That was seven months ago. This has been a long, hard journey. We have had good days, and we have had horrendously awful days. Derek was lost in those dang woods for months. We spent 53 days in ICU. Those horrendously awful days appear to be in our rear view mirror. In the last seven months, we have come so far. We are climbing that mountain, and soon we will be at the top!
The last couple of days have been hectic, to say the least.
Last Thursday, Derek finally said "good bye" to his specialty bed. He wanted to be ready for the regular bed in Bldg 62.
On Friday, the family traveled from NJ to spend the weekend with us. They arrived around midnight. Sean went straight to Derek's room to spend the night with him. On Saturday, it was off to DC! We spent hours exploring the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
We know the price of freedom...
One of the most interesting exhibits was the original flag that was gazed up by Francis Scott Key when he wrote the Star Spangled Banner. It looks like it has been through a war, and large chunks were removed over the years as "souveniers," but it is still there. It is still proud. It is still our flag.
On the way, the van started lagging. Then it started smoking! I told it to quit that nasty habit, but what can you do? We limped back to the hospital, and the guys from the command center came out when they saw the smoke and smelled the stench. They believe the parking brake might have engaged while I was driving. The wonderful people who donated the van to us called by brother-in-law and insisted that they pay for the repair. We will see. I am having a non-profit look into it, and they might be able to cover the cost.
When we returned, my sister pulled out this wonderful blanket that was made for Derek by the third grade CCD class from Our Lady of the Lake in Verona, NJ. All of the children placed a hand print on the blanket.
Derek had some severe pain issues on Saturday evening. He called the covering doctor for some relief, the relief his regular doctor told him he could have. She wouldn't do it. First she gave him some pain medication that in the past had not worked. Then she told him to wait until after his night meds. Then she gave him a heat pack. Really? Okay, let me cut off your legs and let's see if a heat pack works for you. This is a kid who sweats profusely. It was not a good night. The cobblestones in DC really hurt him.
Sunday, due to the pain issues and lack of assistance on Saturday, and due to the down and out van, we hung out at the hospital and ordered a pizza for dinner. It was great to catch up with the family.
But come Monday, we were ready to venture out a little. I called Barwood Cab, and I was told that they needed 24 hours notice for a wheelchair van. I broke down and called Regency Cab. We have had prior bad experiences with Regency. The driver who took us to the Army Navy game was .... how do I put this nicely? Not the brightest bulb in the box? Not the sharpest crayon in the box? You get the point. Then on Christmas Eve, they stranded us at the hospital when we wanted to go to dinner. I should have known that Regency and the Cheesecake Factory would not be a good match.
I asked the dispatcher if they could guarantee me a return ride at seven. They told me yes. They told me that someone would be there at seven. At seven, after a wonderful meal at the Cheesecake Factory, there was no cab. I called and I was informed that they would not be able to get me a wheelchair van for at least an hour, and they could not even guarantee it then.
Oh, the power of facebook. I posted that we were stranded, and Dr. Bitonti called someone at the hospital, who called me right away and started looking for a ride. Also, Rob Kumph, an NCO in the Army, called the Command Center for them to find us a ride.
In the meantime, my sister had the brillant idea of getting Derek into her car, and then having the boys lift the 370 lbs chair into her truck. It worked! Krystina, Kellina and I hung out at the mall while Yvette and Brian drove the rest of the crew back in their cars.
On Tuesday, we all trekked to the Matc for Derek's workout. First, he had OT, and then PT. The family really wanted to see Derek walk. So, he put on his prosthetics and took a stroll!
And then he had another first...
It was so great that Derek's family, all the people who matter the most to him (with the exception of Krystina's family and some of our extended family in NJ, FL and CA), were there to see this! Derek said it felt good.
When we got back to the room, we had a visit from Randy Couture, an MMA fighter.
When the mail arrived, Derek had a very special blanket sent to him from Joann Contreras Fuoco, a former CCD teacher, and her students at Fair Lawn High.
Wednesday night was the next milestone in Derek's journey - his first overnight pass. We went to our room at Building 62. It's wonderful. None of us wanted to return to the hospital, but this has to be done right in order to ensure success.
Today, we went with the 10th Mountain Association for lunch at Fogo De Chao Churrascaria, a Brazilian BBQ in DC. Oh my. The amount of food was sickening!
We sat with Sgt Grundy and his amazing service dog, Willie.
"Drop some for me, Daddy?"
Back at the hospital tonight, but a weekend pass is in our sights! Tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday, three nights, we will be in 62. If all goes well, the paperwork will be processed for .... wait for it ... wait for it ... OUTPATIENT!!! It's about time! We've waited long enough!
So, here we are. So much further than we were seven months ago tonight, when I didn't even know if Derek would survive. We are making that climb. We are climbing to glory.