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.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The next two weeks as an inpatient
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!