Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ode to NMAs

As of Thursday, Seth was officially an outpatient. That means I am officially his non-medical assistant or NMA. While I don't think I ever took his nurses, LPNs, CNAs or housekeepers for granted, I am appreciating them even more. Even though Seth is getting very independent, he still requires care--everything from monitoring his medications to dressing wounds to making sure he can go up or down a hill in his wheelchair. People with wounds also require clean sheets--every day. So a big shout out to all the people who have been taking care of Seth so well for so long.

NMAs are mostly mothers and wives, but many girlfriends, sisters, brothers, fathers and friends fulfill the role as well. I am moved by their faithfulness to a job they never asked for. Many of these women are not only caring for their wounded warrior but for babies and young children--some pushing strollers and wheelchairs; some are pregnant (remember Seth's friend Griffin whose wife delivered their first baby two months after Griff's injury?). I've seen NMAs of all ages--from the 18-year-old sister/girlfriend/wife to the 60+-year-old  mom.

As I get to know some of them (it's difficult because our schedules rarely allow for more than a "hello" in passing), I am realizing how blessed--and simple--my life is. One mom had to fly home to be with her father before he didn't recognize her any more and before he moved to a nursing home; another had to go home to kick an errant ex out of her home. Others are leaving their other children at home--missing their child's first day of kindergarten or first high school prom, not to mention their spouse.  Others have given up jobs to be here; others have lost jobs (the FMLA does not apply to all employers). NMAs are given a per diem, so what could be a real financial burden for many is eased. I am so blessed that WSU has been so generous in supporting my being here. We are also blessed to have had the support of our family, so we don't have to worry about things at home, and we're grateful for those family members who have made it out here to be with us.

Being an NMA is difficult physically (I have already mentioned some of the difficulties negotiating a wheelchair) but  probably more so emotionally. The wounded warrior is a grown man who has often commanded others and carried out difficult missions who now is, at least for a time, completely dependent on someone else. These are guys who are used to taking charge and now are the charges of someone else. It is rough to negotiate this whole process, and I marvel at what I see around me.

Belated Thanks
Last month, the Foothill, Taylor Canyon and Malan's Peak wards of the LDS church gathered for Seth and Soldiers night. They put together 40 care packages for Seth's platoon who remains in Afghanistan, 80 school kits for children in Afghanistan (through Operation Education) and several quilts for the George E. Wahlen Veteran Nursing Home. Seth has recently received several thank-yous for the care packages from his platoon members through Facebook. We say thank you as well.


  1. Good luck to you both as you start this new phase.

  2. Hi Seth's Mom,

    Winnie Pritchett sent me several photos of your son to add to the iPads for Soldiers site's photo album for their recent visit on 911. All she told me about him was he was 18 years old. As I went to login, I did a quick search for iPads for Soldiers and noticed some inbound links, one of which was your Remembering post. Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the post to find the same young man whose name I did not know!

    Since we are focused mainly on raising funds to deliver more iPads to soldiers in military hospitals and overseas, we rarely know much about our recipients and their recovery, unless they write to us direct. It means so much to our committed team of volunteers and donors to be able to read about your son's recovery. We are so moved by your journal of his struggle and pray for you all on this challenging journey.

    While you indicated your surprise that your son was cool with sharing his story in such a public way, please know that it helps to inspire us and solidifies our resolve to do more. We would love to do a post on our site about your son and link to your blog. We also love your Remembering post and would like to quote it and use your photos of him. With concern for his privacy and yours, we would not do so without asking permission. Please let us know if he's 'cool' with it.

    I also wanted you to know that I think you are a wonderful writer - this blog has really impacted me in a deep and profound way. I am so touched by Seth's recovery, his sense of humor and your dedication as a Mom.

    Mary Griffin
    Site Admin, iPads for Soldiers

  3. Hi, Mary,

    Thank you for this note and for asking our permission. Seth and I would love to allow you to share our post/blog if it will help your cause.

    Let me say thank you as a mom. The "kids" who came through to deliver the iPads were so sweet and when we were told that they had done a lot to fund raise for the project as well, we were very moved. One of the women delivering the iPads--maybe Winnie?--also gave me a big hug and that meant a lot as well.

    Thank you for working for our soldiers. I feel a little bad because I've been meaning to go to your site to post a thank you--but haven't done it yet. So consider this our thanks.

    (BTW, Seth is 19; he will be 20 on November 7)

    Best to you,

    Seth's Mom

  4. I understand a small part of what you're going through. My husband has needed several surgeries a year for the last 10 years of our marriage. Some years he only needs "the usual" 4..but most years he needs at least 6. (He was perfectly healthy the first few years...I didn't "sign up" for this level of care...but then we don't get to choose.)

    It is a hard, draining thing, to take care of someone so completely. Especially an independent adult. The LOOOONG nights in the ICU, staying up to change pads or adjust wires/oxygen, feed, bathe, while also juggling the doctor's, meds, and's exhausting! Keep it up. I'm a "young" wife in my 30's...and if I can adjust to "the new normal" as we call it..then you can too! (Which you seem to be doing beautifully. Kudos to you and your family!)

    Oh how your sense of humor gets twisted and warps itself to laugh at the unlaughable. It reminds me of the 2008 LDS General Conference talk "Come What May, and Love It" by Joseph B. Wirthlin. That talk got me/us through a particularly horrific surgery. We laughed, (not in a mean way), even in the midst of blood, wound goo, and amazing amounts of "bowel barf." Some of our favorite family stories came out of those 6 months of recovery.

    I feel for you, your son, and your family...and I know what it's like. Our struggles are not the same as yours physically...but they are long term and have changed us in much the same ways. God bless and help you both.

    -Wife/Nurse of "Scarface/Tumor Boy/The Gimp"