Saturday, June 30, 2007
The morning started off with an hour long conversation about one towel. Evidently this towel means more to him than anything else in the whole wide world and I am not allowed to use it. Ever. I now know this thanks to the following conversation.
"Jo, did you use my towel?"
"Yeah, sorry. It was the only one hanging up in the bathroom and I needed one."
"So you touched my towel. The gold towel?"
"Yes, J.R. I touched the gold towel."
"But it's my towel. Why did you use it?"
"I told you... it was the only one hanging up in the bathroom and I needed one."
"Jo, don't use my towel. I used this towel in Iraq."
"So? You used a lot of things in Iraq. Am I not allowed to touch your GPS? How about your computer?"
"This is different. It's my towel. MY. TOWEL."
Now repeat this conversation about twenty times. I just don't understand what the big deal is over a towel. It's not like I'm going to get cooties all over it. It's a TOWEL. It's gold. It's ugly. But it's the biggest and softest towel we have here. I guess I will just have to drag him into one of those "stupid women stores," and buy my own towel. Just for fun maybe I'll spend a good hour picking out just the right color. I do believe that this would be fair payback for the hours I've spent waiting for him at bookstores.
So... after the towel conversation he slowly started the process of getting ready. It's been two hours. I have things I want to do today and he is NOT going to get out of them. So he needs to get into gear and finish getting ready. If we were fishing he would have been up and out of bed in five seconds. *sigh* Men.
Friday, June 29, 2007
The morning started off ok. I picked up my parents from their hotel, grabbed a few groceries for breakfast, and came back to the Fisher House. I ran upstairs into our room and pounced on J.R. It's my favorite way to wake him up. He doesn't particularly enjoy it, but the look on his face when I fly into the bed and tackle him is priceless. He rolled out of bed just in time to eat a bowl of cereal and run out the door for PT. After PT the priceless fun began.
We've been butting heads about the whole driving situation. He would love nothing more than to be able to lead a normal life. And a huge part of that is being able to drive himself. I can't blame him for being anxious. It can't be fun to have your wife drive you every time you want to go pick up a tool at Home Depot or a book at Borders. And even though I will gladly drive him to where he needs to be, it's not always fun for me either. I would love to be able to kiss him goodbye and watch him pull out of the parking lot and not return for hours. Unfortunately, the last time he drove he was in Iraq, driving a Humvee, and had all of his limbs. We are learning a whole new ballgame and some practice is desperately needed.
He has driven three times now. Nothing big. Small trips right around the Silver Spring area on roads he has been on many, many times. He has done very well, but I would really like to see him get a bit more comfortable behind the wheel before we head out to the beltways with tons of traffic. I just want him to be safe. Call me paranoid, but I almost lost him once and I'm not going through that again. Slowly he'll get all of his independence back... it's just going to take a bit longer.
After we made it through the yelling match we managed to have a nice evening. The parents and I grilled salmon on the grill. J.R. wasn't a fan of the golden beets we had with dinner. We really need to work on expanding his taste in veggies. If left to him, dinner would be the same thing every night and it would probably come out of a box. He claims he can cook but he has yet to truly share his expertise in the kitchen with me. Someday I'll return home to a full home cooked meal waiting on the table. Hey, a girl can dream right?
We got the dishes picked up and then we ran out the door to see Evan Almighty. It was surprisingly great. A really nice family movie with plenty of laughs. Even J.R. was laughing. His laughter made it worth the forty bucks to take us all out. Tomorrow we are hoping to get down to the Folk Life Festival for at least a few hours. Depending on how long we are downtown we might also hit up Arlington/Georgetown and show the parents around a bit. It should be a nice lazy Saturday. Well, lazy after the hour in the gym.
I skipped on the gym today so I have to wake up early to run tomorrow. My legs were jello after yesterday. I do not recommend two miles in twenty minutes with the resistance on ten and crossramp on six. Your body will hate you for it later, but your mind will be thankful for the release. Two more weeks on the elliptical and then I'm heading to the treadmill. I've never been a great runner, but now is a great time to change that. J.R.'s original physical therapist is returning next week after spending a few months on leave. Thank god. I'm hoping I can get her to spend a few hours in the gym with me to show me some new exercises. The woman is amazing. She has an exercise for everything and does them in perfect form. One can learn a lot from her.
For now it's time to stop pretending I'm Lee Ann Womack and head to bed. I'm sure J.R. will be thankful I'm going to sleep. Something tells me he doesn't like how I sing with my headphones on. He's already informed me I look like a nerd when I sing into my hairbrush. What fun is he?
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
*As a note to the anonymous comment- If you have been a victim of drunk driving my heart goes out to you and all members involved. However... This article is talking about a charity event. This run was not intended as a free for all drinking fest. If you have some idea of a naked mile college run with lots of beer you are wrong. A beer run in Wisconsin is like a wine tasting on the West Coast. We may not be as sophisticated, but we are who we are and we drink what we drink.
And although I am very much against drunk driving, that is not my fight. My fight is here in D.C. dealing with injuries that were sustained by a roadside bomb. If you have further feelings on this matter, please feel free to tell the world. Just please take the crusade away from my blog.
By the time we returned home and unpacked the car it was almost eleven at night. I sorted the laundry and was sure that the washer would be open. I hauled the heavy clothes basket downstairs only to discover that not just one, but BOTH washers in use. Thinking that I would be able to sneak in my clothes after the loads were done in 22 minutes, I left the basket downstairs. Half an hour later I returned to find yet another two loads had magically appeared in the washer. Realizing that it would be at least another hour before I could even start washing my clothes I gave up for the night.
I woke up this morning feeling refreshed. I rolled out of bed, threw a sweatshirt on, and ran downstairs with my overflowing basket of laundry. I could not believe my eyes. Both washing machines running and another load waiting to go in. I threw the basket down and returned to my room. I waited another two hours before going back downstairs to check. Finally one machine had opened. I threw in the muddy clothes and smiled as victory was mine at last. Twenty more minutes and I would not only have one machine but two.
Twenty-five minutes passed. I run downstairs eager to throw in another load. In the few minutes that the washer was empty another house member swept in and stole my second machine (*@#*$&!). Now clearly my basket of clothes was sitting there waiting and I was next in line. But evidently this means nothing anymore. So I again have declared war. I will be sitting by the machines guarding them from anyone who thinks they are going to sneak in before me. I am NOT leaving this house until all three loads have been washed and I once again have enough underwear to make it through the week.
Oh the joys of living in a cracker box.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
10. The monuments no longer make me go "Wow!"
9. The last time I drove past a farm I actually admitted to MISSING that smell.
8. I no longer have the phone number to my local pizza place memorized.
7. The cheese platter at dinner two nights ago was the first REAL cheese I've eaten in months.
6. I no longer make eye contact, smile, or say hi to people I don't know.
5. I know how to navigate the city.
4. I drive like a mad man.
3. I pack snacks just in case we get stuck in traffic.
2. I yell at the tourist for being stupid.
1. IT'S BEEN HALF A YEAR!!!!
I often look back at the first week after J.R. was injured. I was still back in Wisconsin waiting to meet him stateside. I had no idea how much to pack, and what climate to pack for. I would never have guessed that six months from now we would still be away from home. To think... I had to buy new summer clothes here because most of them were still sitting at home. I would love to send my heavy sweaters and long sleeved shirts home, but with my luck things will not proceed as planned and I'll wind up buying a new winter wardrobe as well. I miss my apartment.
I also stumbled across this article today. I cannot explain all of the feelings I have about the return of our soldiers. I am excited for the families to be reunited. I am thankful that the soldiers are safe. I am also a little jealous. For months I played through my head what it would be like to stand in that room and wait for J.R. to walk through the door. I could see the flags and the smiles of the people in the room. I would think about that first hug I would get from J.R. But our family along with thousands of others didn't get that reunion.
I hate the people that destroyed our "happy ending." I try to convince myself that even with one arm, four fingers, and nerve damage to deal with we still have a better life than they do. We have more comforts, more opportunities, and better health. But knowing we have fuller lives then them still doesn't stop the want to hurt them as much as they hurt my family.
I know that the return of J.R.'s unit will be a very emotional one. These men have seen a lot. They have had to put a friend in a body bag, bandage their severely wounded comrade, and deal with being away from home for almost two years. To hug them and thank them for being there for my husband will truly be a wonderful feeling. Hurry home.
There is also a related story about a couple who was suppose to tie the knot when the fire was blazing on. They were not able to reach the gowns or enter the building. The couple was still able to have the wedding thanks to some local vendors who pitched in. This is part of the reason why I never want to move out of the midwest. Only in the midwest would local vendors pitch in and help. That would never happen in an area like D.C.
In the last couple weeks I've been putting the effort into getting myself back in shape. I've been going to the gym (which we all know I hate with a passion) and I've been eating healthy. I've pretty much cut the pop out of the picture. For those who don't know, I had a little Coca-cola addiction. It hasn't been the easiest thing to do. At least now the headaches are starting to disappear. I've also been loading up on fruits and veggies. Now since my husband tortured me by kindly reminding me that I've put on a few extra pounds (never marry an athlete), I have decided to torture him by making him eat my "rabbit food." I must say he sometimes reminds me of a small child. Twice this week he sat at the table picking at his food. Once because he didn't like zucchini, and the second because he hated everything I put into a salad for him. And instead of just making his own dinner (heaven forbid) he sat and picked all the ingredients he disliked out of the salad one by one and complained almost the entire time. I do believe he is starting to think twice about ever telling me I've put on a pound of two.
Anyway, this weekend starts the non-stop visitors again. I wont complain. Most of the faces will be familiar ones. I am hoping I will be able to hook up with an old friend from high school that is traveling to the area. Unfortunately the schedule is so hectic it might not work. We are also hoping to fish at least one day this weekend so that will just add to the craziness. There are a few other things I am greatly looking forward to this week, but I'm not allowed to discuss them until they happen. For now I am off to drag JR out of bed so we can head to lunch with a fellow milblogger.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
So dear Walter Reed I suggest you step up and take action. Maybe we could use our own military police for gate security. After all, the only time I see them is when they are taking a nap while their vehicle is parked and running. What a waste of payroll.
Here is the complete story.
*As a side note- It may come across that I dislike our Vice President. To be completely honest I don't know a whole lot about the man so I have no feelings of like or dislike towards him. I just find it incredibly entertaining to poke fun at his accident. I do apologize for any hurt feelings.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I entered the front doors and walked up to the front desk where my favorite cranky employee is working. How lovely. I showed her my I.D., signed in, and entered the gym. To my surprise there were only a few people working out. I had managed to find the one time in the day where the gym was peaceful. I jumped on the elliptical and started my thirty minute count down. With my ipod blaring in my ears and my Cosmo spread out in front of me, I was actually looking forward to finishing my run. Twenty minutes down, ten more to go. That's right about the time The Grunter entered the gym.
Now the whole row of ellipticals was open and ready to be used. He could have picked any of them. But he picked the one right next to mine. I felt a little as if my gym bubble was being invaded, but with only ten minutes left I knew I could stick it out. Five minutes later.... it started. "Oh... *insert heavy breathing*.... Oh... Yeah.. Oh... Burn baby burn." He had been running for five minutes and obviously was started to feel the burn. However, I was not feeling his burn. I turned the Ipod up as loud as possible and I could STILL hear him. After another three minutes of grunting, I stopped my workout. Two minutes from the finish line. I just could no longer listen to The Grunter.
Friday, June 15, 2007
One of the first nights I had with my husband after the injury will forever be burned into my mind. He had been in an excruciating amount of pain the entire evening. It was still early in his hospital stay so the doctors had yet to find a pain cocktail that his body responded to. Just like the evening before, the nurse entered the room and handed J.R. a cup filled to the top of pills. Desperate to make the pain subside for a few hours, J.R. swallowed them in one giant mouthful. An hour later he was drifting off to sleep.
I started making my bed for the night after I was sure he was sleeping. This would be my second night of sleeping in the fold out chair that I would soon learn to hate. I had no more than crawled under the covers when J.R. sat bolt upright in bed. "Get them off me. Get them off me now. The bugs they're all over me get them off. They're in the bed. Make them go away." Unsure of what he was talking about, I jumped out of bed and rushed to calm him down. After a grueling twenty minutes he was able to once again close his eyes. It didn't last. Again his mind took over in his sleep. This time he felt as if someone was in the room and he was under attack. He awoke panicked and sweat soaked. I sat on his bed and held him in my arms. I promised him that if he just close his eyes he would be able to sleep and that everything would be fine. I was in the room and I was going nowhere. But everything wasn't fine. No more than an hour after he closed his eyes the terror began. On this night J.R. would relive the entire accident.
"Are you ready? Hey, I'm talking to you. Are you ready to go? We have to get on the road. It's time to head back south." J.R. was mumbling in his sleep.
"J.R. what are you talking about. We aren't going anywhere. Go back to sleep."
We went back in forth for a while before I realized what was going on. He was prepping his truck for convoy and in his mind it was December 19th. His nurse assured me that this was normal and to just keep an eye on him. I listened as he spoke to his men as the convoy went down the road. He mumbled so much I had a hard time understanding. That is... until they hit the EFP.
"Hey. Hey guys... guys I can't feel my arm. Guys my arm. My arm. My arm is gone. Guys help me. My arm is gone. Help. Help. I need a tourniquet . I'm bleeding out. It's gone. Holy shit my arm is gone."
By this point J.R. was screaming at the top of his lungs. He was sitting upright in bed. I bolted out the door and yelled for the nurse. Together we muscled J.R. back down on the bed. He was thrashing. At this point more nurses were filling the room. His screams could be heard throughout all of Ward 57. I retreated to my bed and allowed the nurses to help my husband. I pulled my legs up to my chest and tried to ignore my husbands screams.
"Stop stepping on my arm. It hurts. Give me pain killers. Your stepping on my arm. Get off of it. My hand. My hand. My hand is gone. God damn it I told you get off my arm."
The nurses were calm as they helped him fight through the night terror. They played the roll of the army medics, telling him that he was going to be fine. Helping him fight through the pain. Then all of a sudden came relief. It came in the form of a shot. The medicine entered his body and within minutes the terror was over. He lay in his bed. Calm. I sat on the chair and cried. I cried for my husband, for the pain that he was in. I cried for our dreams that were now garbage. I cried out of exhaustion.
The next morning J.R. remembered nothing. He didn't understand why my eyes were so puffy and I was so tired. That same morning I walked out to the front desk and asked that my husband meet with a mental health specialist and be screened for PTSD. I waited a week and still no doctor came to speak with him. I put in another request for J.R. to be seen by a doctor. One more week and still nothing. My manners were gone. I threw a fit demanding that he be seen by someone from the psych department. They sent a doctor... in training. We saw him once. ONCE. As if one visit would fix his mind and he could continue living his life in perfect harmony.
I continued to ask and I continued to receive the same answer. "The psych department is stretched very thin and they can't make it to every patient." It took another week, but finally, a doctor (we'll call him Bob) appeared one morning from the psych department. However Bob came right in the middle of J.R.'s morning therapy session of PT and OT. After explaining to the him that every morning my husband had therapy on the third floor from 9-11 he agreed to stop by later in the afternoon. He never did. Instead Bob once again came by the next morning while my husband was at therapy. One more time I kindly reminded him that every morning from 9-11 J.R. was unavailable. It finally clicked with him after about a week and for the first time since his injury, J.R. was able to speak with a therapist on a regular basis. So I thought.
We saw Bob a few times. Then J.R. went outpatient and we could no longer meet with Bob. Once again the war for a therapist began. After a few more weeks of phone calls and digging I landed J.R. an appointment. The appointment was at 11 so we ran from physical therapy up to the doctor's office. We were no more than two minutes late, but the doctor was gone. He told the woman that appeared to be some kind of an assistant that he had left and to pass the message onto us. Furious I stormed back home with J.R. After that, I gave up. There were other battles to fight and I was running out of hot air.
We were fine for a few weeks. And then the dreams returned. Constantly waking up in the middle of the night in fear that an IED had exploded outside the window. For weeks he was permanently attached to me at night. And although I usually don't mind to snuggle up at night, it is very different when your husband has the death grip on you while you're trying to sleep. I was exhausted. I no longer had the help of the nurses to care for my husband. His memory was non existent with the meds he was taking so it was almost as if I was taking care of a small child. A very stubborn small child with a lot of needs. He couldn't dress himself, could barely feed himself, and still needed help taking a shower. I was so wrapped up in taking care of him that I completely forgot to take care of myself. Then the fights began.
Once again I started asking for a therapist. This time, it only took a week. We saw him twice. Things didn't go so well. After our second and final appointment I returned to our room feeling defeated. Not once had any member of the staff here asked if I was ok. If there was anything that I needed. How I was handling my husband's injury. I was realizing that I was no longer able to handle the stress of taking care of J.R. For months I had been bottling up every concern, every fear, and every frustration inside. I had a break down. Two weeks later family arrived and I was able to leave and go home for a week of alone time.
Since that week things have been a million times better. J.R. has been able to cut back on his meds which has made a world of difference. I now see the man I married shining through the drug haze. The fights are less often and less intense. And we are able to realize when a little time apart is needed. It's amazing what taking care of yourself for a while can do for your mental health.
It is also important to remember that even though my husband may be the one that lives with the memory of the explosion, we all live with the memory of the healing process. This war has taken it's toll on me as well. And sometimes even I need professional help to deal with our new life.
My whole point to this long winded story is that two hundred added employees isn't enough. There are over 25,000 soldiers that have been wounded in Iraq. 25,000. Just to help the wounded alone there are not enough employees.
Now add in the thousands of soldiers returning from war and remember it is not just the soldiers that need help. The families need to be included. There are wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers that deploy with a soldier. It's hard.
I see the army putting a band-aid on our veterans. A fresh coat of paint to cover the walls. A few added employees to make the press happy. But it's time to peel the band-aid off and realize the cut needs stitches in order to heal. This war has been going on for years and the end has yet to be in sight. There will continue to be fatalities and injuries. This is the reality of war.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
On a different note... Last week J.R. participated in an interview with the National Guard about the scuba program here at Walter Reed. You can either view the video or the story.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Saturday, June 9, 2007
The following day we met with a group of guys from the Minnesota National Guard. It was nice to see familiar faces. We were fortunate enough to have a free evening to go out to dinner with them and have a great night away from WRAMC.
Thursday we met with more people from the National Guard. This time we were discussing the scuba certification program the J.R. has been doing here at WRAMC. This program gave J.R. his first opportunity to return to the water since his injury. It has really helped boost his confidence with swimming and has shown him that even though he may have one hand, he can still try new things and be successful. He is itching to get out and try his first open water dive. Hopefully in August we will be able to travel with a group from the hospital and get him into real water.
We also had an opportunity to see family Thursday night. We again were able to go out and enjoy a night away. We went for dinner and then walked around town for a while. We stopped at Borders and spent a small fortune on books to help pass the time. I haven't decided which is more harmful to our bank account.. Home Depot or Borders.
Friday was spent catching up on paperwork and packing for today. We woke up at six this morning to get on the road and head to Baltimore. I believe it was a small miracle that I was able to roll out of bed at six am. I'm not what one would call a morning person. Anyway... for the first time EVER we were able to find where we were going without getting temporarily misplaced (which I think sounds much better than being lost). It was such a gorgeous day on the coast. Hot, sunny, and a great breeze. The wind however made it a very rough day in the boat. We went crashing through five foot waves and got soaking wet. What a fantastic time. It was more fun than any Disney ride ever invented. We didn't catch any fish but I'll take the sunshine any day.
For now it's time for a shower and a nap. We have more family coming into town again tomorrow so our schedule remains very full. Can't complain though.. we LOVE the visits!
Friday, June 8, 2007
Saturday, June 2, 2007
But, I am in the military, in the ranks rarely seen.
I have no rank upon my shoulders. Salutes I do not give.
But in the military world is where I live and am rarely seen.
I am not in the chain of command, orders I do not give or get.
But my husband is the one who does, this I cannot forget.
I am not the one who fires a weapon, who puts his life on the line.
But my job is just as tough, I'm the one who is always left behind.
My husband is a patriot, a brave and pride filled man.
And the call to serve his country not all can understand.
Behind the lines, I see things needed to keep this country free.
My husband makes the sacrifice, but so do my kids and me.
I love the man I married. The military is his life.
So I pledge to support my hero and stand among the silent ranks known as THE MILITARY WIFE.
-A Military Wife Author Unknown
*Thanks to an angel for sharing this poem.