In this new normal, it is so easy to concentrate on the negative, to concentrate on what was lost, to concentrate on what will never be. Every day we face new challenges or the reality of this situation.
To concentrate on it would be overwhelming. If we were to concentrate on it, we would drown.
Instead, we choose to look for positives every day. Sitting with Krystina and Derek today, we decided to list what we LOVE about where we currently live. This is not in order of preference. This is in the order that it popped into our heads!
1. When a problem is brought to someone's attention, it is dealt with. A lot of times the ones in charge do not know there is a problem, so they are grateful to hear from us. When I have brought a concern forward, it has been addressed.
2. Nurses! We love our nurses. "Derek's Team" is full of wonderful nurses who really care. They work long hours (12 hr shifts) and always have a smile.
3. Doctors! We love our team. Dr. Perdue, Dr. Diego, Dr. Doogie, Dr. Kim, Dr. West, Dr. Howard! They are the members of our team now who are on the "Love" List. The others are okay. The past doctors who were on team but have now moved on, but whom we still love are Ugo, Bograd, Dimples (Clifford). Our doctors work such long hours but are so attentive and positive. They answer our questions and take time with us. 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.... you cannot teach that in medical school. Or when Dr. Diego goes out of his way to come and see us before he takes off and texts me on the weekends he is off. That's devotion. And Dr. Kim is wonderful. She really listens. We love our doctors.
4. Corpsmen and Medics. These wonderful people help the nurses in giving care to the warriors.
5. Good Food. Whatever other problems there are with the "Traditional Room Service" that delivers Derek his meals, the food is really good.
6. That we can keep our sense of humor! Some people look at us like we are nuts when we laugh at some really stupid things or poke fun at this new normal, but we love it. It keeps us semi-sane (we were never really completely sane).
7. Volunteer Groups. Operation Ward 57 (http://www.causes.com/causes/99991-operation-ward-57-helping-wounded-soldiers-their-families), Marine Moms, iPads for Soldiers (http://www.ipadsforsoldiers.org), iPods for Wounded Vets (http://www.ipodsforwoundedvets.org), Don Patterson (http://oohrah.net/), etc. They come to visit and bring food for the families, staff and warriors, shirts, hats, necessary items, iPods, iPads, etc. There are so many who come through and give of their time and money for the benefit of these guys.
8. New friends. Yes, I mean the Allens, as well as others whom we have met on this path. These families help us through this journey.
9. Wonderful people on staff. There are some simply wonderful people who work in the hospital who are not part of the medical staff per se. They are helpful, friendly and just so wonderful. Yes, I mean Amy and Lisa and Capt Hook and Lt Col. Crumm and Executive Services, etc.
10. Room 431. This room has become our home, our haven, our place of healing for the time being. Everyone we allow to enter into our sanctuary contributes to the love and laughter of our lives. Many of the medical staff have quipped that they can be themselves in that room!
11. Getting cards and care packages. Messages from home, friends, and strangers brighten our day and show us that we are not forgotten on this journey. The letters and pictures from the kids make us laugh and warm our hearts. One child wrote, "Sorry you died." Another wrote, "Sorry you lost your legs." And there was a card that proudly proclaimed, "I love the hores." Really? At YOUR AGE? These cards of witty and so heartwarming.
12. Puppies! Sgt Archie, Bobbie and Laura Lee. Each one with his/her own personality. Sgt Archie is a German Shepherd. He is the serious Marine who guards the perimeter and keeps us safe. When he is with his girls, he is intense and serious. When he comes alone, he is more playful. Bobbie is a Golden Lab, Golden Retriever mix. She is a little shy when she first meets you, but once she is comfortable, what a girl! Whenever she sees us, she sticks her butt on us because she knows we will give her a great back rub. She is cheery and so sweet. Laura Lee is a Golden Retriever and the alpha of the group. She is in charge of where to go and what to do. She is so empathetic and can read your soul. The day we met Laura and Bobbie was a terrible day. Derek had gone septic, and Krystina and I were feeling lost. Laura sensed our distress and made a beeline to us in the lobby. She leaned against me as if to say, "It will be all right." She is such a great comfort, and a little attention hog.
13. Kindness from Strangers. It's the little things that count sometimes. Strangers have welcomed us into their lives and embraced us as if we were old friends. The messages on facebook and in my guestbook from people I didn't know before this, and the people who come around the hospital (workers, volunteers, other families, etc.) have simply warmed us.
14. Helping. Knowing that we might have helped even one person, either through the blog, the prayers page on facebook or through my kevetching in the hospital makes this whole thing worthwhile! In addition, we try to great new families and offer them support and help when needed.
15. Good News. When we receive good news, even if it is as small as a lower phosphate level, we celebrate and feel like we have accomplished something!
16. Countering Bad News with Good Ideas. For example, being able to tell the doctors "No" to the phosphate binder because diet might work just as good, without the side effects.
17. Food Deliveries. I am not counting the groups who deliver food for the warriors, staff and families, since I addressed that already. I am talking about the wonderful women who have delivered food for us personally. Dana Brown Ritter, Meggan Keith and Christina Tavares Hallagan delivered delicious food. We still have some of Meggan's in the freezer, and Dana delivers every couple of weeks.
18. Messages. Upbeat, positive, encouraging messages on the facebook prayers page and in the guestbook attached to this blog. We read every one, and they really mean so much. Your well wishes help us. Keep them coming!
19. Family and Friends. The love and support of our family (my kids, Maglio, Dressler and Pizza families) and friends who are too numerous to mention without skipping someone, has helped keep us grounded and focused on the ultimate goal - getting Derek better so he can live a full life. The positive support and ongoing visits helps break up the monotony of the days and reminds us of life outside these hospital walls. We will get there again. And the entire family coming and spending the holidays makes them extra special. Even if we are not "home," we are together, and that is what matters.
20. Fisher House! The community living is wonderful and much better than the Lodge, where we would be in a real hotel room and separated from everyone. Here we can go downstairs and be surrounded by other families. If we want to be alone, we can stay in our room. It's the best of both worlds!
21. Passes! We are finally at the stage where we can get passes! This feels so good. Thanksgiving was the first, and the concert next Saturday is a definite. We are also planning a trip to DC. We hope to get to the Newseum, the Smithsonian, the Vietnam Memorial, the White House, etc. Some of those places we have outstanding invites to visit.
22. Meeting "VIPs." Although I think that the warriors are the true VIPs, we are visited by people all of the time. We have met Senators, Congressmen, the President, Generals, Admirals, Leroy Petry the Medal of Honor winner, Montel Williams, Kid Rock, Kansas, Miss America, sports figures such as the San Fran 49ers, and others. These visits help boost morale.
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, but their attitudes are amazing! 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, as you can see, there is plenty to love!