Friday, December 30, 2011

All Is Almost Well

Stressful day yesterday.  I got a lot of answers today.  Dr. Diego came and spent a lot of time with me, even though he was exhausted, and explained all of the labs.  I still don't have answers as to what happened with the idiot yesterday, and I won't until next week, but at least I feel better about the labs.  Thanx, Diego.

And the cookie fiasco is solved.  It was a big misunderstanding.  They have to buffer us against crazies from the outside who want to come in.  Sometimes, as we know in our room, crazies slip in.  We've dealt with them.  But when someone shows up, it is their job to protect us.  I appreciate it.  Once I reached them, it was resolved.  I really respect them for all that they do for us.

Today was an early day in the Matc because it was closed due to a training holiday.  Only inpatients were seen. 

After the Matc we had an extra special visit with Sgt Archie.  We love that dog.  He snuggled up with Derek and made himself at home.

The rest of the day was spent decompressing from yesterday, visiting with family who came for the weekend, following up with doctors, etc.

Keep climbing until you reach the top.  Never give up.  You will get there eventually.  It's taking us a lot longer than I thought, and so many have come in after us and left or are preparing to leave, but we are doing it Derek's way.  Climb to glory.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Going From Bad to Worse with the Perfect Ending

It is hard for me to ask for help on big things.  Day to day things, sure.  And even then I hate it.  But big things?  People say to call any time if I need something, but do they mean it?  I know I mean it.  I won't say something unless I absolutely mean it.  So, I won't usually call.  I will accept help if offered, a lot of the time, but not always, but I will rarely ask for it.  Why?  Because I just don't want to be disappointed anymore.  I have reached out for help before and usually been disappointed.  So, I just stopped.  My sister never disappoints.  I can always count on her.  I can usually count on my close friends, but I don't usually ask for much.  I will ask for little things.  Big things?  Nope.  I will do it myself and stand on my own.  It takes a lot for me to reach out.  Today was one of those days, and I was disappointed again.

Today was a horrible day.  There were good points.  It wasn't all bad.  But when you weigh the good with the bad, the bad definitely outweighs.  Most days are not like that.  I don't like to concentate on the negative, but I'm done today.

I walked in this morning to Derek pinching the bridge his nose in frustration.  A trainee was trying to do something and screwing up.  She was being an idiot.  I understand everyone has to learn, but why wasn't someone in there showing her what to do?  Why does the patient have to suffer?

I then asked the corpsman to go over the labs with me.  I like to keep track of certain labs, like phosphate, magnesium, potassium, etc., about which the doctors have had concerns.  I usually ask what they were on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the days labs are supposed to be drawn.

Today, for the first time in a month, the corpsman opened the lab screen in the room and I got to see the screeen.  I found out today that on December 8th labs were changed to twice a week.  I thought it was changed to three times a week.  It had been every day.  There were real concerns about Derek's labs, and they were very screwy.  We never would have been okay with only twice a week if we have known.  I saw that so many of the labs were "abnormal," either too high or too low, and I asked for a doctor who knows Derek to come and talk to us about it because I needed them all explained to me, especially how and why it was changed to three times a week without any of us knowing.  You might be wonderful how Derek didn't know?  They draw from his PICC at around 0430 when he is sound asleep.

In walks a doctor who has been on Derek's service for the past almost two months, and who I complained about two weeks ago for lack of communation.   His panties must still be in a bunch.  If not for a bed and a pregnant nurse between us, there would be a doctor sized hole in our wall.  The bottom line of the conversation was, "You are lucky I talk to you.  I don't have to.  I am the doctor.  I make all the decisions."   Whatever happened to informed consent?  Whatever happened to giving the patient all the information so that he could make an information decision about his care?  I guess this MDeity doesn't believe in that.  Thank God this little resident has ended his rotation.  Six months in a civilian hospital should straighten him out if my answer and the complaints I filed didn't do it.  I spoke to two of his "bosses" today, and I really hope they took care of it.  Will follow up tomorrow.

Then Derek left for the Matc and I stayed to clean the room.  A friend of mine drove down from Jersey with cookies specially made for Derek that meet his diet restrictions.  She also wanted to see three other families she knew as well as do good by delivering cookies for other wounded warriors.  I do not know exactly what happened on this end, because someone from the hospital who said they would come and talk to me didn't show up, but when she arrived, her packages were taken and she was told to leave.  When she said she wanted to see me, she was told it wouldn't be a good idea.  Since when were my visitors restricted?  At 4 pm I still hadn't seen the cookies or gift, so I started calling.  Still no answers.  Will have to follow up tomorrow.    I understand wanting to be careful with packages for the wounded, but we get care packages all the time.  Three of the packages were specially labeled for three families she knew.  And why let her come if they were not going to distribute her baked goods?  We will see what tomorrow brings.

A good part of the day is Derek had an awesome workout in the Matc!  His brother Sean helped him with his workout, and it is wonderful to see the boys spending time together.  Derek's transfers from the chair to the PT mat, which is the same level as the chair, are becoming easier.  Derek had an EMG today, and he transferred himself to and from the table for the test.  It was wonderful.

A maybe good note is the EMG.  This is a test of the nerves in the hand and arm.  We won't know for sure until the surgeons get in there and look, but it appears the radial nerve is just contused, the medial (?) nerve is slightly damaged and the ulna nerve is severed.  We shall see.

When we returned to the room, I had been asking for a doctor to come and explain the labs, the reason for the labs, etc. to me.  I have so many concerns and questions and I need them answered.  With this one this morning telling me that he barely looked at the results, I am really worried.  What if there was something really troubling in them?  Has someone else looked at them?  Was he just being an ass when he said that?  I really need answers and the doctor who said I would get answers never came back.  Then the other one who said I could call any time was too busy when I actually called.  He said he would be around tomorrow.  We'll see.  The main doctor on Derek's service won't be back until Tuesday, and I don't know if I can wait until then.

I just need someone to sit down and go over the labs with me.  I need to understand the how, why, what, etc.  I am really upset by the things this jerk said to me.  I need to know that everything is going to be okay.  I know today's labs "look really good," but, I'm sorry, the trust is gone.  Why would so many be listed as too high or too low if they are "really good?"  I need this answered. 

I just need communication.  The one thing I have been screaming about for weeks.

Then tonight, to put the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae, Sean made my night.  Not.  Sean has been spending the night with Derek since he arrived last Friday.  Before I left, Sean ran to another floor to get a drink.  He had not returned before I left.  I returned to the room and saw a post on my facebook from Derek and his status set as, "The fire department just rescued my little brother from the elevator!"  

Really?  Imagine my surprise.  I called the nurses' station for a report, and Janea got Sean on the phone.  Yes, he was stuck.  They pulled him out through the top of the elevator and he saw the inside of the shaft.  Yes, it was cool.  For him.  For Mom..... it's bedtime.

Good night.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.  Hopefully, 2012 will be better than 2011.

That mountain was really rocky today.  Climb to glory.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Goodbyes Suck :'-(

One of the worst parts of this whole thing are goodbyes.  I've heard the saying about family, I love to see them come, and I love to see them leave.  When you are in a situation like this, that is not always true.  And in this situation, we are always saying goodbye... to family at home, friends at home and those we meet here, doctors who rotate to other services, wounded warriors who leave to go to other hospitals for treatment, etc.  Goodbyes suck.  I am tired of goodbye.

This weekend was a whirlwind.  Unfortunately, it was over before I knew it.

We had 13 people for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - my five children, my father, my sister Yvette, her husband Brian, and their three children, and Krystina. 

Then on Monday, my Aunt Barbara and three cousins joined, so we made 17.  My Dad, Brian and my oldest son Mike had to leave, so we were back down to 14.  We took over the conference room for dinner.  AJ fell asleep on Derek.

When Derek got tired, we headed back into his room, all 14 of us, and yes, it was a little cramped, but it felt good.  AJ snuggled with Derek in bed, we pulled out the chair that converts to a bed to make more seats, and we simply made room.

Today, we were visited by Sgt Archie, who is usually very stoic and serious.  He came in bouncy and actually smiling!  He was happy and allowed the kids to pet his face, something he usually hates.  He got up onto the bed with Derek, a special treat that is allowed only rarely.
He snuggled with Derek a long time, and even lay his head on Derek's shoulder.  After 5+ months, we have become part of his family.  I cannot imagine how it will feel when it comes time to say goodbye to him, his wonderful Mommy, and the other facility dogs.

In the afternoon, we said goodbye to Aunt Barbara, and my cousins, Michelle, Ainsley, and Jon.  It was hard to see them go, because I don't know when I will see them again.  That is one thing that is awful about this.  Being away from extended family.  I was always close to my family, and I liked knowing they were close.  Having them so far away is tough.

I haven't seen most of my friends in over five months.  Some of them have been able to come down for a quick visit, but most have lives that are not conducive to trips to DC.

The brat, yes Derek, then slept all afternoon because he had been awake watching movies with his brother Sean until 3 a.m.!!  But it gave the kids and me time together to just talk and be in the same room, something I miss terribly.

Then the moment I had dreaded all day finally dawned.  It was time to say goodbye to my sister, nephews and two of my children.  (My son Sean will stay the week.)  I couldn't do it.  I was too choked up.  Yes, me.  The one who rarely sheds a tear.  I couldn't get the words, "Goodbye, I love you," to come out of my mouth.  I just hugged them tight and turned and walked to the nearest bathroom to break down.  I sit here tonight, typing this, with tears still coming, and it is hours later.  I hate this.

I hate missing the daily chit chat.  I hate not being there for them at night.  I hate not being able to help my daughter with daily struggles.  I hate not being there for parent-teacher conferences.  I hate missing nightly family dinners.  Yes, I was one of those who insisted on eating together as a family EVERY night.  No cell phones, no TV, no nothing but talking as a family.  I miss it.  Not knowing when or if I will get back to it is tearing me apart.  I hate not being able to tease my sons about the girls they like.  I hate not being able to stare down the boys who like my daughter.  I hate not being able to snuggle with my kids or my cat.  I hate not being a Mom.  I know I am doing what I need to do, and the kids understand, because they have told me so, but I hate what I am missing.

Not knowing how I will pay the mortgage or continue to support my children if this doesn't end next month is causing extreme stress.  Maybe that's why I have not had a decent night's sleep in weeks and this migraine has been tearing at my brain for two weeks?  Whatever.  I've always landed on my feet and I know it will work out eventually, but getting there is ripping me apart. 

Oh well.  I will continue to put on my brave face and fake it.  If you don't feel it, fake it and eventually you'll fool yourself into believing it.  I am strong.  Stronger than I ever realized, it turns out, but sometimes the situation is beyond me, and I just fake my way through it.  Before I know it, I'm at the end, and I don't have to be strong any more.

Sorry for the downer tonight, but it's been a tough evening.  This isn't all rainbows, butterflies, unicorns and flowers.  Raw emotion sometimes breaks free.  I hate it.

Climb to glory.  Keep going.  Even when the mountain feels or looks insurmountable.... keep going.  Never give in.... never give up.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Blessings

2011 years ago, a babe was born in a manger.  It wasn't what his mother expected.  It wasn't what she would have planned.

This year, Christmas was certainly not what we would have planned, but it was much better than it mght have been had things gone the other way on that fateful day. 

We opened presents in Derek's room.  Although we were cramped, it was wonderful.  We then had a very special visit from Lt Col. Bobbie and her Mommy Lisa!

We were 13 strong for a wonderful dinner with other families hosted by a WWII vet from the 10th Mountain, Bob.

This is a pic of the military men in our family with Bob.

The dinner was at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in DC and Derek said it was the best buffet he has ever had in his life.

When we returned we had a very special VIP visit.....  Dr. Diego and his gorgeous wife, (no, not Dora!) Sara!  It was so very fantastic of him to come in on his day off to visit his patients and wish them a Merry Christmas.  He is a very special man, and his wife is very sweet.

The VP, Joe Biden, and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, also came for a visit.  It was very nice of them to give up time on Christmas Day to come and spend time with the guys.  When we got back, we were told he was there, and we hung out in the hall until he came back up.  Politics aside, he spoke with the guys in the hall, told stories, and was very personable. 

When I found out he was there, I turned to one of the nurses and said I really should be locked in the med room because I did not think I could hold my tongue.  I seriously wanted to ask him about a recent comment he made, but I knew it was not the time or place, so I bit my tongue.  I told Dr. Diego I needed stitches because I bit my tongue so hard.  But, alas, it was about the guys, not about making a point.  I do like Dr. Biden, though.  She is a lady.  Joe is a little too touchy feely.  And he wanted to adopt Derek's nurse!  Oh no!  THAT did not go over well!  It was an interesting visit, and as I said, very nice of them to spend time on Christmas Day with our REAL VIPs!

The day after Christmas, more family arrived!  We were 17 strong and took over the conference room again.  Aunt Barbara came down from NJ with my cousins Michelle, Jonathan and Ainsley.  AJ snuggled on Derek's lap in his wheelchair, fell asleep on his chest and lay next to him on the bed when Derek returned to bed.  AJ is his 10 yr old cousin.  It is great to have our entire family here.  The only thing that would make it better is if Krystina's family had been here.

I've been making a lot of ICU rounds lately, trying to assist new familes in the new normal.  I greeted a new family that arrived Christmas night.  I don't know if I am helping, but I remember those early days myself.  Those early days are the worst, when everything feels so overwhelming.  I hope someday soon we can see the end of the medevacs arriving and the end of the wounded warriors joining our ranks.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas holiday.  God bless.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Surprises

2011 years ago, a child was born so that we would live.  What a life it is.  It is not always easy, but it is always a surprise.

I love surpirses.  But I also hate them.   I have no patience.  If I know something is coming, I need to know what it is.  I can keep a secret if necessary.  I can be very tight lipped.  That's the attorney in me.  I know how to keep confidences.  But when it is something exciting, I burst at the seems and want to shout it to the world!

Yesterday, I was sent a text from Dr. Diego (el brat himself) that he was on his way and bringing a surprise.  Thankfully, I didn't check my phone so I wasn't anticipating it.  I was standing at the door talking with Brother David when I looked up and saw a dark, bald head dip real fast and run by!  I thought, "I know that head!"  I yelled out, "Stop!  Right there!  You!"  He tried to duck into an empty patient room, but I tackled him.  Dr. Obi.  Dr. D came up and said I ruined it.  They were going to walk by, glance in and keep going, just to see what I would do.  Brats.  Or, excuse me, "el brat" as Diego says he is.

Diego is off for the next week.  Or so he thought.

Today, we were all sitting around chatting and guess who walked in?  I think he just made up an emergency procedure so he could come in and get his Jersey bagels. 

Then it was time for lunch.  We decided to go to Cheesecake Factory.  The Yellow Ribbon Fund arranged for us to have taxi vouchers for a wheelchair accessible van to and from the restaurant.  It was arranged yesterday.  I called this morning to ensure a pick up at two, and I was guaranteed I only needed to give twenty minutes notice.  I called at 1:30 p.m. (1330) for pickup, and I was told 10-20 minutes.

At 1400, I called for an ETA and I was advised at that time that they were having trouble locating a wheelchair accessible van and they would get to us by 1430 (2:30 p.m.).  The family was waiting at the restaurant.  I told the dispatcher the restaurant would not hold the table much longer, and this was arranged yesterday.  She promised me pick up but said they had car problems.

1435.  No cab.  No call from them.  I call.  I was told 1545 (3:45 p.m.) at the earliest.  Yes, I started yelling.  The guys at the Command Center were so nice.  They tried to find us another cab company, but being Christmas Eve, we were stuck.

So, we made the best of a bad situation and ordered take out from the Cheesecake Factory.  It wasn't what we wanted, but it was intimate and "quiet" with just us in the conference room. 

Two months ago, an anonymous angel sent Derek an engagement ring to give to Krystina.  He did.  He still wanted to get her his own ring but until he was well enough to consider it, this was a gift from Heaven.

After we ate, Derek turned to Krystina and said, in part, "Most people say why they love someone, but I have proof.  I have pictures of you sitting beside me in ICU holding my hand while I was unconscious.  You were always there.  You gave up everything for me.  Since you are the girl of my dreams, I wanted to get you the ring of your dreams."  He then presented her with a gorgeous ring that my sister picked up after he told her exactly which one to get.

Derek's nurse, Angela, was in the room taking pictures, and a corpsman and LPN also ran in to watch.  It was wonderful!  So, no we didn't get to go out to eat, but we made the best of it and had a good time.

The best part?  We were together.  It would have been better if Krystina's parents could have joined us, but it was wonderful.

Many Christmas blessings to you and yours!  If you celebrate Hanukkah, then Hanukkah blessings.  Kwanzaa?  Kwanzaa blessings!  Whatever you celebrate, may your season be merry and bright. 

For all of you with soldiers, marines, airmen, sailors away this Christmas, my thoughts and prayers are with you.  My sailor Michael was away last Christmas, and Derek was supposed to be away this Christmas, so I do know how you feel.  The worry, the thoughts, the sleepless nights.  May God keep them safe and bring them all home soon.

If you have room, set an extra plate at your table this year in honor of a deployed serviceman or woman, or one who did not make it home.  Raise your glass in honor of those deployed to the sandbox and other places around the world and unable to be with family and friends this Christmas, the wounded warriors struggling to recover in hospitals in Germany, Bagram, Khandahar, and across the US, as well as other VA hospitals around the world, and those who are Heaven deployed.... always honored, never forgotten.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve Thoughts and Emotions - Food, Joy, Anger, Thanks, Love, Hope

As I sit here on Christmas Eve Eve, I have many thoughts running through my head. 

1 - I am thinking about googling additional restaurants for our Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow night, because.... yes!  Derek got a pass for tomorrow AND Sunday.  No, it's not overnight, but it is awesome.  We are so getting there.

2 - I am thinking that this is Derek's Five Month Alive Day.  It has been five months since our world changed forever.  Yes, I am still a bit angry with God that he "allowed" Derek to step on that IED instead of diverting him somehow someway, but I am so thankful that He chose to save him.  I read the initial notes today from his admission to NNMC (National Naval Medical Center), the precursor to WRNMMCB (Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda).  He was septic in Kandahar.  He had fungal spores in his wounds.  He could have so easily died.  I could have so easily gotten the knock on the door instead of the phone call.  He really was so close.  Maybe not as close as another wounded warrior I heard of recently who was triaged as "unsaveable" but defied the odds and is doing so good now, but Derek almost died.  Several times in the past five months.  I am thankful that Derek is alive.  I know there is a plan for him.  I know that there is a plan for all that Krystina, my kids, my sister and her family and I have gone through these past five months. 

But I am still angry that it happened.  For those who are very religious and give all to God, please do not criticize me for this or preach to me.  I did 18 years in Catholic schools, taught CCD, ran the Altar Service program for my church, am a Eucharistic Minister, ran the children's liturgy program, taught in Catholic schools for 6 years. This is how I feel.  I cannot turn off my emotions.  The Bible does not say not to be angry, just not to sin.  If I remember the passage correctly, it says something like, "Be righteous in your anger, but do not sin."  It is okay to be angry.  I am angry at the Taliban (yes, they are our enemies), Afghanistan, the Army for sending him there, God for not diverting him, my mother for not watching over him and diverting him, Derek for insisting on infantry, my ex for leaving me to raise 5 on my own basically forcing my boys to enter the military in order to get college funds. 

Do I let this anger consume me?  No.  I barely think about it.  It's not part of my daily life.  It's not something that even enters my daily thoughts.  It hovers there and comes out in my thoughts when I really think about the whole picture, such as nights like tonight.  It's part of my processing.  Without being able to work through this anger and understanding how I am feeling about it and how it is effecting me or not effecting me, I could not function daily.  I would be consumed.  The anger is not enough to draw any sort of strong emotions from me.  It's just how I feel. 

I accept that it is part of a bigger plan.  I accept that there is something better coming down the pike, and I do trust that God had a reason for this, so I keep my anger in my back pocket.  It's not simmering.  It's a little shiny penny just sitting there.  One day I will walk by a fountain and toss it in.  For now, it will sit there.

I live my life on a daily basis not angry about what was, what could have been, what will never be, what happened, and what could have been avoided but thankful for what is, what will be, what can/could be, what possibilities lie ahead, what new blessings we have uncovered on the new journey, and what will come to pass.  We WILL make it.  I know that.  I have that faith.

3 - I am thinking that I am overwhelmed because it is the night before Christmas, and I am not completely ready.  I have not wrapped presents, I have not purchased everything I would have wanted, I have not decorated my house, not that I have been there in five months, but not the point.....

4 - Mostly, I am thinking about love.  And it is really love that is consuming my thoughts tonight as I sit here.  The other things I just stated have been passing thoughts today.  My sister, her husband and their three kids drove down from NJ with my three children to celebrate Christmas away from their homes.  Brian and Yvette and giving up being with Brian's family on Christmas Eve to go to dinner with us in a restaurant we have not yet selected to return to a cramped hospital room .... but where we will be overflowing with love.  The pure joy and happiness I saw on Derek's face today as he watching his cousins and siblings brought a tear to my eyes (and that is a VERY hard thing to do).

The hugs and kisses were spread all around and the squabbles between the siblings and cousins annoyed only the two moms.

This will be a great Christmas.  We may not be home.  We may not have the comforts of sitting in our own living room.  We may not have the room to spread out and enjoy opening the few presents my sister was able to purchase for us for exchange, but what better way to celebrate that we are all together, that Derek is still alive, and that we are celebrating Jesus' birthday!  The reason for the season.

Who needs comfort and convenience when you are celebrating life?  Both Derek's and Jesus'?

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Organizations That Help Wounded Warriors "Plus"

Organizations that help wounded warriors are numerous.  It would take me days to amass a list of them all.  Instead, in this season of giving, I am going to list a few of the ones with which we or friends of ours have had personal experience.  Some friends have been here a lot longer and could probably list a lot more, but I'm doing an abbreviated list.  If you have extra funds, which not many of us do during these hard economic times, and you wish to give to a charitable organization that helps wounded warriors, these organizations are wonderful.  And yes, there is a Derek update at the end.

Wounded Warrior Project - The WWP honors and empowers wounded warriors.  They have their hand in just about everything.  They sponsor the Tuff Mudder, they donate items to WWs at the hospital, they cater meals for patients and families, they help vets in crisis, they raise public awareness, etc.  We have been the beneficiary of some of those meals and Derek has some of their donated gear.  That's it, so far.  I'm sure he will benefit from them a lot in the future.   877 TEAM WWP (832-6997) or visit

Yellow Ribbon Fund - The YRF was founded in 2005 and helps injured service members and their families.  The following is taken from their facebook page:  Since their founding they have provided the following:   over 1,350 free rental cars spanning 55,248 free rental car days; over 18,056 free taxi rides; over 8,905 free hotel room nights; and families have used our four apartments for almost 7,171 nights; and hundreds of free tickets to sporting games, concerts and plays, and hundreds of lunches, dinners, golf games, duck and goose hunts, fishing trips and other activities...... please... what DON'T they do?  In the 144 days we have been here, we personally have used the massage days twice, had a mani/pedi once, and took a taxi to the Army/Navy game, and they provided my sister and her family with a room when they came for Christmas.  Eliza Palmer from the YRF is wonderful.
4905 Del Ray Avenue, Suite 500, Bethesda, Maryland 20814, Phone: 240-223-1180.

Fisher House Foundation (and Hero Miles) - The Fisher House provides lodging free of charge for military families during illness and rehabilitation.  Their Hero Miles program flies families free of charge to their loved ones.
Operation Ward 57 - Laura, Brittany and Heather are wonderful.  They not only give out hats, t-shirts and other items to the wounded warriors, but if the families need things, they get them.  They will bring soda, coffee, and even a flashlight or sharpies.  They assist in morale for the families, the staff and the wounded warriors.  They are named after Ward 57 from the original Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and they do wonderful things for us.

Aleethia Foundation - According to their Facebook page, they describe their mission as follows:  "The mission of The Aleethia Foundation is to support the newly injured service members with short-term therapeutic recreation, small financial grants, family emergency aid, home improvements to assist with an injured service member's mobility and other unmet needs. The doctors have determined that is is beneficial for the newly injured troops to get out of the hospital environment occasionally. Our mission is to help them get out for meals, movies, sightseeing, and visits to interesting sites."  I have gone to two of their Friday night dinners.  One was at the Press Club and the one that Derek and Krystina were able to attend was at the British Ambassador's residence.  The dinners are always delicious.

Veterans Airlift Command - Through a volunteer network, vets and wounded warriors are provided free air travel for flights for medical care and other compassionate reasons, including my friends' Christmas holiday home.   Email:
Lukes Wings - According to their Facebook page, Luke's Wings is dedicated to the support of service members who have been wounded in battle. By purchasing travel services for loved ones, they provide families with the means to visit during the service member’s hospitalization and rehabilitation. We have not used them yet, but if I need to get my kids down here, I will call them!

LT Dan Weekend - This is a four day weekend in Beaufort, SC where 100 wounded warriors and caregivers can get away and just relax. There is a bike ride and 5K and Gary Sinise and the Lt Dan Band rocks it out! We may be able to attend if enough funds are raised to allow the event to occur next year!

iPads for Soldiers - According to their Facebook page, they have donated over 400 iPads to soldiers, both wounded warriors and deployed military since their inception in 2010. I met Marie when she donated an iPad to Derek. He gave it to me. What a sweet kid.
Email: www,

iPods for Wounded Veterans - This organization provides iPods for wounded veterans to help them through their illness and rehabilitation. Derek has received a couple of iPods from them. 4 Heather Drive, Wilmington, MA 01887

There are wonderful organizations for our troops, such as Toys for Tots, Adopt a Soldier Platoon (and they have visited the wounded and helped Derek a lot, but they also do most of their work for deployed soldiers), Our Military Kids, etc. but I am concentrating on those organizations that are really specifically for wounded warriors.  There are a lot of others besides the ones listed here, but these have really helped us or our friends personally.

Today Derek had a quiet day.  He was not feeling good.  He has a little bit of a cold, so he stayed quiet.  The Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, visited today.

The rest of the day, except for visits from people dropping off gifts, Derek rested.  The best part of the day was when Dr. Nanos came to consult with us about the hand.  Of course, he cannot give us any guarantees, but he also did not tell us the hand was dead, deal with it.  We will see what the future holds.

Yesterday, Derek got himself in and out of the chair . . . by himself!  He is climbing that mountain!

Also, General Fred Franks came to visit Derek in the Matc. He had heard about Derek's story from someone while he was in Florida, and he made it a point to visit with Derek. He checked up on our concerns about Derek's hand and made sure that one of the head doctors came to visit with us

I have spoken many times about Derek's awesome nurses.  They are Derek's Goddesses.  He is like the little old man, aka letch, in the hospital bed, hitting on all the nurses, and Krystina is like the little old lady sitting in the corner laughing at him because she knows two things:  (1) he can't do anything about it; and (2) even if he could, he wouldn't.  But the nurses love it.  At least they act like they do.  They come in to chat even with they do not have to see him.  And Angela did the following to Derek's Fentynal patch:
She wrote "pretty" on it!  Only Angela.  And yesterday he had an Angela sandwich!!!
We love those two.  Derek was calling for the Angela is the ACUs, whose last name is Heroux.  It is pronounced, "Her Oooo," but she also answers to "Her O."  Derek asked for his nurse, and the person on the other end of the call button said, "Excuse me?"  So Derek yelled out, "Herro?" real loud.  Angela heard him from the nurses' station.  He now has other patients doing it, and now that's what we call her, inflection and all.  We do not mean it with any disrespect or racist tendacies.  It is just a way to make fun of her name in a way that makes her laugh.  We love her.  We love Derek's nurses.

And we love the non-profit organizations that help the wounded warriors.  Please remember them if you have a few extra dollars to spare.

Love to all!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Winter Solstice!  Happy Kwanzaa!  Climb to glory!

Facility Dogs

Had a nice, long entry started but couldn't get it done.  This head must have really been messing up with me more than I realized.  So, here is a little bonus entry.  The piece we did with the facility pups looks great.  Check it out!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Seriously? Move!

First, got a shout out from Team Allen on their Facebook page today!  Woot!  Thank you!  Check them out if you are over there visiting Team Derek!

Back to business.....

I yelled at two people on the way to the Matc.  I previously addressed this issue, but it just annoys me so much that I feel the need to rant a little again.  I can "almost" understand this problem at a place like the Army Navy game.  Almost.... but not quite.  But at Walter Reed Bethesda?  At ANY hospital or rehabilitation center?  You would think that people there are used to dealing with wheelchairs!  Seriously!  Especially those people running around in the white coats.  My goodness.

Okay.  Enough of the crypticness.  I'll get to the point and tell you what happened.  Sorry.

On the way to the Matc two, not one, two people walked in front of Derek and stopped, not one time, but two separate times.  I said, "Excuse me, please" both times.  One looked at me like he expected us to move and he remained where he was... just standing there.... waiting for the elevator.  I yelled, "Move!"  The other walked in front of us from a cross hall to ask directions of someone and told us to go around when I said, "Excuse me."  Really?  Like that is so easy.  I told her "No" and pointed to the chair.  She rolled her eyes and moved. 

On the way back, people walked right out in front while Derek was rocketing along and almost got taken out!  Look!  He cannot stop as quick as you can.  God forbid two wheelchair crazy kids are coming at the same time....  If that happens, we will just need to close our eyes and hope for the best..  But if one is ambulatory, then the one with legs needs to run, jump, leap, skip out of the way.

It's just common courtesy.  You have legs.  You can move a lot easier than someone who has to maneuver a large chair with wheels that do not bend.  Newsflash here, people..... it doesn't move that easy!!!  It goes forward and it goes backward!  It can swivel a little, too, but not as much as your legs!  You have legs....  USE THEM or lose them when we run you over!!

I think every living person should have to spend one day as a disabled person with various disabilities.  One day as a disabled person without working legs, without working arms, blind, deaf, mute, you name it.  This would give everyone a better understanding of other people.  And maybe we could even have people spend a day like me.... out of your freaking mind!  It's actually fun in my little world.  No one has locked me up...  yet.  I don't let Dr. West get too close with that restraint team he used to tease me with ....  He stopped.  That MIGHT be a problem.  That MIGHT mean he has them hiding down the hall.  Better watch out....  Better not cry (don't do that anyway).  Better not pout, I'm telling you why!  I know who is coming to take me away for Christmas!!!!  Yay!!!!

Okay, rant over.  All I ask is that you please be mindful of your surroundings.  If you see someone in a wheelchair or on crutches, move out of the way.  You have working legs.  Use them.

At the Matc, Derek had a wonderful work out!  He got himself in and out of the wheelchair by his very own lonesome!  He also rolled over and sat up alone!  We celebrate the little things.  It's like cheering for your toddler when he learns to walk again.  It's a big step.  Here is a photo of Derek getting out of the chair all by himself.  Since there were other heroes in the back working out, I Christmasfied the photo to protect their privacy.

Tomorrow, Derek will celebrate 150 days alive.  Given that his commander didn't think he would ever see him again after he left him in Khandahar, and given that a lot of the doctors thought he wouldn't make it, we have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas!

And Santa's helper came to visit today.  She loved the treats that I bought for her....

Her Mommy is really Santa's helper.  I wanted to get some Hallmark ornaments for Derek's nurses, and she not only picked them up for me without me asking but would not let me pay for them.  Thank you, Lisa!

The best news is that family arrives in four days!!  Yay!!!  Happy Christmas to us!  Are you ready for Christmas?  I'm not.  I haven't shopped, but as long as I have my family around me, I will be good.  Well, I will be good if the little midgets in my head having a mosh pit and causing the mother of all migraines finally get evicted.  I've served them with the eviction notice, but they have not left.  I really think it is my neck.  Every time I move my head, I get a sharp pain from my neck through to the top of my head.  I guess the massage I got today did not help.  Derek kicked Krystina and I out to get massages offerred for caregivers by the Yellow Ribbon Fund.  I have a follow-up appointment at the Warrior Clinic this week.  Sgt Archie said he will march me there himself if I am not feeling better.  Rut roh!

I do miss our awesome Trauma docs.  They checked in with us so much more than PM&R.  I love Dr. Kim, but I don't see her as often.  Dr. Perdue was always around, and I still see Dr. Diego every day.  Well, I will until the end of the month when he switches to another service and trauma loses him.  He is awesome and he is leaving just like Obi and Ben before him.  But the good news is that Ben will be back in the hospital on Jan 1st!!!  Yay!!!  Can't wait to see him!  We will have all of my favorite docs in the hospital at the same time.  But in the meantime, I need to get PM&R in line so I am happy and Derek gets the care he needs, especially since he is facing one more surgery and needs a consult with a new doctor.  I feel they give Derek attention, but he doesn't understand half of what they are saying and he needs me to talk to the doctors.  Dr. Kim will talk to me, but she doesn't come around every day.  When someone else comes around, I am pushed aside and ignored.  I do not like that.  I need to be in the loop.  Derek admits he does not know enough not to have me there.  We need to resolve this first thing tomorrow morning.

So, here's to a better week for my head, Derek rocking the Matc, the family arriving safe and sound at the end of the week, the medical staff having a wonderful holiday, and a safe and happy Christmas for all of you!!! 

Climb to glory!

And a song with which to sign off:

Merry Christmas!
Happy Hanukkah!
Happy Winter Solstice!
Happy Kwanza!
Happy New Year!
Happy Weekend!
Happy Life!
Thank you for being you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quasi Public

I do not understand why people feel the need to attack us when we are going through a tough time.  Are they really that insecure in their own lives?  Are they really that unhappy in their own lives?  Do they really think that highly of themselves that they feel they need to educate all of us lesser people?  (please wait while I finish laughing hysterically.)

Someone said it must be jealousy.  Jealous of what?  Having a loved one almost lose his life?  Having a loved one have his legs cut off?  I know Green Day sings, "They cut off my legs, now I'm an amputee," but it is not a joke.  Yes, there are benefits, such as meeting famous people like we met Sgt Slaughter today, but look at what we have to sacrifice!

A friend of mine also has a blog.  She was the one who advised me to start blogging.  It has been very therapuetic.  One of her recent entries was about boundaries and respecting the family's privacy.  She was attacked for a lot of nonsense, some of which I am going to address herein, especially because I was also attacked for similar things in the Guestbook of my Caring Bridge blog.

I have met families who blog.  They blog to keep family and friends up-to-date on their loved ones' progress.  I have met families who refuse to blog.  They hold their privacy too precious to have anything about them on the web.

Why do I blog?  Well, I started this to keep family and close friends up-to-date about Derek's progress.  I only expected very few people to ever read it.  Then, the Army Moms on Facebook wanted updates, and it was easier for them to refer to the blog then to keep posting on the thread.  But then I found out that my blog was being shared with Church groups around the country and even on the other side of the world.  Our story had taken on a life of its own.

I started just talking about Derek's medical issues.  Now I talk about issues with the hospital, this new normal, family issues dealing with this lifestyle, etc.  This really has taken off.

Our story has NOT taken off as much as my friend's, however, and, while she is my role model, she was basically accused of being an attention hog and seeking the limelight.  I was accused of the same thing in my Guestbook, and Caring Bridge deleted that entry after I said I would not. 

Back to my friend....  Although I have not known her very long, I cannot see that about her.  While I do know someone whom that would describe, that is not my friend.  She does not seek all that comes her way, but it finds her.  She is a wonderful spokeswoman for this unfortunate life, and she does it with grace and humour.  What I have witnessed about her has been someone who has gone out of her way to help whomever she can no matter how busy she is.  She has two young children, but she still makes time to help those of us just starting on this road.  I hope that I can be of as much assistance to new families as she has been to me.

So there are those of us who chose to blog about our journeys and those of us who do not.  Those of us who do, we do so for many different reasons, one of which is to educate the public about the little known world of the wounded warrior. 

What the news shows is not the whole story.  What was shown during the Army/Navy Game of Derek sitting next to Dr. Perdue and the triple amp talking about the comaraderie of the guys in the Matc is not the whole story.  The real nitty gritty of the day-to-day is shown in my blog, my friend's blog.  If you want the REAL story, read the blogs.  Follow the day-to-day, not the edited cuts that show the pretty story.  We are the real face.  And I don't think this woman who criticized my friend got that.  Yes, my friend smiles.  Yes. Derek, Krystina and I joke and laugh.  But we are the real face of this.  We don't sit and cry about it.  And that is why my friend is approached by the media and the White House and the powers that be when they need a spokeswoman, because she knows how to handle herself.

And putting ourselves out there, in the public eye does make us quasi-public figures, but it does not mean that we are not entitled to our privacy.  There are parts of our lives that we choose not to make public.  There are injuries and procedures that I have chosen not to share.  In the event that Derek gives me permission to share those aspects of his journey, I will do so, but not until he is off of all pain medications and thinking clear!

I cannot tell you how many inappropriate questions I have been asked.  And I get that people care.  I get that people are asking the questions because they are concerned.  But would you like it if I went up to you and asked if your husband could get an erection?  That's my son!  I actually had someone come up to me and inquire if he could get an erection.  I asked if she intended on having sex with him.  Another man asked if he could have children.  I told him I didn't know because he hadn't yet tried.  My friend told me that she has been asked if she and her husband are able to have more children, as well.

When dealing with wounded warriors, please remember that certain questions are just too personal, just like if you are dealing with the average joe on the street, whether or not we have a blog.  Please remember three things:
          (1)  If you would not openly bring it up at the dinner table with Billy Joe and Mary Sue Smith from down the street, please do not do so with us, wait for us to raise the issue;
          (2) Please do not stare at the amputations, wounds, etc.; and
          (3) Treat us the same as you would have before the incident.

Just because we choose to put certain things out on the internet on a blog does NOT mean that you can delve into every aspect of our lives.  My friend was accused of making the boundaries blurry and criticizing those who have questions.  I have never seen her criticize anyone with questions, just those who have questions that cross the line of decency, as discussed above.

There was an accusation made to my friend about "marketing herself for profit."  A similar accusation was made to me.  Profit?  Through this?  Let me tell you something.  If you or I were in a car accident and lost our legs, how much do you think we might be paid in a law suit?  $250,000?  Minimum?  Probably more like $500,000 or $1,000,000.  These soldiers get $100,000. Maximum.  That is $100,000 for whatever injuries they sustain IF it is determined that the injuries are severe enough to be awarded the entire amount.  Then yes, the vet is also entitled to a percentage of his pay grade as "retirement" and Social Security.  Wow.  Maybe $3,500 per month.  Maybe.  Maybe $2,500.  It depends on what he was making.  Is it enough to comfortably support him and his family for the rest of his life?  Only if he wants to live in a trailer in tornado alley and survive on tuna fish.  The vet will be eligible to attend school, and it would behoove him to take advantage of that.

But there are other expenses.  The housing grant is all of $64,000.  For anyone who has purchased or remodled a home, you and I both know that it will cost a lot more than $64,000 to outfit a home that will be equipped for a wounded warrior.  This is why so many take advantage of the shows George to the Rescue, Extreme Home Makeover, etc., as well as have fund raisers.

The vet is entitled to a car grant of $18,000.  A wheelchair accessible van that is fully outfitted so that a wounded warrior can not only ride in but drive the van would cost a lot more than that to purchase and modify.

The military and the non-profit organizations are wonderful.  They do so very much to help our wounded warriors live a normal life.  We have so much to be thankful for.  But we do need the help of the community that comes forward with the fund raisers, the dinners, the bake sales.  My friend was accused of marketing herself, but she was only saying "yes" when her community, just as when our community held dinners and bake sales for Derek and the family that will be needed because, unfortunately, there are expenses that are just not covered.

I do not know what some of those expenses are yet.

Unfortunately, as a mother going through this, my experience is going to be very different then my friend.  I was given many applications and grant forms that simply do not apply to me.  I was given a mortgage assistance form and a tuition application.  I am not entitled to either.  Because I am Mom.  Because the mortgage is in my name, I am not entitled to that assistance.  I am not entitled to help paying the mortgage while helping care for my child because he is not an owner of the home.  Also, I am not entitled to tuition assistance to further my career in the event that I have lost my job as a result of this incident and need to find a new one.  There is very little assistance offered to Moms.

Moms get the daily allotment and room while our soldier is inpatient, and if we are the NMA when our son goes outpatient, we get the daily allotment and a room in Bldg 62.  We also get the occasional massage, which I am very much looking forward to tomorrow since I am suffering from the worst migraine I have ever had. 

Derek will have OT at 10 and PT at 11 tomorrow in the Matc.  He is looking forward to the workout after a quiet weekend.  Next weekend will be anything but quiet!  6 days until Christmas!  Are YOU ready?

We lost one of our favorite nurses today.... Michelle Bennett, as she prepares to leave for ICU school.  We wish her the best of luck.  She will be phenomenal in her new position.

Are you sure about this?  No!  Let's go!

Climb to glory! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Greetings

Every year I do one of those "annoying" Christmas letters. I say "annoying" because some people hate them. I don't care. I love them. It allows me to catch up on the friends and family I just don't have time to keep in touch with during the year because life interferes. I can read up on all of the events, good and bad, that have happened to the people I care about but have not had time to call, and I can tell them all about our busy lives.

If you hate them, you can throw them out. Just like this blog, if you don't like what I write, you do not have to read it. If you don't like what someone is saying on a television show, you can turn it off. It only annoys me when the alleged unbiased media is portraying a news story and you come away from it knowing how the reporter would vote in an election. Seriously? I don't care about your political views. I have my own. Just shut up about your own opinion and give me the facts.

So enough already. This is not going to be my usual Christmas greeting because it is on here. Usually it is on pretty Christmas paper printed out and inserted with my Christmas cards. But this year I am just lucky I got to order Christmas cards. And I even messed those up. I forgot to put our names and date on them. I guess Dr. West is right that people will know who we are by the pictures, but that is SO NOT the point. I wanted to put the address of this blog on the card. Oh well. It will be a family project to fill out the back of the cards with the address of the blog and our names. Not worth worrying about it now.  I have so much else to worry about!

Onto the Christmas greetings.

This year has been quite a year.  Everything changed.  Nothing is as it was or as we thought it would be.  2011 was the year our world was turned inside out.  Life has changed for all of us.

Michael is now 23 years old, Derek is now 22 years old, Kellina and Ryan are now 17 years old and Sean is now 14 years old.

We started 2011 with Michael on active duty with the US Navy and deployed with the USS Vella Gulf off the coast of Israel.  He returned in January.  During his four years with the Navy, he made it to E5, Second Class Petty Officer.  The Navy was not for him, and he processed out in July.  He arrived home on terminal leave on July 22nd, one day before our world turned upside down.  At this time he is thinking about his future.  He will go to college once he decides what it is that he wants to do.  His target date is September 2012.  Right now he is running the household for me since I have not been home since July 29th.

Derek left for Afghanistan with the US Army in March 2011.  He was out of Ft. Drum, NY, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Bat, 2-87, 11th Bravo.

Derek was blown up on July 23rd in Kandahar.  Sorry for being so blunt, but we've been living with this for so long now.  As he says, he's a cripple and we have to learn to live with it.  Today he asked why they make full sized beds for amputees.  That's a really good question.  If we had half a bed in that room it would really give us a lot more room to move around.

Back to Derek.  On July 23rd, Derek was on a dismounted patrol trying to secure a landing zone for a medevec for another wounded solider.  After the medevec left, Derek stepped on an IED resulting in severe injuries including a left hip disarticulation (leg gone from the hip), a right high above the knee amputation, skull fracture, jaw fracture in three places, three missing teeth, broken ulna, limb salvage on the right arm, blast wounds, pelvic fracture, internal injuries, infections, etc.  We almost lost him several times, including on August 8th when he went septic (full system shut down).  He is still an inpatient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland where he is receiving the very best medical care in the country.  If you are new to the blog and want more about his journey, please refer to earlier posts.

Derek is doing so much better.  He is getting stronger, going to the Matc (Military Amputation Training Center) where he receives occupational and physical therapy.  He is scheduled everyday, but he does not always have the energy to go everyday.  He is still an inpatient, afterall.

Derek has at least another month because he will become an outpatient.  He has to be able to transfer himself without assistance and get himself from the floor to his wheelchair without help.  He will get there.  He has had 35 surgeries and 10 procedures, and he is still facing surgery on his right arm in order to get it working again, so we are not yet at the point were we can discuss outpatient.

While here in this hospital, there have been some benefits.  Derek has met a lot of VIPs.  In addition to the four star Generals and two star Admirals, Senators and Congressmen, we have met the President, Dr. Jill Biden, Kansas, Montel Williams, Kid Rock, Miss America, British Ambassador, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Jack Reed, boxers, San Fran 49er football players, Redskin cheerleaders, John McCain, firemen, Col. Greg Gadson, Medal of Honor Winner Leroy Petry, etc.

The biggest news for Derek is that he is engaged to Krystina!  October 17th, an angel sent Derek an engagement ring anonymously through the mail.  The note said, "I know this is not much, but it is something to get you started.  Wear it in good health."  At first Derek threw it at her, which is typical Derek!  Then he told her that he was going to do it later but figured sooner rather than later was better and he wanted her to be his.  Krystina was crying and it was a beautiful moment.  She has worn that beautiful ring every day.  If Derek does buy her one of his own choosing, this one will have a super special place in her heart because it was the one that they actually became engaged with first.  Krystina said this first ring is the one that she will always hold special.

Krystina left her job and quit school when Derek got hurt so that she could be here with him.  She will enroll in school down here if need be, but for now, she is only thinking about taking care of Derek and getting him into rehab.

Kellina is a senior in high school.  She and Ryan both received their driver's licenses in August (God save me).  They purchased a red VW Beetle.  Kellina is in mostly art classes and loving school, as much as anyone can love school.  Her plan is for an art school or county college and then art school.  Whatever I can afford, please, since I am in this alone!   Kellina is a very talented artist.  Hopefully, she can get scholarships for art school!

Ryan is a junior and has grown some more.  He is now 6'4".  He has to duck when he enters a room.  He had been planning on the military, but I think he is holding off for time being and maybe looking at college first.... I hope.  Morris County College looks good to me!  He has another year, so we will discuss it.  Ryan's real love is still video games.

Sean is a freshman.  It is wonderful to have all three in the same school, especially since I am not there and they are living with my sister for the time being.  Sean did really good in track last year, and he is supposed to be in track this year.  He was also looking at striving for ROTC in college.  I hope that is still his plan and not infantry right out of high school.

Dad is doing okay.  He is holding down the fort at home with Michael while the other three live with my sister and I take care of Derek.  Someone has to watch the kitties!  My poor kitties.  I miss them.

As for me, my life has also changed dramatically.  I have not been home since July 29th.  This is the longest I have been away in.... well, ever.  I hate being away from home.  I hate being away from my kids.  I hate missing my children's lives.  I hate watching my son suffer.  I hate not having my home, my job, my regular stress.  But I really have no other choice.  This is life right now.

I had to do what was best for Derek.  My other children were healthy and had the ability to live with my sister.  Derek was dying.  Derek needed someone to be by his side and make life and death decisions for him.  He still needs someone to help him get through the day.  He said the other day that he still needs me here with him, at least for the next couple of weeks.  So, I will have to make a career change because of the last few months, because of what I have learned and seen and been through.  I am planning to address all that has happened in that department later, but there are big things coming for me.

For all of you, for you and yours, I wish you the best Christmas and holiday season ever.  If you have loved ones deployed, I pray that they get home safe and sound and SOON!  God bless you and yours.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

What a Day!

I awoke this morning at 0600 with the damned midgets hammering away with their incessant ice picks as if their lives depended on getting out of my skull that minute.  The slightest move of my head sent shock waves through my brain the likes of which I had never experienced.  I forced myself back into sweet oblivian for another few hours until the alarm clock awoke me at 0700 so I could shower, dress and get to the hospital.  Unfortunately, it wasn't happening this morning.  I resent the alarm in hopes that another hour would help.  Wishful thinking.  I awoke in just as much pain.  Guess the acutorture didn't help.

I called Angela at 0830 to ask her to order Derek's breakfast and she advised me that it had already been done.  She is an angel.

This morning, I then went to CVS and got a few things while Krystina went to join Derek for his trip to the Matc.  When I finished in CVS, I went to the Matc and discovered that Derek had not gone.  His PT advised that it is very common in the beginning for the guys to skip days.  She also advised me that Derek is doing very good.  He sat up on his own this week, balanced himself, and is making great strides.  She is very proud of him. 

I wish Derek was proud of himself.

Unfortunately, Derek is feeling down.  He is down because he is not improving as fast as he would like.  He will get there, it will just take time.  But Derek was always about instant gratification.  He needs to remember that building himself up takes time and does not happen overnight.

Tonight we went to dinner at the British Ambassador's Residence.  Sir Nigel Sheinwald was very welcoming and cordial.  He served us beer, sparking wine, sausages and prawns before dinner.  Dinner was filet mignon, french fries, carrots and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate cake soaking in alcohol, espresso, ice cream for the kids, and mince pie.  Derek wanted some ice cream, too, so he called over Jeeves and requested some.

We had a good time, even though it was quite exhausting on him.

The bus right really hurts him.  The hip disartic is the hardest on him.

The worst part was when we got back.  This very rude officer had pulled someone over to give them a ticket for a traffic violation.  They were blocking the entry for building 10.  I had already called ahead to Derek's nurse so she was waiting for him with his medication.  Our escort asked the officer to please let us pass because their was a wounded warrior who needed to get into the hospital.  He was told, "No."  He was told that it would be at least another ten minutes.  Even though it was explained to him that the patient was in distress, he said that he would have to wait.  They turned to me and said, "Go for it, Mom."

I got out and explained to the "gentleman" that my son was in extreme pain after his pass, and that his nurse was waiting for him with his medication.  I said that he COULD NOT wait any longer.  I said that he needed to get off the bus IMMEDIATELY.  They told me he had to wait.  I told them he could not.  They had not only Bldg 10  blocked, but the way to the ER entrance blocked as well.  There was no place for us to go.  I was livid.

Then they refused to give me their names or ID cards.  I went to the Command Office and got the name of the Officer of the Day and called and filed a report.  Oh, hell, no.  You are not going to tell me my son has to sit in pain while you write a ticket.  Please.  It's a little thing called priorities.

When I called the Officer of the Day, she told me that they are supposed to call more about patients then writing tickets.

The funniest part of the day was when Derek called me a fother mucker.  I told the nurses and they laughed.  One of the corpsman wanted to give him a high five.  Braty Dr. Diego said, "Who and I to argue with a patient?"  Sure.  You'll argue with me, brat, but you won't argue with a patient?  I see how it is.  No bagel for you.

And when Dr. West came today he shocked me when he alerted me to the fact that this is the last weekend before Christmas.  I honestly did not know that.  That's scary.

It's late.  Actually, it's early.  We got back from the Embassy at 11.  I have a migraine.  I need to sleep.  Good night.  Love to all.  Climb to glory!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Going from 0 to 60

Warning.  Sort of an odd entry tonight.  I'm out of it.  Severe migraine.  Not thinking clear.

I have two normal speeds.  0 and 60.  Sometimes I hit 120.  Some think that is a problem.  Maybe it is.  It works.  It has gotten me far in my career.  It has gotten me far in helping Derek in this situation when he needs me to fight for him.  It has gotten me far when my kids need me.

I've been this way my whole life and I think I will keep it.  I'm too old to worry about changing now.  It is hard for me to just veg.  I try.  I really do.  But I can't.  So, it is easy to tell when something is wrong or when something is bothering me.... it is when I am quiet.

The last three days I have had a severe migraine.  The worst I have ever had. A band of midgits are on duty with ice picks trying to work their way out of my skull.  Just moving my head caused a sharp pain in my neck and through the right side of my head.  Ugh.  I usually do not miss Derek's Matc sessions for anything, except if there is a really good reason.  The last two days, I was physically unable to go.  So, today, during Operation Ward 57's Christmas Party on 4 Center, Dr. Kim told HM3 Jason Young that she would not give Derek a pass tomorrow night if I did not go get it taken care of, so HM Young called the Warrior Clinic and got me in.  The problem is that they usually only refill what the caregivers have been taking, but he hooked me up.  I was evaluated and given something that hopefully will work this time.  We will see.  I do not like taking narcotics, and that's good because they do not like giving narcotics, but I got something that will hopefully get this under control.  I have to go back next week for a re-eval.

I was also given my first acupuncture treatment.  I keep thinking I will take a drink and it will come out my ear and the top of my head!  The pins in my feet and left hand hurt!  Overall, it wasn't too bad.  I cannot say that it helped, but then, I cannot say that I was relaxed during the treatment. 

Coming back from the Warrior Clinic, I ran into my favorite resident at the moment ... I've had three faves (Obi, Ben and now Diego  they are tied overall).  We chatted for a while.  He always chats with his "Mama McConnell" and gives me a big hug.  Why he won't simply call me by my name I don't know.  I'm not that old.  I'm beginning to get a complex.  Sob!

When I told him about the new blog site he asked for it, so I said I would say something derogatory about him on it tonight.....  let's see.....  what should it be?  He's a brat?  Yes.  That's true.  Oh geeze.  I can't think of anything.  He annoys me!  I love that kid.  Even though Derek is not technically on his service any more he still comes to check on him.  Derek has had the three best residents on the trauma service.  Obi, Ben and Diego.   

Bottom line.  Overall the medical staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda is phenomenal.  Of course, there are some exceptions, such as Dr. Random, Dr. Doom, Dr. Hand Pain in the Ass, Dr. Mickeymouseowich, and various nurses with whom we have had issues, but there are always personality conflicts and those who do not make the grade.  For the most part, we are more than satisfied.  I told Diego tonight that I would say something derogatory about him and I guess..... OKAY!!!  I just thought of something!!!  His A&M hat is ugly.  I don't really think so but Derek does, so there you go.  There is his derogatory comment.  It's not much but I love that kid, so I cannot think of anything else right now, even though he did yell at me.

Derek had a rocking session in the Matc today.  I didn't make it but Krystina told me.  She said he got on his stomach, balanced on his side while Krystina tickled him, got in and out of his chair by himself and did ten lb weights on his leg.  That is awesome!

When he got back, the Battalion Commander was visiting while on leave from Afghanistan along with Master Sgt VanGorder from the Rear D from Fort Drum.  Always nice to see him, even though he annoys me to take care of myself.  I do.  Sometimes.  The Commander was amazed by how good Derek looked.  The last time he saw Derek was when he was in Khandahar.  He looks so much better. At that time, they did not expect him to live.  Now look at him.

Tonight, Krystina and I left a little early so that we could get some rest for tomorrow.  She has a cold, I have a migraine, and tomorrow night we are going to dinner at the British Embassy.  We need to be rested and feeling good.

Yes, there are benefits to this. But before discussing the benefits, let's look at what we do.  We are up at 0600 on average each day.  Sometimes we sleep until 0900 on a "late" day.  We spend the day sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a hospital room while assisting with PT and OT several times a day.  We order meals, assist with the service of those meals, assist with bathing and toileting, make sure that medications are correct, talk to doctors, interact with nurses, deal with medical personnel, deal with morons, deal with the masses that frequent the rooms on a daily basis, etc.  The day is busy and stressful and does not stop.  We are on the go from 0700 until 2200.  When we get back at night, we have to cook for ourselves most times, do our laundry as well as Derek's laundry, clean our room, because the Fisher House does not have daily maid service, etc.

Now, what are some of the benefits? The Yellow Ribbon Fund will arrange spa days and massages periodically.  Those massages are 90 minutes once every month, IF you take advantage.  We have taken advantage only once since we arrived.  They also offer manicures and pedicures, for which we went once.

Other advantages are weekly dinners from nonprofits, such as Marine Moms, Armed Services, Operation Ward 57, etc. who come to the hospital and serve you on the floor.  The food is sometimes home made, sometimes California Tortilla, sometimes Boston Market, sometimes Wendy's.  It's very nice of them and very much appreciated.  There are also weekly dinners by the Aleethia Organization off campus at places like the British Embassy, Austrailian Embassy, Press Club, etc.  The Wounded Warriors are invited and have to have a pass to attend.  They are extra special.

Other advantages are the special visitors like the celebreties, four star generals, etc.  Yes, it is very nice to meet these people.

Other advantages are invitations to red carpet tours of places such as the White House, the Pentagon, etc.

While all of that is nice, look what we had to go through to get it?  I would rather be back in my own little life, not knowing anything about any of this.  I would rather have never met Montel Williams or anyone else.

Look at all of the stress that we have to deal with in order to get these "benefits."  I'm sorry.  I would rather pass.  I would rather have my old job, my old life, my old "stress."  I always went from 0 to 60, but now I have a new reason.

Tomorrow, Derek will be in the Matc at 10 for OT and PT and then resting for a trip to the British Embassy tomorrow night.  And hopefully, we will be meeting with a new hand surgeon tomorrow!

Have a great Friday!  Climb to glory!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Starting Anew

Before I give a Derek update, a quick explanation of the change.  Besides the fact that I like this site better, there was another reason.

After 56,841visits as of today to the Caring Bridge site, I am starting anew on this site.  It took me a couple of days to transfer over all of the previous posts, since I want them all on one site.  And it took several hours over a couple of days for the wonderful Demetria Hale from Team Allen to set up this awesome looking blog (she did all of the photos, background, etc.).

Thank you for following us over here.  I hated to do this, but I had no choice.  You might remember those posts in my Guestbook attacking me.  I ignored it, at first.  After another one was posted by the alleged Janie McCarthy, and we do not believe that is a real name, I felt the need to respond.  I tried to ignore it, but the attorney in me fought back. 

I started the blog to allow my family and friends to follow Derek's progress and how the family was dealing with our new normal.  It grew by leaps and bounds, and it drew criticism, but by only a very few select people.  When I answered the criticism, "someone" complained to Caring Bridge.  I had read the Terms of Service, and nothing I posted violated same.  However, being a nonprofit organization, they decided they didn't want "fighting," and deleted several of the posts in the Guestbook, including Krystina's defense of me and explanation of what really happened.

This is my blog.  Yes, I am discussing Derek's progress, both emotional and physical, but I am also discussing how the family is handling it, and that includes dealing with some past "issues," when the need arises.  If you do not like what I am saying, you have the right not to read it.  If you do not like what I am saying, you DO NOT have the right to shut me up or have me change an entry.  Unlike CB, I can say what I want, and I plan on it.

Defamation is a knowingly false statement made with the purpose to hurt another individual.  Opinions, when stated as such, are not defamatory.  Nothing I have said could be considered defamation.  No, it might not be complimentary, but what I have said is either my opinion or a statement of events from my point of view, or a statement of facts for which I have documentation to prove same.

Therefore, I am going to speak my mind.  If someone in my past does not like it, pucker up.... I have something for you to kiss.

Derek is excited about this new site.  He was upset when someone acted like a little baby and complained.  Please.  Man up.  So, Derek is on board with allowing me to speak my mind.  And yes, this is MY side of the story.  I'm the one writing it.

Derek's day today was quiet.  He was exhausted, so he missed the Matc.  I had a severe migraine that feels like it is trying to jackhammer its way out of my skull right now, so I stayed quiet in my little chair in the corner.  Kyrstina has a bad cold, so she stayed quiet in her little chair in the other corner.  That was our day.

So, enjoy the new site!  More tomorrow when hopefully this headache has packed up and moved on!

Climb to glory!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stupid Reigns Supreme

This may have been my last entry on the Caring Bridge site.  Due to drama, I am changing sites.  If you are not my friend on facebook and would like to continue to follow Derek's journey, please send me an email at

The last couple of days have been ... interesting.  Saturday was the Army/Navy game.  Stupid reigned supreme trying to get there.  We had arranged to travel by cab, because to catch the buses from the hospital, we had to be there at 0900.  That would be too long on Derek.  I received a call at around1000 asking why we were not at the buses.  I explained we were taking a cab, and I was told we were not allowed.  Yeah, right.  Good-bye.

So, we called a cab, and the driver and he couldn't work the wheelchair lift!  It took him so long to get it set up.  Then his GPS was right smack in the middle of his field of vision. 

We finally get there and it was a nightmare trying to get in.

For those of you with a disabled family member, you are probably familiar with this experience.  For those of you who do not, let me introduce you.

We first had to wait in line for the elevator.  Mind you, it wasn't only disabled people trying to get in.  There were able bodied people who could have taken the escalators, but they jammed the elevators.  The elevators were all controlled by operators.  Could someone please tell me why they operator would bother to stop on our floor, where no one was getting out, when the elevator was chuck full to the brim?  Yeah, I cannot think of any good reason either.

We finally got up to the club level, and it was a process getting to our seats.

Please, if you are able bodied, please more for the wheelchair user.  That would seem like common sense, right?  You have no idea how many people played "chicken" with Derek in the wheelchair.  They walked towards us and yes, they could have easily moved to the side, but they looked at us, expecting us to move the wheelchair out of their way.  Um, no.  Walk around or end up in the ER.

Then, please, if you want to stand around and have a conversation, please do so over to the side.  Please do not stand in the MIDDLE of the walkway.  When we asked a huge group to please excuse us, they looked at us like we were intruding and went back to their conversation.  They were blocking the entire path.  Yes, we screamed, "Please move!"

Then we get to the seats given to us by CBS.  Standing room only seats up stairs.  I went back to Guest Services to exchange the tickets for the wheelchair accessible seats.

I was in line behind a.... yeah.  A woman.  I hate to say she is from NY.  She gave us northerners a REALLY bad name!  She told the guy that she ordered "club level seats" and she did not get them.  He told her she had them.  She then asked where the "waitress service" was.  He said there was none.  She quipped that in NY at Giants Stadium ... okay, first clue that she is an idiot.  It is not in NY it is in Rutherford, NEW JERSEY!

She said club level there has waitress service and he told her this wasn't NEW YORK!  She then argued that she was NOT standing in line for the concessions and asked where the waitress service was.  He told her in the suites, and she said, "Arrange it."  He told her she would have to be invited into someone's suite, they were not for sale.  She yelled at him for about 5 minutes that she wanted waitress service, her money back, or him to "save the day for them."  I turned to the guy behind me and said, "Can I punch her in the face," to which he replied, "I'll hold her down."

I went to by myself a drink, and the guy in front of me was buying a beer.  His buddy ran up after he finished and said, "Make it 2."  He then apologized to me for cutting, and I quipped, "Well, then buy me one."  He did!  I told him I was only kidding, and he told me it was his pleasure.

The game was very exciting.  It was so close!  But they had told us Derek's spot would be played in the first quarter in the stadium.  They did not play it at all in the stadium, but it was played on TV during the second.  So we froze our butts off and didn't see it!  They also cut Derek's shout out to his buddies and all of Derek's speaking part.  Oh well.

Derek was done in the third, so we called the cab to leave.  Unfortunately, Obama did not leave when he was supposed to and it shut down the stadium parking lots.  The buses from WRNNMC were trying to leave at the same time, but they couldn't.  They asked us to take the bus and not wait for the cab.  I felt bad cancelling the cab, but when I called him, he said they were not letting him in.  At that point, I had to decide to do what is best for Derek.  Waiting another possible hour for the cab or taking the buses that were pulling up?  Easy decision.

The buses were given a police escort out of the stadium and onto the highway!  Woot!

Today, we had another nursing issue.  Ugh.  I had blacklisting nurses.  She wasn't one of our chosen 15 anyway, but she had always been okay.  Until today.

Derek has been having a lot of phantom pain.  When he really starts acting up, he asked for an IV push of pain meds.  Sometimes, he would get the push and the oral pills at the same time.  It was never a problem, but they told him to please try to get them at different times.  Today it was a problem.  She refused.  When I explained he had been getting them together, she pulled in Dr. Random.  We did not know him.  He was on the PM&R team, but had never been with Derek.  He did not know him.  He argued with me!  He then told the nurse to find out EVERY nurse who had EVER given him the meds together because he was writing them up!  That would be every one of his nurses, including the little bitch in there today.  What we objected to was how sneaky she was.  She said she was going to get the meds, but instead came back with Dr. Random.  I asked for Dr. Kim, but no one got her.  I asked the charge nurse to switch Nurse Bitch out because Derek was done with her.

I was then coming down the hall a few minutes later and Dr. Random was yelling down the hall to Nurse Bitch, "Has SHE given you any more trouble?  If she does, you tell me and I'll shut her up!"  Nurse Bitch was shaking her head in a way to clue him in that I was right behind him.  Moron took off into the office and I laughed by way down to Derek's room.

The issue with the meds was resolved when Derek's actual doctors came in, but now the frequency is screwed up, so we have to deal with that tomorrow.  Never ends.

So, check in with me either on facebook or by email and I'll let you know the new site.

God bless!