Tammy Finci - Specialist, Single Channel Radio Operator, U.S. Army - Tech Sergeant, Medical Specialist, U.S. Air Force
In 1984, Tammy Finci was 19 years old and had a good job, but her brother’s friend, a U.S. Army recruiter, talked her into signing up for the Army's delayed entry program. In October 1986, she arrived at Fort McClellan for Basic Training. During Basic Training, she broke her ankle, and with the help of 800 mgs of Motrin provided by her Drill Sergeants each day, she managed to finish Basic without going to sick call. She says that she went immediately to an emergency room to have it set in January 1987, when Basic Training was over.
“I was a go getter. I was not a trouble maker. But things began happening early on - little things.”
Within two years of leaving Fort McClellan, Tammy began having reproductive health issues and migraines. She soon found herself in emergency surgery due to severe uterine bleeding. After that surgery she was told that she would never be able to have children.
Having a family meant a lot to Tammy and her husband so she underwent extensive fertility therapy that allowed her to give birth to three children. They each have their own health challenges. Tammy’s oldest son was born at just 6 lbs, 2 oz. He’s 27 years old now and has been diagnosed with 5 different mental illnesses. His 4 year old son, who Tammy is raising, has autism, asthma, severe allergies and other respiratory issues.
Tammy’s second son and her daughter also came into the world with very low birth weights. They both struggled through school, requiring alternative schooling to get them through. “I’m a 4.0 student and their father is a genius, so I couldn’t figure out what was going on. They have good genes - or they should.”
Her second son followed in her footsteps and joined the Army. After 4 years severe hip issues led to a medical discharge. He also has two boys, one is autistic, has learning disabilities, and language issues. The other has been diagnosed with ADHD.
“If other members of my family had any of the things I have or my children or my grandchildren have, I would question it, but they don’t. So I don’t doubt it, not one second, that that’s (Fort McClellan) where this all came from.”
Despite health issues that cropped up here and there, Tammy took well to military life and planned on staying in until retirement. After 4 years in the Army, she transferred to the Air Force where she stayed for another six years. In her career she had 4 MOSs (Military Occupational Specialties) and was certified as an instructor for at least two of them. She also held a large number of jobs outside of and in addition to her official job descriptions.
Right after being awarded NCO of the year by her unit, a torn hamstring that was not healing properly ended her military career. “I was devastated,” she says about being told she had to leave the service because she couldn’t make the required run due to her leg injury.
In the years since leaving the military, Tammy’s health issues have piled up and she feels she hasn't received near adequate treatment for them from the VA. Her health problems have expanded to include: fibromyalgia, memory loss, eyesight problems, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, balance issues, daily headaches and migraines, several disk issues in her lumbar and cervical spine, and adult onset of scoliosis. Tammy says she also suffers from chronic fatigue, chronic pain, very high cholesterol despite medication, GURD, Barrett’s esophagus, ulcers, hiatal hernia, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), osteoporosis, osteopenia, and neuropathy in her arms.
A year and a half ago when Tammy lost 70 lbs in less than 6 months, she says incredulously that the VA sent her to a nutritionist. It turned out that her weight loss was due to a brain tumor, that surgeons have determined is inoperable. She now lives with regular "mini-strokes" called TIAs (Transient Ischemic Attacks) that she can't always detect, but that her service dog notices and her regular MRIs show evidence of. She also lives with the knowledge that each day may be her last because of the continual potential for a larger stroke that she won’t recover from or her tumor growing to rupture the blood vessel it is sitting on.