Friday, September 16, 2011

Top Ten Tidbits for New Families

Having been in this for the past seven weeks, these are my top ten tidbits for new families entering this scary new world.  Please take this for what it is worth.  It is just my insight into this new venture.  Some of this might work for you, and some of it might not.  Having lived it, I have found that this is what has helped us stay strong, and this is what is keeping me (semi) sane.

1.  In the beginning, take the first week between the initial call and the trip to Bethesda or wherever you will be meeting up with your wounded warrior stateside to set your affairs in order at home.  You might not be home for a couple of weeks, or even months.  Pack for a little longer than you think you might be there.  I only packed for two weeks, and it has been 7 so far.  Also, no matter what season it is, back a few warm clothes.  The SICU is freezing.

2.  Do not believe everything the call center tells you.  News from down range is sketchy.  I was told different details about my son's injuries ranging for loss of his arm to only soft tissue injury.  Until you get "eyes on," and get to talk to the doctors wherever he goes stateside, the most important information you can receive is that he is alive and is stablized enough to travel.  Just stay calm.... or as calm as you can under the circumstances.

3.  Set up one contact person for family and friends.  You will be so overwhelmed by everything that is going on in the hospital and with taking care of your wounded warrior that you may not be able to keep up with facebook, phone calls, voicemails, emails, etc., at least not for the first couple of weeks.  Have one person who you can call who can deciminate information for you.  Have that person field all calls and emails for you.

4.  Take care of your basic needs - eat, sleep, but remember that this is not about you anymore it is about your wounded warrior.  This is NOT the time to be selfish.  If you are a selfish person, pack it in now and let someone else take over.  However, if you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of your wounded warrior.  Running yourself into the ground will not help him.  That doesn't mean spend all day getting manicures, watching tv, running around town, talking on the phone, etc.  That's selfish.  But do remember to take a little time for yourself.  There is a delicate balance between selfishness and taking care of yourself.

5.  When in his room, especially in the beginning, stay positive.  If you are going to break down, step outside.  Even when unconscious, it is believed that he can hear you.  Be upbeat and tell him that he will be okay and that you will help him get through this.  You want to instill confidence that no matter how bad the injuries might be, there is NOTHING he cannot overcome.  If he hears or sees you break down, it will affect him.  In the beginning, if the doctors have negative information, step outside until he is awake enough to process it.

6.  Work with and be nice to the doctors and nurses.  They are on your team.  They are working at their best for your wounded warrior.  In the event that you have any question about the work product of anyone on your team, do not hesitate to call for a supervisor.  Just like anywhere, you will find someone who is not up to par or with whom you have a personality conflict or who is just having a bad day.  Your wounded warrior is your first concern, so watch everything and make sure he is protected.  They have many patients.  You have one.

7.    Ask questions.  Even if you think it is a stupid question, this may be so foreign to you, it is the only way you will learn.  The nurses (at least at Bethesda), do not mind answering even the most inane questions.  Be informed.  Write down everything.  Attend rounds, if you can.  Keep a journal that will help you keep track of medicines, surgeries, events, funny comments, etc.

8.  Talk to the other families.  They are a great resource.  They know doctors, nurses, contacts, places to eat, areas of the hospital, etc.

9.  Keep all business cards and write down a description of the person on the back.  You will be inundated with doctors, finance, AW2, SFAC (Soldiers and Family Assistance), Liason, Squad Leader, Warrior and Transition Brigade, etc.  Don't try to keep it all straight at first.  They have people who will help you.  I was given a journal, but bring a notebook in case they do not give you one.

10.  Try to find a little humor in each day.  It will help you keep your sanity.

Finally, pray.  If you do not pray, then always have hope.  Remember, your woumded warrior could have been killed.  As long as he is alive, you have hope.  God bless, and stay strong.

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