What a week!!! I finally got all of my papers written and the stress of school is behind me (for now). I need to thank the MSW faculty at Washburn Univ. in Topeka, KS for allowing me to finish the semester while being away. I still have more catching up to do when I get back to Fort Riley, but the faculty is working with me so I don't lose the many hours I have already put in. I am taking a year off from grad school so I can take care of my family. I have one more year to go... eventually I will finish!
Chuck is doing really well. The two of us had an emotional meltdown this week and we feel much better now. Things were getting very tense b/w all of us (including Alice) and we needed to talk things out (and cry) to get past it. We all have a better understanding of how each of us feel and we don't let the tension build like we were doing before. We were all trying to protect each other and then BOOM! - a meltdown. The problem was the communication b/w patient and care-giver. We needed to understand Chuck's pain and how he was trying to express himself... and he needed to understand how Alice and I felt as care-givers, trying to take care of a loved one and make him as comfortable as possible. BUT, like I said, we got past it and we are all much better now. I am now "allowed" to sit on Chuck's bed w/ him (I wasn't allowed to before b/c of how sore he was all over)... and he wants me to lie down next to him sometimes too. We sat on the bed together for about 20 minutes yesterday and watched "The Simpsons" on TV. It's the simple little things like sitting next to your spouse to watch TV that make a big difference.
As far as Chuck's injuries go, they are all healing nicely. His legs look better every day and he is getting better on his feet. His left arm is his biggest problem. The grafts are healing well, but the pain he gets from the nerve damage is sometimes unbearable. He is moving his fingers on his left hand, which he was not able to do for some time after his arm was grafted. His left wrist is still broken, but he is getting a bit more movement in his wrist as the days go by. We still don't know how long we will be here and what other milestones he needs to reach in order to be discharged. Alice and I spoke w/ one of his (many) doctors on Friday and he said he would get some of the surgeons to help us w/ a general time frame of healing milestones and what to expect down the road. We don't need specifics... some general info would be nice!
Amongst all of the above, we have had the honor to meet some amazing people this week. Today was the best... we met General Meyers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife. They are two wonderful, genuine people and it was a real honor to meet them and chat. Chuck told General Meyers his story and the General was quite impressed w/ Chuck and who he is as a soldier and leader. Alice was beside herself talking to General Meyers. You don't realize how much you respect a person until you are in their presence and see the "human" side. Just like we felt when we met President Bush.
Roger Clemens, pitcher for the Houston Astros (just in case you didn't know), was also w/ General Meyers. Mr. Clemens was also a very genuine man when speaking to Chuck about being a soldier and how he (Chuck) cares for his men. Mr. Clemens told Chuck that although he plays baseball for a living, he is part of a team and believes in his team. BUT, he said, that Chuck and his men were the "Ultimate Team" and he believes in all of them. Alice would like me to relay her thoughts of Mr. Clemens: "Not only is Roger Clemens tall, broad-shouldered, and incredibly handsome, he is every woman's dream of 'Oh my God Gorgeous!'" (BTW, Alice is in desparate need of a date. She is a widow and single. REPEAT: In desparate need of a date!). Alice told me to write all of that, so please don't think I am being harsh!
Yesterday (Sat.) we had the honor of meeting Major General (MG) Hunseker and his wife. MG Hunseker is the 1st Infantry Division Commander... The Big Red One. He and Chuck had a great conversation, but I missed a lot of it b/c I was talking to his amazing wife. They, too, are genuine, caring people who have such respect for all of the soldiers in combat and their families. He is from Pittsburgh, and Chuck and I are both from PA as well (Chuck was an Army brat, but when he was 14 his dad retired in Carlisle, PA). MG Hunseker's sister went to Indiana Univ. of PA (IUP), which is where Chuck and I were both commissioned. His father was a teacher at IUP as well. Small world! We talked about the various "languages" among Pennsylvanians and had some great laughs about how people say certain words. Sounds silly, but that is what we Pennsylvanians do!
Friday afternoon, Chuck's Brigade Commander, Colonel Howard, and his Brigade Command Sergeant Major, CSM Moore, came to visit. And not far behind was 2-34's amazing Rear Detachment Commander, CPT Stowell. It was good to see some familiar faces from fort Riley. Chuck talked to COL Howard, CSM Moore, and CPT Stowell for about an hour. Alice and I left them alone to swap war stories, have some laughs, and, if they could have, share a pitcher of beer (apparently there is some crazy rule about patients on narcotics not being allowed to drink alocohol. I just don't get it... ha ha).
On Friday we also met some other players from the Houston Astros. Later that afternoon we met a Congressman from Minnesota. I would write his name, but I would badly butcher the spelling so I won't. He was fun to talk to. Alice and the Congressman talked about the funky language in MN and it was just a fun, light-hearted conversation. He offered to give us a personal tour of the Capital once Chuck is ambulatory. He was very adamant to his assistant that HE give us the tour. Pretty cool.
We met the Secretary of VA and some of the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday (note: not Coors beer, the baseball players. Chuck actually didn't know who/what the CO. Rockies were until we told him. And he didn't try to blame the drugs for his lack of knowledge!). They were some really nice guys as well.
Alice and I would like to thank CPT Stowell and his wife Misty for taking us to dinner on Friday night. It was good to eat something other than hospital cafeteria food, but it was even better to be in the company of a man who has been helping me through this ordeal from day one. CPT Stowell, you are one hell of a leader and 2-34 is lucky to have you! And Alice wants to thank you for giving her a ride in the "luxury limo mobile." wink wink
We had some other visitors from home as well... Charles and Bev Bollman. They were in DC visiting family and they were kind enough to stop by and check on us. We go to church w/ the Bollmans in Junction City, KS. I also received a voice mail from Shelly Kite... she and her husband Tom were visitng in DC. They go to the same church w/ us as well. Unfortunately I was not able to link up w/ them, but want to send them a thank you for calling.
Okay.... I am done. Alice helped me with a lot of this so she needs some credit to this post as well. And if I continue to keep this post open she will tell me even more things to write!!!
Take care, God Bless, and thanks to all of YOU amazing people all over the world who dare to follow this blog! :)
P.S. from Alice: You have read about the people who have come to visit Chuck. Now it's your turn... Alice really needs a date (w/ a man, of course).
Carren, Alice, and Chuck