Saturday, July 30, 2011

More of What Happened That Fateful Day

Derek had another surgery today.  He had a washout, exploratory to see the extent of his injuries, as well as to repair a lot of the damage.  His injuries are extensive.  He was in surgery for about six or seven hours, but thankfully he did not lose any more of the left hip.

Yesterday I met the family of the other soldier who was with Derek.  Thankfully he does not seem to be as injured as Derek.

Today, I learned more of what happend that fateful day, and I am even more proud that ever of my boy.  I cannot even begin to describe what happened, so I will let LT Michael Sidman do it.  Here is an excerpt from the message he sent me:

I am extremely grateful that he is alive. It is without a doubt in my mind a miracle. Doc Stowers (our medic) along with SGT Marcus Love and SGT Carl Wiger saved his life by applying essential medical aid immediately and retaining his attention the entire time. I was on the radio calling in the MEDEVAC helicopter and it was truly amazing how fast the bird got there and how accurate they were in the landing zone. God wanted Derek to live for sure and we are all lucky...

I know nothing will ever change what happened but, I want you to know that he is one of my best soldiers.Truly an inspiration to have served in our platoon. Derek was incredibly brave that day...I was so impressed by his lack of fear and his willingness to do his job to the utmost in the face of the danger. The story of the entire patrol goes much deeper than "Derek stepped on an IED". I am submitting him to be awarded the Bronze Star (with Valor Device) for his actions and unwavering courage that day. I attached the narrative that I submitted to this message, I thought that you would appreciate it and be able to share it with him when the time comes.

Other than that, please tell him that I said hello and that the whole platoon loves and misses him very much. Remind him that we know he has the "Heart of a Lion" and he will pull through this. The whole platoon has gotten together on several occasions to pray for him. Also, I want you to know that my entire family, all of my friends, and all three churches that I am affiliated with are praying for him, for you, and for the rest of the family. Please keep in touch and keep me as updated as possible throughout the next couple of months. I plan on coming to pay him a visit when I come home on leave. I am not sure if it will be late fall or early winter. Once again, prayers and love are coming your way every day...

I am truly thankful to all of the men in Derek's platoon.  He served with a wonderful group of guys.  I know he misses them all and when he wakes up, I will tell him how many of them contacted me and sent their best wishes.

Today was a difficult day with a lot of tears, especially after reading LT Sidman's beautiful tribute. 
We do not always choose our path in life, and we are not always happy about the path our lives take, but I have no choice in this.  When I made the decision to be a mother, I knew I would be a mother for the rest of my life, for better or worse, forever.  I just hope God made me strong enough to help him.

The First Night

Today was very difficult, but I got my hands on my soldier!  As they wheeled him out of the ambulance, I kissed the top of his head before they whisked him off the ICU.

Seeing my strong, confident, full of life young man lying there hooked up to all of those machines was heartbreaking.  Moms are supposed to fix everything.  Moms kiss boo boos, chase away the boogey man, and scare monsters from out of the closet and from under the bed.  But I can't fix this.

When we got Derek to ICU, I got to hold his hand and talk to him.  He is still intubated, critical and semi-conscious.  He opens his eyes and responds to a point, but he is not fully awake.  Krystina and I teased him, which is our way, and we got a lot of smiles out of him!  If we didn't tease him, Derek would think something was wrong, so we did what we do best - told him how much we loved him, held his hands, and teased him to death.  He reacted by smiling and crinkling his eyes.  That was wonderful.  Krystina told him that her Mom wanted to "kick his ass" and he smiled.

But the road ahead will be long and hard.  Harder than first imagined, because he condition is worse than first thought.  Infection has resulted in further loss of muscle and bone.  His recovery is going to be a harder climb, but if anyone can do it, Derek can.

And as Krystina posted tonight:
So just saw Derek not too long ago and honestly was the hardest thing I've had to do, but this is life. Life is all about pushing you to your limits, to test you. And ya know what, this is his && my life now. I'm not gonna leave him. I'm gonna be here through it all no matter how difficult the road from now on is gonna be. I love him and that's all that matters. Derek Tra McConnell you are mine♥

They are blessed to have found each other.

Derek's siblings were also able to visit with him tonight, and it was not easy on them.  But they are with him for this journey, and they will help him recover.

Navy Corpsman Kylee Thompson was here with me the whole time, and she was a wonderful support!  Thank you, Kylee!

It was also strange tonight seeing my ex after 12 years.  But this is not about what happened between us.  This is about helping Derek.  Whatever happened is done.  We have to concentrate on getting Derek over this and back to where he was both emotionally and physically.  The physical part is going to be a long, hard road.

The journey of our lives is just beginning, but Derek has a wonderful support staff.  Thank you for all of your prayers, love, encouragement and love.  It truly means a lot.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Difficult Night

Tonight is very difficult.  I really cannot stop crying.  I read the postings on this page, on facebook, on the page Prayers for Derek McConnell and they give me hope.

Tonight I am not feeling very strong.  I think about all of Derek's dreams and how they are gone.  I am thinking about how he wanted to be a cop or an FBI agent.  He was into martial arts.  Everything he wanted will have to change.  Can he do it?  I am sure he can.  It will be so hard on him.  It's not fair.  He has fought his whole life.  He shouldn't have to keep fighting.  I have had to fight these last few years, too.  I have been a single mother for 12 years.  I am tired.  This is not easy. 

I am so thankful for all of the support from everyone, but tonight I am angry.  I am mad at God for letting this happen.  Why didn't He protect my boy?  I want to be hopeful but tonight is hard.  It's been a hard day.  It's hard to keep being strong all the time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Beginning

On July 23, 2011 at 9:28 a.m. the world was forever changed.  I received a call from Fort Drum, NY advising me that Derek was in surgery and fighting for his life after receiving life altering injuries as a result of an ied (roadside bomb).

I immediately grabbed my father and told him of the news, then I called my sister Yvette.  Once I had a little more control of my emotions, I reached out for Derek's girlfriend, Krystina.  Krystina was down the shore for the weekend, but she came right over and spent the night with us as we waited on news about Derek.

Later that day, I posted on the Army Moms site and the Parents of Deployed Servicemembers site on facebook.  The outpouring of love, support, encouragement and prayers has been staggering and completely overwhelming.  I am now in touch with several wounded warrior families and a nurse at Walter Reed.  These wonderful people have been offering constant prayers and support.  One, Donna Griego, also set up "prayers for Derek McConnell" on facebook,  As of this morning, there are 1,641 people who have "liked" that page and are offering prayers, words of encouragement, support, etc.  It is humbling when I consider the outpouring of support that has come forward.

On Monday, I received a call from Jeff Miles, the afternoon dj on WPLJ (95.5 FM) in NYC.  He had been keeping up with Derek's deployment through my posts on facebook and his thread.  As a former army man himself, and with family in the service, Jeff was very supportive.  He played our conversation on the air at 12:55 p.m. and then dedicated the Goo Goo Dolls song "Not Broken" to Derek and all of the other military servicemembers.  He has been in touch with me all week.

Derek was kept in Kandahar for a couple of days, but then moved to Baghram Air Base on Monday.  He arrived in Germany on Tuesday and is hopefully coming back to the states this weekend.

Anne and Cori, two new facebook friends, later put me in touch with Heather, an angel in Germany who has been visiting Derek in the hospital and sending me updates.

On Wednesday morning I was able to call the hospital in Germany.  An angel of a nurse held the phone to his ear so that he could hear my voice. I told him that I loved him so, that Krystina loved him so much, that the whole family loved him, and that we were all standing by him and would help him.  I told him to be strong.  I had to jump up and down (a hint I heard from Dr. Laura) to keep from crying too much.  My voice broke in spite of all my efforts to stay calm.

Derek's life was never easy, and this battle has been hard so far.  He lost his left leg from the hip and the right leg just above the knee.  He has blast wounds, a fractured right arm, a skull fracture and kidney damage.  He is receiving transfusions and dialysis.  At this moment, he lies in a bed in Lundstahl Hospital in Germany awaiting a flight back to the US.  I have my bag packed and will be there when he arrives.
I have okay moments and bad moments.  I am angry that our children are over there being injured for life.  For what?  I understood this in the beginning, after we were attacked.... but now?  What good are we doing?  Our children are being wounded for life and I cannot see a reason.

Anyway, I want to thank everyone for all the love, support, encouragement and prayers.  Without it, I don't think I could do this.