Friday, March 14, 2014

Grief


The morning of February 20th my mom called me. I had just sent her a funny text while I was lying in bed nursing Emery. I thought she was calling me about that. Instead, she dropped the news that my father was dead.

Suicide.

Of course I lost my breath and didn’t know what to say.

My parents were together for 20 years and had my sister and me. They owned a business together that my grandfather had started. When I was 15, my grandfather had a surgery that left him in a coma for 18 months before he finally passed away.

My dad changed after that. He left the family and my relationship with him was never the same after that. We were very close growing up, but he left, and it was hard for me to understand as a teen.
At the time of his death, my dad had remarried and his wife was ill and living back home with her family. He was in the process of remodeling his utility closet and was having furniture delivered the day after. I don’t know why he did it. I never will. He didn’t leave a note. None of this makes sense. I can’t understand it.

We hadn’t talked in a few years for reasons that are personal. He visited us a few times when Bryan was at Walter Reed. But he never got to meet Emery, and that breaks my heart into a million pieces.
Bryan encouraged me to reach out to him when we got pregnant. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want her to be hurt in some of the ways that I had been. I teetered back and forth on what to do. I had forgiven a lot and wasn’t sure I was ready to do it again. I can’t seem to fully grieve as he didn’t want a funeral or memorial service. It doesn’t feel real and I can’t truly break down when I have an infant to care for all day.

I am left with guilt and regret but I have to process that. I have to remember the good times. My dad was a good father while I was growing up. He was a successful businessman. He loved fishing and to be outdoors. We loved having long conversations on the phone or hanging out in the woods. We took amazing family vacations every summer for weeks on end. He taught me to water ski, fish, ride horses, and patience.

Bryan is doing the best job he can to support me. He isn’t much of a conversationalist but he is an excellent listener. He spent hours listening to my mom and I talk with all his family. He has held me as I cried. I begged him to never do something like this to Emery. Watching him with Emery reminds me of the times my dad spent with me. It is healing but also painful to watch.

Rest in peace, dad, you were loved by many. I miss you…

                This is one of my favorite memories of us at the daddy/daughter dance.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Help Us Get Through “Fussy Time”

Our little miracle, Emery, was born at the beginning of October. I was so blessed to have an amazing labor and delivery and healthy baby girl. After all the heartache of infertility, everything was what I imagined it would be and more. The early days after bringing her home presented some challenges that any new parent faces but Bryan was so patient and supportive of me through the first few weeks.

Bryan’s biggest fear is falling down the stairs while holding her or tripping since his legs don’t always work properly. So far he holds her close and watches each step he makes and he hasn’t tripped. Every night after she has a bath and a full belly, they cuddle on the couch. He lays her on his chest and she dozes off to sleep until we go to bed. It is the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

Emery started to be more alert and she went through her first developmental leap around four weeks. Bryan would get home from work right at her fussy time. She only wanted me to nurse her and comfort her. It broke my heart that he only saw her at her hardest time of the day. The screaming was really hard on him and he would admit that sometimes he just couldn’t listen to it anymore. I think this is pretty normal for a new dad but even more difficult for a wounded warrior. I didn’t want him to get overwhelmed when he held his crying daughter. I would ask if he wanted me to take her, and sometimes I just took over. We were both navigating this together.

Bryan can’t do much to help with the night feedings. Unfortunately, her cries or the having light on when I am feeding her wakes him up. He has been struggling with the lack of sleep. There have been a few times where he has been late for work because he can’t get out of bed. With his TBI, he requires a lot of sleep so I know this is hard on him. Now that she is getting up only once a night, it is much better.

Do you have any advice on how to make it easier for a wounded warrior to adjust to a new baby at home?


Friday, June 28, 2013

16th Surgery


Left is pre-op and right is post op. The gray area is where there is a hole in the bone from the screw.

I hate that almost seven years after an IED blasted through my husband’s body, he still needs surgery to repair the damage.

Last Friday Bryan underwent his 16th surgery since the blast. But this time, we are blessed that the procedure was minor and his recovery, unlike previous times, was fairly short. Doctors removed a screw in his left heel that was inserted during a previous surgery and had begun backing out of his foot. The doctor didn’t want it removed until we could feel the head of the screw on the surface of Bryan’s skin. If it broke the skin, it can cause an infection. Since our baby girl is coming in September we decided it was time to get it taken care of.

Luckily, this surgery was fairly minor compared to his previous ones. He did have to stop taking his anti-inflammatory medication as it makes his blood thin and increases the risk of excessive bleeding in surgery. Without the medicine, he was in a lot of pain the week before surgery and had quite a bit of swelling. We thought the medication wasn’t that effective anymore but once he was off we realized it was working more than we thought.

During the pre-op appointment I warned the doctor that Bryan tends to be aggressive and combative when he comes out of anesthesia. He asked if Bryan has PTSD and we said “yes.” The doctor said that it is normal for vets with PTSD to be combative after anesthesia because it taps in to their psyche and stirs up those suppressed memories. This was the first time I had heard this but it makes sense as to why he is this way when normally he is very calm.

On the day of the procedure we left home by 6 a.m. and he was in surgery by 8:15. The nurses kept me informed and the resident met with me when they finished. He said the screw was lifted up from where it was backing out and it was fairly easy to remove. He said Bryan should have less pain now but it is hard to say since he also suffers from arthritis in the same place. We decided ahead of time to leave the rest of the hardware in because to remove it would mean a much longer recovery time. 

The post-op nurse said Bryan was nice when he woke up and that he was worried he hadn’t been nice to her. He is so sweet. When I was able to finally see him, he kissed me and immediately put his hand on my belly. I have real issues going in to post-op rooms with all the equipment and people lying there. There was blood on his blanket and I tried not to focus on the fact that they cut him open. I have a weak stomach and seeing my husband is pain makes it that much worse. It brings up too many memories of our time at Walter Reed.

It has been a long road of 16 surgeries but his recovery is getting shorter, and better and with each surgery he grows stronger and more ready to welcome our wonderful baby this fall.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thank You Video

When Bryan arrived in Landstuhl, Germany after he was blown up, I knew he was in good hands. I received frequent updates and the nurses even allowed me to talk to Bryan after he was off life support. Even though we only spoke maybe a minute before he got sick, it eased my mind to hear his voice.

I tried to find a way to send a thank you note to the nurses once he arrived at Walter Reed, but I couldn't figure out who they were.

Here a video that we filmed in NY after a fun day of skiing. Finally we get to thank the selfless nurses that take care of our Nation's wounded warriors. We are so thankful to all the nurses active in his recovery.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Beauty of Surrender

Sometimes you have to give up to receive the most precious things in life.

In December we did our last round of infertility medications. I spent a little time grieving the loss of a child I never had. Bryan didn’t know how to help and I didn’t know how to voice what I was feeling. Bryan did an excellent job of being emotionally available and a listening ear. That was a huge accomplishment for him as he had become so emotionally vacant after being wounded.

We were going to move on … but I didn’t know to how at first.

I resolved pretty quickly to being childless. We were already abnormal in the civilian world because of his injuries and now we didn’t have children. The question that everyone asks, “Do you have kids?” became more and more painful to answer. I just started telling the truth.

“We can’t have kids.”

I started making big plans for 2013. I made plans to see friends, went skiing and booked a very adventurous trip to Costa Rica. I hid everyone on Facebook that was pregnant so I wouldn’t be painfully reminded of how I can’t have one of my own.

I knew I was going to move on. I always had and would continue to do so with grace and humility. Because of infertility, I was thankful for what I learned about my marriage, my friends and myself. If I had to experience infertility at least I could help others by sharing my story.

And then came the news we were almost too afraid to hope for. 

Our baby is due September, 2013.

Below is a video of our journey through infertility.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Who is going to help our warriors with PTSD?

                                                 Image via http://www.personal.psu.edu/

Over the weekend, we all heard the tragic news of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield being shot point blank while trying to help a veteran with PTSD. My mind is reeling trying to figure out why this happened. Why was the sniper with the most confirmed kills, and a bounty over his head from the Taliban, killed in this manner? He was on home turf and trying to help out a fellow veteran.

I can’t answer why this happened. But I can state my fears and concerns about it.

Because of this event, people may be terrified to help our wounded warriors suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our warriors who suffer with this condition have a hard enough time making friends, fitting into society and coping. Will they be even more isolated because of incidents like these? Will people be afraid to offer help or a listening ear?

I think for some the answer is ‘yes.’ The media doesn’t help when they portray these warriors as monsters. Because of this, warriors that ask for help don’t get it or get arrested if they call 911.

Will our warriors be afraid to ask for help if they are feeling homicidal or suicidal because the media and mainstream America thinks they are crazy? Why isn’t there more help for those suffering with PTSD? Non-profits are trying to help bridge the gap where the military and the VA may be lacking, but it isn’t enough.

I will never forget how we had to seek counseling after Bryan was released from in-patient care at Walter Reed. I thought it would be automatic that, after talking to a counselor when he was lying in a hospital bed, he would continue after he was discharged. It wasn’t easy to find the counselor we saw and she didn’t usually see outpatient warriors. I am glad I had her card and that we pursued consistent counseling once he got out.

What happens to those that come home with their unit? How do they get the courage to ask for help? How long is the waiting list to see a therapist?

While my husband suffered a long time with his PTSD, we were proactive about getting the right treatment to make him successful. Violence was never accepted in this house and if he was feeling overly angry he would walk out of the room.

There were times I did the wrong things. It was hard seeing him completely numb and void of emotion and I would press him for his feelings. This was the wrong thing to do.  At times I had to sit and wait for him to come to me to share his feelings or ask for help. For someone that is a social worker, and always trying to find solutions, this didn’t bode well for me. However, I knew his limits and waited.

It took years of therapy and doctor’s appointments to find the right dose of medication to help. But we didn’t give up. I am sure many do because it is such a long process and very hard to get help. If warriors don’t have an advocate or cheerleader to guide them through the process, their care just falls to the wayside.

I hope and pray that the media doesn’t paint the picture that veterans with PTSD are monsters. How can the military train them to fight and kill the enemy and expect them to be normal once they’ve hit American soil? It is impossible. War comes with consequences. We have to be ready to help and not chastise them for needing it.

“People tell me I saved hundreds and hundreds of people. But I have to tell you: it’s not the people you saved that you remember. It’s the ones you couldn’t save. Those are the ones you talk about. Those are the faces and situations that stay with you forever.” Chris Kyle, Rest in Peace 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Role Reversal

Bryan deployed only six months after we started dating. I imagine he was the most spoiled soldier at war because I sent him hundreds of letters and care packages. I took care of his every need and request. His second deployment required less care packages and letters but he still got everything he needed from me. Then, when he was blown up, I was in a full-blown caregiving role for years.

It has taken its toll on my mental, emotional and physical health.

In September, we were sitting in the hospital before my laparoscopy for endometriosis. I was calm and peaceful. I was ready to figure out what was going on and was hopeful that I would get pregnant soon after the procedure.

Bryan said he was really nervous about my surgery. Despite having three strong anti-nausea medications I was still very sick after surgery. He had to wait on me hand and foot. I didn’t like the role reversal but it was nice to see him step up to the plate and do it with ease.

We tried one round of oral medications after my laparoscopy and I didn’t get pregnant. We decided to step it up a notch and spend thousands on injectable medications. Bryan had to pop me with 12 injections over 12 days. It hurt but I was thankful that he was courageous enough to stick me, even though his shaky hands caused me to get stuck twice with the same needle. I hate needles and couldn’t do it myself. Once again it felt odd for him to care for my medical needs.

Unfortunately we didn’t get pregnant again. There was the possibility that all the medical interventions would result in five babies, due the large amount of eggs produced, but instead, we got zero.

I have decided to stop treatment. It was taking a toll on my emotional and mental well-being. I was stressed, depressed, throwing money away for something that wasn’t working and disheartened. Bryan had to pick up my crumbling pieces. Bryan had to wipe away my flowing tears and tell me that things were going to be OK. I needed him to care for me and he did it effortlessly.

I often times wonder why this is happening to us after all we have been through but it has given me more compassion and understanding for a whole new set of people. I’ve made friendships because of my infertility. I can understand loss and grieving more deeply. I can advocate and learn from those that can’t have children.

I am probably having another surgery by a specialist in Atlanta as soon as I can convince TRICARE that I need it. Unfortunately, the surgeon is out of network so I have to pay his fees. Infertility is robbing us financially, again. However, it will be worth it if I can get my quality of life back.

My end goal of this surgery isn’t to have children but to be healthy again. Bryan will have to take care of me and I will have to allow it. I learned the first time to let others care for me. It is hard for a caregiver to let others do things to help, but it’s necessary.

I do have to say that I am closer to my husband than I have ever been because of this struggle. I have realized which friends care and which don’t. I feel like a dark black cloud is no longer raining on my head since I stopped treatment and I am planning some really wonderful things for this year.

We will conquer and win over this challenge too.