Tuesday, November 29, 2011

At the Mall

This evening we decided to go to the Montgomery Mall for dinner and maybe some shopping. The mall reminded me very much of the old Ogden Mall--just much, much bigger and very, very busy. (It brought back good memories and made me sad that the Ogden Mall is gone--but that is an entry for another blog.) After we ate, Seth wasn't up for shopping so we headed to the car. As we exited the mall, he said, "People care about the wrong things."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Other 1 Percent

Time magazine recently featured a fascinating article on the increasing disconnect and distance between the military (and therefore, the wars we are fighting) and the rest of the U.S. population. I'm including the link, but you may have to be a subscriber to read the whole thing: The Other 1%

If it doesn't work, the article is in the November 21, 2011 issue of Time.

The author Mark Thompson has also written on the topic in his blog, which is wholly accessible: An Army Apart

Friday, November 25, 2011

Steppin' Up

This is not hugely significant, but I just love this video of Seth and his substitute physical therapist Kyla doing step-ups together. Kyla's jazz hands just made it all the better.

Annals of Amputee Odds and Ends

  • Seth passed another amputee coming out of a clinic as we were entering the other day. The amputee looked at Seth and said, "Ooh, gross! That guy's missing a leg!"
  • Seth's grandpa Pack is an amputee and, we learned not long ago, so was Seth's great-great uncle. This caused us to speculate if his condition is genetic. Seth remarked, "When I have my first child, if it has two legs, I'm going to have some questions for my wife."
  • When I was home, Bob and I went out with good friends Jim and Cindee. Jim's dad, now in his 70s, became an amputee in his teens. When Jim was a child, he wondered when his leg would fall off or if someone would come to take it off.
  • Other friends told us of waterskiing with a friend who is an amputee. When he wiped out, his prosthesis went flying--much to the horror of unsuspecting folks on the beach and much to the amusement of our friends and their companions.

Giving Thanks

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day at my cousin Rick's home with his wife, Anne, my uncle Parley, Chang, Thung and Bob. Thank you, Rick and Anne, for your hospitality. It was a beautiful fall day. We could not have asked for a better one.

I fully intended to come home and write an entry listing all the things I am thankful for, but as I pondered my list, it was so long, I became overwhelmed at the thought of trying to get it all down. When I said good night to Seth, I asked him if there was anything he would like to post. He said, "Yeah, I've been thinking about it all day, and the list just goes on and on and on."

So in a classic cop-out, we will say there are too many things we are thankful for to begin listing them, but perhaps I will say, all but a few come from the hands of good people--known and unknown to us. Thank you all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cool Beans

Instead of physical therapy, today Seth visited the gait lab for two hours of assessment and testing. The purpose of the testing is to give physical therapists and prosthetists more information to do their jobs better and help amputees see what they can do differently to improve their gait. This becomes even more important when they begin to do more complex activities such as skiing, running, etc.

The researchers put markers over Seth in key points so that dozens of cameras would pick up the markers as he walked. Then the cameras feed that information into a computer which creates a digital image of Seth for analysis. (In this photo, notice his tummy scar. Hard to believe it was once three- to four-inches wide! I also realized his belly button is now off-center.)
The computer-generated Seth

The day held more bright spots: Seth hit 140 pounds (w/the help of the prosthesis and TSF), it was Ethan's 25th birthday, the Freedom Alliance presented us a check for a generous amount of money to help with expenses incurred while Seth is recovering, and Bob arrived to spend Thanksgiving with us! We have much to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One Day

So I miss one day of PT and what happens? In addition to pulling Greg around the track and doing three sets on the leg press with all the springs on, Seth did 14 flights of stairs! And, if that wasn't enough, he jumped--got both feet off the ground. (This might not sound like a big deal, but consider jumping without toes and calf muscles in one leg.) I'm so sorry I missed it, but I am so glad he felt up to all of that.
Pulling Greg around the track (OK, so this was last week . . .)

He also got his fourth socket for his prosthesis. He was very excited because he said, "It fits like a glove."

He didn't forget about me, either. He brought me hot soup and a smoothie all the way from the cafeteria in the hospital. What a guy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Role Reversal

So in our strange world, Seth has gone to the hospital this morning because he is not sick, and I am staying home because I am sick. I got sick on Saturday and spent most of the day in bed. Seth knew it was serious when I didn't bug him to get out and do something, and especially when I didn't go to the Italian Embassy for the third annual Wounded Warriors tribute concert that evening.

He got himself up and ready, made me tomato soup and toast, and cleaned up the kitchen. He offered to bring me water, broth, ginger ale; in short, he was a very good nurse.

The highlight of the weekend was a visit to Sally and Bill's Sunday evening for dinner, some recreational therapy with their puppy Ginny and just overall good times and goofiness.

Zoe and Seth have fun with aluminum foil.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Poopy Day

Our much-anticipated visit to orthopedics on Tuesday was discouraging. We were hoping that they would tell us the Taylor-spatial frame was ready to come off, but it was not to be. They saw nothing wrong and said that healing is progressing as they hope, but it just has not progressed far enough. If we have a miracle, he'll get it off before Christmas, but it is more likely that he'll get if off after Christmas. Seth was really hoping to be able to wear normal long pants when we come home at Christmas.

Seth also met with the urologist and a physical therapist who specializes in urological issues. No bad news, but no good news either. They will begin some therapy in January to help bring things back online.

For some reason, his tailbone pain is increasing rather than decreasing. One doctor hypothesized this was nerves regenerating, but the ortho doctors disagreed. However, they didn't provide another explanation. Seth's X-ray showed his pelvis has thrown down some extra bone--heterotopic ossification or, as it is referred to here, HO--but that didn't appear to be in the area where the pain is originating.

HO is defined as excees bone growth in soft tissues that frequently occurs in the residula limbs of combat amputees. It's almost like the body is trying to regrow the missing bone. Depending on how the HO grows, it can cause a great deal of pain or cause a previously fitting prosthesis to no longer fit comfortably. So far, Seth has not had to deal with this in his leg, for which we are very grateful, but it's too soon to say whether he won't develop HO issues. (More information on HO here).
The best news of the week is that Seth got his new custom wheelchair. It is sleeker, smaller, faster and lighter, so now I can hardly keep up with him!

Free Food Fiasco
Over the weekend, many restaurants had deals for Veterans Day. We were particularly excited about Golden Corral's offer, mostly because of the chocolate fountains they have been advertising recently. The offer was good on Monday evening from 5 to 9 p.m. So we headed out with Chang and Thung. It was a 20-mile drive to the nearest GC, but again, we figured chocolate fountains were worth it. When we arrived, there was a line, five people across, completely encircling the building. Even we have our limits when it comes to free food, so we headed across the street to Kobe Japanese Steakhouse where we had a delicious dinner around the hibachi grill--and I caught the shrimp.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Things and Stuff

Yesterday Seth experienced what a couple of amputees have told him about--when you fall, you put out the leg that's not there to catch yourself. We were going to the NEX Shoppette on base, and Seth decided to do some "off-roading" down a hill. His wheelchair caught on a root, sent him tumbling and, sure enough, he put out the leg that isn't there to catch himself. Thankfully, he is no worse for wear, but he said it is a weird sensation.

Seth reminded me of a cute story from our visit with President Obama. A black family--mom, dad and 4- or 5-year-old son--stood next to us as we waited to shake the President's hand. When President Obama approached the family, the mom said about her son, "Oh, you've got to shake his hand. He goes around the house all the time saying, 'I'm Pres. Obama! I'm the President! I'm going to be the next Barack Obama!'" The little boy got all embarrassed and turned to his mom and shouted, "I do not! I do not do that!" President Obama told the boy it was OK either way--and the rest of us had a good chuckle.

Seth's beautiful butt is getting even more beautiful--the last wound has finally closed over and healed.

Stories Untold Until Now
There are a couple of stories I just haven't been able to find a way to write about, but I thought it was time to try.

When Seth was in Kandahar, my sister called the LDS Church offices to  see if there was someone in Kandahar who could give Seth a blessing. Their Military Relations office got in touch with the branch president there. Branch President White and Brother Pearson went to the hospital several times on Saturday and again on Sunday to find Seth and give him a blessing. At first they were not allowed near him because he was just out of surgery. On a later visit, they were able to place their hands on his head and give him a blessing.  Seth remembers nothing about that week while he was sedated--except for receiving this blessing.

In the ICU, just a few days into all of this, a nurse came in and with some urgency in his voice said, "Does anybody here have power of attorney?" I said, "Yes, why?" He said, "The vascular surgeons need to talk to you." What could the vascular surgeons want so urgently but permission to amputate Seth's right leg? It was the closest I came to fainting through this whole ordeal. The nurse disappeared, and I didn't hear another thing about it. Later, when I asked what that had been about, I learned that the doctors just wanted permission to do an angiogram. There was a lot of concern about Seth's right leg from the vascular team that first week, but after that, we never saw them again.

When Seth was first coming out of sedation, he had lots of really horrible and scary hallucinations. At one point, he begged me to get him "out of here" because he thought the doctors were trying to kill him. I was impressed by how quickly he learned to trust us--he would say, "I'm seeing such and such. Is that real?" or "I thought this happened? Did it?" and we told him what was real and what wasn't. During a quiet moment, he said to me, "Is that Jesus?" I asked him where and he pointed to the corner of the room. I said, "I sure hope so." Later, when I asked him if he remembered this, he said, "No, but I'm glad I had one good hallucination among all the other garbage I was seeing."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day Surprises

Last night when Seth and I returned from dinner and errands, our building was swarming with black SUVs, police cars and Secret Service men. When we asked the people at the front desk what was going on, we learned that Vice President and Jill Biden were on the premises. Turns out they had brought a White House chef to cook dinner for the guys who are here without their families. What a great thing to do.

Today Seth got to miss appointments to go on a tour of the White House. We got on the buses around 10 a.m. and, after picking up some inpatients, we rode with a police escort to the White House. Pretty slick.

At the White House, we had a pretty typical tour, except that we got to see the President's dog Bo. The White House was also closed to other visitors, so our tour was fairly intimate.

At the end of the tour, we gathered for a group photograph. We were not allowed to bring our own cameras, so we were happy to at least have this opportunity for a memento. After the photos, we were told to remain in our places because a "bigwig" might be visiting. The photographer said, "When the person comes, he will stand there for a photograph."

So, about ten minutes later, "the person" arrived--President Obama joined us in the group photo and then shook everyone's hands and greeted us each individually. He was warm and gracious, and, I have to confess, I got a little teary. He is taller and thinner than I expected, and he has gotten so gray. Seth and I felt very honored to get to meet him. It was a special lead up to Veterans Day tomorrow.

Our only disappointment was that the President didn't give the guys coins, but we did get a box of special White House M&Ms.

We had the police escort on the way home as well. As the mom next to me said, "I could get used to this."

When we receive the photo, I will post it. Until then, you'll just have to take my word that we met the President.

Happy Veterans Day

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Capitol Time

 Seth's week with Ethan was a good one. The highlight was a private tour of the U.S. Capitol given by a friend of the Wounded Warriors whom we only know as Bert. They got to meet several members of the House of Representatives, including our own Representative Rob Bishop.

They were shown the private office of the Sergeant at Arms, in addition to several other places normally off limits to the public. Of the 60 photos they took, here are the best.
In the Press Room--once again, Seth speaks truth to power.

Other highlights of Ethan's visit:
  • lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings--two gentleman invited Seth and Ethan to their table, bought their lunch and shared the afternoon watching football.
  • grilled peanut butter sandwiches
  • uninterrupted watching of The Wire
  • Seth turned 20!
Thanks, Ethan!

My Time Home
The highlights of my time at home are too many to mention, but I want to thank those who made my welcome home so much fun. I was greeted by a lovely decorated house and 20+ friends who waited to surprise me. And thanks to Bob for arranging it all. It was just so nice to be in my house with my husband, my other son, and my dogs.

So When Does This Ever Happen?
My flight back to D.C. was scheduled for 8:30 Tuesday morning, with a two-hour layover in Atlanta arriving in D.C. at 6:00 p.m. We planned to get up a 6:00. At 5:30 a.m., the phone rang. It was Delta saying my flight was changed to 9:45 a.m. Another hour of sleep! Upon arrival at the gate, I was told I had been moved to a non-stop flight at 10:00, arriving in D.C. at 4:00 p.m. In addition to a non-stop flight and an earlier arrival, my new seat was by the window. Could it get better than this? Yes, no one sat next to me. And, to top it all off, my lunch was free because it was missing a slice of cheese!

On my flight in, I had a beautiful view of the area, which is just gorgeous this time of year. The first landmark I recognized was the hospital. I could even see our apartment window. Behind the hospital, the LDS temple glistened. I wondered if I could see the old Walter Reed and, sure enough, there it was. The three buildings made an intriguing triangle.

And I think Seth was glad to see me two hours earlier than expected.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gettin' Spelled

Ethan arrived today. Hooray! He is going to be Seth's NMA while I come home to Utah for a very short breather.

After we went to a nice dinner in Bethesda, Ethan learned the fine points of pin care, wound care, ostomy and catheter care, medication monitoring and laundry. Oh, and the finer points of using Seth's iPad.

I have also charged him with taking some photos while he's here for the blog. Maybe he'll even write the blog.

Utah, here I come!

There's Something About Marys
Since we have been here we seem to have met an inordinate number of Marys:
Bryan's mom: Mary Jane
Tom's mom: Mary Ann
Tom's mother-in-law: Mary Ann
Ian's wife: Mary Beth
Michael's mom: Mary
Our tablemate at dinner last week: Mary Veronica
Someone who I can't remember's sister: Mary Elizabeth
Justin's mother-in-law: Maria Louisa (that's Mary in Spanish . . .)
Bob's new colleague: Mary Beth (OK, so we didn't meet her out here--but still!)