please excuse any typos or weird word placement… I’m writing this post from my phone which really likes to mess up my writing
Mailing off the PQ Packet
Once I finished my PQ testing my doctor’s office was nice enough to fax over the 38 pages for free for me AND make a copy of them all. I should note they were also able to get me appointments to get ALL of my medical testing done within 24-hours of me receiving my packet. Heck yes. Shout out to the folks of Tri-Health / Group Health Cincinnati for being amazing!! They saw how important this was to me and kicked ass to make it all happened as soon as possible.
I left their office and drove to FedEx Kinko’s to also overnight the packet to them including the original copies of all the x-rays. As I was handing the FedEx employee my credit card my phone rang and I excused myself to answer it. I don’t remember the verbatim conversation but it was in essence, “oh wow, you’re already done? Awesome. How does June 1st sound? You’ll be a steward.”
It was a super-duper quick phone call and I probably scared the FedEx employee with how big my smile was after that. This was the day after my birthday so that was the best birthday present for which I could have hoped.
I knew I wasn’t in the clear yet – reading enough other hopefuls’ blogs told me not to get excited until I’ve officially passed my PQ.
So Much Paperwork
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a special “rush offer” case since my deployment date is less than 6 weeks from my offer date or if it’s the norm, but even though we didn’t have PQ confirmation yet, I began all my new paperwork. The next day a GSC employee called and walked me through the pay and the bonus structure (I get a nice chunk of change for completing my entire contract). She told me to expect over the next few days a bunch more paperwork. The updated offer letter to sign came first. That was the easy one.
I also had to complete:
- Clothing sizing information for my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear I’ll be issued (I had to guess a bit but it’s okay because they make you try it all on in New Zealand anyways)
- Acknowledgement of Information Security Policies & Permission for Use
- Acknowledgement of USAP Rules of Behavior for Sensitive Information and
Personally Identifiable Information
- Trip Details (whether I prefer a window or aisle seat, closest airport, etc)
- My Passport Details
- Antarctic Lodging Request Worksheet (this is where I mark if I snore or not… I do… And if I have a roommate in mind….I don’t)
The same day I returned all this information I received another email stating that my doctor did not put her credentials on her signature, making my entire PQ invalid. I rushed down to the office and remedied the problem. The awesome staff faxed it over once again.
The PQ Process
The PQ process is not handled by my employer. It is done through the University of Texas Medical Branch. They sent me this:
We have approved your PQ for Summer MCM only. We will need to see the results of your PAP smear that is required by your GYN. She noted that you are to have a repeat Post op PAP in 3 months which puts you in JULY. Once we review that PAP smear we will decide on your winter over PQ.When are your dates of deployment? Will you be stateside then for your follow up?
My flight was supposed to leave June 1st. That would not do at all. I needed to be there for the winter too.
I immediately called my doctor. The nurse approved me moving the appointment to April 2018 as I’ve already had two other post-op paps come back normal since my “pre-cancer dysplasia removal surgery” last November. I then asked them to fax over a letter stating the new appointment date. They said they couldn’t that day but would first thing in the morning.
I sent UMTB an email back stating the appointment was moved and my deployment was June 1st. They said they would reevaluate my PQ once they received that letter.
Then I hit another snafu a few hours later.
During the background process I’d had to submit 7 years of employment history. I just turned 26 so this meant including an employer I started with when I was 16 and stayed with until 19, Coney Island. Unfortunately, Coney Island had purged all records of my employment history since it’s been 7 years and could not verify my employment. I could not pass the background check until I provided that.
I tried calling the office but the park is in off-season so office hours are limited. However, I worked for the security team which is year-round and 24/7. I could not find the direct security number so I decided just to stop in. Then a return email let me know that GSC needed the proof by Friday. This normally would not be a problem except that I am now in Florida to see my grandparents before I leave…until Saturday.
One Facebook plea later and my pal Sam S. was on the case. He drove to Coney within the hour and tracked down my old supervisor (thank goodness he still works there!) who wrote up a quick note verifying my employment (even though he got the dates wrong). Later that evening my mom also tracked down an old W-2 of mine she’d kept (she still did my taxes when I was 19) and emailed me a copy. Between the two documents I was good to go in a matter of hours. I love my support system. (my phone corrected system to staff and I almost left it xD ha)
I received an email containing my New Zealand Visa and some tips for stretching on a 24-hour plane ride but hadn’t heard anything back about my PQ yet so I decided to give them a call.
The lady who answered pulled up my files. She told me that not only had they received the letter but also that
I officially PQ’d for Winter and Summer!!
Oh my goodness.
The last thing standing in my way has finally passed!!
I’m definitely leaving!
My Ice flight (aka the flight from Christchurch, NZ to Antartica) is June 1st. My last phone call with GSC told me to expect to fly out of the US about 4 days before that.
I am attending Scorched Nuts regional burning man event that weekend. Plan A is to leave there early, drive to my mom’s, switch cars, and head to the airport. It’s going to be a clusterfuck but totally worth it to spend my last weekend in the place I truly feel most at home.
Right now, 28-days pre-Ice Flight, I’m in Florida visiting my paternal grandparents. I spend next week packing up everything I own at both my apartment and my house (yes I have two residences) and hosting a yard sale. The week after that I spend 4 days in Seattle, Washington visiting some friends from afar and then I immediately drive to Virginia to visit a cousin who is hiking the Appalachian Trail.
The 21st is a going-over party hosted by my dad’s side of the family. 22nd I get my hair balyaged (sp?) so my teal grows out gracefully, 23rd I’m posting up at Bar Louie from 4p to 2a as an “open house” goodbye party. 24th I leave for Scorched Nuts.
Being laid off was the best thing that could have happened to me.
My 9-5 marketing job laid me off on April 7th in a group lay-off. I received a last week of pay, 3-weeks’ severance, and my PTO balance. I can also get unemployment for the month of May. I also am going to cash out my 401k before I leave to buy a nice laptop and such (there’s only a couple thousand in there). Having all of April and May off work with just enough pay to make it work has been super helpful at allowing me to respond immediately to all the forms, PQ, and other needs for the program. It’s also meant I could spend time with friends and family which is very special.
As an added bonus, had I not been laid off I would have had to quit. My employer paid tuition reimbursement for me within the last year. If I’d quit, I would have had to write them a check for about $7,500 per my contract. But, they laid me off. So I don’t owe them that and instead they paid me severance. What a win for me!!
All the puzzle pieces are falling into place!
My next post (barring any huge changes) will be my final packing list, laptop selection, and how my yard sale and moving went! Woo hoo.
post image is a photo I took yesterday from the patio