This is about our family's journey to a new norm after our son Chris was seriously injured in an IED explosion while deployed to Afghanistan. I chose the title "A Misfit's Mother's Journey" to honor some small way all the amazing young men in his squad, "Martin's Misfits". I owe a debt to these amazing men who worked together to save my son's and his buddy's lives and to the young man who sadly lost his life. This is a debt I can never repay. I hope you will find inspiration in our story and admiration of the young men who understand the consequences and are still willing to risk life and limb in the hope of protecting others.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Finally there will be no more wires, tubes, beeping and people coming in and out at all times. It'll be our own control over where we go and what we do. It is also a sign that Chris is really on the road to recovery and rehab. My worries lessen since it is such a positive step forward even though a whole new set of worries arise. The Marines aren't really well known for taking great care of their members and we have heard the horror stories from other wounded warriors. It is nerve racking not knowing what to expect next. How are they going to treat him and us? So far they have been great I really hope it stays that way. After what seems like the whole day a nurse walks in with a grocery bag of medications, to include the seven shots of Lovenox I will have to inject in his arm. Really?! I am so not the nurse type! I love taking care of people, but I never want to be in a position to hurt them. I had practiced a couple times while he was inpatient and, well, I didn't do so well at least according to Chris. Having to administer those shots definitely gave me a new appreciation for what nurses have to do. It was chaotic and crazy getting all the stuff loaded into the golf cart to take over to building 26. I looked around the small room as I was packing and wondered where did all this stuff come from. Hell, it's only been 3 weeks and one person! Reminds me of all the moves we made from state to state, country to country. When you live in a house day after day you never realize just how much you acquire until the day comes for you to move it. While Wayne works with the Duty NCO to get his stuff in the room Chris and I headed over separately. Walking in the sunlight and down the concrete sidewalk towards Bldg 26 another weight was taken off my shoulders. What a sight we were, him in his wheelchair rolling down the sidewalk while carefully balancing items on his lap and me walking behind carrying a couple bags and his huge shower chair through the throngs of people in the courtyard. Thankfully we run into Laura who came to visit us, but I don't think she planned to be a pack mule for us; being the sweet woman she is she had no problem helping us out. After filling out a bunch of paperwork I made it to the room. The door opened automatically and I am treated to the sight of a huge expanse of an entry way. However it was very plain and oddly shaped. To the left was a sink, some cabinets, a college size refrigerator, a microwave, a couple chairs and two card tables. Just wish there was a place to put a TV and a chair so Chris an I could watch TV together, but we will adapt and overcome. In front of me were two doors, one to Chris' room and one to mine. The rooms were decent sized with hospital beds that were hard as rocks and small TVs in each. The bathroom was to the left and was expansive as well with a roll-in shower for Chris. I was glad to see how well the room was set up. Then it hit me...we needed food, towels, plates, silverware, etc. and we had no car to get that stuff. Laura was so sweet and offered up her, her van and her time to drive us where we needed to go. Colleen ended up surprising us with a dorm warming visit and we surprised her by pulling her into our shopping trip. The big NEX is amazing, split into two buildings with a food court to die for with a Panda Express, Five Guys and an IHOP, just to name a few. It was getting late and I felt so overwhelmed. I felt guilty for taking up Laura and Colleen's time, rushed to get all we need in a short time because of the boys lack of shopping patience and feeling like so many people seem to want something from me. Right in the middle of it all I was asked to handle a situation. Boy did I handle it badly and I ended up hurting someone who meant a lot to me, Chris and our family. I hope one day that person will understand despite how badly I messed things up, my heart really was in the right place and I never meant to hurt them. By the end of the day I was so drained. A day that started out with such promise and joy ended with joy tainted by stress, regret and sadness. I was happy to see the day come to an end and my bed (even as hard as it was) welcomed me with open arms and new sheets. Thankfully tomorrow is a new day with new promises and opportunities.
My boy made my day! As a parent you hope you live your life in a way that inspires your children to be strong as they grow and come across their own obstacles in their lives. It's not that you expect acknowledgement or a thank you, because that is what a parent is supposed to do. But when you hear it or see it, it makes your heart burst with pride and relief to know that you did have some part in making sure the children you love so much have the right tools in their toolbox at the time it is needed the most. ♥
As I sit here looking at my son, I don't know how to express just what I feel. Wow just how far he has come. I watch him move around with ease despite the pain. No wires, no casts, just a completely different person than when we first saw him 15 days ago. I love to watch him chase the pigeons around (he may not be able to kick them but he will sure as hell try to run them over LOL) as if nothing had change, cause it hasn't. Seeing the joy from having a friend from home visit in his eyes. He is so incredible and tough. I have no doubt that he will meet his goal of being on his legs by Oct. I'll say it again....I love that boy so! ♥
Wow what a insane last three weeks! Actually it's hard to believe it's been 3 weeks, all the days have sort of run together. I'm just thankful it is beginning to become our new normal. Wish the pains would get under control faster but everything in its own time to make sure it is safe for him. At least it is headed in the right direction. Spirits are still good and he amazes me very day by not letting all the get him down. It was encouraging to hear a couple doctors & nurses with experience with wounded warriors tell him he is way ahead of the norm. I knew his stubbornness would come handy. I love that young man so!! ♥
The warmth of the sun feels so good, but so does the occasional cool breeze. It helps me focus on watching out for the rocks underneath me as I run. Meanwhile my brain is screaming at me "Why didn't you wait until evening when it's cooler?" and my lungs are yelling "We told you you should have ran this weekend!" I tell both to shut up and enjoy this quiet time and all the heavenly smells coming off the plants as they warm in the sun. It's nice not having to think about all the doctors and just be able to think about my boy, Brad, Nathan and all their friends. About their bravery and dedication and their love for this country but more importantly each other. It pushes me to run my 1st 3 miles in over a year. I look at the hospital sitting on top of the hill, cold and hard but knowing that inside are people full of love and warmth for their fellow warrior and his well being. It becomes a beacon of hope, a pillar of strength and a welcoming home. Pulling me back to my boys, Chris and Brad, and all the sadness of the occasional setbacks and all the joy that comes along with watching them grow and improve. I revel in the appreciation of knowing just what it means to be able to be here to be apart of it. Always be thankful for all miracles, of every size! ♥
Today was full of emotions. Good start to the day while we were waiting for hopefully the last surgery. Anxious while waiting. Helplessness as I watch him in go thru serious pain. They did close him up and he has casts on his legs to help control the swelling.
Yesterday while Chris was in surgery for the first time this all happened. It felt good and very theraputic. There is a beautiful dirt path right across from the base, which is also hilly so I have a challange to beat by the time I leave! In roughly 12 hrs I am proud to say I turn 45 and the great thing about tomorrow I will be spending it with my handsome son. I ask in honor of my birthday, my son, his friends and those that are not with us anymore, hug, kiss (or call if they aren't close by) and tell everyone you love that you love them and are so glad they are in your life. Start a tradition where no one
leaves the house without hugging those there and telling them that you love them. Life has a way of changing your life in a blink of an eye and you should never have any regrets.I truly love each and every single one of you and know that you all have brought such blessings into mine and my families lives!! ♥
Last evening sitting in this chair watching him struggle thru the pain as they figure out the right combination of pain meds. I haven't felt this helpless since he was a baby. Back then I could scoop him up and hold him tight, now all I can do is hold his hand and make sure the doctors give him what he needs. His strength is amazing, even thru this tough time. Tho I will say I agree with him on one thing, childbirth has nothing on getting your legs blown off. The feeling of watching the medication finally kick in and letting him drift off to sleep is indescribable. As peace finally washes over his face I am reminded of when he was a baby and how angelic he still is and my heart bursts with love and pride. Lord, continue to watch over Chris, Brad, Nathan and all their friends and families. Give them all the strength they need.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The next two weeks were spent trying to figure out the right combination of pain meds to relieve his immediate pain and the elusive phantom pains. I felt so helpless watching him struggle through and it killed me that the most I could do for him was to get the nurses or doctors. He was so brave at times and suffer through the pain until he just couldn't take it anymore. He didn't like the drugs and how they made him feel. He didn't want to be on the high dosages but the pain was so unbearable at times. He tried to explain to me just how the phantom pains felt; it felt like his foot was being twisted and mangled or a thousand tiny pins pricking his foot or his big toe was caught on top of the toe next to it. How does the brain do that? We heard amputees who lost consciousness did not seem to have much phantom pains, while amputees were were awake seem to have them more. It will always amaze me how complex the brain is and how little we know about how it works. The nurses and doctors were great and worked really hard to find solutions. Thankfully the times I wanted to punch a nurse were very few. When those incidents happened I would tell the commander those nurses were not allowed back in his room and they did not come back. One doctor tried to pull rank on Chris when he was in some serious pain and couldn't explain exactly where his pain was. The doctor told Chris to remember he was talking to an officer to which Chris responded "Well, I just had my fucking legs blown off!" It did shut the doctor up quite a bit; I was so proud of him. Then I talked to the doctor outside the room; he was a bit pompous at first but later he did come back into the room to apologize for not being as sensitive to Chris' situation as he should have been. Hopefully it taught the doctor about the importance of a good bedside manner. Overall the staff was amazing and became nothing less than family. One of the many sliver linings we found was the kindness of strangers and the creations of new friendships. I met a wonderful lady whose son had been injured when a fire extinguisher exploded, the family members of other amputees and wounded warriors, other amputees and wounded warriors themselves and the wonderful volunteers who were so giving of their time to ensure our warriors and their families did not forget they were loved and cared for during this difficult time. I think the person who touched my heart the most was the gentleman I met at the Fisher House whose father-in-law was dying from cancer. His voice was so soothing; I always found our conversations comforting, uplifting and reassuring. James, thank you so much for being there just to listen to me. Just one more blessing from this very unfortunate situation; new people to share in our experience and us in theirs. Sometimes helping others through their tough times and helps you maintain the right focus on yours. Throughout the two weeks despite the pain, Chris kept his humor and his drive to be independent and get out of the hospital ASAP. He amazed me every day; it is so true that laughter is the best medicine. What impressed me even more was his kindness towards others despite all he was going through. I've always known what a great kid I had, but it was nice to hear others say they would do anything for Chris because of how well he had treated them and others. During those two weeks there were many times I wanted to cry (and sometimes did), times I laughed my head off and times I was worried beyond belief, but the one time I will always remember was the day I met Cpl Baune's wife. One afternoon we were sitting in his room after a whirlwind of doctors and visitors had come through. There was a gentle knock at the door, it opened slowly and a man's head peered around the door. He said there was a young lady outside who wanted to see Chris. Wayne and my hearts stopped, all we could think was...please don't let it be the ex, it's the last thing he needs to deal with. I got up, opened the door wider and peered out. Standing in front of me was a beautiful and demur blonde who I could see was nervous and unsure. The Gunny introduced himself and then introduced Cpl Baune's wife. My heart skipped a beat; it was so confused as what to feel, happiness it wasn't who we first thought it was but broken because I could only imagine what this beautiful woman was going through. I told her to come in; she shyly entered and said Hi to Chris. For what seemed like minutes they stared at each other wanting to say so much, but not knowing what to say or where to start. I cleared the room so they could have some privacy and we waited in the hall until they were finished. She had brought some care packages for both Chris and Brad and made it her priority to see them as soon as she had arrived back in San Diego. Her strength at such a young age astonished me and her caring about Chris touched my soul. Here is a young woman going through the worst time of her life and yet she was still thinking of others. As part of the memorial service for her husband she asked for care package donations to be made in her husband's name so they could send them to the rest of 1/7 still in Afghanistan. I know nothing will ever make the pain of losing the love of your life go away, but I prayed (and still do) that she finds some solace in the importance of the care she was providing to others. I talked to her a little bit that night and she came back a couple more times during those two weeks. I loved the times when Chris' antics and jokes brought her laughter out. It was good to see her smile even though I could still see the loss, sadness and confusion in her eyes. It was everything I could do to keep myself from hugging her tight and not letting go. What a beautiful, strong and caring young lady, who it is my privilege to know. Getting Chris released from the hospital took longer than we wanted but finally we found the right combination. Chris eventually moved from IV meds to oral meds; once that happened he was freed from the hospital. Funny enough I felt a twinge of sadness as we left the hospital. While some sad and painful things had happened there, so many good and happy memories were created. We met some really fun and caring people and I hated leaving them behind. Knowing it wouldn't be the last time we saw them and it was finally time to move forward, we were ready to take that first step/roll out the door. It was time to venture into the next stage of his progress and trust me we were more than ready!