Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Flip Side of the Coin

My mother told me that when I have a decision to make or when I am feeling truly overwhelmed by a situation to make two lists:  Pros and Cons, Likes and Dislikes, Loves and Hates, you get the picture. 

The other night I did a list of things we love about WRNMMC.  We try to concentrate on the positives each day.  Derek has a sign in his room that says, "Celebrate Your Successes, Big and Small."  That's our motto.  We do not concentrate on the set backs or bad days because to do so would drown us. 

But this is not a cake walk.  We are not on vacation.  We are not partying every day, although from the laughter coming from the room you might think we are!  This is hard.  I need to address the flip side of the coin in order to show a balance....in order to paint the full picture.

Also, by listing what we do not like, we know where we need to either make improvement, seek the right person to make improvement, change the circumstances, or simply how much better the list of Loves truly is.  Looking over the following "List of Things We Do NOT Like About WRNMMC," it makes us truly thankful for that list of Loves.

So, here is the flip side of the coin.  It is not all honey, roses, rainbows and butterflies in this situation.  This is a truly stressful and overwhelming experience.  Here is a little taste.

1.     Derek Being Hurt.  'nuff said.

2.     Being Here.  The fact that we have to be here at all is awful.  This is not where I thought we would ever be, or for this long.  We are away from family, friends, home, pets, jobs, etc.  This sucks harder than an industrial vacuum.  I miss home!  I miss my kids!  I HATE being a part-time mother to my other children.

3.     Rude People.  Most of the people we meet are wonderful, but there are some who need to be smacked across the face with a Sensitivity 101 manual.  For example, Sunday the privacy curtain was closed.  There is a sign on the door that says not to disturb if curtain is closed. 

     This weekend, the Eucharistic minister (civilian) walked in and whipped open the curtain, startling us all!  I said to him, "That curtain was closed for a reason!  Don't you knock?"  He ignored me and turned to Derek who asked him to leave.  I told him to leave and never walk into a patient's room without notice again.  I told him Derek could have been going to the bathroom, changing, sleeping, whatever.  Would he like it if someone came waltzing into his room while he was changing? 

     Next, the maid came and was being very loud.  I asked her to please be quiet because Derek was sleeping.  She snapped at me, "I have to do my job."  I agreed with her and asked her to please be a little quieter.  She proceeded to argue with me while I had my finger over my mouth showing her to be quiet!  I eventually told her to shut the hell up and leave!  I've addressed other incidents of rudeness before.

     Sensitivity training would be wonderful.  People need to realize that they are dealing with family members whose nerves are shot and who are going through one of the most traumatic experiences of their life.  We need a little compassion.

4.     Food Service.  Although the food is good, when it comes hot, ordering it for each meal is a problem.  There are times we simply cannot get through or have to hold for more than 15 minutes.  Some patients just do not want to deal with this.  And sometimes it takes forever to get it, and Derek has almost missed appointments.  I have bought him meals when there simply was not enough time to call and order or when we could not get through until after they turn off the phones at 1830.

5.     Food Availability for Family.  We have McDonald's, Subway and Dunkin Donuts, all of which we are tired of, except DD coffee.  We also have the Galley, which is cheap, but so is the food quality.  We then have Main Street Cafe with super limited hours and the Wedge, both of which are very expensive and closed on the weekends.  On the weekends, Dunkin Donuts and Subway close early, so we are left with McDonalds and the Galley.    Better, affordable selection available for more hours would be wonderful.  Thank God volunteer groups come in and offer us lunch or dinner at least once a week.  It does help with the cost.

6.     Facility Problems.  This is a wonderful hospital with a lot of amenities and state of the art facilities, but there are problems as there always are with a new place.  A few of them are steep grades, heavy doors that cannot be opened by someone in a wheelchair (McDonalds, bathrooms, patient rooms), no buttons on those doors for wheelchair access, bumpy sidewalks that cause wheelchairs to tip, no place for children to play, looooong way from inpatient to the Matc and from Building 62 (outpatient rehab living) to the Matc.  For someone coming from Bldg 62, he has to go outside a long way, even in foul weather.  Thankfully, there is a shuttle.  Also, Subway and Dunkin Donuts are crowded and small and not really set up for easy wheelchair access.  Derek feels like he is in the way in there, so he waits outside while Krystina goes in and gets him what he wants.  Many of these concerns are being addressed by the powers that be.  One example, there will be a play area installed in the Spring (thank you, Jessica!).

7.     Medical Staff Unfamiliar with Patient or Who Need More Training.  Sometimes the new person is wonderful, but sometimes the new nurse, doctor, whoever is not familiar with the patient and there is just not enough time to get familiar before having to do something (on call doctors), or it is exhausting to us to have to explain exactly how Derek likes it.  We can deal with the latter, as long as the new person is good, but when the nurse stands and argues with me about pain medication or having to help get Derek onto the board for x-rays, I lose my cool.  Also, we have had  interns who enter orders or do not transfer orders accurately, and they do not even know the patient.  Thank God I have been able to reach the primary doctor, or had the order held until the primary doctor returned, when this has happened.

8.     Revolving Door.  With so many medical teams, procedures, patient needs, someone on the medical staff was always coming into the room.  Add to that all of the services (AW2, WTB, SFAC, etc.), and all of the volunteers, and the VIP visits, and we hardly ever get any down time.  Most of this is necessary, and we understand that, but it is still exhausting.

9.     Schedule.  Sometimes doctors do not let us know that there is a procedure or x-ray scheduled until the last minute, which throws a monkey wrench into our plans.  Also, it would be very helpful to have a schedule of when to expect certain doctors.  We understand that emergencies arise, but a window would be nice.  For example, we have some doctors coming to check on Derek daily and they show up in the morning one day, early afternoon the next and late afternoon the next.  We take the chance of missing that doctor if Derek goes for a ride in his chair.  Knowing approximately when the doctor would be coming, especially if we have questions or concerns and do not want to miss that particular doctor, would allow us some flexibility.

10.    Family Drama.  This is a horrible time as it is, but when you add family drama to the stew it become unbearable.  This is not about you; this is about promoting the best healing environment for the warrior.  We have seen families in turmoil, wives leaving, mothers getting thrown out for causing problems, etc.  We have seen divorced parents come together after years apart and work for the best interests of their son, but we have also seen when they cannot.  That is heartbreaking because if the soldier wants both parents there, they should get along for his sake, but if the soldier does not want both there, that should also be respected and is often not.  Thank God Derek's father is respecting his wishes. 

     When we were in the ICU, there were five families there who had to deal with an estranged member of the family showing up.  If you were not involved in the warrior's life or if you were only involved on a limited basis, do not show up in the hospital after the injury.  Wait until you are called by your son/daughter.  It is not right to force that added stress and discomfort on the family who has been standing by the warrior full-time.  If the other family members are going to be there, rather than cause undue stress, call the hospital and leave a message with the charge nurse to pass on to the warrior when he is able.  When he is ready, he will call you. 

      While in the ICU, we had a mother who had very little to do with her son and daughter-in-law show up and start demanding to be involved with all decisions and having a fit when the wife did something she did not like.  We had a father show up who had not seen his son in over two years and threaten a law suit on the hospital, wife and military if what he wanted was not done.  We had three families where the warrior's father was either out of the picture or had very limited contact with his son before injury, and the father showed up and expected to be part of every decision, which caused undue stress on the mother who had always been by her son's side and was the son's POA.  Please remember who this is about.

11.    Toxic Families.  There are some families who just complain and do not try to come up with solutions.  Nothing is good enough for them, and that is just not right.  These people are working hard and trying to help.  Sometimes, they do not see a problem until it is pointed out.  There is a right way and a wrong way to bring an issue up.

12.    Elevators.  They are constantly breaking and are so slow when moving between floors that it takes forever.  Sometimes, people are on the transport elevators when patients need to get on, especially coming back from surgery, and they do not get out willingly.  Thankfully, there are plenty of elevators around, so if some are broken, you can always find others.  And for those of us who can walk, there is always the stairs.  They are better for your health anyway.

13.    The Wounded.  Seeing so many wounded kids and knowing that more are coming in on medevac days is simply heartbreaking.  Thank God most of them have a great spirit that was not crushed by that IED, RPG, sniper's bullet, etc.  But we are done.  We hate hearing those sirens, knowing that more are arriving.

14.    No Internet.  When they moved the wounded warriors from the 5th floor down to the 4th, they did not install the internet.  Thankfully they got nicer rooms that are single and not double occupancy, but internet would be nice.  I was told by someone that a nonprofit group offered to install it but they were told, "No."

15.    Vending Machines.  Why have them if they are not going to be filled?

The above is pretty much it, although some other things arise at times.  If we only looked at that list of 15 dislikes and not the 23 likes on the other list, we would not be able to face this every day.  Thank God, the list of likes outnumbers the list of dislikes.

P.S.  I have to end on a positive note.  I went back and edited the entry "What We Love About WRNMMC," because two additional things came to me. 

First is an addition to the Doctors entry:

I was talking to Dr. Perdue and he told me that he has taken a step back from trauma for a while because it is draining on him.  He said he gets too personally invested with his patients.  We can tell.  And when Dr. Bograd stood with a genuine smile and look of pride on his face when he saw Derek up and about.... that warmed my soul and made me thankful that Derek had a doctor who genuinely cared.  You cannot teach that in medical school.  Or when Dr. Diego goes out of his way to come and see us before he leaves for the night and texts me on the weekends he is off.  That's devotion.  And Dr. Kim is wonderful.  She really listens.  We love our doctors.

23.     The Guys at the Matc.  Not only is it inspiring to see the guys working out and getting up and going on their new prosthetics, but their attitudes are amazing.  They do not quit.  They do not stay down.  They are the epitome of strength and perseverance.  And it's not just that they are working out and building themselves back up, they do it with a smile and an encouraging word for the others.  Derek said, "tears don't grow legs," and it is evident that the guys at the Matc believe that, too.  They just keep going with a smile on their faces!  AND they are super helpful.  Derek was struggling to get out of his wheelchair, and a triple amp rolled over, jumped on the mat and helped Derek!  He wasn't even asked.  He saw Derek struggling and just jumped in.  He was so encouraging to Derek.  Krystina and I can cheer him on, but someone who has been there?  That means so much more.

So, remember to address the reality of your situation, but keep things positive whenever possible.  Do not concentrate on the negative in your life.  Always look on the flip side and seek out the positive.

We KNOW something good is going to come from this.  We might not understand why, but we have faith that something good is going to come out of all this heartache, suffering and trauma.  Believing this is the only way we can get out of bed each morning.  Believing this is what keeps me from crumbling when the weight of everything feels like it will crush me.

Have a good day!  Climb to Glory!

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