Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Few Steps Closer to Release!

Seven months ago today, I received the worst phone call of my life. For days, we were in shock. We begged for even the slightest iota of information.  Things looked grim.  Every phone call revealed more bad news.  I felt as if the week was dragging as we waited for word that we could leave for Bethesda.  Once we arrived in Bethesda, my heart broke at the first sight of my boy.  Every visit from the doctor, revealed more bad news. 

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.

After the museum, we walked up to take a look at the Washington Monument.  Thereafter, we tried to go to Georgetown Cupcakes, but the traffic was too bad, so we headed back to the hospital.

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!
It was great to see Derek standing with the other kids for the first time in seven months!

And then he had another first...
He walked with a walker!  Yes!  Next he will be using crutches and the harness and walking the track!

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.
Then it was time to say good-bye, once again.  I hate good-byes.  The only good part about saying good-bye is knowing that they are in your heart and that you will see them again.  But I miss them so much.

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.


  1. Wow amazing story God bless you and your family and all that you have been through and even my price for freedom didnt come as high as his, I appreciate what he has paid for his country. Prayers out to you

  2. Hope this story continues to have a good ending to it. Going Out-pt....going HOME!! Praying for Derek and the whole family every day! God Bless You All!! <3

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your travels and travails as Derek recovers. Bless you all.

  4. Continuing to pray!
    Psalms 34:17-19 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
    Prayer Bears
    My email address

  5. My son celebrated his 8 month Alive Day on the same day as Derek's 7th. Hurray for Alive Days! God bless Derek and you and your whole family. May the character and strength that has brought you this far continue to carry you forward towards more "firsts!"

  6. Stopping by to let you know that you're always in my thoughts and prayers!
    Psalms 91:1-2, 4 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. (4) He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
    Prayer Bears
    My email address

  7. Whatever the Lord allows to happen in your life, He'll get you through! Praying right now!
    Psalms 91:9-12 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
    Prayer Bears
    My email address

  8. Continuing to pray!
    Psalms 91:14-15 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

  9. I'm here praying right now.
    Psalms 116:1-5 I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.