Monday, January 9, 2012

A Mom's Journey

We raise our sons to go off and make lives of their own. Once we ship them out to basic training, we expect that they are "out of the nest." But they never stop being your baby.  I last conversed with Derek a couple of hours before his injury on July 23, 2011.  My last words to him were, "Be safe.  Love you."  When I next saw him on July 29, 2011, he was yellow, in renal failure, battered and broken, and could not breathe on his own.  Derek's injuries are a left hip disartic, right AKA, limb salvage on the right arm, blast wounds that reached stage 4, and pelvic, jaw and skull fractures, as well as internal injuries. He was riddled with infections that caused him to turn septic.  We spent 50 days in the ICU and almost lost him several times.  When he was able to speak, finally, after several weeks, one of the first things he said to me was, "I'm sorry.  I never meant for this to happen."
I have three teenagers in high school, Kellina (17) a senior, Ryan (17) a junior, and Sean (15) a freshman, who are living with my sister while I attend to Derek.  They had to leave their home and their pets in the care of my father and move to my sister's house.  We have been inpatient for over 175 days and do not yet have a date for discharge.  As a Mom, I have to juggle these competing interests and do what is best for all of my children.  It pains my heart to leave my other children, but right now, I am needed here, and my other children understand.  Derek needs me to juggle doctors, medications, appointments, etc.; he needs his fiancee Krystina to handle his personal needs, such as meals, laundry, grooming, showering, and snuggling; and he himself needs to concentrate on healing.  Together, the three of us have what would be a very difficult journey for one or two, handled quite nicely by dividing up the responsibilities.  The hardest thing is not being there to help my children with their homework, talk to my daughter about high school drama, or just to sit and eat dinner together as a family, something I insisted on every single night.

In the hospital, one thing that has been difficult is that a lot of the programs are geared towards spouses and we moms are the forgotten.  Many moms come and stay with their children for the entire time.  We leave behind homes, pets, children, jobs, bills, entire lives.  Many of us moms either have to leave our jobs or lose our jobs as a result of being gone "too long."  On top of the stress of seeing our children struggle, we have to deal with being unemployed in a bad economy.  The programs here that might help us find jobs have been limited to spouses only.  Hopefully, that is starting to open up.  A lot of the financial support from non-profits are limited to direct dependants of the servicemember, a/k/a not moms.

It does not matter to us whether there is any program for moms.  As a Mom, I will be here until Derek takes his first steps, a milestone we are all anxiously anticipating.  This is where my life has taken me, and until I know my child is well on his way to recovery, I will be by his side.

Derek is continuing to heal after surgery on Friday.  He didn't go to the Matc today because his arm was still a little too sore.  He is hoping for tomorrow, but he does not want to push it.  So, we just hung out today and let Derek heal.  It's the same thing we did all weekend.

The highlight of our weekend was the visit from our two favorite residents, Diego and Ben!  I think Diego likes to visit because we make him laugh.  Derek's comment to him today, which I think Derek meant as a compliment, was, "I'd rather have a doctor who makes me laugh than a good doctor."  Really, Derek?  But Diego does make a laugh....a lot.

A troubling thing that happened was when someone from a non-profit was talking to Derek about where he wants to live in the future.  He told Derek that he might want to live in New Jersey, but it was not going to be possible.  When I commented that his entire family and most of his friends were in NJ, he said, "Well, ma'am, that might be, but he is going to need doctors and nurses in his life for a long time.  He has to live close to a Vet Polytrauma center, and there isn't one in New Jersey."  Listen, jerk, do not try to act like you know more than his doctors and can push me around and tell me what to do!  It won't end well for you.  He will also need the love and support of his family as he lives this new normal, and New Jersey might not have a polytrauma VET hospital, but there are plenty of polytrauma centers.  Also, we are only a few hours from Walter Reed Bethesda and can get him down here at least once a year for a check up.  I immediately consulted with one of our favorite nurses, Katie, and called for Derek's doctors to come and talk to us about this.  NO ONE in this entire process has ever told us that Derek was restricted as to where he could live in the future.  His nurses and doctors all confirmed that Derek's choice of where to live was his own.  If he wanted to live in Timbucktu, arrangements would be made for him.  Next time this man comes to pay a visit, he will get an ear full!  My concern is that he is going to say that to an unknowing young wounded warrior and his wife and they will believe him!

So, tomorrow it is off to the Matc, hopefully, and a dressing change and new splint for the arm.  One more step ahead. 

Keep on going and don't let anyone get you down.  If someone gives you information that just doesn't sound right, ask questions.  Ask a lot of questions.  Don't just take "no" for an answer, and do not accept some ridiculous reason for doing something that just doesn't feel right.  Get to the bottom of the truth so you can have all information you need in order to make an informed decision.  They might purport to be the "experts," but even they can give wrong information.  The man giving us information today is not medical.  He is not even a wounded warrior.  He is just someone who works at a non-profit and gives out information like he knows what he is talking about.  Sorry, bud.  I'm smarter than to just accept that drivel.

Hope you 2012 is going strong and you are making progress.  We have had a lot of stress so far in 2012, but we are making progress, as well.  Derek's first transfer from the chair to the bed was last week, and the hand surgery is a major step forward. 

Keep on going!  Never give up!  Never give in!  Fight for your dreams.  Fight for what you know in your heart is right.  Climb to glory, everyone.  We'll meet you at the top.  We'll be the ones waiving the New Jersey flag along with our Army flag and pointing the way towards Derek's home in NEW JERSEY!  Army strong!  Jersey fierce.  Standing there at the top will be Determined Derek, Mighty Mom and Kourageous Krystina.  Yes, I know.....cheesy.  But we will be there. 

We will be cheering you on as you make the climb, either ahead of us, beside us, or behind us.  We are all the same team, whether we be Army, Navy, AirForce, Marines, National Guard, or Coast Guard.  If you are struggling in this new normal, or even if you are strugggling with something in life, join us and Climb to Glory!!!


  1. Thanks for an update... Praying... Think of you all every day... You give me courage... Thanks...

  2. Continuing to lift up prayers!
    Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid...for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
    Prayer Bears
    My email address

  3. Siobhan, You,Derek and Krystina are such an inspiration. I so enjoy reading your blog in the morning while having my coffee. Keep on climbing to glory and thank you for your words of wisdom. I know you are a blessing to many people. GO DEREK!!! Thank you all for your service and your sacrifice! HOOAH!!!

  4. I continue to be amazed by your strength and determination! Derek has a great support team behind him!

    Thanks so much for the update. I so enjoy reading your encouraging words each night before I go to sleep. I hope you're able to share this blog with others who are in similar situations as your family. I know with you behind Derek and Krystina they will come out of this strong and determined to make something good out of a bad situation.

    Continuing to pray for you all from California!! HOOAH! You're way more than Army Strong!!

  5. Praying so very hard in Seattle!
    Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
    Prayer Bears
    My email address