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.
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.