Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mother Hen: To Be or Not To Be

Sometimes it's hard to not be mother hen, especially when I know that a particular act will cause my husband's pain to increase later. Yesterday was my stepson's Christmas party at school. The middle school is large, so they have the classes broken down into teams. There are four classrooms to each team. I am the "Team Mom" for my stepson's team, which means that I organize all the parties, act as the liason between the teachers and PTO, and contact other parents for anything that might need to be done. I had planned to organize their Christmas party, but when Tim was in the hospital I got so far behind on everything. So the teachers planned the party, and I organized a few parents together to help setup and serve food and drinks (in addition to supplying everything needed for the games, paper products for food, etc., for 120 kids). Because we were last minute on it, I called one of the mom's who I always know I can count on to get nacho cheese and chips. Tim and I arrived first, and we carried in our supplies that we brought. I always make certain to grab the heavy items before Tim can. We came in the back door, so once we got our supplies to the classrooms we had to go back up to the front office to sign in. The mom who brought the nachos was there, and she asked us to help her carry stuff in. When we got to her car she tried to have Tim carry the heavy items. She knows his conditions, but I know it's easy to forget when it's a day that he isn't having to use a cane. Because he was raised to always carry heavy items for women, he feels too bad to say no. So I jumped in quickly and grabbed the heavier item. After the party was over she asked him to carry some heavy stuff out to her car for her. I tried to jump in, but I didn't want to embarrass him. I restrained myself, but I knew what all this activity was going to mean. Unfortunately I was right. When we got home he went straight to the couch. He did not get up until late in the evening.

It's a hard position because I don't often know what to do. I want to help him and protect him so he doesn't have to deal with so much pain, but at the same time I want him to be able to feel like a man. Is it worth the physical pain that he will endure later just to protect his emotional health? He gets down emotionally once we get home and he is in so much pain that he cannot move, but at least around other people he was able to feel "normal."

On to the baby update: We had our first appointment with a fertility specialist on Monday. This was our 3rd month of Clomid that was prescribed by my ob/gyn. The fertility specialist wants us to go through a series of tests at the beginning of our next cycle. He encouraged me to take a month off of Clomid until he figures out more. He did an ultrasound to check my uterus and ovaries, and I only had a small cyst on my left ovary. Other than that everything looked perfect. So now we just wait until January to go through more tests. It makes me feel good to have so many things in the works.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Exciting, but Exhausting, Time of Year

Whew! What an exhausting past two days! This time of year gets so hectic, and this week has definitely been no exception to the rule. Tim and I drove up to northeast Arkansas yesterday morning so I could help my mom cater their company's Christmas party. He was having a rough pain day, so I was glad he at least felt like going with me. I don't think I could have left him to go up there otherwise. He rested when we got there, while my mom and I worked to prepare everything for the party. Tim got dressed and came down for the party, but I could see that look of pain on his face through most of it. Toward the end of the night everyone gathered in the living room for prizes to be awarded for some games that we had. While we were standing there he started looking around in quiet distress. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "I can't do this anymore. I have to sit down." I could tell he was pushing through a lot of pain, so I tried to help him find somewhere to sit. He sat for awhile, then he made it upstairs to lie down and rest.

We had planned to spend the night, but I found out on the way up there that I had a meeting at 8:30am the next morning in our town (2.5 hours away) that I couldn't miss. I am the chair of the fundraising committee for the PTO at my stepson's school, and all of the officers were suppose to meet with a fundraising salesman. Apparently this was the only time he could meet. The way Tim felt made me feel bad for him to have to ride in the vehicle all the way back down, but I didn't have much choice. A few minutes before 11pm we left to drive home. He started feeling so much pain on the way home that he was almost in tears, which is very out of character for him. We got to our house at 1:15am. He laid down to rest, but neither of us were able to get to sleep until 2:30 to 3am.

I got up this morning and went to my meeting. He made it to the couch before I left, and he stayed there sleeping until I got home. The rest of his day was spent on the couch. My hope, though, is that resting today will help him feel better tomorrow.

He's been very positive mentally, though. That is huge! Imagine what it's like when you are very sick or have a terrible headache. I can relate it to migraines, as I get them often. Think of how you just get frustrated after being down for awhile because you don't want to be stuck on the couch or bed. That is what he deals with most days, so frustration is inevitable. But his attitude has been tremendous lately. I don't know how he's doing it, but he amazes me. I just pray that someday we can find him enough relief so he can live a more normal life. Until then, though, we'll just keep pushing to find a fix while still doing everything we can think of to keep his life as active as possible.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

True Forgiveness

This morning a person who I was friends with years ago showed up in my "People You May Know" on facebook. This is a person who did me wrong in a way that still haunts me every day. A few years ago I had a talk with this person. They apologized to me for everything, and I told them that I had forgiven them long ago. My exact words were "the past is the past." And I thought I had. I knew I hadn't forgotten, and I never will. But I believed that I had forgiven them in my heart. I wanted them to have a good life, but there was still something inside me that wasn't right.

Today was different. When I clicked on their page on facebook I saw a picture of them with their family. As I read the comments I realized how happy they seemed to be. It actually warmed my heart. I felt so happy to know that this person is truly happy and living a good life. I tried to figure out what had changed to make me so truly glad to see them having a good life. Then I realized something about true forgiveness that I had never thought about before now. I am truly happy within myself. I could "forgive" them, but it wasn't complete. There were still some ill feelings toward them that I couldn't control. But finding true happiness for myself has allowed me to truly be happy for them.

It made me think about life in general. I've always been taught that the number one rule in emergency work is that you must take care of yourself so you can take care of others. For example, if a rescue worker races onto a dangerous scene without regard for himself because he is so determined to help the victims, then he steps on a downed powerline that's hot and gets electricuted, he is causing more harm than good. It then takes more rescuers to save him AND the other victims. Likewise, we must take care of ourselves so we can be the best we can be for others. Finding true happiness within your own life will allow you to be truly supportive and loving to others.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hospital Transformations

The past two weeks were crazy busy for me as Tim was in the VA hospital in North Little Rock. We cannot sing the praises of this new doctor enough. He is incredible! They did inpatient physical and occupational therapy with him, but we also got many more things accomplished. They got him many aids that will help him function better. The hope is that if he stops trying to compensate for his lack of ability from his injuries by walking, sitting, and even stepping in and out of the shower with poor form, then it may decrease his pain level. They fitted him for braces for each lower leg/foot, and he can actually roll his feet as he walks with them. That decreases the extent of his limp. They ordered him a cushion that fits him well to use behind his back while sitting, and they got him another one to sit on. They got us a shower bench to help him get in and out of the shower with more ease, and to sit on rather than stand in the shower when he can't. Hopefully this will give him more independence to bathe himself on days that he otherwise couldn't. They got a toilet seat to help him get up and down from the toilet on days when he would otherwise need assistance. They got him a piece of equipment that looks like a giant fish hook with balls on the ends that he can use to work out the knots deep in his muscle tissue so I can rest my hands sometimes. They temporarily loaned him a Body Blade to use for core work. And they taught him exercises and games that he can do to work his core and extremities without overdoing it. They also convinced him to let me work with him on some exercises such as pilates, yoga, and tai chi. They have helped us get started on the beginning processes of getting him into adaptive sports. They got us connected with information on recumbent trikes and hand crank trikes. We hope to get him into Soldier Ride events before long. And they worked with him on memory skills, which brings me to another point. He has finally (5 1/2 years after the crash) been diagnosed with mild to moderate Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I will never know why they did not evaluate him for TBI in the beginning. It took me pushing for it to get it done. We have known that something wasn't right, but he attributed much of it to his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and medications. As he switched medications, it remained. As we went through PTSD counseling, many problems got fixed or at least came to light to get worked on, but many remained. His memory is not there. There are daily occurances that show the memory failure. Concentration, focus, and comprehension are not good. These are why he had to quit school. He is unable to plan, control impulses in many situations, handle many social situations, and control certain emotions. This is all consistent with frontal lobe injury to the brain. PTSD just exacerbates the problem. Frustration occurs regularly because of his new lack of ability. He got out of hand with blaming others for EVERYTHING that goes wrong or isn't exactly the way he thinks it should be.

The good news on all of this.... discovering the problem and accepting it is vital to improvement, and that is what is happening. He finally understands that there is a reason that all of this has changed for him. He is gradually getting better on the "blaming others" problem. Although he still initially blames others, if it involves someone he loves he will now follow the blame with "or maybe it's just me." That is HUGE!!!! I cannot tell you how big a deal that is. That little bit alone has decreased my stress level tremendously. He still thinks that strangers are always doing him wrong, but he is learning that family is not out to get him. His family heard horrible things about me for so long that weren't true, and I heard horrible things about them that I have learned are not true. It was just his perception of everything. The other day he made a comment about some people who really mean alot to him. He was saying how much they have changed for the worst in the past 5-6 years. He said that all of them have lost their minds. I can now recognize this as a PTSD symptom, so I gently challenged it. I asked him what also corresponds with that time period that might affect the situation. He said his crash. So I followed by saying, "Are you sure that they have all lost their minds, or do you just perceive things differently now than you used to?" He thought for a minute and then responded, "You know, you're right. I don't think they have changed much at all. I think it's just that a different set of things bother me now than they used to. They always did these things, but I didn't really notice them because they didn't bother me back then." GIGANTIC STEP!!!! I breathed the biggest sigh of relief after that because I knew this was a breakthrough. He was finally seeing that it's not necessarily always everybody else's fault.

We still struggle with his son's mother trying to control everything, but Tim has gotten to where nothing she says or does bothers him. It's amazing what she can do now to try to make him mad, and he laughs and says, "That's hilarious. She really thinks I'm going to believe that." Then he'll respond back to her with a text of "Ok" to let her continue thinking she is one-upping him. He used to get furious over those things, and now he just laughs. In the past, the more she did like that the madder he got. Now the more she does like that, the more embarrassed he is that he ever had any kind of relationship with her because his brain is clear enough to see what she is really doing. A huge thing happened the other day that proved his improvements to me. The reason he and his son's mother divorced was because she found someone else while he was in Iraq. He found out about it two months before coming home, so when he got home he caught her. They divorced. The guy she was seeing was married at the time, and a couple of years later he and his wife divorced. Now the two of them are married and have a new baby together. That was a sore subject for Tim for a long time. Obviously if you are overseas fighting for your country and find out that your support system back home is betraying you, it's not something that you get over quickly. Now, though, he mentions regularly how thankful he is that things happened that way. He's a Christian, and he would not have divorced her for anything other than a biblical reason. She gave him that reason... that out. He didn't realize at the time that it was best for him, but now he is extremely grateful that it happened. The other day while doing laundry we found some Razorback scrub pants in a size large. I asked him where he got them, and he said he had no clue. They have just been in his closet for a long time, and he decided to wear them the other day when he was doing some stuff around the house. I asked if he thought they had been in his closet since his divorce seven years ago. He said yes. I laughed and said, "I have a feeling I know where they came from." He got this lightbulb look on his face and started laughing. He said, "I bet they were Barrett's and he left them at my house while I was in Iraq and he was over there with her. That is hilarious!" For him to laugh at that and see the humor in it rather than getting mad was HUGE! I was SO proud of him! (He's since decided to use them as a grease rag.)

So, for current news... we had a memory lapse last night that was very frustrating to him. We try to work together, though, to limit his frustration. He has gotten to where he tells me just about everything so we are able to remember together. He had called his son, and he got no answer. He left a voicemail message, then he texted her to ask where his son was so he could get ahold of him. (He often stays with his grandma, so Tim thought he might need to call there.) About 20 minutes later he got a "Droid" on his phone notifying him of a new message. When he pulled up the phone he did not see the message icon, so he thought the phone was just acting up. I told him to check to see if she had responded. He said that she wouldn't have anything to respond to because he hadn't texted. I told him he had, and he didn't believe me. When he pulled it up to prove to me that he was right, he saw that he had texted and the "Droid" was notifying him that she had replied. He was flabbergasted. He sat there thinking intently, and no matter how hard he tried he had absolutely no recollection of texting. Luckily that was a small slip of memory, but it was very frustrating to him that he could not even slightly remember it.

Today has been awesome! He woke up feeling great, so he has been doing things around the house all day. He started by cleaning, which was a huge help! It's hard for me to keep the house clean after someone who almost never leaves. It was such a tremendous help to me! Now he's outside trying to fix a piece of the house on the deck that was allowing water into the garage. I'm curious to see if he paces himself well. That is one thing his physical therapist is trying to teach him. His pain level tomorrow and the next day will tell us if he did.

I'm going to get on to my schoolwork to try to get some finished early this week. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pinterest Interest

Oh Pinterest! It has become our best friend. We have only been on Pinterest for a few short weeks, and we have already made several ideas on there. It is awesome for us because my husband loves to create things. It helps him occupy his mind to keep it off his pain as much, and it gives him a sense of accomplishment. I am a craft fanatic, but I've added to my arsenal of craft genres because I help my husband with his projects. Today he wanted to help me with one of my projects instead of the other way around. Sundays have unofficially become our "create" days. Since he was going to help me, I decided to do something with wood so he would enjoy it more. I went out back and climbed up in the old treehouse that never got completed. He began building it for his son years ago, but he was unable to complete it, which has caused it to sit there and rot. I was a little nervous about standing on rotted wood up in a tree to tear this thing down. When I thought about how far I was off the ground compared to how high my husband was when he took his 800ish feet high tumble, my fear of falling through the boards quickly diminished.

After tearing down one side of the treehouse I began cutting the wood down to size. We put together a sign made of the weather wood. I'll post a picture of it as soon as I get one. It will go in front of our house. Then we cut some wood down to size to make a frame for a rustic-looking coat rack. We may get that one finished tomorrow. We cut some boards to create sconces for our living room. I will try to make it into town tomorrow to find the hardware I will need to finish them.

This evening we drove into town to find some shipping pallets that were being thrown out. We could only find one that we were certain was sat out for trash, so we brought it back. We will cut it down to make a wine rack to hang on the wall. We are learning that pallets are incredible! There is so much that can be done with them.

All in all, crafting brings us closer together, gives us a common goal, and gives him something to occupy his mind in a very positive way. Today was an awesome day!!!

On the baby note, I just have to mention that I noticed tonight that if we conceive this month we will be due on Tim's Alive Day. That would just be awesome! So here's hoping it takes this month! That would be an awesome way for him to start thinking of that date.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Updates Galore

I was blessed with the opportunity to return to NYC for the second part of the Wounded Warrior Project's Caregivers Writing Workshop along with the Writer's Guild of America, East. The friendships I have made with some of the other caregivers are priceless. It is so nice to have others who understand your situation and can offer advice and tips on how they handled a similar situation. I will forever support Wounded Warrior Project. It is amazing what they have done to help us and other wounded warriors and their families.

Kiddo Update: I got my results on my tests, and I was informed that my progesterone levels were off the chart. In other words, things look good on my end. We are working on this month, and we will try next month, and then it will be time to turn to more intense testing and possibly IUI if it still has not taken.

We met with a new doctor, and we are SO pleased with him! He is wanting to admit Tim to the hospital for a couple of weeks to do intense occupational therapy as well as some other therapy. Although we don't want him to have to spend two weeks in the hospital, we are looking forward to this opportunity. There is a chance that what he learns can help decrease his daily pain level.

Yesterday was a big day for us. A nurse from the VA came out to do a home visit to evaluate our eligibility for officially classifying me as his caregiver. This has been a process, and the home visit was the part we were most concerned about. It turned out to be great! I cleaned for three and half days, so afraid that something would keep us from getting the grant. I had read a blog entry of a caregiver who scrubbed everything with a toothbrush and went a little OCD on her cleaning, but they didn't even look far beyond her living room. Yet I was still too nervous to not go all out on the cleaning. So I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. I had beef stew cooking in the crockpot so it would smell good in the house (a different good than my over-abundance of glade plug-ins that I keep around here). I washed the glasses on my wine rack just in case they had any dust on them. I scrubbed everything! I was definitely over-prepared. The lady was very nice, and the whole process went very smoothly. We hope to have an answer shortly after Thanksgiving. One source I read stated that I will be paid back pay to the date of application, and another said to the date that I finished my training, if I get the "job." Since I have technically been working this full-time "job" for over a year now without pay, it will be nice to actually get paid for it. I'm praying right now that it goes through.

Other things I am working on right now are a little exciting. I learned of "Guitars for Vets" when I was in New York this time. Tim has been wanting to learn to play the guitar. This program offers free guitar classes to disabled vets and gives them a guitar. When I mentioned it to him he was very excited. So I am looking into getting him involved in that program. I believe it will be a great outlet for him. Another thing that we are excited about is getting him a hand crank or terra trike. These are modified bicycles for the disabled. He misses regular physical activity, and he has expressed interest on several occasions of biking. He cannot sit in the upright position necessary for bike riding for a long period of time, though. The hand crank or terra trike will allow him to participate in running and biking races with me. We are currently considering doing a half marathon together in March... I will run along next to him on the hand crank or terra trike.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One of These Days...


September brought some unexpected medical issues that I will keep private. They changed everything in our life for weeks. I began this blog as an "out" for me as well as a source of comfort for other wounded warrior wives. It is therapeutic for me to write in here, and it is even more therapeutic for me to read other people's journeys through similar struggles. Although our unexpected medical issues will remain private, I have decided to open up much more about our biggest ongoing struggle... infertility.

A dear friend has a blog titled "One of These Days..." that is a great source of comfort for me. She is currently expecting her first child in March, but it was a 2 1/2 year struggle to get there. I had another dear friend recently open up to me about her infertility struggles she had years ago, and they are struggles she keeps from most people. Hearing what other women are experiencing or have experienced helps me tremendously. This is an extremely emotional struggle, so I want to be very open to help other women.

My husband and I got married in March of 2010. In March 2010, my husband and I began trying to conceive. We expected it may take a little while, so we wanted to begin trying immediately. For a long time I didn't include those first few months in my trying to conceive (TTC) count of time because we were only trying to make sure we hit the right days. I had not yet began temping and charting, taking prenatals, etc. But I had a doctor inform me recently that those months are to be counted in my TTC timeline.

In July 2010 we had a chemical pregnancy. We were so disappointed when the pregnancy failed that we decided to buckle down and get serious about this whole TTC thing. I read book after book after book, began seeking advice from friends, and followed other women with infertility struggles on forums. I bought a thermometer to keep by my bed, and I began temping and charting.

In January 2011, my husband began cutting back on his medicine, fearing that may be a cause of infertility. He researched methods that may help him, and he began taking supplements. He experienced a tremendous amount of more pain than he previously had because he was taking much less medicine to help. But we were so determined to make this dream of having our own children a reality that he figured the extra pain was worth it.

In July 2011, we made appointments to start having everything checked out and possibly get some help. Before making it to the doctor, though, we learned that there was a good chance we were pregnant. My cycle is clockwork, but I was a week and a half late. I am always the last to smell things, and my nose had turned into that of a dog. I got nauseated at the same time every day. My face, shoulders and back broke out, I was emotional every day, I had to pee every 30 minutes, and I could no longer fit in my bras. I had to wear sports bras every day. We were on a family vacation, so I decided to wait until we got back home to test. In early August, before making it back home, we had what seemed to be a miscarriage. We didn't confirm it because we didn't test before or go to a doctor after, but everything I have read since then matches up exactly to miscarriage. Rather than getting me down, the belief that we had a miscarriage gave me hope. I had begun to think that pregnancy wasn't possible for us. The miscarriage made me believe that it was.

The next month, September 2011, I finally got my first prescription for a fertility medicine, Clomid. October 2011, our 20th month of trying to conceive, I began taking the prescription. This is the personal part, but I'm including it for information for anybody who is facing the possiblity of fertility meds.... I had to take the meds on days 5-9 of my cycle, do the baby dance with my husband on days 10-20 (actually I think the doc told me days 10-17, but I deemed it necessary to get a few extra days of every day trying in there :-)), have bloodwork done to check my progesterone levels on day 21, and have an ultrasound on day 28. Today is officially day 29, and I have all indications that Aunt Flo is on her way. I should get a call today or tomorrow letting me know if they will increase my dosage for next month.

Although I expected quite a few side effects with Clomid, I really didn't experience them. The only thing I noticed was from the ultrasound technician yesterday. She told me that I had a cyst on my right ovary, but it appeared to be going away. So I am hoping for an increase in dosage as we start month 21 of TTC.

My husband is really hoping for twins, and fertility drugs increase our chances. I would love twins, but any more than that at once seems like a little much. However, if getting to have our own children meant that we had to have 10 at once, I would do it.

Sorry if I got a little personal for anybody. This blog entry is directed toward anybody struggling with infertility, though, because I know how much it helps to hear details and facts from others.

Other than the infertility issue, everything is going great! Tim's "bad" days have grown more seldom. He only has about 2 or 3 days a week now that he is down for the count. That is much better than the 5 to 6 days that he experienced throughout the spring and summer. We've decreased some of his stressors, so he is in much better spirits. He even went to the hardware store the other day when he woke up feeling great, and he came back with some flowers for me. It was the first time since we got married that he had brought me flowers, but he's not had many outings alone to be able to. It made my entire week!!!

I have to get ready for an appointment. Until next time.... love life!!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A New Focus

The past two days have been awesome! We attended a "Stocks and Options" class that really educated us on investing and trading. We were lucky that both days started as good days... average pain level and able to get around like normal. After sitting all day yesterday, though, and then walking several blocks from the car to the classroom and back several blocks to the car at the end of the day, last night was pretty rough. When we got home he sat down on the couch until it was time to go to bed. It was one of those nights where I had to take him his dinner plate because he could not get up to get it. That happens about 3-5 days a week, so I am extremely willing to do it, never ever mind to do it, and I actually appreciate the opportunity to do something that can help make life a little easier for him. The only thing that I hate about it is that it always makes him feel bad when he has to be waited on hand and foot. I was afraid after last night that he wouldn't be able to make it to the class today. He woke up this morning feeling just like he did yesterday morning, though, so we headed down to Little Rock to finish up the class. He did something today that I cannot ever remember seeing him do. He actually parked in a handicapped parking spot using his handicapped tag. He is so big on saving those spots for older people that he never will park in one himself. If we did not park in it we would have had to walk quite a few blocks. Knowing what it did to him yesterday, he gave in and parked in a parking lot that had several handicapped spots available. I would have been more than happy to drop him off by the door, park a few blocks away, and then walk to meet him, but he is way too proud to let his wife do that for him. He was raised to be a gentleman, and he has a hard time getting past those beliefs that are deep in him. I have learned over time to recognize the moments that he needs to feel like he can still do what he used to, but is compromising a bit. I know that his mental state has a big impact on his physical state, so I always try to recognize those things and keep them in mind. I did not mention a word and let him do what he needed. Since he does not abuse that privelege, I believed it was very justified.

We sat through the class all day today, and we learned a ton more about trading and investing. It was so amazing how excited he got both days about learning. I finally found something that he gets so excited about learning and doing... and it's something he can do from his laptop in bed on days that he cannot do anything else!!! I am SO excited to discover this!!!

After coming home he had to pick up his schoolwork and get back to the information technology stuff that he chose when he started back to school. His attitude about it is so different than it is about the stocks and options trading. I will continue to push him in his schoolwork because I do not want him to give up on something he wanted just because it gets hard. But seeing him get so excited about stocks and options makes me wonder if I should quit pushing him to finish this degree. It was his decision to get into it -- in fact, I did not agree with it in the beginning, but I didn't let him know that -- but I began pushing him once he got into it and it started getting difficult. I have had something in my life that I gave up on when it got hard, and I regret it deeply. I was never the type to give up, but I did in one situation. I don't want him to make the same mistake. But I must also remind myself that school is so much different for him than it is for the average person. His meds alone are enough to make his brain cloudy. But we are pretty certain that he received traumatic brain injury from his crash, (if you haven't been reading the blog: we are currently working on getting several tests done to find out definitively) and that only exacerbates the problem. It's so hard for me to imagine what it must be like for him to try to get another degree with the difficulties he incurs.

He struggled with the stocks and options trading in the same way, but I was learning it along with him. I have learned his language, and I feel like I have a good grasp on how to explain things in a way he understands. When he didn't get something that he would have understood pre-crash, I just explained it to him in a way I believed he would understand. I felt like I could see a lightbulb go off in his head. I don't know if the topic is what excited him so much or the fact that he had me learning it along with him, but I have never seen him so focused on learning something new as I did the past two days.

So.... I'm wide open for suggestions!!! Should I continue to push him through his college degree in information technology with emphasis in web design, or should I find a way to open education opportunities in stocks and options trading to him when I can join in and learn along with him? I know he has to be handled in a way that is different than he would have pre-crash, but I feel like I walk a fine line between insulting his intelligence and supporting his additional new needs.

Any advice is extremely appreciated! Learning how to be the right kind of support to a husband with his injuries is a continual learning process. Whether you have been in a similar situation or not, it is sometimes easier to see the best answer when you're looking in from the outside. So please feel free to offer advice. I'm up for any I can get!

Thank you so much for reading!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Most Incredible Words!

When we first awoke this morning it looked like it would be a bad day. Tim was in a great deal of pain, and he struggled to move in bed. I had planned to take advantage of the beautiful weather by going for a morning run, but I couldn't bare to leave him. I laid there with him for about an hour and a half, rubbing him and attempting to relax him the whole time. At 8am I decided to get up and fix some coffee. While I was getting the coffee ready he made his way into the living room and sat on the couch. I was surprised to see him make it in there by himself.

He turned on the morning news shows, and he put his computer on his lap to check the latest headlines. After about two hours he got up, went into the bedroom and bathroom for a few minutes, and came back into the living room completely dressed with his shoes on. I was completely shocked. Normally when a day starts that way, he is down for the majority of it. I asked him how he was feeling, and we had a talk about his pain and a few other things. Then, when we got into talking about some personal issues, he said the most incredible, meaningful thing he has ever said to me.

He told me that my faith in God and the way I live my life for God has inspired him. He said that I have taught him to lay his troubles on God and let Him take care of them all. He said that things do not bother him like they formerly did because he knows now that God is in control. And then he thanked me for being that example and inspiration for him.

To hear something like that from a stranger or a friend would be awesome, but to hear it from the man that I love more than life itself... now THAT was incredible! I don't think he could have said anything else that could have made me feel better than that did.

The rest of the day has been good! He's gotten up and tinkered with a few things, then he's sat back down to rest for awhile. But he's been able to be active off and on all afternoon. He's now working on his schoolwork, and I have been able to work on my articles. I'm off to cook supper, but I wanted to be sure and get my blog post done before I get the red-eyes from staring at the computer screen. :-) Thank you for reading, and have a great night!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thankful for the VA

We get frustrated sometimes dealing with the VA. I don't know of anybody who has been through this and not felt the same way from time to time. But all in all, we are so thankful for the VA. There is so much help out there. You may have to search and search for it, but it is there. Talking to other wives who have been through it can help tremendously, but you are still going to have to do a great deal of work yourself. Since I began digging a few months ago, though, we have gotten so much help for Tim... and we have more still to do. We are working hard on meeting many deadlines lately, so I have not been on here, facebook, e-mail or anything else very regularly. I wanted to give an update, though.

We began a PTSD group. Today was our third week in the group, and it is amazing how much it helps. While we sit in there, everything hits home to us. Today gave me an extra good feeling, though. We were discussing holistic approaches to care. He gave us a number of categories of methods to use to improve symptoms. There was at least one method from just about every category that I have already begun implementing into Tim's life. It made me feel so good because I felt like all the hard work I'm doing is worthwhile. I feel like I am on the right track.

We are trying to get a TBI evaluation done soon, as well as a Neuro Psych Eval. We are also looking into a SPECT scan. However, VA does not do SPECT and insurance will not pay for it, so I am currently trying to find a way to get the procedure funded. All of these tests are for traumatic brain injury, and I will go into greater detail on each as we have them done. The SPECT is the ideal one, as it can determine exactly where the damage is located and set up a proper treatment plan.

We are also dealing with further claims on his VA rating. Several of his biggest problems were not even included in his evaluation. We are working to get all of the documentation in order, as well as getting copies from his original doctors that we do not have in our files, so we can complete the claims.

I discovered that he did not receive TSGLI as he should have, so we are working toward getting that information together.

Through all of this, we are also trying to get his meds switched. The old pain management doctor, or cookie doctor as I called him, had Tim on a combination of meds that the VA says should never be prescribed together. We had to go through tests to make sure that the ill combination did not cause any heart or other problems. Getting back into the VA system is taking some time to get straightened out, but it's all coming together. It just takes persistence.

As for our baby update... We are currently on our 14th month of actively trying... 19th month total. Our first five months were just trying to hit the right days and hoping it would happen. The last 13 have been very focused, tracking, and trying multiple methods. We have finally decided it is time for some outside help. Monday we will go to the doctor to discuss fertility options. This is just an obgyn appointment, and we will get advice on a fertility specialist. The good news is, I found out today that testing and less invasive treatments will be covered by our insurance! This means that we can immediately begin getting help. We are so excited! This gives me a whole new feeling about the entire situation.

I vow to keep this updated more frequently. It is an awesome out for me... a way to release what I'm thinking through everything. Simply for my own sake, I want to be sure to keep it going. My dog is now demanding my attention, though, so I better do a little cuddling with him. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Cookie Doctor No Longer

My husband's pain management doctor (the one I have spoken of in previous posts) is no longer. We had planned for this month to be the last month we would see him because we have an appointment with someone at the VA later in the month. It has taken us this long to get into the VA doctor, so we had to keep going to the other one so there was no lapse in prescriptions. Our appointment was scheduled for next week, be we received a call yesterday telling us that he is not able to see patients for six months. He had a black eye last time we saw him, and his nurse told us that somebody had beat his booty (slight change in words). When we received the call that he could not see patients, Tim immediately thought he must have gotten beaten up badly. First, do you really want a doctor prescribing such strong narcotics who goes around getting in fights? But second, I don't believe six months would be a predetermined time if he had gotten beaten up (unless he's in jail). So... my guess is that he got in trouble for handing out meds like he did. I must admit, I am so incredibly thankful that I have not let Tim go to the doctor by himself on days that he felt like it. We have been able to keep a close check on everything, and I have been able to track his meds and the amount he takes. I'm not saying my husband would do this, but I know that it is something anybody could fall into... If you are in tremendous pain on a constant basis and a doctor is willing to give give give pain meds to you, it would make it easy to take more than you should. Luckily we have not had to worry about that. It makes me sad, though, for many patients of his who may have fallen into that.

Now we're trying to get into the VA a little sooner than scheduled. Hopefully, with them handling it all, we will not have anything like that to worry about from this point forward.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Disney World!!!

The month of July was a whirlwind for us. My stepson's mother was expecting a baby. She had numerous times that she thought she was going into labor, so we had to keep rushing him back to her house. We eventually decided it would be best for him to just stay there until the baby came. So I used that time to get some things done around our house. I painted the living room, the stairway up to my stepson's room, and our master bathroom. I began putting together a few crafts that I would use to decorate our house. Although I still have more to do, it's starting to look much better around here. I'm proud of how good it is all turning out.

The end of July was our Heath family reunion, so we took my stepson and headed to Paragould for that. (His mother had her baby on the 20th.) My parents surprised him when we got to Paragould with a gift. When he unwrapped it he found some Mickey Mouse ears and a shirt saying that he was going to Disney World. We had been keeping the secret for awhile, so it was fun to finally get to see it revealed to him. He was so excited!

We left the next day for Disney. Since we were driving, my parents thought it would be best to stop two nights along the way so my husband didn't have to sit through so much driving at a time. We stopped in Pensacola on the way down, and I got to see one of my good friends who I worked with down there. We drove Tim and Connor by to see my old house and where I worked. We then went to Ocala for the next night. The following morning we drove on into Disney World.

We stayed at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. We LOVED it!! We hit Hollywood Studios the first day, but it was only a half day since we spent the first part of the day driving there and getting settled in our room. The next day was Magic Kingdom. We were all amazed at how well Tim was doing. He walked through the whole thing. We only stopped a few times to get him some rest (and of course we had the resting time while on rides). By the time we got back to the room, though, his butt, legs and feet were screaming. I massaged away as much as I could, but I could tell from the look on his face that he was still trying to hide the pain. The third morning we went to Animal Kingdom. Although we absolutely loved it, we only spent about 3 hours there. We decided it was time for us all to get a little rest. We went back to the resort. Tim, Connor and Mom went to the pool so Connor could play and Tim could relax. I slept off a migraine in the room, and Daddy went out exploring the city. Our fourth day was the best. We were all rested, so we hit Epcot early. We had a long day there, but we loved every second of it. That was Connor's favorite park, and it contained his favorite ride "Soarin'". The fifth day we visited Downtown Disney, which turned out to be cooler than I expected. We finished out the week with a park hoppin' sixth day, hitting Hollywood, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.

Overall, Tim did an incredible job! We were all so proud of him and of how hard he pushed himself. We took our time coming home, and then we stayed one more night in Paragould before coming back to our house. We have now been home for two days, and I believe everything is catching up to him. He has slept almost non-stop, and his awake hours have been rough on him. With weather moving through, though, he is bound to feel extra pain. But... he got to fully experience his son's first ever trip to Disney World with him! I believe having to put up with a few down days upon return is worth it to get to have such an experience.

He has been reading lately on people with similar injuries who had their legs amputated to rid themselves of the constant extreme pain. He had mentioned it a few times in the past, and reading these stories has led him to thinking a little more deeply about it. So please help us in praying that we can find a way to decrease his pain without going to such extreme measures.

We are meeting with a new doctor for me this week, and we're beginning to look into fertility. We are now on our 13th cycle of actively trying, and we passively tried for 5 cycles before that. He has several VA appointments this month, as well, that are an attempt find solutions to his problems with new doctors. We have deadlines coming up for some appeals and other paperwork we have to complete, so we have some very busy times ahead of us. But I have faith that it will all be good in the end.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Caregiver Support!! Woohoo!!!

We got a wonderful phone call today. Caregiver support called to do an assessment on us. Apparently our AW2 passed our name along as a couple who deserves caregiver support because of the amount of care I am required to give my husband. It is a very comprehensive process, but the lady with whom we spoke believed that we are definitely eligible. She is passing along our information, and they should roll us into the next step of the process. Basically what this will do is pay me a stipend for the amount of care I must give my husband. Since I am not able to work away from the home as much as I could if he was not injured, this will supplement. She said I should get paid the rate of a Certified Nursing Assistant, and the number of hours for which I receive compensation will be determined by the level of care that they deem necessary for me to give him. In other words, if they determine that he requires 25 hours per week of continuous care from me, then that is the amount for which they will compensate me. She said that basic activities of caring for him that I do simply because I am his wife will not count. It is only compensation for the time that I must spend helping him with daily living activities... i.e. walking, eating, taking his meds, bathing him, etc. This process requires doctor's appointments and recommendations, phone evaluations with me, and eventually a home visit to determine if I am competent enough in his health care needs, aiding with physical and mental difficulties, and dealing with the stress of it all to be technically listed as his official caregiver by the government. If we make it through this process, a tremendous amount of stress will be lifted off me. These are all things I must currently do, but now there is the possibility of receiving some assistance for them. If we qualify, they will do quarterly home visits to determine if we are still eligible, and an annual comprehensive re-evaluation will be performed. Please pray that we make it through this entire process. It could be a much needed relief for us.

Other than that, today was a normal day for us. Nothing much to report on. Yesterday was rough for him. The pain was primarily in his back, so we assume it was from the front that came through our area. When a front comes through, he gets the feeling in his back all over again of having those shattered vertebrae. Some days are worse than others, but the bad ones keep him from even rolling over in bed. Luckily he was able to make it from the bed to the couch yesterday. He spent the entire day on the couch, though. I wrote throughout the morning, did some VA related research, worked in the yard, cleaned the house, and then wrote some more. All the while he just laid there. The more time that passes, though, the less guilty he feels about those days. He used to feel so bad for not being able to help me, and I'm sure I didn't help the situation any. It was so long before I understood that he just physically could not do it. Now, though, I check on him every 30 minutes or so, get him whatever he needs, and continue on with what I'm doing... singing and dancing my way through it to try to give him a little sunshine. It makes me feel special... needed and important.

He and our Jack Russell mix, Russ, are konked out right now on the couch. I'm going to clean up the kitchen, try to get a little work done on my book, and pray that tomorrow can be a good day for him. It looks like it will not be quite so scorching hot, so I may try to get him out for a little walk on a hill to reverse that atrophy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Among Heroes

We had no clue what to expect when we went to the VA appointment yesterday. We had received a letter Saturday saying that we had an appointment on Tuesday. We had no knowledge of it prior to that letter. So we did not know what it was about, if it would take an hour or all day, what types of tests they were doing, etc. It turned out to be the first in a series of appointments. This one was with a psychologist, and we have primary care physician, social worker, TBI institute and pain management all coming up. Our visit went well, and we both felt good about me being there with him to explain some things that he cannot explain very well about himself.

We had plans to go to the Arkansas State Police Honors and Awards Luncheon at 11:30am with my parents, but we did not know if we would make it out of our appointment in time. We were so glad when we did, but we also realized that Tim did not have the appropriate clothes. Since it would take too long to drive all the way back to our house to change, we stopped at a store to buy him some. I was so glad we did. He looked SO GOOD in that outfit, and he was very proud wearing it. He felt confident and held his head high. It means so much when I get to see him exude that type of confidence.

The luncheon was good, and we got to visit with a few of the guys that Tim had flown in the eradication program. It was nice to see some people we hadn't seen in a long time, and it was warming to feel the pride in the voice of everyone who spoke, from the ASP Colonel to the Commissioners to the State Governor. What got to me the most, though, was hearing the acts of heroism performed by some of the men that received awards, and then knowing that we were in a room full of others who would perform the same act if put in that situation. Arkansas Game and Fish Officer Michael Neal was the main one in attendance that Tim and I could not quit discussing later. When two West Memphis police officers were shot and killed by a father and son duo in 2010, Neal was the one to bravely ram his truck into the vehicle of the suspects. At the time of him doing so, the suspects were shooting from their vehicle toward a police unit, where they struck and injured the two men inside. Neal shot and killed the father, while taking numerous bullets to his truck. He shot at the son, and it is my understanding that he struck him as well. Neal was the reason the suspects did not kill any more people than they did. He is a TRUE hero on the homefront.

Because Neal was raised in the funeral business (and funeral directors around Arkansas tend to work together and know each other well), my dad and brother were already familiar with him. Tim and I walked over as they were congratulating him, and we spoke to him for a few minutes. We were amazed by his humility. The award he received yesterday was his 33rd for the incident, and he is scheduled to receive another this Saturday. Yet, despite all the attention, he speaks as someone who just did his job. He does not boast about himself, he does not tell you what he did without being asked, and he does not pat himself on the back. He gives equal credit to the many other men and women in his line of work, claiming they would do the same thing in the same situation.

Officer Neal, I know many would. I know we have some true heroes living among us. But you acted in a way (and continue to act in a way) that epitomizes the word "hero." Thank you to you, and thank you to all the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to ensure our safety.

Monday, July 11, 2011


My stepson's mother is expecting a baby any day now. After talking to his mother Saturday and her informing him that she was certain she would have the baby that day, he decided he wanted to cut his weekend with us short one day so he could be with his mother when she went into labor. We completely understood, and we didn't blame him one bit. So we drove him home Saturday night. Since we had plans for him on Sunday, we tried to figure out what we would do now. We came up with a perfect idea... an entire date day! We would get up early, hit the early service at church, and then head up to the lake. We planned to find a quiet cove and enjoy a romantic day of just being googly eyed over each other. We got our things together that night, and we went to bed earlier than normal so we could be well rested for an entire day of fun in the sun.

Sunday morning I got up early, made coffee, did my morning internet rounds, and waited for my husband to crawl out of bed. An hour passed, then two, then three. After nearly four hours I decided to check on him. I assumed he must just be exhausted from the full three days that we had spent with his son. We had packed in as much action as we could. Because Tim had been hurting bad through two of those three days, he had forced himself through alot just to do these seemingly basic activities. When I went to check on him, though, I quickly realized that our plans must change. It was "one of those days." He finally made it to the couch. I began working on as much as I could, knowing that there would be no lake trip. I figured if I could get alot accomplished that day instead, then maybe we could make the lake trip on Monday. After an hour or two on the couch, I finally convinced him to go back to bed. I massaged him until my hands could no longer go, and he drifted off to sleep. He slept for another four or five hours, and then he awoke to much less pain. We enjoyed the evening together, grilling out and both curling up on the same couch to read.

We woke up this morning to more tolerable pain. Our alteration of plans worked perfectly. Since I had accomplished alot on Sunday, I did not feel guilty about spending an enjoyable, relaxed day today. Mondays on the lake are far different from Sundays, so we had the option of many empty coves to google and goggle over each other. The sun zapped him, but all in all he did great! He actually asked me at one point if he could attempt knee-boarding, but I discouraged him since we had nobody else with us to help if something went wrong. For him to ask, though, was a good sign.

Tomorrow morning is our VA appointment. We're hoping all goes well. For now, though, I'm signing off the computer so I can curl up with him and thank God for the wonderful day we both had.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Setting the Record Straight: To Work or Not To Work

It has been a little while again since my last post, and again I apologize. Summertime is full of action, and it seems harder to find the time to post. We have been enjoying as much time with my stepson as possible. He is such a source of strength for my husband. When he is here, Tim pushes so hard to be able to do activities with him. They are two peas in a pod, and it is absolutely adorable to watch them together.

Although I am still working about the same number of hours, I have backed off on my daily work some lately because of working on my book. That means less regular income, but it also means that my book is not adding additional work hours on the days that we have my stepson. I usually still work a few hours each day when he is with us, but I try to adjust my schedule so I can spend as much time with him as possible when we have him, and then I work more on our days without him.

Despite the working and the fighting for my husband's rights and the waiting on him hand and foot when he has bad days, putting my stepson at the top of our list of priorities has apparently led some individuals to putting my husband and I down for not having regular full-time jobs outside of the home. When they see how much time we spend focusing on my stepson, they decide to tell others that we are lazy and don't work. So, to set the record straight, I work an average of about 50-60 hours a week. No, it is not in an office building somewhere. No, I do not have to stick close to a set schedule that a boss gives me. No, I do not put it ahead of my family. My husband and stepson come first, so I work on hours that interfere with them as little as possible. I spend long days working when I can, making up for the days that I need (and want) to focus on them and devote to them. In addition, my husband has days where he can take care of himself, but he also has days where he cannot. The cousin of one of these naysayers even mentioned recently that she was impressed with how healthy my husband looks now that he has been married awhile. She said he was too thin the last time she had seen him, which was before I came along. True... he was. He got down to 125 pounds (he now weighs 180). When he cannot get out of bed, I take care of him. When he lived alone and could not get out of bed, he just went days without eating. Being his caregiver does not mean that I must do for him all day every day. He has good days. But it does mean that I must drop everything to take care of him on his bad days, which some weeks can be a full-time job in itself. In addition, I scratch, dig and claw through VA policies and mess trying to find all the help he needs and deserves. I make contacts, I read and read and read, I apply and reapply... and the list goes on. As far as daily duties, there are many that I will not mention out of a desire for privacy that go far beyond duties that the typical wife must do. Many other wounded warrior caregivers understand the time and work that goes into this, but people outside of that community have no clue. Even other family members have no clue. I do not talk about most of it, nor does my husband. I tell just enough to try to help other caregivers going through similar situations, but I leave out enough so I do not place a burden on those we love. To me, everything I do to take care of my husband is therapy in itself. I love doing for him, and I love finding solutions to his problems. When I feel so helpless in terms of his pain and struggles, it makes me feel good to succeed at finding a solutions to problems and helping make things a little easier for him. So none of it is a burden to me. I enjoy it. But for those who will classify either of us as lazy, try being a fly on the wall for one day. You have no clue what goes on in this household.

Now on to my husband....
A day in the life for him, even without severe pain, is much different than the average person. Going to school full-time for him is far more demanding than the average person's full-time job. Imagine the cloudiness and confusion in your head when you have had to take strong prescription pain pills. Now multiply that, and throw in traumatic brain injury. At 41-years-old and with all that going on, try going back to college full-time for a degree in a computer related field. He does it, and saying his hard work amazes me is an understatement. This man spends far more time on his schoolwork than most people spend on a full-time job. He does not have the liberty of going into a shiftwork position for three 12-hour shifts a week. He works throughout the day almost every day of the week. When we have my stepson, he gets up early to work on it, stays up a few hours late, and squeezes some in the middle when he can. Even on those days he works about 5 or 6 hours on it. Days without my stepson can be 8 to 14 hours of schoolwork. No, he does not have a "job." But to anyone who says he does not work, I say that he would take your 36 to 40 hour work week at a normal job ANYDAY over what he does.

I apologize for the rant. When people speak ill of me, it does not hurt me. In fact, it only motivates me to work even harder to make complete fools of them for saying those things. But when I see what my husband deals with on a daily basis, and then someone tries to put him down, I must stand up and speak. I must set the record straight. I love that man with all my heart. But much of the love I have developed for him over the past year has come from the way I have gotten to know him. He does not speak of his struggles, and until he and I got married and I started working primarily from home, he had experienced those struggles completely alone. He does not share most of them with others, and he never even shared many of them with me. It took me living with him all day every day to learn of them. Even when we were married and I worked outside the home, I had no clue what he dealt with on a daily basis. Learning this, seeing it first hand, and then seeing how selflessly he pushes through it with everything he has inside of him, has made me develop a respect for him unlike any other. Going into work every day at a regular job is a dream of his that will probably never have the opportunity to come true again. Work... your shiftwork... your days off to spend as you please... your clockwork routine.... would be a much welcomed privilege for him, and for me. So... lazy? Far from it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Forever Soldier

A true soldier at heart, my husband is struggling lately with knowing that he can never again be in the military. We just passed the 1 year anniversary of his retirement, and it is finally hitting him. He wants so much to be active duty in the Army, stationed from base to base, experiencing the world. Other than the fact that he would have to leave Connor and I, he wishes he could serve again in Iraq. I don't know if this is a withdrawal phase he is experiencing, or if he is finally realizing the extent of his injuries and that things will never be the same again.

It has been nearly 5 years since his crash. The first year-and-a-half he spent in and out of the hospital, unable to work. Eventually he went back to work only at the desk until November 2009. Because he was unable to work a full 40 hours each week, and sometimes he could only make it in one or two days a week, he was transferred to the Warrior Transition Unit at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, to outprocess for his disability retirement. In June of 2010, he was officially retired. Yet all that time he was still a "part" of the military. Now he has lost that. He doesn't get calls from his military buddies as often because their lives are different without him around. He recently found out that he would probably be in Iraq right now if he was still able, performing duties that he would love to perform.

He works on a new degree from home, and upon completion he will be able to perform some contract work from home. But staying in the house almost every day adds to the desire to be back in his old routine. I'm open for suggestions on a way to get him some regular out-of-the-house time. I hope that will make it easier for him. The best I can do right now since he cannot depend on his body to maintain any type of schedule is developing a nice outdoor area on our property. He and I were planning to create an area, but he physically has not been able to help much. So I'm doing the best I can to fix it up for him, and hopefully making a nice outdoor retreat will give him a way to get out of the confines of these walls.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Man Nobody Else Knows

I'm not gonna lie. It's hard. Being his wife is hard. Not because of the reasons you may first think, though. What's hard is seeing him go through all the pain, the loss of ability and the emotions. I did not understand any of this until I lived with him. When we were dating, and even engaged, we lived in different homes. In fact, because he was in the Warrior Transition Unit at Ft. Sill when we got married, we didn't actually live together for a while after we got married. When he completed his retirement and came home, I was working so many hours that I did not see what he was experiencing. It wasn't until we moved to the town where my stepson lives, and I switched to working from home, that I really began to see it all.

More days than not, he struggles to get out of bed. He starts his days in tremendous pain. Some days the pain begins to ease, and some days it does not. When his parents call him, he does his best to hide the pain in his voice. He seldom tells them what kind of day he is really having, because he does not want to worry them. When he talks to a sibling or friend, he hides it from them. He feels that he does not want to place his burden on them. And when his son is with us, he hides it as best he can from him. He does not want his son to experience the hurt and concern of his daddy dealing with the pain. But when you live with someone and are around them almost 24/7, you can't hide it. I get to see the true him, and I am so thankful for that. It has helped me better understand how I can help him. It makes me understand him, and gives me the drive to fight for him.

The pain has been severe lately. We were hoping to do some activities with his son on the days that we got him this week, but the pain keeps us from it. That may be good because we have brushed up on math, done some creative activities, and all cuddled up for movies on the couch here at home. We love that bonding time with him, so there's always good in that. However, the plans we had were ones my husband was excited about doing with him. Luckily, though, they are things we can do another day.

There are so many more problems that factor in to our plans than just pain. For example, last week we took my stepson to ride a train about 2 hours away from our home. While on the train, Tim got to hurting so bad that he struggled to conceal it from his son. He hid it the best he could, and eventually dozed off toward the end of the ride. We got in the car to drive home, and he attempted to drive at first. Once we got on the interstate, however, he had to pull over and let me drive. Fatigue sets in so often, and it hits him when he's not expecting it. He often has to stop what he is doing almost immediately.

This morning he woke up in pain, but it eased enough after about 2 hours that he decided to join me in the yard for some yard work. We worked for an hour or two, and then he had to go back inside. He has been on the couch ever since, and much of the time has been spent in alot of pain... but he still did it!!! These are the days that mean so much... when he is able to do "normal" activities. Though he does not last as long as he once could, he amazes me at just being able to participate at all. I am so proud of the way he pushes himself when he does not feel like he can. I say it all the time, and I'll say it again... he's my hero!

My favorite part of taking care of him, especially on his extremely bad days, is knowing that... 1) I am easing his pain by easing his brain, and 2) I know a man that nobody else knows. He opens up to me like he does no other. There is nobody in his life who has ever seen what I see and experienced what I experience with him. That makes me feel special, and it makes me know that what I do to help him matters. That means so much at a time when I feel so helpless because I cannot make the pain go away.

Monday, June 27, 2011


So... I am finally getting around to my NYC story. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I came back with a deeper understanding of my husband and what he goes through. I also learned of many different benefits he is entitled to but has been overlooked. I have been working hard since my return trying to dig for those benefits. Some of the struggles he encounters could be made much easier with the help available, but he has never been informed of the opportunities. As his wife I believe it is my job to make these happen.

The weekend in NYC was therapy/education filled. Talking to the other wives of wounded warriors helped me better understand that what I experience with my husband is commom with a wounded warrior. PTSD is all too real, and I gained a better grasp on it while there. Many things that I thought were just a part of his personality I have learned are PTSD related. I am very blessed that my husband is so devout in his Christian faith, which tremendously helps alleviate some of his symptoms. Learning how to handle them on my end, though, is making a world of difference.

His spinal cord injuries and nerve damage are not only physical inhibitors, but they are also mental inhibitors. And there are many explanations that I received for symptoms that we have been unable to understand. We have decided to schedule some more testing that will hopefully give us some answers.

In addition to learning more about my husband, his injuries and his benefits, though, the purpose of this weekend was to attend a writing workshop at the Writer's Guild of America, East. They broke us into small groups of five, and each group was assigned two mentors. We were the lucky group who received three mentors, and we were so blessed with the ones we got.

Eric Bogosian, otherwise known as Captain Danny Ross on LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, was incredible in his wisdom, insight and understanding. The man has lived life, and he was not afraid to share that with us. He listened to our stories, and he encouraged us as writers to pursue them. In addition to his role on LAW AND ORDER, Eric also starred in UNDER SEIGE II as well as numerous Broadway shows, and he is a successful novelist.

Marsha Norman is an instructor at Juliard, an incredibly successful novelist, and an even more successful playwrite. She spoke to us on an emotional level, and she fully immersed herself into our stories. She guided us in a way I cannot explain, and her guidance helped tremendously.

John Markus formerly wrote for THE COSBY SHOW. His list of successful writing jobs are far too many for me to remember, but that is the one that stuck out the most in my head. He also wrote jokes for Bob Hope, Conan O'Brien, and other late night comedians. He was a kind, honest man who helped us look at our writing from different angles.

The caregivers in my group touched my heart in ways they will never know. I was blessed with an incredible group of ladies, and I feel that I can call on them at any moment. We encouraged each other, and I believe that we all truly believed in each other's abilities. We will motivate and encourage one another until we return to NYC in November with (hopefully) our finished, our close-to-finished, work.

All in all, I experienced a weekend far greater than anything I could have imagined. The donations people gave blew my mind, and the care and hard work that Anna and Michelle put into making sure every single detail was perfect was unbelievable! Disney donated tickets to Broadway shows; Wounded Warrior Project flew us up there, gave us hotel rooms, and fed us 3 dinners, a lunch and a breakfast; the Writer's Guild provided us with a location for the workshop, breakfast and lunch two days, copies of screenplay scripts, snacks throughout, and far more that I am forgetting; every mentor donated their entire father's day weekend to us, one even missing the Tony Awards for this event, where he won two Tony's; and a software company donated a copy of "Final Draft" for each of us, software worth approximately $200. I am still in awe, and I have now been home for almost a week. All of their hard work just for us motivates me to work hard to create a worthwhile piece from this. So... I'm off to writing....

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Hurt Because He Hurts

I hurt. Not physically, emotionally. I hurt because he hurts. My husband is so tough and pushes through so much. He tries to do things that medicine says he shouldn't be able to do. He is determined to conquer as much of life as he can. When we went to Colorado last winter, he attempted snow skiing. Granted, he ended up riding down the mountain in a ski patrol snowmobile... which made the rest of us jealous... but he tried it. At the lake, he tried tubing. We took the boat slow and avoided bumpy waters, whereas he was formerly the type to aim for the bigger bumps. But he did it. He pushes himself harder than anyone I know, and he toughens up and tries to pretend there is no pain.

Today, he can't. Today is one of those days that makes my heart cry. I love this man more than anything, and seeing him in pain so intense he can't move is nearly unbearable. I try to be strong for him. I don't want him to see me weak, because then he will try to hide his pain. I want him to feel relaxed... to know that I want to help him and that I'm here for him.

He laid on his right side this morning. I knew immediately it was bad because, even on worse than normal days, he lays on his left side and wraps me in his embrace from about 3 AM until I get up. Today he couldn't. I got up and around, and I noticed he was still laying on his right side a couple of hours later. He hadn't moved. As I went to check on him, I saw the look on his face. I knew it was bad. His pain was so excruciating he could not move. Usually I can help him roll onto his back and then sit up, but today he couldn't even do that. I asked him if he wanted me to raise the bed so it sits him up, allowing him to get off that right side. He couldn't handle that. So he lays there.

Today is bad. Today he can't function. Yet through all this pain, I thank God that my husband, my hero, is here to feel it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cookie Doctor

Today was our monthly appointment with the pain management doctor. I think we have found a new one, but we have to stay with this one until we can get everything set with insurance. I'll let you know how it goes when we get to see the new one.

Today, though, I made the mistake of posting on my facebook status that I was "on my way to the cookie doctor." I actually did it to get a giggle out of the people who read the cookie post about that doctor and the friends of mine who knew the story. What I didn't realize is what that would sound like to those who did not know the story. If you missed it, you can see the original story here:

Needless to say, I got a few humorous comments on that status update.  :-)

The doctor appointment went good. They actually wanted to do an injection this time, but we were nervous about the cleanliness of the place, so Tim passed on the opportunity. We will just wait until we get to the new doctor. The doctor was more alert today... the most alert I have seen him thus far. He did not seem to be partaking of the meds as he usually does. He asked a few questions, signed the prescription the nurse handed him, and we were out.

So..... NYC!!!!

It was INCREDIBLE!!! The people I met, the things I learned, and the amount of focus it had on my husband, made it one of the greatest experiences of my life. Because there is so much to say about the trip, the wounded warriors and the caregivers, I will save that for another post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Doctor and NYC ~ Totally Unrelated

Update on the Pain Management Doctor:

We found a doctor who was highly recommended to us. This fellow is known for actually working to manage the pain, not just mask it. We were so excited, made the call yesterday.... and he does not accept our insurance. Boo! So, back to searching. Hoping beyond hope to find a good one soon!

New York City:

On an exciting note... I get to go to New York City this coming weekend! I began writing for online publications last year. It allowed me the opportunity to work more from home so I can be there for my husband when he's having a rough day, and it allowed both of us to move to the town where my stepson lives so we can be more involved. He was at a point in his life where it was vital for us to be nearby.

My career aspirations were to eventually write books. Taking this job for these online publications was a good foot in the door. Things have evolved since then, and my future is definitely on the upswing as far as my career is concerned. I have many doors that are continually being opened. Last month I learned that I was being offered the opportunity to attend a writing workshop in NYC... all expenses paid to NYC for a 3 day event. I could not believe the chance I had been given! My husband and stepson were hoping to tag along, but we eventually decided that it would be best for me to fly this one solo. I really wanted to get the most I possibly could from the weekend and fully focus on my work while I was there. We also knew that it would probably be our only vacation with my stepson this summer if they went, and they would have to experience it all without me since I would be in the workshop all day. So we're making other vacation plans with him, and I'm heading up to NYC alone. My thinking cap is already being placed on my head, and my focus is strong. I am so excited about all I may learn this weekend!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Daily Tasks

Saturday was the perfect day for a nap. As Tim worked on his project for school, I took a little nap. That little nap turned into three hours, something I very seldom do. I knew that meant I would not be able to sleep that night. At 12:30am I began painting our kitchen. Crazy... I know. Tim went to bed at about 2am, and I told him that when he woke we would be living in a whole new house.

At 7:30am I could hear the dogs in the bedroom ready to go outside for their morning jaunt. I opened the door to let them out, woke Tim up with a kiss and encouraged him to come see the new house in which we now lived. He got up just to please me because he knew that I had been up all night. As he walked in to the kitchen, I could tell it would be a bad morning. He saw the paint on the walls, made a fuss about how good it looked in appreciation for my work, and then did his best to make it to the couch to lie back down. He got frustrated because he had wanted to get some yard work done before church, but now he didn't see how he could even make it to church.

He rested for awhile, hoping that would ease the pain. A few hours later he got up to move around, and then went right back down. All day was difficult. Then, Monday morning came along and he popped out of bed before me, got dressed, had his coffee and went out to do yard work. It is absolutely amazing the difference a day can make!

Through it all, though, I must admit that I am so thankful for his pain. Feeling his pain means that he has feeling throughout his body. He can walk. He can function. He is alive. I thank God for that!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Focus and Discipline

I admire anybody who goes back to school after 40 years old. It was tough for me to go back to graduate school after only being out of undergrad for 2 years. I can only imagine how difficult it must be after being out for 20+ years. But, on top of that, going back to school after 40 when you are on medicine that would knock most of us on our rear ends... that's tough! I watch my husband push through this time with a strength that amazes me. For the most part, his professors are good to understand when he has to turn something in a little late because he had a bad week and couldn't finish his assignments. But he still gives it his all to try to do that as little as possible.

Right now he's in the middle of a project of designing a website. He has to write all the html codes and other codes that I do not understand. His medicine causes him to have difficulty focusing, yet he'll do what it takes to regain his focus and continue. He sits at our kitchen table for 8, 10, 12, and sometimes even 16 hours a day working on his projects. I use our home office for my work, so he sits up there so he does not interrupt me. He is exhibiting a discipline that deserves my respect... and that he gets.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Back in Business

I got my computer fixed, and I'm back in business! It's amazing how much we grow to rely on these machines that we seldom used 15 years ago. I can remember being in college and thinking of how cool it would be to have a laptop. You were a big deal if you had a laptop. I saved up and bought my own desktop so I wouldn't have to go to the computer lab all the time. I thought I was high and mighty because I had a desktop computer, but I still dreamed of a laptop. Now I can't seem to function without my laptop.

With my husband going to school through an online university, and me working primarily online, we are glued to our computers. We love to travel, camp, visit relatives, etc., so we invested last year in MiFi. We now take our internet with us anywhere we go. It still blows my mind that we can take our camper up to the lake, and sit outside around a campfire while we work.

On to my hubby... The past few days have been good days. He's had problems here and there, but overall he has been feeling good. Those are the days I treasure. We're still searching for a new doc, and hopefully we can find us a good one soon. One of my best friends whom I trust whole-heartedly is searching for the name of a pain management doctor with whom she had excellent results. She said he actually "managed" her pain as opposed to "masking" it. I'm praying that we are able to find long-term relief soon. Until then, I'll keep getting practice as an unofficial massage therapist on his problem areas. (I can't lie... the more excuses I get to touch him, the better. So my massaging him is somewhat of a selfish thing on my part, too.)

He is sound asleep as I write this, so I think I will go join him. Goodnight all!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Computer Troubles ~ My Apology

I got this blog up and going, and I was so excited about posting in it regularly. Last Tuesday, though, after I had completed my blog post and was trying to type an email to my stepson's teacher, my computer completely shut down on me. When I tried to access files, pictures, etc., it showed every folder empty. Eventually there was nothing I could do but turn it off. We took it to a few computer shops, and we finally found one Thursday who would fix it for a reasonable price. We received the call today that it contains a nasty virus, but they believe they can save all pictures and files. It will be a few more days before I get it back, so I may not be regular with my posts again until then. I apologize.

This also happened at a time that my husband's laptop was damaged by my carelessness. I spilled liquid on it, causing the keyboard to go out. Luckily it was covered under warranty, so we had mailed it in to be fixed the very day that my laptop crashed. When I attempted to use our trusty desktop that does not get much attention, we found that it is not so trusty. We're having to wipe everything off it and reinstall the operating system.

We may have many tech troubles in our household right now, but the way I see it is we will have 3 like-new computers real soon, so it's not all bad. Once they are all fixed with reinstalled operating systems and upgrades, I expect everything to run much faster and much more smoothly. Until then, my posts may be few and far between.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Going Back to School

My husband is going back to school. He earned his first bachelor's degree in aeronautics, but there is not much he can do with that now. He was looking at pursuing another career, but he knows that a regular job is not possible. He never knows from one morning to the next whether or not he will be able to get out of bed. A regular full-time job would not last long for him because he would have to use too many sick days. He spoke with career counselors upon his exit from the military, and together they decided on web design. It is something he can do from home, so when he has days that he cannot make it out of bed, he can still get on his laptop and work. If he is incapable of doing that, he can reset his schedule. Because he was afraid he would have to miss too many class days if he attended a regular university, he chose University of Phoenix. Last August he began working toward his bachelor's degree in Information Technology with emphasis in Web Design. He works so hard at this degree, which really shows me alot about his character. I gleam with pride as I watch him work. It is seldom easy, but as he does with most things he works hard and pushes through the tough times. Yet again.... my hero.

For further information on online education, check out these resources:

Online Education For Dummies

The Secret to Online Success at Axia College and the University of Phoenix

Rebel with a Cause: The Entrepreneur Who Created the University of Phoenix and the For-Profit Revolution in Higher Education

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pain Management Doctor

Today was our monthly doctor's appointment. I say "our" because I never let Tim go alone if I can help it. I want to know exactly what is going on with everything in his body. If they change his meds, I want to know why, how, and any other question I can conjure up. If they want to try a new procedure, I want to ask as many questions as I can, and then go home and research it. Tim was in the military for 21 years. He just takes orders without asking questions. I am extremely analytical by nature, and I want answers!

The pain management doctor Tim was seeing before moving away from the area quit his practice while we lived away. We switched to a new doctor where we were living, but when we moved back we had to switch back. Since his old doctor is no longer in practice, we had to find a new one... and fast.

Apparently we rushed a little too fast. We have been with our current doctor for about 4 or 5 months now. He originally seemed like he would be wonderful... at least, that was Tim's impression when he went by himself the first time because I was unable to get off work. As I made it to the next appointment with him, I noticed this office was unsanitary, the doctor always wears dirty jeans and an old t-shirt or scrub top, his nurses don't seem to know the first thing about the human body, they did not keep any records of what they were doing, and the doctor was rather spacey. It really concerned me. However, he was willing to try non-narcotic solutions to the pain. That's what we've been looking for! We want him off those narcotics. With his current level of pain, though, it is impossible. This doctor mapped out a plan that seemed perfect. He did an injection that decreased the pain for a few days. But when it was time for our next appointment, he had no clue what was going on, what he had previously done, and what the plan was that he had mapped out for us. As we described it to him, he didn't agree at all. So he simply refilled the prescription.

Today was even more interesting. We went in to where the nurse was sitting. She asked how the pain had been and if the narcotics were helping. Tim told her that the pain was still very bad. She said, "Then let's increase how many you're taking. What do you think you should take?" Really? This nurse is asking what narcotics we want and willing to just write a prescription? We were shocked. Tim said, "Well, actually I'd like to not take any more than I absolutely have to, so I would rather just stick to the amount that I already have." The doctor then walked in, sat down, and literally had the following conversation with us sitting there in complete shock.

"You know, I keep driving down the road and seeing these signs for Vacation Bible School. I went to Vacation Bible School when I was a kid... FOR THE COOKIES! I would go to every one of them I could so I could get those good cookies they had there. You remember that? They were so good. I'd hit every denomination... Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Catholic, Muslim.... well, I didn't hit Muslim. I wouldn't go to Muslim. But the cookies were so good! Did you ever go to Vacation Bible School as a kid?"

Tim responded, "Yes sir, but I don't remember the cookies."

Doc said, "I don't know how you could forget the cookies. Wow! Those cookies were so good!"

The nurse handed him the prescription, he signed it, and she told us we were finished and they'd see us next month. The doctor never said anything about the pain. He had no clue what was going on with Tim. Never in my life have I seen someone so unprofessional, especially someone who has other people's lives in their hands. I think it's time for us to find a new pain management doctor.


My education and career experience are in Exercise Physiology and Kinesiology. Naturally, I want to heal my husband with exercise. Working with him is a challenge to me because his conditions are a far cry from anybody else with whom I have worked. He desperately wants to get back in a gym, but with his current condition it would be a waste of time. Plus, he is too ashamed to go in and not perform as someone without injuries. I finally convinced him last week to walk up and down our driveway 3-5 times in a row, once or twice a day. We do not have a long driveway, but it is inclined. One time up is a difficult task when you cannot use your calves to propel your gait. He decided that he will walk the driveway when I go out for my daily run. The first day he did incredible! When I got back from my run he made it up and down the driveway 15 times. I stretched him when he finished, and he felt good. His pain was tolerable, and he had a happy energy to him. The second day he also made 15, but this time was pushing it. Seven more days have now passed that he has been unable to tackle the driveway. It is difficult for me to figure out how to convince this overachiever that more is not necessarily better in this case. We'll keep taking it one day at a time, though, and hopefully soon he can build up to consistently doing it every other day or every day.

Here are some good resources for further reading on exercise for spinal cord injuries:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wanted: Baby

I have a wonderful stepson. I am extremely blessed with him. However, my number one goal in life has always been to be a mother. I always thought that I would be married for a few years first, and then we would start trying. If it happened along the way, so be it. But we wouldn't actively try for awhile. Because of my husband's injuries, though, we decided to start trying a few months after we married. It has now been 10 months that we have been working toward this goal, but still no luck. We both want a child together more than anything. As of right now, we do not even know if it is possible. We are very aware that our odds are not as great as the average couple. But the way I see it is that my husband should not have lived through his crash, but God is a miracle worker. I believe my husband is nothing short of a miracle, and I believe that God can work a miracle in this case, too.

Here are some excellent resources if you are trying to conceive:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Our Story

In 2003-2004, my husband, Tim, lived in Arkansas with his first wife and two-year-old son, and he was deployed to Iraq for 12 months. In 2003-2004, I lived in Florida and had a boyfriend-turned-fiance who was stationed in Germany, and he deployed to Iraq. Based on location and jobs, it is highly possible their paths crossed in Iraq, but we will never know. They both made it through their deployments without a physical scratch on their bodies. Tim returned home after his deployment to find his marriage had failed while he was away. My fiancé was transferred back stateside, and a year later our relationship failed. I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Tim was a helicopter pilot and the Commander of the Counterdrug Aviation Division for the Arkansas Army National Guard.
On August 9, 2006, he was flying a counterdrug mission in Northwest Arkansas. His engine failed, and he plummeted 800 feet to the ground. After a year in Iraq without a scratch, he now was facing death from a mission in Arkansas with shattered and compressed vertebrae. Luckily, his extreme musculature protected him from fatal damage. He was flown to a hospital in Fayetteville, and a friend of mine who was also on the mission planned to fly over to visit him. He asked me to pick him up from the airport and take him to the hospital. I was warned before entering his room that he had not yet been told that he would never walk again. He seemed in good spirits as we went in his room, but the load of pain medications they had him on were probably to credit. He was very sweet, fun and flirtatious. I left his room that day with the belief that this poor 36-year-old big, muscular, athletic, tough guy would never walk again. My heart was broken for him. But my heart was also very interested in him. I asked about him, but my friend informed me that he was dating somebody. So I did not go back to visit him. I thought about him quite often over the next 3 years, assuming he was married and learning how to handle life in a wheelchair.
In May of 2009 one of my clients told me that she would like for me to meet her best friend’s brother. She said that we had so much in common, but he could no longer do many of the activities he once enjoyed because he was in a helicopter crash in 2006 that broke his back and left him with severe nerve damage. The more she talked, the more I realized that was the guy I visited in the hospital. I was immediately interested in meeting him again.
When we first met I was amazed at how well he got around. He could walk! In fact, other than a slight limp, some muscle atrophy and his scars, you could not tell he had been in such a horrible crash. I could tell he pushed to do things he once did because he was determined to still do them. At that point, though, I didn’t realize what a challenge it was for him.
In less than three months we were engaged. We both had known from that first weekend that we were meant for each other. As I planned the wedding, he was transferred to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, to their Warrior Transition Unit to process his disability retirement from the military. After our dream wedding and honeymoon he had to return back to Oklahoma to finish his retirement process. Nearly two months after we married, he got to come home and for the first time since we had known each other, we not only lived in the same house but actually lived in the same town. That was when I began to realize what my husband experiences on a daily basis.
He would get out and mow our yard in the morning. By the time I came home from work, though, he was on the couch unable to move without a tremendous amount of pain. He would sleep that night and still be in bed when I left for work the next morning. When I came home for lunch he was lucky to have made it to the couch. He would spend all day in too much pain to function with any normalcy. The next day would be better, so he would get out and wash his truck. That would knock him down for another day or two. All the activities that I saw him perform when we were living in separate towns, I thought he could do with just a little push. What I did not see when I would leave to go back to my home was that he could not function after those activities.
My husband is my hero. He gives it his all in everything he does. He pushes through the pain for as long as he can bare it. He tries to not let others see his pain and struggles. He is too proud, and he does not look for sympathy. He is the toughest man I know. Although he does take strong narcotics on a daily basis to help him cope with the pain, he always tries to take the least amount he can take and still function. He pushes, he strives and he never gives up.