Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11

Today is always full of many different feelings for me. I remember the day that changed America forever clearly. I was teaching Middle School and had a class full of 8 graders when another teacher came to my door and told me what was going on. We ended up setting up televisions in several rooms and the teacher's lounge. It was next to impossible to stop watching. It was really hard explaining to the kids what was going on. I also remember going outside our school, which is a rural school out in the middle of nowhere. It is not even in a town! The sky was so clear and beautiful that day. And all across it, we could see all of the vapor trails from the planes trying to land. Later in the afternoon, the sky was clear, not a plane to be seen anywhere.

That day, I barely knew Allen. I knew that the events would change every American's life, I just never expected it to change mine so drastically. Here I was a teacher, in rural, central, America, a single mom and no plans to change much of anything in my life anytime soon. Little did I know, several years later, my life would be changed beyond anything I could imagine. I now find myself reflecting on how that day profoundly changed my life.

Today, I pause to remember the events of that day. I mourn the lives lost that day and all the days since, as our Heroes fight to make sure I still have my freedom. I mourn the loss of the way America used to be, before 9/11. I celebrate the patriotism that has been rekindled in our great nation. I also celebrate the life of my husband, whose own selfless sacrifices haunt him daily. Lastly, I pray for peace, for our nation as well as that of my family and all those families affected by that day 9 years ago.

Today, September 11, 2010, I honor all of America's heroes, both past and present!

Even Now........Gina

Friday, September 10, 2010

Caregiver's Bill

Yesterday I did a survey for caregiver's of OIF/OEF vets. It took about 20 minutes and asked questions I expected. However, I often wonder if, statistically speaking, am I truly considered a caregiver. At the AW2 Symposium, I had the opportunity to ask a General that question. He gave me his political answer, which I expected. I just pray that when he is sitting inside those meetings where they are discussing the parameters of the new caregiver's bill, he will remember me and a little bit of our story.

For a long time, we have been frustrated with the fact that my husband does not qualify for much of anything when it comes to the "benefits" related to being injured. I'm not talking about VA benefits here, but other things like TSGLI and some other help from non profit organizations. It seems that since his physical wounds have heeled and he can dress himself, feed himself, shower, transfer, and use the bathroom on his own, we do not qualify for much needed assistance. In my opinion, if he can't be left alone because of his psychiatric injuries, then he needs just as much assistance as the ones who need help doing the tasks of daily living. After applying twice, we did finally qualify for the minimum TSGLI which I think is unfair as well. He can physically do the things they require, but if left alone, he might wander out into the street, in traffic, and not have clue what's going on around him. If he gets triggered, he might run out of the house and take off completely unresponsive to anything around him. The list goes on and on.

So, it will be very interesting to see how this Caregiver's Bill plays out. Will I be considered a full time caregiver for my husband? I've been told by several people who are in positions to have an inside scoop, that we should not have anything to worry about. We should definitely fall into the circle of those who are happy and not left outside looking in. However, we can't believe any of it until we see it. For those who do not qualify, it will be more stress and scrambling in trying to take care of their spouse and families. For many of us, we would give anything to go back to work and contribute to the financial well being of our families. I used to teach middle school before all of this happened and I loved it! There is no way though that I could return to any kind of a job now, let alone a career.

This bill also has more things than just money involved that make me excited. Respite care!! To be able to go out of town for a weekend with a friend and have someone paid to come in and take care of my husband would be amazing. As it stands now, if I want to do ANYTHING, I have to arrange for someone who can watch my kids and their dad. This doesn't make getting out too easy! Even just to be able to go to lunch with a friend or Christmas shopping on my own, and not have to worry about what's going on at home and who is watching who. My kids will not have the added responsibility of taking care of their dad while I run to the store. Maybe, they can just be Kids again to some degree.

The other thing it will cover is training me in taking care of him. Everything I know to do is what I've figured out on my own. You know it is bad when we are in a psychiatrist office and the doctor looks to me as to what to do when he starts having an "episode." An Army psychiatrist doing his med board evaluation even left the room when my husband dove to the floor, took out his table because a fire alarm went off in the building. The doctor actually said to me, "I'll just leave you two alone for a little while." That was that, he walked out and shut his door. I ended up being there for 3 hours trying to get my husband off the floor. I was irrate, but what could I do? So, actually having a professional tell me how to handle these "episodes" would be extremely helpful. Although, I must say, I'm not very hopeful that they really know what to do.

This all important bill is critical for many of America's Heroes and their Families. Please pray that it will apply to the many families like ours that may fall through the cracks, again!

Even Now......Gina

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Explanations Do Not Come Easy

This Labor Day weekend, our house has been filled with company. One of my husband's cousins and his family came to visit. It is the first time in the 9 years we've been together that anyone from his family has come to visit us. It is also the first time we have spent any amount of time with anyone from his family since his injury.

I'm thankful that he finally got to visit with some of his own kin. He loves my family like his own and they love him too. However, I'm sure that there is nothing like one's own blood relatives. We were all excited to have them visit, but it is definitely a struggle to try to keep it all together!

Overall the weekend went pretty well. However, I find it very difficult to explain what our life is like to someone who has no clue what PTSD is and how it can manifest itself, as well as all the other things that go along with it for Allen. He had several "flashbacks" which were relatively mild in comparison to some he has had. One night he did have one that was bad enough I had to force him into the shower and then put him to bed in order to break the cycle.

The other thing I have found is that everyone seems to have a magic solution for him. The best thing I can relate it to is when a woman is pregnant and everyone has to give her advice for what to do and how best to do it. Everyone seems to have advice and their ideas about what he needs to do to get better! Of course, they do not share these "ideas" with Allen, but with me instead!! Well, I'm thinking if you can't share them with him, maybe they aren't going to work for him!! And, if you have not ever been around someone with combat PTSD, please keep your ideas and suggestions to yourself. I have taken care of my husband now for almost 3 years with absolutely NO help or support from any part of his family. Please do not come in and tell me that all he needs to get over it is to spend more time with HIS family. Well as far as I'm concerned, his family consists of me, our boys, my parents, and sister! We have all been here through all of it and still love him!!

It seems to me that as often as I have to explain my husband's bizarre behavior, I would get used to it and have an explanation down pat. Yet, I still struggle with explaining it even this far out. I expect to have to explain it to kids who witness one of his flashbacks or episodes, but adults are harder for me. Hopefully one of these days, society as a whole will start to get it!!

Even Now........Gina

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hope in The Pathway Home

I think I've already mentioned that this summer has not been a good time in our lives. My husband has been very up and down and on the edge of stability for a few months now. In July he spent a week in the psychiatric floor of the VA trying to get a grasp on life again. It did help him stabilize but he still teeters very close to that edge constantly.

Before leaving the VA in July, we had a plan. The doctor there had contacted a doctor in another near by VA that has the in patient PTSD program. We were told that they were not going to release him until they had a firm plan in place and that they did not want him going home for more than 2-3 weeks before getting into a PTSD program. Well, obviously that 2-3 weeks passed quite some time ago, because here it is September and we are still waiting for that spot to open up that was promised to us by the first part of August.

Last week, after jumping through all the hoops to get into the program at the VA, I was fed up. We had originally tried some other options while he was in the hospital which did not work out. We learned that although he has medicare, tricare, and VA, the only one that will pay for PTSD treatment is the VA. It is the VA's responsibility after all. Therefore we thought that any other options were really out of the question. But, as fed up as I was, I thought I'm going to look around anyway.

While I was searching, I happened upon an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about a program in California called The Pathway Home. It is a program that Allen had already been accepted into a year prior but had decided not to attend because there was concern that he would learn to function in a program but not in the real world and become a "professional" patient. Well, I really thought it would be a dead end too, but decided to send an email to inquire as a last chance. Thankfully I did send that email. The next morning I had an email back telling us we should have his doctor at the VA fill out the application for him and send it in ASAP and they would see what they could do. They are funded through grants and private donations so they are not limited by insurance companies or the VA. I begin seeing some hope in our future but am still afraid to get my hopes up too high. I did mention it to my husband, read the article to him, and he thought it sounded good. However, he is very apprehensive about anything and does not want to be disappointed again.

The day we had the email back he also had an appointment with his psychiatrist at the VA. We took a copy of the article to him to see what he thought. He was very impressed with the program and thought that we definitely should pursue it. We left his office with a little more hope. We went straight to his case manager's office and began filling out the application and the next day it was complete, signed, and faxed in. By Friday, everything was turned in and it was time for us to just wait. I had emailed back and forth with the administration lady, Kathy, several times and my hopes were rising. It sounded very promising for Allen getting in and quickly.

Monday came and went and I still had not heard anything. Tuesday I sent an email to make sure they had received everything they needed. They had and we needed to pick a date in a couple of weeks for him to go! We couldn't believe it! Finally, we were beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel and we were beginning to believe it wasn't a train!! So, our date was chosen, September 20 and we applied for airline tickets from Air Compassion. Yesterday we received our E-tickets and are beginning to prepare for this newest step in healing.

I'm excited about the possibilities. I'm praying for Allen to find peace within himself and his life so that he can relax and find a little bit of joy in life. Even if he doesn't get to a place where he is comfortable out and about, at least for him to have peace in our home would be a huge improvement. I'm also looking forward to a little bit of me time! My sister is going to fly with us and we are going to spend a few days together in California for a little R&R for me. It will be hard having him away, but in the end, I pray it is all worth it!!