Once we moved to the fifth floor, I became more of Allen's caregiver. The nurse's here were mostly wonderful. However, we did at times have the ones we wish we had never met. We also met some who became our friends and we still keep in contact with. Really though, the nurses had it pretty easy in our room as I did everything I could for him. And, let me just tell you, I was definitely not cut out to be a nurse. I do not do blood well. Scraped knees are not a problem, but cuts or running blood have me running.
Allen was still very sore and stiff, especially from his chest tube. I learned to help him sponge bathe, change his dressing on his wound, dress, toilet and whatever else he needed. One of my scariest nights the entire time I was at Walter Reed happened the first night we stayed on Ward 58. Right after moving to this floor, they hooked Allen up to an EEG to monitor his brain waves. I had been instructed to push a button on the machine if anything out of the ordinary started happening with him. They were looking for seizure activity. Initially the night started out okay. However, about 1:00 am it took a turn for the worse. I think that a nightmare started and at times there seemed to be some seizure activity. The nurse ended up being in our room the majority of the rest of that night. I do not think anyone near our room got any sleep. (I also have to say that this is the worst night he has had since the blast. He still has nightly nightmares, but this was by far the worst.) Several times through the night, the nurse called for help from other nurses on the floor. She had control over the button the rest of the night and I don't think she ever put it down. Allen became very vocal and agitated although he was still asleep. He also looked extremely fearful. The longer it went on the worse it all became. I was terrified but also able to keep very calm and quiet. I just kind of watched it all unfold from the corner of the room. At one point during this nightmare, he actually saw me and he said to me, "Oh hi honey, come one we have to get to the gate." So, he came conscience enough to know I was there but instead of coming back out of his dream, he took me into his dream with him. He also happened to get a hold of my hand during that brief moment and wouldn't let go. He squeezed my fingers so tight that at one point I was afraid I may end up with some broken digits. He never did get combative and managed to stay in his bed although there was a great deal of movement involved. I think it was about 5:00 am when he finally came out of this state. It was really bizarre. It appeared that he was awake and I now think that he was more awake than asleep. I think it was a severe flashback rather than a nightmare. Then I had no idea what was going on or why. I remember later feeling like he was never going to really come home. I also remember being afraid that he may end up in an institution or hospitalized for a psychiatric problem. For the EEG they had a ton of leads glued to his head and then wrapped with gauze. He kept grabbing at the wrap thinking it was his kevlar helmet. He kept saying how tight his kevlar was and that he needed to get it off. We managed to keep it on and keep him from getting any further injuries. It was a long night and very scary for me, but also helped to prepare me for things I have had to deal with since.
That was the worst time during the entire in patient stay. They continued to monitor him on the EEG for 24 hours. The test ended up showing no seizure activity in his brain, but me and the nurses sure thought he was having seizures throughout that whole episode.
The rest of the time Allen was an in patient went very smoothly. He still did not want me gone for too long so I kept up the same routine of spending the night in his room then going to my room to shower in the morning. There were a couple of nights though that I had to get some sleep so I stayed in my room. He had someone in his room constantly doing something so it was hard to get a large block of sleep at one time. I knew that I had to get some uninterrupted sleep or I would end up sick as well.
We had several visitor's during this time. I already mentioned the celebrities that come through. We also had a social worker who would come see us as well as members of the Kansas National Guard who were in DC for meetings. Our state Adjunct General, Major General Bunting came to see us 3-4 times throughout our time at Walter Reed. We really like everyone from home who came to see us. It was always nice to catch up on stuff from home. Having MG Bunting come also made us feel like our sacrifice had not gone unnoticed. He truly cares and is a very genuine man. He made us thankful to be from Kansas.
On December 3, 2007 Major General Bunting came back and presented Allen with his Purple Heart award. Allen was so shocked that he was actually getting this award. I remember how honored he was and still is for that matter. He also brought several other Kansas officials with him. We had also invited some of my relatives to come who live in Fairfax Virginia. I had not seen them in years, and once again, Allen was so thankful that people would actually do this stuff for him. The nurses on the floor actually went and found a flag and held it up so that there was a flag for the back drop of the presentation. (You can see in the pictures that the flag is actually being held up. We laugh about that now.) Allen also insisted on wearing his uniform for this, even though he was still an in patient. Major Gonzalez brought him a new uniform so that he could be ready and he insisted on wearing it. I don't think he ever got the boots on but I'm sure he would have if he could have or if I would have let him!!
December 5, Allen was discharged from the hospital to go to a hotel to finish his recovery. They were giving him 30 days of convalescent leave so that he could go home for the holidays. They didn't have any rooms at the Mologne House still so they put us up at the Hilton in Silver Spring, Maryland. We stayed there a couple of days before going home for the holidays. We had to return January 6, 2008.