Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Poignant Presidents Day

Seth in front of the Grumman F6F Hellcat
We spent Presidents Day with our cousin Rick at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia. It is an amazing place with hundreds of restored planes from the first Wright Brothers plane to the Enterprise Space Shuttle. While all the planes we saw were amazing for different reasons, my favorite plane was the Grumman F6F Hellcat because it is what my dad flew on and off aircraft carriers in WWII as part of the Navy Air Force. Although my dad never saw combat, he was still engaged in a risky endeavor. According to one source, the U.S. lost 20,633 planes in non-combat circumstances. 14,903 pilots were killed in training accidents within the continental U.S. I couldn't find the statistic for all non-combat pilot fatalities, but a total of 80,655 pilots and air crew were killed. It meant a lot to me to have this picture of Seth in front of his grandpa's plane.

That evening, we ate dinner at Kilroy's, a restaurant in Springfield, VA. It is as much a museum as a restaurant with hundreds of posters and other paraphernalia from WWII. Thankfully, they had more than Spam on the menu.

More good food awaited us. On the 23rd, Boeing Corp. hosted the 10th Mountain Division wounded warriors and families at Pogo de Chao (which means Rodizio Grill in Utahn). We ate until we were almost sick and enjoyed a very warm day here in D.C.

Seth in jeans with Jade
On Saturday evening, we had the distinct honor and pleasure of tending Jade, the daughter of friends Brandy and Tom whom we met back in Ward 57. Jade turned two a few days after arriving here in July, so she has spent almost a quarter of her life here as her dad recuperates.

Seth is now the proud owner of real clothes--jeans without velcro or snaps. We have joked about the Better Butt Foundation--he wishes it could provide him a better butt since most of his was blown off and his jeans just don't fit the same way.

On the way to PT
We were looking at his leg sans ex-fix, and Seth commented on how it really is ugly with the skin graft and scars and all. Yes, it probably is, but it will be a long time, I think, before I don't think it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

Speaking of beautiful things, we see so many every day that there's just no easy way to share, but I'm going to try just a few:

  • a wife hugging her husband for the first time when he's standing (hugs aren't the same from bed or a wheelchair)
  • a mom beaming as her son walks on his legs for the first time
  • a double amputee dad wheeling through the Warrior Cafe with his two sons, one on each knee
  • a double amputee getting his running legs and getting so excited he wants to run out the door and out of the hospital
I also see things every day that make me want to weep, but I'll save those for another entry.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

And He Took Up His [Prosthesis] and Walked . . .

Seth and OT Kaitlyn showing off their matching boots
The highlight this week was getting the ortho surgeon's approval to walk without the boot. The surgeon was a bit reluctant to give it. He wants Seth to be very careful because there have been instances of guys re-breaking their legs. In fact, Dr. Gordon said, "100 percent of my re-breaks amputated--their choice, not mine." This was a tad alarming, so I asked, "100 percent of how many?" To which he responded, "Three." Thank goodness for a very minimal understanding of statistics.

From the "things you would never think about" file, before Seth could walk with the boot, he had to have his prosthesis lengthened, so his legs would be the same length. When he was told he could walk without the boot, he had to have the prosthesis shortened again. Thankfully, we have a great prosthetist available to us five days a week.

Other highlights from the last two weeks:
  • Seth is now off his pain medication. He is only taking ibuprofen twice a day. When I see or hear about the struggles of other wounded warriors to manage their pain and/or to get off the narcotics, I am even more impressed at where Seth is with this.
  • Seth has been walking to almost all his appointments. Considering the size of the hospital and its campus, that's saying something. We've had to make more time to get places because a wheelchair is much faster than walking. I never thought there would be times we wished we had brought the wheelchair so we could make better time!
  • Seth is now training service dogs two mornings a week. They are currently training four dogs--three golden retrievers and a new black Labrador puppy.
  • Seth went shopping yesterday for real clothes--no more velcro pants!

Not a highlight, but a thing of note: Seth's physical therapist Greg is an endurance runner. He has done 100-mile races (including one in Utah!). On his Facebook this week, he posted, "Today I ran 40 miles--one mile for each limb that has been lost this year." This is pretty sobering considering it's only February.

NMA Notes
On Monday, February 13, the Red Cross sponsored a night out for the caregivers of wounded warriors.  Twenty-five wives and mothers of wounded warriors were treated to dinner at Le Pain Quotidien, a lovely restaurant and bakery, and then to haircuts at a salon next door. The restaurant features a community table, so half of the group sat around it and ate while the other half went to the salon. The food was divine (I am still dreaming of the chocolate mousse cake), and the conversation very therapeutic. The woman ranged in age from 20 to 60-something. For many, this was the first time they had left their charge at home alone. For some, it was the first time they had left their double-amputee husbands home with their children--and we're talking babies and toddlers here. We shared our troubles and our triumphs, our sacrifices and our rewards. I felt very humbled by the strength of these women and grateful. While I would never wish this trial on anyone, it is good to know I am not alone.

After we ate, we went to the salon for our haircuts. It was a very trendy salon, so I felt very old and very white, but my haircut was fabulous, and we all rode the bus home more beautiful and buoyant than before.

I am grateful to the Tiffany Circle of the Red Cross for organizing and hosting such a lovely evening.

Also this week, OperationTroopAid presented 75 wounded warrior families with kitchen sets from The Pampered Chef. We were lucky enough to get one and, let me just say, they did not skimp. I would estimate each set to be worth approximately $500. Because we have been here awhile already, we discovered didn't need much of what was there, so we will pass ours along to another wounded warrior family.

Birthday Surprise
It was my birthday this week, and perhaps the biggest surprise was Trentelman's column that was published that very day. He was surprised as well since he didn't know it was my birthday. It was very sweet. I will add that the regret at letting go is not just about being needed; it's about doing something meaningful. I think empty nest syndrome and/or the difficulty in letting kids go is not as much about loneliness or being needed as it is about knowing that nothing you do will ever be as meaningful as raising children.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Pins and Staples

Seth had his temporary cast removed on Thursday and was given a boot to wear. Our excitement about having the cast gone was tempered a bit when the surgeon warned that they see lots of re-breaks after as long as six weeks. He told us to be careful and not do anything crazy. He also said that most of the re-breaks occur in physical therapy--as if we needed another reason to avoid physical therapy!

I posted the pre-surgery photos last week, so here are the post-surgery photos.

Look, Ma, no pins!
No more scar and bald spot--just 14 staples.

Another highlight this week was attending a training class for service dogs. We got to work with three beautiful golden retrievers that will eventually go to other wounded warriors. The dogs and the trainers are amazing. The only downside was that it made Seth want his own dog even more! If Seth chooses, he can do a dog training internship. If he does the internship, he may get the chance to bring a dog home at night, something worth considering since we have pondered how to smuggle a dog into the apartment ever since we got here.

Wednesday, February 1, marked seven months since Seth was injured. I think I will try to think of it as Seth Survived Day or Seth is Alive Day, rather than the most awful day of our lives. We didn't acknowledge it. It remains to be seen what we will do when July 1 rolls around. I hope it will be a good day for all of us.

Mom's Thoughts
Without pin care to do, I am almost out of a job. There aren't many things that Seth can't do on his own now, and it means I have to reassess my role. One would think I would feel relief--and, of course, I do--but there is also a sense of let-down. We all like to be needed.