Sunday, April 26, 2009

Surgery #15

Paul had surgery #15 on Friday. We dropped the kids off at daycare around 7:30 and he and I headed to the hospital. I had the chance to stay with him in the triage and help him undress and put on his hospital gown. I joked around that wearing that thing is like old times which was of course was met with a glare. I guess his 64 day stay as an inpatient did him in. When it was time for me to leave and for him to be wheeled into surgery, I stepped out into the hallway and walked past the waiting rooms that I had spent so much time at. All at once it hit me and I was reminded of of how it felt so many other times. So much of our lives revolved around that hospital for so long and I didn’t realize at the time just how difficult and traumatic the whole thing was. I felt like I should walk back to my hotel room with the kids but then I realized just how alone I was and that that wasn’t an option. I walked down the hallway, annoyed that I had worn my flip flops that kept slapping so loud against the quiet floor. Too quiet at that. I paused to look out the window of the hospital and saw the same scenery that I had watched before. I stepped into the elevators that I had spent just as much time in, the same ones that my daughter could find her daddy’s floor by heart and had once dropped her Lightning McQueen diecast car down into the shaft. She remembers of course too and reminds me every time we ride on them that he’s down at the bottom in the dark.

I rode the elevator down to the basement and thought about getting some breakfast but knew there was no way that I could stomach it yet. I’d been feeling sick all morning, and wasn’t sure if it was nerves or not but I knew the DFAC food would only make it worse. I stood there reading the menu to see what they offered for lunch later on in case I had gotten my appetite back. An older lady stopped and said “they serve breakfast until 9:30 hun.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I already knew that since I pretty much used to live here. I also knew that you could get free meal coupons from the chaplains and that if I stayed in one spot for more than a minute, someone would ask me if I needed any help finding something. For the most part, people are just genuinely friendly and helpful here. Of course it’s normal to see people who are severely burned and missing limbs everywhere here and wounded warriors are treated with respect. There are signs up in the DFAC that wounded warriors can go to the front of the lines, signs in the pharmacy that say the same thing along with a specific pharmacy for wounded warriors. The support for our troops is amazing here and it definitely shows.

Eventually I wandered back down to the waiting rooms and sat down on the comfortable leather sofa. I had every intention of enjoying some quiet time for myself and reading a book. Once I stretched out though, I think I was awake for about 3 minutes before I fell asleep. I really hadn’t gotten any sleep before and it was catching up to me. I slept off and on and before I knew it, someone was telling me his surgery was finished and I could go see him in the recovery room.

He was wide awake when I saw him and his arm was wrapped in a thick bandage. He had a nerve block so everything was completely numb and he wasn’t in any pain. He said his arm felt like it weighed 100 lbs so they gave him a sling to put it in. The doctor had gone in and removed several layers of scar tissue that was preventing him from moving some of his fingers. Also some of the tendons that had been severed and tied together had come apart so those were fixed. They shaved off most of the large tennis ball sized lump of grafted skin to make it look a little better. I never kept track of the number of stitches he’s had but I’m sure there’s been well over a hundred and he got plenty more today. He is supposed to have one more surgery after this to get more scar tissue and some more cosmetic work done on his arm. This time they opted not to open up his fingers and mess with the nerves because they’re hoping the removal of so much scar tissue will help him get some feeling back in the two fingers that are numb to him.

There has been talk all along about amputation and still stuff has been said here and there about removal of the two fingers that don’t have any feeling in them. I’m sure that since he’s come this far with the limb salvage that he will be keeping his arm (provided there are no more infections) and I know he doesn’t want to lose the fingers. When the nerve block started wearing off he was able to move his first few fingers and his thumb a little more than he has been able to up to this point. He has to go right back to getting occupational therapy Monday so I’m sure that will be very painful as it usually is. He’s still going to be on Percocet for awhile so I will be back to going to formation with him every day. His doctor recommended that he take 14 days of convalescent leave but with all of his appointments and therapy, plus full time school, he can’t really go anywhere. He hasn’t had any leave since around Christmas and I know he needs a break but doesn’t want to miss any classes. He has one that’s a hybrid class that he could pretty much do most of the work online so I’m hoping to drag him to Disney World sometime this year. I know it will be awhile before the next surgery so hopefully we can do something to get away from our lives that revolve around the hospital. I still have to have my thyroid scan and uptake so I have to figure out soon what I’m going to do to treat the Graves’ Disease. I’m not looking forward to either option but I’m tired of the way I feel so something needs to be done.

Now that surgery #15 is behind us we can get back to the new normal of our lives. Paul’s unit just passed the one year mark in Afghanistan and it’s hard to believe what the past 9 months have been like for us. Sometimes it feels like we’re worlds away from the way things should’ve been without the IED. I often wonder if I would’ve stayed in Texas or if I would’ve moved back to my hometown for the 15 months. I was seriously considering it right around the time he was injured. Sometimes it’s frustrating to hear people talking about how their husbands are “lifers” in the military and he’s going to stay in until retirement so they have no other plan. I’ve learned that you always need to have a plan b or c, or some kind of backup plan because you just never know how things are going to turn out. I’m finding that there are a lot of military wives, mostly young, that just don’t think this kind of thing could happen to them. Or they just don’t think it will. Our lives can change with every breath we take.

There are plenty of things that I should’ve planned for better. 10 years ago I was in college majoring in travel and tourism. It sounded like an exciting field and I was excited to get hired with a large agency even before I graduated. I hated it. I’m not a salesperson and while there were some perks to booking travel, there were plenty of draw backs. Yet I put time and money into school for it and realized right away that it just wasn’t for me. Rather than growth in the travel industry, travel agents are becoming obsolete since you can book things online. I’ve preferred to book stuff online. I turned down a job with Travelocity a few months ago and they’ve posted it again on Career Builder and I’ve seriously considered reapplying. It sounds like a great company, a fun company to work for but I know I would start to dislike it after awhile. I just don’t think that’s the right direction for me. I thought graphic design or web design but after a couple of classes in both of those, I realized that is more of just a hobby for me. It will always be a creative outlet for me but I think I’m finally on the right track with what I’m pursuing now. Thanks to the military I’ve got some time to finish it now.

Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. For the first time since we moved to Texas, I heard my husband say he was glad, despite everything that’s happened, that he made the decision that he did. Even despite being reclassed and being a gunner and missing the IED that hit him. I feel like it kind of takes the blame, er weight off of my shoulders a bit. It might just be the Percocet talking though.


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