Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dr. Ike Nnawuchi

January 15, 2007 is a day that will forever be in my memory.  This is the day, I briefly touched on earlier, that we met Dr. Ike Nnawuchi.  What an amazing person.  I thank God that he came into our lives that day and that he was able to see Allen at one of his worst moments.  (Not that I want people to see him at his worst, but finally a psychiatrist was able to see some of the things that I see on a somewhat regular basis.)  

As I said in my last post, the night we met Dr. Ike, Allen was on the floor in a public place, searching under tables and chairs for explosives.  Not something every person sees their husband do!  Some of that night is a little fuzzy in my mind.  I'm sure I was somewhat in shock and not exactly sure what I was supposed to do or how I should react.  It is extremely difficult seeing someone you love, acting so bizarre and being totally unresponsive to anything else in his environment.  I do not exactly remember how the evening ended, other than the fact that I had been given business cards from every person in the room telling me to call if I needed anything!  

Later, Allen and I talked about that night.  After the episode, flashback (still not really sure what to call them), he has no memory about what he has done.  So, generally sometime within the following 24 hours we talk about the entire incident.  I always have to tell him exactly what has happened and try to see if he can tell me what he was feeling or actually seeing.  He has not been able to recall any of this so far from any of these episodes.  While we were discussing this particular one, Allen told me I should call Dr. Ike.  (We immediately started calling him this because I didn't know how to pronounce his last name!)  I was hesitant because I wasn't exactly sure why he had been with Major General Bunting and so many people tell you to call if you really need something but then pray that you never do.  I didn't think Dr. Ike really fell into that category but you never know.

Things seemed to settle down for a few days and we didn't really talk too much more about it.  However, Dr. Ike kept coming up in our conversations.  Some of it was a curiosity as to why he had come to see us, but more was because we genuinely felt a connection with him from that first night.  Allen kept telling me to call him but I was nervous.  I used to be shy after all!!  We finally decided we would call Colonel Faulk instead, as we had met him several times previously and knew why he was coming to visit.  He was the air surgeon for the Air National Guard and friends with MG Bunting.  Allen actually ended up calling him and just talking with him about what Dr. Ike was wanting to do.  Col. Faulk told us that he would be thrilled to hear from us and was very interested in our case.  He was hoping to get involved in some of the military side of treating the psychiatric wounds.  

After Col. Faulk convinced us we should call, we did.  I can't even remember whether or not I called first or Allen did.  I do know that we are both very grateful that we made that call.  Dr. Ike is now a very close friend of ours, much like family.  We saw him a few more times while we were at Walter Reed.  We were able to meet his wonderful family, his wife Jackie, and their (now) 5 children.  

Dr. Ike was the head of emergency psychiatry for the Washington D.C. metro area.  He has very impressive credentials as a psychiatrist.  This however, is not what makes us so thankful for him.  It is his compassion.  He has a true desire to help people heal, to get better.  He is there for us any time we need him.  Sometimes I wonder how often he gets to see his family, with the amount of time he gives to everyone else.  

Seeing him at Walter Reed was always a highlight of our day there.  He is such a great friend as well as doctor.  There have actually been several times since coming home that I do not know what I would have done had I not been able to get in touch with him.  One of these times involved Allen having another severe flashback.  The flashback had started in the car.  It had been going on about 20-30 minutes before we made it home and thankfully, my neighbor was home and helped me guide him into the house.  When he came into the house, he came in as if he were clearing a building.  You could actually see him holding his weapon in his hands as he did it (even though he had no weapon.)  I did not know what to do and I was scared.  This was the worst he had been since leaving Walter Reed.  It was also emotionally harder on me because bringing him in the house didn't snap it.  I truly thought that coming into his own home would break this horrible trance like state.  I was wrong.  Once we were inside and he began clearing the entire house, I was able to get Dr. Ike on the phone.  We talked for a few minutes and threw around some options.  One of which was to call 911.  I was very afraid to do this.  I did not know what they would do.  I did not want him coming to in the state hospital tied down and looking at me as to why I put him there.  We were also afraid that it could escalate the whole situation.  I was not sure how Allen would react with police and guns, lights and sirens.  It is not an easy situation to be in.  Dr. Ike stayed with me on the phone, supporting me and giving me ideas of things to try to say to him to bring him back to reality.  Finally, after over an hour, he leaned against the wall grabbing his chest, where his chest tube had been.  (At the end of every single severe flashback like this, his wound site, as he calls it begins to hurt.  We've had it checked by several doctors and it is fine.  However, it causes him severe physical pain when the flashback is about to end.)  He slid the floor clutching his chest and began to come back.  It was difficult for him to talk as he was trying to catch his breath and he was still in much pain.  But I could see it.  I can see clear as day, when he comes back to reality just as I can see him leave.  The flashback was over.  

Dr. Ike stayed with me on the phone the entire time this was happening.  When I called, he had been in with a patient and still made himself available to me and Allen during our crisis.  Without him supporting me through this, I think we both would have needed 911.  This episode happened in the early afternoon and Ike continued checking on us the entire evening and even the next day.  This type of dedication and compassion is hard to come by in today's world.  I truly do not know what where we would be without Ike in our lives.  

So, to you Ike, I say thank you.  You are an amazing man, doctor, and above that friend.  You are like family to us.  Please know how much you mean to us and how much we thank God that you came into our lives that day at Walter Reed and that I finally got brave enough to call you!!  To many more years of friendship, we look forward to our journey that lies ahead.

Even Now......Gina