A big week for us. The best thing was a visit from Ethan and Jerrica, Seth's brother and sister-in-law. (We did not get a Christmas letter out this year for obvious reasons, but if we had, the big event in our lives was Ethan and Jerrica's wedding on June 22). They arrived on Friday afternoon, just in time to see the cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin at their peak. It was truly the best possible day to see them because it had rained every day previously, but that day, the weather was warm and the sky was blue. Back in Bethesda, we overheard a pedestrian refer to us and our Kia Rio as an "f-ing clown car" and so it was dubbed.
On Saturday, we drove in the clown car to Baltimore to the National Aquarium, which we enjoyed immensely, but it was a lot of walking for Seth. But he was glad he walked since we could tell the aquarium could not be easily enjoyed in a wheelchair. The kids are fans of the TV series The Wire, so we drove around Baltimore to see if we could find any Wire sights. In our traveling, we saw Johns Hopkins Hospital. I have complained about the size and labyrinthian quality of WRNMMC, but it is dwarfed by Johns Hopkins, which is positively immense.
Seth did not join us for our Sunday visit to the National Cathedral, but he and the Evans all enjoyed the fudge we purchased there.
Monday night, the kids went to a concert in downtown D.C.--The Joy Formidable. We dropped them off, reluctantly as it was a dicey area of town, and they, thankfully, made it home on the very last train of the night. The concert was definitely the highlight of Ethan and Jerrica's visit for Seth.
We said our final farewell to Greg on Tuesday, and he did a final round of PT with Seth, preparing him for his trip the next day. Also in preparation, Seth got his first carbon-fiber socket. For the first several months, amputees here wear plastic sockets that are more quickly and cheaply replaced while their limbs are changing shape and size. When their limbs have stabilized, then they are fitted with a carbon-fiber socket, which is lighter and more durable, and, it is hoped, will fit for several months rather than weeks.
Todd, our prosthestist, took Seth's plastic socket and put it on an extra leg he had so that Seth would have a leg to wear in the shower since he is not taking his wheelchair on his upcoming trips to Colorado and home. I was excited about this--giving up the wheelchair is a great thing, but it didn't occur to me that with an extra leg, if you're not wearing it, you're carrying it. We have been told that Seth will leave here with several legs i.e. a running leg, a rock-climbing leg, a swimming leg, etc. This sounded great until I had this realization about carrying extra legs. A leg is a lot to haul around, and for double and above-knee amputees, the load is considerable. It is truly thrilling what can be done for amputees these days, but I am constantly reminded of how, not matter how great our technology and know-how is, it can never be as good as the real thing. Even Seth's right leg, as damaged as it is, it still is better than the best prosthesis.
Challenge Aspen, where he plans to snowboard. It was just like sending him off to kindergarten the first day--we both knew it was the next step, but neither of us was particularly excited about taking it. As we waited in the lobby, I noticed that there was only one other single below-knee amputee; the rest were double and triple amputees. I'm sure these guys would prefer to be known by their names (Josh, Will, Murphy, Robby, Tyler) than their injuries, but I think it's important to emphasize the injuries these guys have to show what challenges they face every day.
Since Seth is now so independent (and now away in Colorado), I have been expanding my horizons a bit and attending some of the activities put on specifically for NMAs/caregivers such as lunches, dinner and movie nights, and horseback riding. Most of the women I have met are wives of wounded warriors. Many have children; many have had children while being caregivers. Some have full-time jobs because they have been here for more than a year. I have also met other moms, some who have been here over two years and some who have been here a year and have no end date in sight. I am amazed at the humor and endurance of these women and the mostly unspoken rule to take care of each other.
One example of an amazing mom is Julie Keys, who I met back in Ward 57 in July. She had already been here a year at that time. Here is an awesome update about her and her son Adam.