Sunday, January 4, 2009

Arriving at Walter Reed

The Friday after Thanksgiving, November 23, 2007, I headed home from my sister's house.  She lives 2 1/2 hours from us and I had no idea when I would be leaving to be at Allen's bedside.  I had been told that Allen would be transferred back to the states as soon as there was a flight available and he was stable enough to make the trip.  I was also told that when he was put in the air, they would call me with my flight information.  They reassured me that I would be there waiting on him when he arrived.  However, at this point they still didn't know for sure where he would be going when he came to the states.  They had mentioned Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Medical Center, and Brooke Army Medical Center.  They thought it would be Walter Reed but didn't know for sure.

For a person who likes to plan things in advance this was not an easy time.  Of course, the trauma of it all was already extremely difficult, but then the addition of more uncertainty made me crazy.  The wait of all of this was horrible.  I think that it would have been easier on me to go ahead and go to Walter Reed.  That way I would know that I would be there as soon as he got there.  It also would have helped to acclimate myself to the hospital and the whole complex of Walter Reed before seeing my injured husband.

When I headed home from my sister's house, I left the boys behind.  I just needed to get home, in case I had to head to the airport.  My parents and my sister were planning to head to my house later in the day.  Looking back, I had absolutely no business driving home that day.  I should have just left my van at my sister's house and rode with someone else.  Most of the drive home is a complete loss for me.  I have a very hard time remembering any of it except for getting pulled over by a highway patrol officer.  This I remember!  I was speeding, (imagine that,) and he pulled me over.  I obviously didn't look too good and he even asked me if I was okay.  I explained my situation and he was nice enough to let me go.  He didn't even ask for any of the normal stuff.  He just asked me to set my cruise control and take it easy.  (Which I did.)

I also had a bit more of a reason to panic on my way home.  Just before I left my sister's, I had called to get an update on Allen.  I was transferred to the ICU in Germany and they couldn't find him.  They told me that he had been transferred.  I even asked some questions as to whether or not they were sure and they were positive.  I asked where he had been transferred to and they didn't have the record of that.   So, I panicked a little and thought that he had been transferred to the States and that they hadn't called me.  I was afraid that if I didn't get home I might miss my flight to meet him.  Upon arriving back home I called the person making my travel plans.  He did some checking and called me back.  He told me that they had just transferred him to a different floor.  He had been moved out of ICU, not to the States!  While I was relieved that he had been downgraded from ICU, I was not pleased about this mix up.  

Once my sister and my kids got home, we began trying to make plans.  That is not an easy task, when you are at the complete mercy of the Army, let me tell you.  I was very fearful of flying by myself.  I am a small town Kansas girl who had NEVER travelled on my own.  I had never had to be the grown up on vacations or trips I had taken in the past!  I was terrified.  We tentatively planned to have my parents keep the boys and my sister was going to try to travel with me.  However, we all did realize that this was Thanksgiving weekend.  We also knew that since my family was not considered his immediate family, the military would not make any arrangements for any of them even if we payed for it.  So, we were not able to try to get her an airline ticket until after I found out my arrangements, which were going to be completely last minute.  I didn't really like my odds, but what could I do about it? 

The rest of this weekend is pretty much a blur.  I think I was still in shock.  I was physically worn out but couldn't rest.  I didn't want to interact or talk to anyone.  I just wanted to get to wherever I could see my husband.  Allen's time out of the ICU didn't last long either at this point.  They had gotten him up to walk and he began having seizures on them again.  So, they moved him back to the ICU where he remained until after he arrived at Walter Reed.     

I can't remember for sure, but I don't think that I found out my itinerary until Saturday evening.  I would fly on Sunday morning.  Allen would also be flying out of Germany on Sunday and would arrive at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Sunday evening.  They assured me that I would be there waiting on him.  Needless to say, we were unable to get a flight for my sister.  I was flying on one of the busiest travel days of the year.  

Sunday morning my sister drove me to the airport on her way back home.  I was nervous and sick after having to tell my Makale and Dreyson goodbye.  (Makale was 11 and Dreyson was 4.)  It was hard enough having their dad gone, then injured, but now I was leaving too.  It was very hard on all of us.  

My flight ended up being fine.  I had no trouble even at Reagan International and finding the baggage claim and the people there to pick me up.  They sent a soldier in uniform which made it pretty easy to tell he was probably there for me.  It was dark, early evening, when I arrived and they took me straight to Mologne House (the hotel on Walter Reed) to check in.  They didn't have room for me there and put me up in the Guest House right across the street.  This was fine except I did have to share a bathroom with another room.  It ended up being fine though and was a very nice room.  From here they took me straight to the hospital.  We entered WRAMC and signed into the front desk.  We then went to the SFAC which is a family assistance center.  A lady took me into her office, (I cannot remember her name but she is a sweetheart).  She gave me a ton of stuff and pointers.  It was information overload about procedures, benefits, and a plethora of other important info.  (This is one of the things that I think needs to be changed.  I tried to give some suggestions to the powers that be while I was there but they didn't seem to care.)  She also explained that the buses hadn't come in yet, so I had beat my husband there.  After receiving all of the directions and information she had to give me, she took me to the SICU to see my husband.  

Finally, what I had been waiting for, for the past 11 months.......

Even Now,



  1. Gina-
    I find that as I read your story-I go to remembering how I felt when Rodney was wounded-I can feel all the feelings I know you were having-the anxiousness and dealing with the unknown and mostly the part about being at the mercy of the Army. I am also someone whom likes to know what is happening-a planner.My heart goes out to you girl-been there done that: not a club we ever wanted to be a part of. Somehow some way we are going to find a way to get some changes made!!!!

    Talk to you soon!

  2. Are you a Virgo as well? I seem to remember you were but can't remember now. Yeah I like to know how to plan the future too but waiting is the WORST! Good post Gina!