You are walking along, laughing with your buddies. You feel the heat of the day soaking into your skin.
Then a flash. Pain. Nothing.
You awake to disjointed voices. Yelling. You try to open your eyes, but see nothing. You try to discern what the voices are saying, but all you hear is screaming. Is that you? All you can feel is pain. Inense, white hot pain. Then nothing.
The pain invades your consciousness. Strangers' voices are all around, pulling at you. You cannot make out what they are saying. You hear snippets of conversations but cannot understand what they are saying. Hip disarticulation? What does that mean? You try to move, to speak, but cannot. You fall under the cloud of unconsciousness again.
Loved ones' voices are just out of reach. You try to respond, but cannot. You struggle to say something, anything, but the words will not come. You slip away again.
The fog starts to lift. You see your loved one's worried face looking down on you. She tries to smile. She tells you everything will be okay. You see the unshed tears behind the brave face. You hear the quiver in her voice. You struggle to respond. Is that a tube in your throat? Why is there a tube in your throat? You are told you cannot breathe on your own.
You try to move and find that half of your body is gone. The pain envelops you like a tornado lifting a mobile home into its arms. You try to yell out, but the scream won't come.
Strangers are all around you, tending to your every need. You cannot feed yourself, dress yourself, even put on chapstick. You cannot recall what happened, what caused you to lie there, unable to move, unable to tend to yourself.
The daily needs you used to take for granted, are now major milestones to be relearned with the assistance of the wonderful OT AND PT staff - dressing, showering, brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, putting on chapstick.
This is the life that awaits the 18 yr old, 19 yr old, 22 yr old, 29 yr old, etc. wounded warriors. It is heartbreaking, but it is also heartrendering. They have such spirit and drive. Nothing keeps them down. I watched a kid who had been an inpatient for over 400 days wheel himself out of the hospital today to the cheers of the staff and other patients. His mother beemed with pride.
Derek has been in the hospital for 96 days today. He is the longest inpatient at present. We have watched warriors come in after us and leave for outpatient housing, and we stay on. We are getting closer. Krystina and I have made some major sacrifices to get Derek to where he is today. I do not regret those sacrifices and neither does she. They were made out of love. Our families have also made sacrifices. This is family, and this is where we need to be.
I have met some wonderful people on this journey, people I never would have met otherwise. I am thankful for this journey. I hope that I am able to bring a little of this world to the American people, because the face of wounded warrior needs to be seen. Their struggle needs to be known.
The life after the war must be told. The PTSD, the nightmares, the struggles. The rehabilitation. This is the face of war.