Saturday, July 09, 2011

From a Different Position... Part II.

This is Part II.  To see Part I, go here.
Every two to three days he returned to the OR so the bandages could be removed, the wounds cleaned, and the new bandages replaced.  Sounds easy, just like when we get a cut, Band-Aid off wash with soap and water, Band-Aid on ta-da all done.  Not so much.  Surgery days meant blood transfusions, more antibiotics, more pain medication and optimistically more healing.  The wounds on his legs were huge; and once they were reduced in size then the surgeries for the skin grafts began.  The skin was removed from one part of his body and placed on another.  Think of severe sunburn where the skin has blistered and come off and the skin underneath is exposed to the air.  Or how about the pain where a shoe or boot blister has broken and the skin peeled away.  Now put that pain on a patch of skin the size of a very large frying pan at multiple sites.  I silently cried for him those days.
Chuck’s left hand looked like something “Young Frankenstein” (Gene Wilder) put together.  The front line medics and doctors did the best they could when you consider the severity of the different wounds they had to deal with on the battlefield.  The right hand thumb was shattered and the size of a “Johnsonville Bratwurst” and the rest of that hand swollen to match. Fortunately, his hand doctor was the best of the best and those surgeries began a few weeks after the leg surgeries and would last for at least five more years.  His face was swollen and covered in a slathering of antibiotic ointment to heal the burns of the blast.  His teeth were loose and jaw hurt making it hard for him to open his mouth very wide.
I’ll take a side note here and tell a funny story.  Chuck did not ask for anything except for pain meds.  Then about the third day in Intensive care, he asked for a bendy straw.  It would make taking oral meds so much easier.  Carren and I were desperate to help in any way we could, so we went in search of a simple bendy straw.  Even one of his friends who came to the hospital and works in the DC Area went looking for a simple bendy straw stopping at every hamburger fast food place he came to for several days with no luck.  Carren and I asked everyone we saw, nurses, cafeteria people, Post Exchange employees; we even went to the Red Cross.  The janitor thought we were crazy when we asked him.  In all of DC and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, we searched.  After days of looking, we never did find one; however, we had a good time looking.  Sending Carren and I on a simple bendy straw search was a gift from Chuck to us.  Searching for that straw took us out of his hospital room and gave us something to do and helped for a short time to relieve some stress in those first days.  Chuck was taking care of us while we were to be taking care of him.
They say men have selective hearing, well Chuck certainly did.  One eardrum was gone and the other severely damaged.  Eventually they replaced both of them and his hearing is now selective but not because of the injuries just because he is as guy.  I say that with a wink and a smile.
When the many days of surgery slowed to having weeks between them, another form of pain was to come.  It is called rehabilitative physical therapy or the torture department.  The physical therapy is the test of endurance and emotional strength, which begins to build our wounded soldiers into stronger individuals.  In surgery Chuck was oblivious to the reconstruction that was taking place. He dealt with the physical and psychological pain when he woke up.  Now the daily routine would add a new dimension to the profound elements of recovery.

To be continued...

Editor's note:  I never did get my damned bendy straw.  --Chuck

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