Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Journey

The journey over the last 81 days has been challenging.  Up at 05:00 or 06:00 every morning and not getting back to the Fisher House until around 21:00 - 22:00 every night.  It's exhausting.  There is no taking a break or getting out. 

Doctors come and go at all hours, and it is important to interact with them so that orders are not changed that are not in his best interest and so that we know what is going on.  Many times doctors come in at 05:00 when Derek is in a deep sleep.  He doesn't even recall the visit, yet they put in the notes that the patient had no questions and they make changes to his care based on that exam and interaction.  Although I am not there at that hour, I will call the team back to discuss any changes with us that are made.
I do not know what the future holds for any of us.  Everything is in the air.  I know I cannot walk out and leave my son in the position he is in, because it has been shown that soldiers without family support present everyday do not get better as fast.  Derek is healing slow enough as it is and after 11.5 weeks, he is still not out of the woods.  I cannot wait for that day when Dr. Perdue comes to me and says that he is in the clear.

We have seen a lot of joy, hope, perserverence, heartache, drama and "kick butt" attitude over the last few months.  Your choice which one you want to let engulf you as a participant in the journey, and also as a bystander to all of the journeys taking place around you.  I read the blog today from someone who wrote about all the negative, all the bad things that keep happening, and all the heartbreaking stories we see.  There is so much more.

We do see the negative.... we cannot avoid it.  The young wife and mother forced to make a decision to terminate life support on her 23 year old husband.  The wife who walked out, taking the kids, leaving the young marine to grieve not only the loss of his limbs and life as he knew it, but the loss of his family.  The family drama erupting in screaming matches on the floor so that security is called to remove the family.  The mothers, wives, fathers who leave and never return or even call leaving their son to wonder what he did wrong.  The young man who will probably live with the brain function of a young child due to severe TBI.  The hundreds of young men who have to put their lives back together after loss of limbs (some of them all four), eyes, hands, feet, or who have to live with extensive scarring due to severe burns over most of his body. 

Yes, we could concentrate on these stories and sit and wallow in pity over what was lost.  We could look at the troubles of the families around us and cry over the heartbreak, lost hopes and dreams, and things that will never be.  I could cry over all that Derek has to endure and all that he lost as a result of this war.
Would that do us any good?  Would that do our wounded warriors justice?  Is concentrating on all of the negative and heartbreaking stories going to help us build our lives and move forward?

I choose to look for the positive.  When I come across the heartbreak, I wrap my arms around it and try to get whomever is suffering through it with gentle words of encouragement that it WILL end and the sky WILL brighten.  I do not know if I am helping, but it is all I know how to do.  I do not think I could handle being in a room full of grieving, crying, boo hoo females, such as a support group, but in small groups or one-on-one, send me in.

When Derek was first injured, I was heartbroken.  I grieved for the loss of the hopes and dreams that would never come to fruition.  But then I arrived in Bethesda and I heard stories of hope, encouragement and drive.  I knew that my son with his never give up attitude would not see this as a bad thing for long but would find a way to make the best of it and meet the challenge head on.  When he said he saw his life as a challenge worth winning, I knew he would survive.  And I knew that I had to take this spirit of his and spread it far and wide.

I am choosing to look for the positive.  I saw a young man today spinning around in circles in his wheelchair and joking with the nurses and other family members.  He was wearing a shirt that said "Combat Wounded Marine - Some Assembly Required" on the front and "I had a blast in Afghanistan" on the back.  He is a triple amputee.  He told us how awesome life in Building 62 is and how he is being fitted for his prosthetics.  He was injured two weeks before Derek.

I saw my son and his beautiful fiancee's faces when they opened the box from the anonymous angel who sent them a diamond engagement ring so they could finally make it official.  I was told that the happy news was discussed during trauma rounds so everyone could congratulate the happy couple.  Derek said it gives him something more for which to fight.

I saw the joy on a grandfather's face today as he held his two beautiful granddaughters when they came to visit their father.

I see the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, girlfriends, aunts, uncles who sit bedside and help their hero with encouragement, love, company, and anything else he needs.  Yes, there are many who leave, but there are so many more who stay.

I see the young men striving to learn to manage their wheelchairs and then their prosthetics.  Although I have not yet had the honor of going to the rehab facility and seeing for myself the double, triple, quadruple amputees working out, Krystina was told by a new recruit to Building 62 that it is encouraging to see quadruple amputees up and running!  There is even a young man who has lost everything from the belly button down and his walking!

These are the stories that get me through the day and keep me strong.  These are the stories of hope, commitment, courage, love that let me know that as long as we can get Derek out of the woods and on that road, he will be up and running.  He will dance with me at his wedding.

This is a hard journey.  As Krystina said.... sometimes you do not choose your path in life, your path chooses you.

We were on one road to the future.  That road is now blocked.  We will keep following the detours and fighting the massive potholes until Derek is back on the right road to his bright and promising future.  He will have to make changes to what he wanted, but it is only a detour.  We will get him there.

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