Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I often talk about blessings we have received since Allen's injury. Trust me, we have received plenty. I am so thankful to be able to see the good in such a time of turmoil and tragedy. Some days it is difficult, but most of the time, the good shines brightly on our lives.

One of the blessings we have received came in the form of a machine called EMMA. EMMA is an electronic medication management assistant, lovingly referred to in our house as the pill ATM. EMMA helps Allen manage his medications independently and safely. We have 2 of these units which each hold 10 medications. They sit on our kitchen counter and do an incredible job!

EMMA is amazing. She does so many things and can really be individualized for each patient. Allen takes medications four times a day and she can be programmed for up to five times a day. When it is time for him to take his meds, a very obnoxious alarm sounds. He then enters a code on the machine's touchscreen. The machine then drops the medications that are due at that time. It gives him a little bit of time to take his meds, then alerts again for him to confirm that he has taken them. (This is very helpful in that he can't walk away and forget them.) If he forgets to take his meds or happens to be outside and misses them, I get a phone call on my cell phone. EMMA calls me to tell me that my spouse has not taken his medications!

Another great feature of EMMA is a vacation drop. If we are going to be out of town for a few days, or a single day, we can do a vacation drop. We enter the day we are leaving and the day we are returning. EMMA then drops each dose scheduled for those days individually and tells me to put each dose in a ziploc bag and label it. It then continues for each dose for the length of our vacation. Later, when we are away, EMMA calls my cell phone when it is time for Allen to take his medications, just like the alarm does when we are at home!

There are also capabilities for doing a single drop and those for PRN (as needed) medications. It will not let medications be dropped too close together. For example, Allen takes medications for migraines on an as needed basis. If he can take them every 6 hours, it will not let any drop before the 6 hour time frame has passed. It will tell you on the screen the next drop time available.

EMMA is set up with a monitoring system, much like that of a home security system. That is how this all works. EMMA communicates regularly, through wireless internet or cell phones. Because of this monitoring, medical professionals can see many things about their patient. The doctor can make medication changes remotely and also check on the patient's compliance with taking their medications. The possibilities are really endless with what can be done with this wonderful machine!

As a full time caregiver, EMMA definitely makes my life easier as well. Before receiving EMMA last February, medication management was my job. Allen takes 17 different meds and I was responsible for dispensing them all. It was quite a job and took a lot of time each day. If I was going to be gone, I had a huge job in making sure whoever was going to fill in for me, knew exactly what to do in regards to the meds. This usually was my mom or sister and it put a lot of added stress and responsibility on them. EMMA takes all of this away. She does this part of the caretaking for me!! It is a huge relief when I am away to know that Allen's meds are all safely administered.

On a personal note, EMMA actually saved my husband's life. A few months ago, Allen figured out a way to beat her. He has a code to enter that drops his medications and another to load/unload the machine. Because EMMA does not let him get his medications too close together, he decided to unload a card of pills and took most of them, and then put the card back in. (We have now set the machine so that he does not have the codes to load/unload the machine so this can't happen again.) I knew something was wrong but wasn't sure what. I called EMMA support to check everything out and they could tell me everything that had been done to the machine. They were able to tell me he had taken out a card, at what time, how many were in it when he took it out, and how many were in it when he put it back in. Without EMMA, I would have had no idea what was wrong for who knows how long. Instead, I was able to get him to the ER and to medical treatment. Everything worked out, but I am glad I did not have to see what would have happened without EMMA.

To learn more about EMMA go to www.inrangesystems.com or find her on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/EMMA/165561373469871 .

Monday, October 18, 2010

Calling 911

When Allen first returned home from Walter Reed, he received a phone call from our chief of police who wanted to welcome him home and thank him for his service. He also extended an invitation to Allen to let him know if there was ever anything he could do for him or our family. Little did he know, there was plenty he could do for us!

I remember back to that time and it was much easier than it has been recently. My husband has definitely progressively gotten worse in terms of his PTSD and the other monsters that go with it. I specifically remember the first time that I felt that I needed to call 911 for help with him but I was too afraid to make the call. We were in the truck and the tornado sirens began going off like they do every Monday for the test at noon. It triggered a dissociation for him and I wasn't sure what was going to happen. At this time, he hadn't had a lot of these episodes so I obviously had much less experience dealing with them. I remember thinking that if I could just get him into the house, he would snap out of it. He would be home and that should automatically bring him back because it is our home not Iraq. Needless to say, it didn't. I had called my dad to meet me at my house to help me get him into the house. We managed to get him inside and it seemed to make the episode worse. He began searching my house much like he would have had to clear a building in Iraq. I could tell that he thought he had a gun in his hand just by the way he moved and carried himself. This went on for a long time, several hours actually. I managed to keep him in the house, and therefore I felt it was still safe. Several times my dad and I discussed calling 911 but I was deathly afraid that something terrible would happen so I chose not to make the call.

After that incident, I decided to call our chief of police and make an appointment. I knew that I could not be afraid to call if I needed them but I also knew that many veteran's end up shot or tasered in instances with police. Allen planned to go to the meeting with me, but when the day came he didn't think he could handle it. So, once again I called on my dad.

We went to the meeting and I am so glad that we did. We explained to him Allen's story and his current situation. We made sure to let them know that we had no weapons in the house, he had not ever been combative, but he may not respond to directions from anyone. The Chief offered to put an alert on our 911 system so that if a call comes in for our address an alert pops up to let them know all of the above information. It also says for them to respond with no lights, no sirens and for them to find me to ask me what needs to be done.

What an amazing outcome! The chief then followed all of this up with an email he sent out to all of his officers telling of our meeting and what they could expect if they respond to a call at our house. We have had to call 911 many, many times since that meeting and every time it has been a great response from the police, EMT's and firemen. (In our small town, often all 3 respond to a call.) The last time we called it could have had a very different ending, but because of our proactive approach, it ended great for everyone.

As I've said, Allen is currently in a program in California receiving treatment for his PTSD. Before he comes home, we plan to meet with the Chief again to give him an update and I might go give a short personal briefing to the officer's just as a refresher as well as a thank you. We have also talked with one officer about bringing our boys down to the station to meet some of the officers and to educate them on tasers just in case they ever do have to witness their dad being tasered. Of course we pray that never happens, but it is much better to be prepared in advance!!

As a wounded warrior caregiver and wife, I often have to think outside of the box to make sure all of our bases are covered at all times. I encourage any of you to do the same. Reach out to those in your community that you may need to call on at times for help. It always helps to let people know what you might need before you need it.

Even Now........Gina

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Own Guilt

Since my husband is away getting treatment for his PTSD, I have had a lot of me time! It has been invigorating, relaxing, amazing, and on and on with the good verbs! However, with this has come some guilt and some self reflection. It's not been quite 2 weeks yet that he has been away and I've been back home, but that is more time than I've had for myself in a very long time! It has been over 5 years now that we've been dealing with deployments and injury. That is a long time!!

Before he left for California, I had a hard time imagining what I was going to do with myself. I even became a little panicky on the inside thinking about it. I knew that I would go volunteer at the Animal Shelter a few days a week, but I also knew that would not fill all of my time. I thought about trying to get a job, but then thought that might not be the best idea since we do not know how long Allen will be away, and quite frankly, I need to focus on my kids and myself for awhile! I thought I also might volunteer in our youngest son's classroom. I used to teach and thought that might be good for our son and me. Then I realized, I am doing it again. I am trying to schedule everything so that I do not have any time to myself! I had to really take a step back and figure out how much time I really want to volunteer, and how much time I should leave open for just whatever else comes up.

So, I think after almost 2 weeks I finally have it figured out. I am volunteering at the animal shelter 3 days a week for 2 hours each day. I am volunteering at Dreyson's classroom one morning a week for 3 hours. That leaves me 2 days, completely free during the week to do everything else, and to do something nice for me!

This week I met a friend in the city for lunch. It was a great time and I am looking forward to doing it again soon! However, driving up there that morning I had a lot of guilt. I realized that I had taken my time to get ready and actually really cared about my appearance. I put some thought into what I would wear and took the time to enjoy my shower, do my hair, and actually go out looking like I somewhat cared about myself. Thinking about this on the way to my lunch date, I was feeling really guilty. I imagined that people might start thinking and noticing that now that my husband was gone, I was trying to look good! The thought of someone actually thinking this about made me sick to my stomach! It is crazy what these types of feelings and thoughts can do to me!

The more I thought about this the more I understood what was happening. I feel guilty because I do not normally do those things for my husband. It's not because I don't love him or care what he thinks of me. It's because I am simply exhausted and so busy taking care of everyone else, that I never take the time or use the energy to do those things for myself. There is absolutely nothing for me to feel guilty about and if anyone wants to think those things about me, then I can't stop it anyway!!

After I dealt with the guilt, I actually enjoyed myself! I have always known in my head that I had to take care of myself first. However, when I was in the middle of it all, I couldn't really understand the importance of that. I always thought that I would eventually take care of myself and since I wasn't physically sick, I was fine. I would get around to me when everything else was done. It is just that everything else never gets done. There is always something.

I am so happy that Allen is away getting himself better. It is hard not having him here, but in some ways it is also a relief. I am really embracing this time to focus on my kids and on myself! I can't wait to see what happens with my husband, myself, and our family. I have a lot of hope and it feels really good.

Even Now........Gina

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Desperate Actions

I read an article today about a wounded warrior in North Dakota and his armed stand off with police in an attempt to get them to shoot him. This has been on my heart since reading it this morning so I thought I would share some of the things that are unsettled in my heart.


This article touched me deeply and has me thinking about a lot of things. I'm also praying for this family and all of our wounded and their families. It is heartbreaking that these heroes are crying out for help, and have very few places to find the help. All too often, they are left feeling desperate which leads to desperate behavior and actions. Now, instead of getting the help he needs, he is facing 3 felonies and other misdemeanor charges. Is this really how we treat our nation's heroes? How loud does the cry have to get for something to be done?

Thankfully, my husband is now at The Pathway Home getting help for his PTSD. However, we searched several months, and this is not the first time we have searched, to find somewhere that looks promising. There are not many programs out there that treat PTSD in veterans and once they are off of active duty, insurance will not pay for that treatment. The reasoning I am told, is because it is the VA's job to treat PTSD.

This does not leave much room for hope for veteran's out there searching for help. My husband does not have issues with substance abuse like so often happens with PTSD. So, finding a program that treats PTSD alone is difficult if not next to impossible. I feel very blessed that we were able to get him into the program he is in now. However, I often drift to the question of what will we do if it doesn't work? You see, he has been in patient before. He has tried everything the Army has as well as the VA except for the 7 week program the VA has. He's not stable enough for that so he's left out there to flounder. If this program doesn't work, I don't know that there is anything left at this time, to give us hope of his healing. It's no wonder these guys are doing desperate things.

My husband's story came dangerously close to being a newspaper headline. The Saturday night before we flew to the Pathway Home on Monday, could have been headlines. I'm not going to go into many details here simply to protect my husband's privacy. (But, more importantly, I do not want people to be afraid of him. I am able to separate his illness from him. Other's can't.) I did have to call 911 at 0400 and we did end up with police, ambulance, and a firetruck at our house. Thanks be to God that nothing tragic happened and I was able to get him the help he needed to keep everyone safe. While it was an extremely difficult night, we did witness many miracles and I thank God for that. Monday morning, my sister and I flew with him to California, rented a car, and drove him to the Pathway Home. This was almost 3 weeks ago and he seems to be doing very well there. Time will tell if it is able to help him get that safety, peace, and joy he so deserves.

I think about all of this daily, our own story as well as those I hear from other wives and family members. The only thing I can figure out for the question of why isn't the military and VA doing more so these stories aren't playing out time and time again is that they simply have no idea what to do. Both the military and the VA are overwhelmed by PTSD and TBI as well as all the other conditions they are treating. They know the problems are there but really have no idea what to do about them. They are grasping at straws, desperate to find anything, and quickly, that can bail them out and help our vets. I don't think it's that they do not care, it is just that they can't seem to find anything to help and therefore spend a lot of time spinning their wheels or closing their eyes. However, we as a nation, have to do something to help our heroes.

Please keep this family in North Dakota, our family, and all the families injured in Iraq/Afghanistan in your thoughts and prayers.

Even Now........Gina