors. A representative from Togus told NewsSource 8, “in 2013, more than 98% of established patients received primary care appointments within 14 days of requesting them. Depending on the specific specialty care, it can be more of a challenge in rural and highly rural areas lacking specialists. It is not just a challenge for VA since community providers typically face the same challenges, especially in northern Maine.”
VA hospitals across the country are under major scrutiny right now. About 40 veterans in Phoenix died waiting for medical treatment. Perry has some experience with that hospital – as he lives in Phoenix six months out of the year.
“Over there it’s a total waste of time for a patient..it takes forever and ever and ever to even make an appointment,” he said.
At this point – Perry has lost trust in VA hospitals. Luckily Cary Medical Center is participating in the pilot program Project Arch — which allows veterans to recieve care in a non VA hospital. He has an appointment for his knees on August 7th. Better knees for him means he can live his passion with no fear.
“Oh yeah..to be able to swing without feeling the pain,” he said.
In an ideal world, Perry would love to see veterans like himself get treated in any local hospital. He’s not convinced it’s ever going to happen..And in the meantime he’s focusing on his health, and if he can someday hit balls the way he used to – he’ll be happy.