Tonight I spoke with a very good friend of mine from Fisher House for the first time since early December. I was excited to answer the phone when her name came through on caller id. Unfortunately tonight she did not have good news.
Over a year ago Krystle's husband Nick sustained an injury to his foot/ankle while serving overseas. He made it state side with all of his limbs still in tact (a rare scene for a soldier at Walter Reed). They welcomed their first child, Cameron, shortly after Nick was injured. Within months of having Cameron, the newlyweds found out that they would be expecting a second child. As time went on, Doctors preformed surgery after surgery on the injured limb in hopes of saving the appendage. Unfortunately even the miracle workers at Walter Reed were unable to save the leg. On Monday, January 7th, 2008 Nick became a below the knee amputee.
I talked with Krystle for a long time tonight. Hearing her tell me about her first reaction to her husband's new appearance took me back to the first time I saw J.R. after he had lost his arm. I practically ran to find J.R.'s room when I first arrived at WRAMC. After finding his door I felt as though I was walking through wet cement. I was scared to see him. I didn't want to look at his arm for seeing the bandaged limb meant that it was real. No matter how I try to forget that feeling I can't erase the memory from my mind. I remember trying to control my emotions and my facial expressions as I finally gazed at his missing arm. I remember how surreal the moment felt. I remember how hard it was to smile and be strong for him.
As hard as it was to accept that J.R. had lost his arm, the amputation of his ring finger was a much more emotional procedure. The days leading up to the surgery I spent staring at his hand. When the hour finally came and he was prepped and ready to be put under it was painful to walk away from him. As long as his finger was attached to his body there was hope. Hope for improvement. Hope for a miracle. Even if the chance was small and the hope was buried somewhere deep inside, it was still there. As I walked out of the prep area my hope for him to have a normal hand was shattered. I was broken and I wasn't sure how to glue myself back together.
Nick and Krystle knew this day was coming for months. I can only begin to imagine how painful it was to wake up every morning knowing that you were one day closer to loosing part of your body and continuing this pattern for days on end.
I know they have been dealt a tough hand. I know their first year of marriage has been tough. Their path through the choppy waters of Walter Reed has been a rough ride. They've hit icebergs along the way but they're still floating. I'm proud of them and I am honored to call them friends. Heal quickly both of you.