I have written before about the fact that I have a history that includes a fight with a bone tumor back in 1980. I recently wrote a summary of the events that led to that diagnosis, because my lawyer in the fight with Social Security thought that it would be helpful to our fight. After some reflection, I decided to post it here, as well. Hope you find reading this to be helpful in understanding me . . . .
Vernon Pope’s Bone Tumor Discovery
This is a factual summary of the events leading to the discovery of a bone tumor in my left femur in October of 1980.
The story begins on September 17th. I was active duty in the United States Army, assigned to Ft. Eustis, Virginia, training to be a helicopter mechanic. On that day, I awoke with the rest of my unit at 0500 hrs. (which was normal for all normal duty days). At the time I awoke, I was not aware of anything amiss. I sat up, spun on my bed, and placed my feet on the floor, feeling normal. The very moment I stood up, I felt a searing pain I have struggled to describe ever since. The best estimate I can give to what that pain felt like is imagining what it might have felt like to have my whole left leg doused in gasoline and set fire. I screamed so loudly that half of the men in my barracks came running to the room I shared with 5 other trainees.
Very quickly I was questioned about what was wrong, and it was decided that I needed to get to the nearest medical aid station immediately. Two of my fellow trainees created a fireman’s carry chair and hauled me to the aid station. The medics on duty checked for sprains, broken bones, charlie horses, and other usual suspects, without discovering the cause of the pain. By the time the examination was concluded, the First Sergeant of my unit was also on location. The medics gave me some non-prescription pain killers and said they didn’t know what was wrong. They sent me back to the barracks on 24 hour bed rest – and specifically instructed my First Sergeant that if I was not feeling better by noon I should be admitted to the main base hospital for further testing.
The First Sergeant took me to the hospital at 1205 hrs. that same day.
The following days were a series of tests, x-rays, and other exams. Nobody who examined me ever suggested that they felt my pain was other than real, but no evidence was found for a cause with any test the hospital at Ft. Eustis was capable of performing. On October 8th, I was put in an ambulance and transported to Bethesda Medical Center for a full-body bone scan, with and without contrast.
On October 9th I was informed that the bone scan had revealed a shadow on the left femur that had not previously been seen on x-ray. I was scheduled for a biopsy of the site of the shadow for the following morning.
The doctor who performed the surgical biopsy deserves some mention, I think. He was Col. James W. Blunt, Jr, MD. He was the Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at Ft. Eustis at the time in question. He was also the Hospital Commander, and the highest ranking Orthopedic Surgeon in the United States Army.
I went into surgery at 0700 on October 10, 1980. I was back in my room after recovery by noon. At 1300 I was informed that I had a bone tumor – eosynophilic granuloma (please forgive me if I misspelled it – I am not an oncologist), and that I would be permanently disabled.
I want to call attention to a few facts of this narrative. First – that I experienced extreme pain all of the 23 days before we knew what was causing it. Second, there actually was a very real problem. Third, that the same sensitivity to changes in my body is why when I experience a migraine headache now, it isn’t something I can medicate and still go on with a normal day.