Monday, August 31, 2009

In Which We Stay At Home

I woke up feeling under the weather this morning, and Connor was still stuffy, so we spent a day at home, eating pomegranate-chocolate-chip ice cream and listening to tape recordings of The Shadow from the 1940s. Then we played peekaboo for a while, only instead of saying "Peekaboo!" I'd sneak up behind him, let out a sinister laugh, throw his burp cloth over his head and rasp "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" and then when he yanked the cloth off and giggled, I'd yell "The Shadow knows!" Connor is very, very lucky that Jeremy did not allow me to name him Lamont Cranston.

I'm such a nerd.

Anyway, tomorrow is going to be a very busy day, as I'm getting Connor prepared for school (Which actually starts Thursday and not Wednesday. Shows you how on top of things I am, doesn't it?) and also having Jer's wheelchair delivered. There's only one wheelchair with detachable arms that's shared between three floors in the hospital Jer's currently in, so if he wants to do the exercises assigned to him by the physical therapist, or if he just wants to get out of bed, they have to track it down for him. Depending on the nurse and the day, sometimes they can't find it at all, which means he's stuck in bed until it resurfaces. So I called the home equipment delivery service and we're getting Jer's home-use wheelchair early. I'm going to take it up to the hospital tomorrow, we'll mark it somehow so that the hospital knows it's ours, and Jer will just keep it in the room with him and use it to get around. I think it will be much less frustrating for him; he tends to get rather bad tempered when he wants to get out of bed and has to wait five or six hours to do it.

Hopefully Connor will be feeling better and won't still be all stuffy. I'm already feeling better. I'm pretty confident that this was just a 24 hour bug; I've got a pretty strong immune system so usually anything that lasts four or five days with Connor ends up lasting just a day with me. We'll see how things go in the morning!

~Jess

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Which Jer And I Decide To Tie The Knot

Connor was still a snotty mess today, so my mother-in-law rented a car and drove down from Fisher House, where she's been staying in Seattle, to take care of him while I spent the day with Jeremy. In addition to letting Connor use her as a human tissue, she also did my laundry and all of my dishes while she was at it. What an awesome thing to come home to-- thanks, Mom!

Jeremy had a dressing change today and they removed the wound vac from his calf-- the skin graft looks great and both it and the donor site are healing nicely. The doctors have rescheduled his surgery for Wednesday (which is of course Connor's first day of school) but they will only be operating on the left heel, and they still don't know what they will be doing (or if they do they haven't told anybody else).

Jer was pretty out of it the first half of the day, as they gave him quite a bit of morphine while they did the dressing change. He perked up the second half of the day, though, and we had a very long conversation in which we made an important decision. This is why I am currently browsing the Internet looking at wedding rings.

See, Jer's wedding ring didn't make it back from Afghanistan-- somewhere in the transit between hospitals it disappeared. So rather than just get him a replacement, we're going to get a completely new set, and then we're going to have the chaplain come up to the hospital and renew our wedding vows. It just feels like the right thing to do to show the world that we're still totally committed to each other despite recent events, and to make the new wedding rings just as special as the rings we wore the first five years of our marriage. So I'm going to do some looking around, I'll print off some pictures to show Jeremy, and we'll make the decision about our new rings together.

Jeremy, of course, pointed out that if we're renewing our vows we'll also need to go on a second honeymoon. We're thinking maybe a long trip to Vancouver, or perhaps a cruise to Alaska. Well, darn it. Guess we'll suffer through that somehow.

~Jess

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Which Connor Feels Under The Weather

Last night while I was out on my respite care break, Connor started throwing up. By this morning not only had he thrown up six times (that little tummy is NOT happy) but he is also sporting a killer runny nose. I do believe all that time spent in the hospitals around, well, sick people has rubbed off, and as a result I now have a miniature Snot Monster for a son. Dang it.

So Connor and I stayed home today. Here he is in his floor positioner watching Robin Hood: a treat for him since he isn't allowed to watch much TV. Note the giant exaggerated pouty face; I've been seeing that expression A LOT lately. He's having a hard time with this whole thing-- especially leaving Daddy at the hospital each night when we go home. He's started having little meltdowns when we go out to the car and leave Jer back in the room; when he sees me open the car door for us to leave he starts signing "daddy" frantically and his little face just crumples. It's really sad. Anyway, I think the huge changes in routine and the ensuing stress have probably done a number on his immune system, so I shouldn't be surprised that he's sick.

It's funny, but even though he's a total mouth-breather right now (poor little guy) and his tummy doesn't feel good, he's really excited about spending the day at home. He's been much more giggly and happy today, and he's eating really, really well. I guess being in all of the strange environments recently has been very hard for him. Maybe him getting sick will in some ways be a good thing, because it will give him a break from all of the travel.

As for me, well, I'm hoping tomorrow Connor will be feeling better so we can go back up to the hospital. I didn't realize just how much I look forward to getting to see Jer every day, and I really just want to be up there right now, even if what I'm doing up there is sitting next to his bedside reading while he plays video games. That's mostly what we do at home for fun normally, so I guess it feels pretty comfortable. We're not really big on small talk in our household.

It's silly because unlike when Connor's in the hospital, Jer is perfectly capable of telling the nurses and doctors exactly what he wants and needs, and furthermore his mother is up there with him, so it's not like something bad is going to happen if I'm not up there or anything. It's just that if I'm going to hang out all day doing nothing (which is pretty much what a Connor sick day consists of), I feel better if I'm doing it at Jer's bedside. Also I haven't gotten any kisses today. No husband kisses? This is very sad.

So other than hanging out at the house today, we're going to run over to the grocery store to restock on supplies like diapers and baby food, as we're running low. I may try and pick up a chick flick so I can cuddle up with Connor and keep myself amused at the same time. I will also pick up and consume a massive quantity of orange juice in an attempt to keep myself from getting sick too. Only one Snot Monster per household, please!

~Jess

Friday, August 28, 2009

In Which Jer Does Not Have Surgery

So they canceled Jeremy's surgery today.

The reason they gave was that the doctors were still discussing the best way to reconstruct his heels. I figure they're using the word "discussion" like most people's parents use it (We're not fighting, dear, we're just having a discussion.) At any rate, what that means for us is that Jer's surgery will occur at some unknown time next week, and we no longer have any idea of what that surgery will be. I just love surprises, don't you?

So I spent another day up at the hospital with Jer, Connor, and my mother-in-law. Mostly I spent it either on the computer or reading a book on Norse mythology. The ancient Norsemen had some seriously crazy theories about the origins of the natural world, by the way, Like the sky-- they believed it was the polished skull of an evil Frost Giant who was murdered by his grandchildren. The grandkids chopped off the top of it and set it like a bowl over the world, which they created from various portions of poor Grandpa's anatomy. And clouds? Shredded Frost Giant brains. Such a cheery, peaceful people, Norsemen. Yeesh.

Um, anyway Jer's mom and I, Connor in tow, also headed down to Pike Place Market from the hospital today on the bus. I've never ridden the bus with Connor in his wheelchair before, and I have to say that other than the whole explain-that-it's-not-a-stroller thing it went pretty smoothly. Apparently if you have a stroller you take the baby out of it, fold it up, and carry it onto the bus. This would not work so well with the wheelchair. We have this problem at airports all the time too. That's what we deserve for getting a wheelchair that doesn't scream adaptive equipment, I suppose.

Connor enjoyed the bus, by the way. He liked the bumps. And the giant hill you have to walk down to get from the bus stop to the market is exciting when you have a kid in a wheelchair. I'm pretty sure if I'd let go he'd have been all the way down in the pier.

Anyway, Pike Place was packed so we didn't stay long, but it was a nice break (and we got to visit that wonderful crepe place. Mmmm...strawberry crepes.) And now I feel confident enough to ride the buses with Connor on my own, which should give me more freedom if we're in Seattle for a while. With the kind of parking fees they're charging at the hospital, I'm not going to want to move the car in and out of the lot a whole bunch.

I've got respite care tonight and a massage tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be starting the week refreshed and ready for whatever the doctors can throw at us!

Unless it's Frost Giant brains. I'm not cool with that.

~Jess

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In Which We Start Learning The Ropes

I woke up when my alarm went off at 3:30 in the morning, packed up the car, carefully transferred a sleeping Connor to it, and was on the road headed for the hospital by 4:15. Despite having to pull over midway after the vibrations of the car made the comotose Connor throw up all over everything, we managed to get there at 5:15, at which time Jeremy informed me that the nurse had initially given us the wrong rounds times and the doctors would actually be coming sometime between 6:30 and 7:30. I was Not Happy.

As it turns out, rounds at this hospital are not like rounds at our former hospital, wherein all of the doctors come in and talk to you for a little while about what the plan is for the day, answer questions, etc. Rounds at this hospital consist of all the doctors standing outside for about thirty seconds (and keep in mind there are two patients to a room, so that's fifteen seconds a patient), talking very quickly while a nervous woman with glasses bounces around beside them and scribbles frantically in a notebook. Makes me tired just watching her. So we learned absolutely nothing new and I don't think I'll be quite so worried about making it up in time in the future. They are by far the shortest and least informative rounds I have ever seen, and since Connor has stayed inpatient at five different hospitals, I've seen a lot of rounds.

We did have a resident orthopedic surgeon come by later in the day and let us know the general game plan, which seems to be something like "we'll do this surgery tomorrow, go in there and muck around a bit, and then we'll figure out what the heck we want to do to fix the rest of it because boy howdy, your heels are really, really messed up." In other words, other than this first surgery to kind of prepare the way for future surgeries, they still don't know what the best course of action is going to be and need to do some more talking about it before they are sure. They make the surgery schedule for tomorrow after four o'clock today, though whether or not you keep your time slot or are delayed depends on what crazy surgery-requiring injuries come in through the emergency room on that particular day.

The doctor also said they are going to try to get us a bigger (and possibly private) room, which will be very nice, though I'll be sad to lose the Standard Screaming Woman Next Door. She was feeling very Violated about how long it took them to get her a cup of water this morning. I believe she is running out of nurses and doctors to sue and has now started in on the cleaning staff. I must make a point not to walk past her door so I don't end up on her list.

I came back to the house to take a little nap and because Connor wasn't really happy with the whole get-up-early thing and decided he was All Done at about ten in the morning (read: Total Meltdown). He is currently taking a four hour nap, thus ensuring that he will want to stay up until ten tonight. Since I won't be getting up at 3:30 in the morning tomorrow (and I got a good nap in myself) it shouldn't be as much of a big deal.

Well, once Connor wakes up I'm off to pick up a book Jer wants (and restock myself too)!

~Jess

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Which Jer Has New Digs

So Jeremy is now ensconced up at the new hospital. I have to get used to being in a civilian hospital again. Military hospitals, at least on the floors we're usually on (which do not include the psych or labor and delivery floors) tend to be fairly quiet and orderly as far as hospitals go. This new hospital's chief amenities so far include the standard screaming irate woman one door down (You TOLD ME I CAN'T go off the FLOOR because I don't want to TAKE my MEDICATION! I want to go OUTSIDE! I feel VIOLATED! You are VIOLATING ME! I am SUING YOU, you VIOLATOR!), the roommate who watches eight hours of reality court TV shows with the volume turned all the way up, and also the false medical professional thieves (we were warned about these; apparently they come in pretending to be doctors, take your valuables for "safekeeping" and then abscond with them). And of course there are the twenty-dollar-a-day (I kid you not!) parking passes. Never fear dear readers; because Jer is staying a while (read: probably months) we were eligible for the discounted pass. This means we only pay thirteen dollars a day! What a deal!

On the other hand, this hospital does have top-of-the-line doctors; some of the best in the world for the type of injuries Jer has. The doctor who is in charge of his case focuses almost exclusively on calcaneal fractures, and has perform hundreds of surgeries. Which is, after all why we are at the hospital at the first place. And the nurses we've met so far have been very helpful and personable.

So if they are going to have some issues at this hospital, I'd much rather it be with things like doctor-impersonating thieves rather than the quality of the health care. Just so long as those guys leave the surgeries to the real doctors, that is. And the standard screaming lady is really more entertainment than anything else, so long as she conducts her ranting between the hours of nine in the morning to seven at night. I'm sure this will be no problem.

Hopefully tomorrow we'll be getting a better idea of what will be involved with Jer's surgery on Friday, and maybe also an idea of the overall game plan for future reconstruction. We'll just have to see! I'll be heading up there super early tomorrow (the doctors come for rounds at 5:30 in the morning) so I'm off to bed!

EDIT: I was brushing my teeth in preparation for bed when a solution to all of my parking woes hit me. I find some of my best ideas come while I'm brushing my teeth. Maybe clean teeth are little magnets for Epiphanies or something. Anyway, here's the plan.

Step One: Connor and my mother-in-law (who was sweet enough to come up and help out when my mom left) sleep at Fisher House in Seattle. It's a facility for visiting family members similar to the civilian Ronald McDonald Houses. I park the car at Fisher House and take the bus to the hospital. I sleep in the room with Jer.

Step Two: I wake up, hear rounds, and get ready for the day. My mother-in-law gets Connor up and prepares him for school.

Step Three: MIL puts Connor in the car and drives him to the hospital, where we do a switch. She stays at the hospital and I drive Connor down to school. Then we do our errands, therapy, library time, or anything else that needs to be taken care of back in the Puyallup area.

Step Four: Connor and I go back up to Seattle and do another switch with MIL, who takes Connor back to Fisher House with her for the rest of the day/night.

No parking fees! Brilliant!


~Jess

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In Which Disaster is Averted

Please pardon my gibbering panic of yesterday. I'm feeling much, much better today.

A big part of the reason why is that the hospital where Jer is to transfer for his big surgeries decided that they want him to be inpatient. So tomorrow they'll transport him there. There will be no going home on Saturday.

Thank God. HUGE weight off my mind. We have some time to plan now for when Jer comes home, which will probably not be for a while.

So I've done some homework and determined that there's no possible way to convert a Nissan Xterra to be wheelchair accessible, as the head clearance is too low. So we're going to need to purchase a vehicle. By the time Jer is out of a wheelchair (Three months? Six months? Who knows?) we'll probably need the wheelchair access for Connor, who is rapidly gaining weight and will soon be too large for me to haul up into a car seat. We're not sure what our insurance will cover yet, or which person (Jer or Connor) it would be best to attempt to order it through, but we're working on it. So now I need to figure out if it would be better to purchase an already converted van or if we should buy a van and have it converted. Since it's no longer a OH MY GOD WE MUST HAVE IT NOW situation, we can afford to be a little more choosy. So those of you with people in your household who are in wheelchairs-- I've love your opinion on the best vehicle for conversion. What's worked for you?

Jer had the skin graft done on his left calf today-- they pulled a big stretch of skin of his thigh for what's called a "split skin graft." As a result a huge portion of the skin on his thigh now feels like it's on fire. Since they pull off the top layers of skin and leave the bottom, it's kind of like having an open blister about six inches wide and twelve inches long. This does not sound particularly fun to me. At any rate, they said his calf looked really good (it did-- I saw the pictures) and hopefully his thigh should be totally healed in about six weeks and his calf should be totally healed in two to four months.

The new hospital we're going to has decided to repair Jer's heels in a series of surgeries. They plan to go in this weekend and perform the first surgery-- they'll be implanting screws into Jer's talus (the bone that is part of the ankle joint and is next to the calcaneus, or heel bone) and using them to push out one of the larger fragments of each of his heels to give the doctors some more room to work with in later surgeries. Otherwise the soft tissue in the heels could start to contract around the bones and prevent them from being able to reshape things. At least, that's what I think the explanation was. I'll know more when we see the docs up at the new hospital. We're not sure what the game plan is after the first surgery. At any rate, it will involve multiple trips to the operating room. They also put in a PICC line today so that they don't have to continue poking Jer three or four times a day. After two weeks of that he's starting to run out of good veins.

Connor is doing all right-- he doesn't like the change in his routine at all and has started waking up with nightmares, so he spent last night in my bed. The new hospital will be yet another change for him, and the changes have come fast and furious in the last couple of weeks, so I expect a bit of fallout from that. Otherwise he's totally thrilled to see his Daddy, and gets very agitated if we go to Jer's hospital room and Jer isn't there (usually because he's in surgery). I'm not really surprised that the kiddo's having a rough time with this; quite frankly I'm pretty amazed we haven't seen more big meltdowns at this point. Hopefully this new change in routine won't push him over his limit.

As for me; I feel much, much better now that I know I don't have to completely reorganize our house and lives, find a new vehicle, etc. in the next four days. Thanks so much for all of your kind suggestions and words of encouragement! The mouse have quit gibbering and gone back to quietly running on their little wheels.

~Jess

Monday, August 24, 2009

In Which I Totally Freak Out

Jer had a fairly quiet day today. I had a rather emotionally fraught day, however.

See, they keep talking about sending Jer home on Saturday to be an outpatient until his big surgery, which will be at a hospital up in Seattle. That's in five days.

Every time they say this, a billion little mice in my brain start squeaking in sheer, utter terror. They sound something like this:

Saturday? That's five days away. Five days away and Jer still needs the help of me and two physical therapists to get out of bed. Five days away and he'll still be in huge casts that need to be elevated all of the time and he'll still have heels that are shattered into a billion pieces and we have no equipment at home and no vehicle that will work for him and I won't be able to leave him by himself and Connor starts school next week and they say we may not qualify for home health care and for the love of God why is this a good idea?????

Then the mice all degrade into gibbering and I have to go sit down for a while.

I told the case manager that our biggest issue is the vehicle, and explained the problem. We have a Nissan Xterra, and it's not wheelchair accessible at all. Currently Connor is small enough that I can simply lift him in and out of the car, and I just fold up his wheelchair and put it in the trunk. Now, Jer is not allowed to have his feet down from elevation for more than fifteen minutes at a time. It's a thirty-five minute drive from the hospital he's at now to our apartment, and a forty-five minute drive to the hospital where they'll be doing his big surgeries. So Jer is going to have to be in the vehicle with his feet elevated. This is impossible the way things stand now. I asked the case manager how we'll need to convert it (Rip out half the back seats and stick a ramp in the trunk? Will that even work?), or if we'll need to just rent or buy an accessible van, and what our insurance would cover. He suggested we just set up a "cabulance" system to get Jer to his therapy sessions and doctors appointments. That means an ambulance/shuttle would come by and pick up Jer to take him to and from the hospital. This is all well and good, except I can't leave Jer alone in the apartment (since he can't get out of bed by himself while wearing unbelievably heavy casts on both legs-- this would be bad if there was, oh, a fire or something) while I take Connor to his PT, the doctor, school, etc. and I'll need to go to the grocery store every once in a while.

He ordered Jer's other equipment (hospital bed, bedside commode, lift, special wheelchair, bath chair, and sliding board) today, and said he wasn't sure when it would get there. I'm thinking we'll set the hospital bed up in the living room and I can sleep on the futon-- it won't be pretty, but it will work as a temporary solution. As for the car-- he said he didn't have any ideas about the vehicle and maybe we should just look into Continued Care for Jeremy. In other words, A NURSING HOME.

I don't think so.

I talked to Jer's Rear Detachment Commander today, and he thankfully was able to give me some actual helpful information. The VA is able to help convert vehicles, for one thing. He also talked to me more about our traumatic injury insurance that should help us cover a van if we need to buy one. So I'm feeling a little better about the whole situation.

But FIVE DAYS.

Gibber gibber gibber.

~Jess

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In Which Jer Takes The Air

Today Jeremy decided he'd like some fresh air. He's been cooped up in one bed or another since the 11th of August, which hasn't been particularly fun for him. So we got the doctor's permission to move him to a wheelchair for a little while so he could toodle around the hospital.

It took me and three nurses to get him into a wheelchair (not including Jer, of course, though he was doing a good bit of the work). One person reinforced the back of the wheelchair, one person manipulated the leg rests, one person moved his left leg, and one moved his right. The plaster casts on his legs are so thick (they make his legs about six inches wider and four inches longer) that he couldn't fit in the leg rests and we had to prop his legs up on pillows on top of them. Both of his legs have to remain elevated, so that makes for a rather exciting time. After much grunting and a little swearing and lots of half-panicked directions, we managed to get him installed with a minimum of damage, however, and after strapping his wound vac to the back of the chair we were off on our grand hospital tour.

So apparently the rubber wheels on the wheelchair, possibly combined with the battery charge from the wound vac have interesting side effects. Whenever Jer wheeled anywhere he started building up an electrical charge, and then after about ten yards if I touched him he would give me a tremendous static electricity shock. If the lights had not been on I swear you would have seen the ends of his fingers glowing ET style. I of course kept forgetting, so every ten minutes or so we had conversations in which I would touch his hand for emphasis in a point I was making or something and we would break off mid-sentence to both yell "OW!"

I forgot to mention that he's off limited contact now (the Afghan Death Flu has been averted!) so I don't have to wear that ridiculous gown or those gloves any more. Though the gloves might have been nice, as maybe they would have worked as insulators. At any rate, I can't wait to see what him tooling around on carpet is going to do to his charge. I probably won't be able to let him touch the cats. He'd probably barbecue them.

It was really nice for him to be able to get out of bed for a little while, even if he did bang one of his feet on the edge of the elevator and one of the nurses trying to help him get back into bed yanked on his IV and he almost hit a street sign when we went out onto the patio. I'm pretty sure it's not something he'll be able to do every day, as it does take an entire posse to get him in and out of bed, but the twenty minutes he got to sit outside in the sunshine were worth it.

He went back to his bed with tired arms, but feeling pretty energized. No pun intended.

~Jess

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In Which Jer Gets Band Aids For His Booboos

I wrote this post this morning and am only now able to get to the internet to post it. Jer came out of the OR just fine and is now hanging out playing games on his new PSP! Mom's at the hospital with him and Connor and I've come home to take a much-needed shower and to post here. Wish I'd seen the comment about borrowing an army cot-- that was a great idea! Oh well.

Jeremy and I got a very special package in the mail yesterday evening, courtesy of Jess Wilson, Darby, and Kendall. I’m very happy to say that in addition to the sweet little gifts for Connor and I and the wonderful drawings (We especially love the giraffe!), Jeremy now has, as displayed here, band aids for his booboos. The orthopedic surgeon has promised to save them when she takes his cast off for cleaning today and put them back on afterwards, as no doubt they will aid the healing process. Thanks Kendall—he loved ‘em!

I also now have a whole herd of birthday goats—and since they’re the paper or electronic kind, they haven’t even eaten my upholstery! Loki is unimpressed by our new family members, but I sure like them. It’s also pretty funny to watch Jer reading the cards and e-mails people have sent that I've been printing out for him to read, as a lot of them make references to things I’ve written in my blog and he hasn’t had a chance to read it for about a month. He was a little confused about the references people kept making to him having a stubbed toe, for instance. Also the coconut crab hat.

Anyway, I’m sitting in the surgical waiting room right now, as Jer’s left leg is cleaned out in the OR for the sixth time. Basically he goes in every other day right now. There’s some badly dubbed anime playing on the television. Otherwise the room is totally silent; I’m the only one here. I had to turn the lights on when I came in.

Had a down moment yesterday afternoon; I went out to the PX to get myself a camping mattress (I’ve been sleeping in a rocking chair as the floor we’re on isn’t set up for people spending the night (they are making an exception for us, which is very nice of them), and it is Not Working) and I desperately needed some caffeine. I’m not normally a coffee drinker, but they had those Frappacinos there, which aren’t really coffee but more like some sort of vaguely coffee-flavored smoothie, so they don’t really count. Anyway, I knew Jer would want one too, and I went ahead and got him some snacks he particularly enjoys too. I dragged myself up to the register, and while I was putting the camp bed and the coffee and the candy up on the register, I accidently dropped one of the Frappacinos on the floor, where it shattered into a million pieces. Glass and caramel-flavored deliciousness went everywhere.

“I’m so sorry!” I said to the cashier behind the counter. “Please charge me for that. Do you mind if I grab another one? You can put my stuff aside and I’ll go to the end of the line.” The coffee was in a refrigerator at a register two lines down.

The cashier threw her eyes up and gazed at the ceiling for a moment, as if to ward off idiot customers. “There are people waiting,” she said.

I was too exhausted to fight about it. I figured I’d just go back after I’d checked out, find another one, and pay for it in a different line. “All right,” I said. “Please charge me for two then-- the one on the counter and the one I broke.”

She glared at me. “You know, I don’t know whether or not we make customers pay for things they break or not, but I really think you should.”

“I know,” I said miserably. “Please charge me for it.” She checked me out in stormy silence.

To make it even worse, I’d discovered I’d left my military ID, which is required to check out at the PX, sitting on the dash board of my car. I offered to go out and get it and then just go to the back of the line, but she told me she’d just check me out “so I could just go.” Everyone was staring at me by now. I fumbled out my credit card, red-faced and defeated, and paid.

“I’m sorry,” she said, turning to the other customers in line as soon as my transaction was finished. “But you’re going to have to go to another line. I’m going to have to close until we get this mess cleaned up.”

So in other words, she was going to close the whole time and had only waited to tell everyone to go to a different line so that I wouldn’t get another coffee. I've never had a problem with any cashier at the PX before; normally they're wonderful. Maybe she’d just had a bad day, or there were things going on in her life that were making her prickly. Ordinarily I’d just be rather irritated, and I’d probably have handled it a lot better. But I wanted to get back to Jer and I was totally exhausted and the last week had been so horrific I didn’t have any reserves left. I fled the store with just Jer’s coffee and broke down out in the car.

So I didn’t go back for my coffee and I had to drive around a while because I didn’t want to go back to the hospital with my face all swollen and puffy. It seems so silly that such a small thing ended up making me lose it, but it was that I had looked forward to drinking that stupid Frappacino—I’d been craving it all day—and I’m vulnerable enough right now that it what should have been an awkward moment ended up being a much bigger deal than it would have been otherwise.

Stupid coffee. Stupid cashier.

Anyway, the camp bed I slept on last night worked wonders, and I feel one hundred percent better today. It’s absolutely amazing how much better a good night’s sleep will make you feel, isn’t it? I didn’t realize how much of my mood was due to sheer exhaustion. I think they design those hospital rocking chairs so there’s absolutely no way to sleep on them for more than an hour at a time without your neck cramping. The little bed worked really well—though I think the bare cement floor would probably have been a step up from the chair. At any rate, I feel much refreshed, and I’m going to stick around here until Jer’s back from the OR and then go home and get cleaned up. Then I’m off to run errands!


~Jess

Friday, August 21, 2009

In Which I Spend So Much Time At The Hospital That I Forget To Blog (For Shame)

I'm alive, I swear!

I'm off shortly to buy some sort of a camping cot, as currently I'm sleeping in a rocking chair. This is not particularly comfortable, especially as I am attempting to sleep gowned up and with rubber gloves on. I would try slathering my hands in lotion right before I put them on so I can pretend I'm getting a hand treatment, but I think that only works with cotton gloves. I bet it would just make the rubber ones slimy, and I don't really want to fall asleep feeling like I'm dipping my hands into ectoplasm or something all night.

Connor is also required to wear gloves, and this is hilarious. For one thing, the gloves are about eight times too big for him. For another, unbeknownst to me whenever I put them on him they somehow turn into Magical Gloves of Lead. I'm serious-- the kid acts like his hands weigh 80 pounds apiece. He just sits there with a hangdog expression on his face and his arms totally limp. Every once in a while he gives a huge sigh and shakes the fingers half-heartedly a couple of times before giving up and going limp again. It's pathetically cute.

Jer went in for a fifth cleaning yesterday afternoon. They also went in and removed some muscle tissue that had died and wired one of the fractured bones in his left foot (the navicular, to be precise) to another, non-damaged bone (the talus). They also took a whole bunch of x-rays and did a CT scan.

So the results are in, and Jer has the dubious honor of having the worst bilateral calcaneal fractures any of the doctors at the hospital have ever seen. Both heels are, to repeat the term they used, "pulverized." They are broken into hundreds and hundreds of little fragments, many of them tiny, and there's no way your standard 'bolt things back together' strategy is going to work. So they aren't sure yet what they'll do-- possibly a fusion, but it's still up in the air. If there was a lot of soft tissue damage I'm pretty sure they'd just amputate the feet as that would probably be less painful and make them more functional in the long run, but since there doesn't seem to be a lot of soft tissue damage it isn't as clear what needs to happen. At any rate, they've decided that he needs to be moved to a Level 1 Trauma hospital instead of a Level 2, as they want someone who specializes in calcaneal trauma to do his surgeries. So we'll be changing hospitals again sometime in the next couple of weeks. Luckily we'll still be in the local area.

He'll go in for another cleaning of the huge wound on his left calf tomorrow, and hopefully they'll start slowly stitching the ends shut. The middle will need a skin graft before it will close. He's feeling okay though, as they're giving him some pretty good pain meds. I'll be taking some pictures and I'll try to post some tonight!

The wonderful get-well cards and messages people are sending have really cheered him up, by the way. We're going to figure out a way to hang them around the hospital room.

One last thing-- you will be happy to know that my mom is here helping out for a few days and is not only taking care of Connor for me, but cleaning my entire house. She's even doing the hated laundry! I am very relieved she's here; it's so nice to know that Connor is being taken care of when he's not at the hospital with me, and coming home to a clean house is really nice. It was getting pretty horrible.

And what does Connor think? It's laundry day! Connor, of course, is thrilled.

~Jess

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

He's Home.

Thank God, thank God, he's home.

They brought him in at about 3:00 in the afternoon through the ER, and we sat in there until about 8:00, when they did x-rays and a CT scan. He got up to a room about 9:00 in the evening, and I just left him. Connor can't spend the night at the hospital (and I'm not sure how restful that would be for Jer anyway) so we'll be traveling back up bright and early tomorrow morning to make it for rounds.

Jer's not quite ready for pictures, so I've posted this lovely photo of the little guy dressed in his ridiculous sterile gown for visiting. Apparently Jeremy's blood cultures haven't come back yet and he's supposed to be on Limited Contact status, but they didn't decide this until four hours after he'd come in. Before then, no one was even using gloves, and then about 6:00 in the evening all of the sudden everyone started suiting up. I had of course thoroughly kissed him by then, so I will be quarantining myself and Connor until we figure out whether or not we're going to come down with some sort of Afghan Death Flu or whatever. That would be fun.

Anyway, I saw Jeremy's injuries when they took off the bandages to have a look at what they were going to be working with. They were . . . impressive. If chicks dig scars, then I'm going to be beating them off of him with a stick in a few months. Back off, ladies; I got him first.

They'll be doing another dressing change in the Operating Room tomorrow morning, and hopefully by then we'll have a better idea of exactly what all his injuries are.

I'm off to sleep now, as I'll be getting up at about 4:30 in the morning tomorrow to make it there by rounds at 6:00, and I'm pretty exhausted.

I'm so, so glad he's home.


~Jess

Ahem....

HE HAS MADE IT ON THE PLANE!!!

I have no idea if the plane has taken off. I have no idea where the plane is going (the coconut crabs are eagerly waiting for news). I have some idea when the plane should get here if it has actually taken off and bypassed Guam in favor of here, but I'll wait and see if it happens before I get excited.

Okay, before I get MORE excited. I'm not quite to dance-around-the-living-room stage yet, but I'm closer to getting there every minute they don't call me and tell me his plane has broken down due to, oh, an infestation of bull moose in the jet intakes or something.

But HE's ON A PLANE!!!!

~Jess

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hopeful Parents

My monthly article is up over at Hopeful Parents.

~Jess

In Which I Formulate A Plan

I have a tentative plan for tomorrow. In the morning I will wait as long as I can stand it here, and then drive down to the hospital, put Connor in his wheelchair, and roam the halls aimlessly until I either get a phone call saying Jer is here or it's more than an hour past the time I know he's supposed to be here. If I get a phone call I will immediately go to his floor and see him. If I don't get a phone call I will pick a random floor, go up to the nursing desk, and refuse to leave until I am directed to where he is in the hospital.

This is of course provided his plane isn't diverted to, oh, Guam or something because they determine he must have a coconut crab (WARNING: Do NOT click on that link if you are at all afraid of land crabs the size of small dogs) to wear as a therapeutic hat. Hey-- after the kind of week I've had I totally believe it could happen, though I hope it won't. A coconut crab hat would be kind of terrifying.

Um, anyway this morning I took Connor in for a g-tube change. This was the first time I'd changed the mic-key button, as he's only had it since May, so I wanted to make sure I was already in the doctor's office in case there were any issues. So our GI doc watched me change out the tube (which was easy but made a terrific mess) and we chatted about Jer and how the next few weeks are going to look. The old mic-key button probably could have lasted quite a bit longer, but it wasn't something I wanted to have to worry about, so I'm glad it's taken care of for another four to six months.

I'm slowly adding new words to my vocabulary as we find out more about Jer's injuries-- it always makes me feel better if I have a good understanding of the medical procedures and terms involved in whatever our latest crisis is-- and I feel like I have more of a rapport and receive more information from the doctors when I can rattle off terms like "bilateral open calcaneal fractures" instead of just saying "broken heels." Whenever we see a new doctor of Connor's I don't consider it a successful meeting unless they've asked me what area of the medical profession I'm in.

Hopefully by the time Jer gets here I'll be well on my way to becoming an expert in lower extremity trauma management. That's (thankfully) not subject matter we'd covered with Connor thus far, so it's all new territory.

Keep your fingers, toes and any other convenient body parts crossed that Jer is able to make it here!

Even if the coconut crabs are disappointed.

~Jess

Coming Home

By this time tomorrow, Jer should be here.

Thank God.

In Which I Will Be Looking In The Rear View Mirror All Day

Called up to see the latest word on Jer this morning, and the doctor was in with him. So he's going to call me back.

Apparently Jer lost a little too much blood yesterday morning when they did the dressing change, so he needed a blood transfusion last night, which is why he couldn't get on a plane. Hopefully if nothing untoward happens he'll be heading home tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed, people.

I haven't been setting an alarm for the last few days, as there's no point-- I'm up (or still up, depending on whether or not Jer is supposed to be home the next day) by six anyway. Also my alarm is on my cell phone, so whenever it goes off that early I think that the doctors are calling because something is wrong. So I didn't set it last night, and of course this morning I slept in until nine.

You would think this would be a good thing, except Connor has to have his seizure medication by 7:00. I will now be totally paranoid all day, as we'll be making a couple of long drives running errands and I have absolutely no wish to experience another Notorious Incident like the one back in July. We have enough on our plates without adding more mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, thank you very much.

I'm taking Connor in this morning to have his g-tube replaced a little early. That way I won't have to worry about it for another four months or so. Hopefully by then I'll have heard from Jer and I'll be able to give you an update!


~Jess


Monday, August 17, 2009

Departure

Looks like he won't be going anywhere until at least Wednesday.

Sigh.

~Jess

In Which Blogging Disaster is Narrowly Averted

Okay, so apparently I have accessed this blog so many times from my desktop over the past week that Google determined I am an automated spyware program and refused to allow me any access. I think the panicked shrieking from the office totally freaked out the cats. Never fear, dear readers, as I fixed the problem or obviously you wouldn't be reading this, and I'm not addicted to blogging or anything; I can quit any time I want. I swear.

Anyway, I spoke with Jer again today and also the doctor on-call and the orthopedic surgeon who was with Jeremy in the Operating Room (OR) this morning, so that was nice! Still no word of when he'll be moving, though hopefully he won't be there very long. It'll be a week tomorrow since this whole thing started. I can't believe it-- doesn't seem possible it's been that long, and at the same time it seems like it's been forever. My sense of time is kind of screwed up right now.

They took him to Washington D.C. because they wanted to change his dressings and clean things out again, and they didn't want to wait the extra hours it would take to get him here. They have to change the dressings in the OR right now because otherwise it would be really painful for Jeremy. So that's why he was in surgery this morning-- no plates have been inserted yet. He was a little groggy when I talked to him as he was still coming out of sedation, but he said that he's spending a lot of time watching movies and being kind of bored, which I take as a good indication that they've got him on pretty good medication and he's not in a lot of pain. There are a lot of emotions that probably accompany being in screaming agony, but "bored" is usually not one that's mentioned.

His injuries look good (I mean, as good as these sorts of injuries ever look) in that they don't see any signs of infection or dead tissue and he's not running a fever, which is pretty fantastic news.

With any luck I'll have an idea by this evening when he's moving. I'll let you know!

~Jess



photo credit goes to Lucie at LZH Photography

In Which Jer And I Are A Scant 2671 Miles Apart

Okay, so I have good news and bad news.

The good news is I got a phone call from Jeremy this morning and he is in the United States!

The bad news is that he's not here.

He's up in the other Washington, to be exact; the D.C. one, where they will be doing his major surgery before moving him back to good ol' Washington state. He said that since he'll probably only be there a short amount of time it would be best if we stay here. So I'll hang out, clean the house (You don't even want to know what my bathroom looks like at this point. Trust me.), and get Connor totally ready for school. I'll also spend the time answering my e-mails and messages, which I have fallen way, way behind on, and basically try to stay busy so I don't go totally nuts.

I wish I was there-- especially for his surgery-- but I know he'll be in good hands. With any luck I will see him (FINALLY!) some time this week.

What a roller coaster.


~Jess

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Which I Am Not Patient

So far as I know, Jer's plane is still sitting on the tarmac in Germany. At least it was as of noon today, anyway. I'll let you all know when I get an update that's it's left or when they tell me it's arrived-- whichever comes first.

I spent a good portion of today waiting by the phone and playing approximately 8,000 games of Mahjong on my new laptop. When I couldn't stand Mahjong any more I switched to Solitaire, and then Spider Solitaire, and then I even tried Hearts, which normally I don't care for at all. Usually my game of choice is Minesweeper, but I couldn't bring myself to play today, for obvious reasons. The little smiley face with x's for eyes makes me cry.

Anyway, once I ran out of games I read a book, and when that was finished Connor and I took a walk, and then I paced in circles around the living room for 45 minutes or so while Connor took a short nap. Loki helped by hiding behind the futon and attempting to ambush my knees at unexpected moments, which kept things interesting. Finally I couldn't stand waiting any more and drove down to visit a few friends, where we watched The Devil Wears Prada and ate mini quiches, cheeseburgers, and chocolate brownies with ice cream and blackberries (all highly therapeutic foods). Around 7:00 in the evening or so I had to take Connor home for his medicine and bed. He's now down, so I believe I will be returning to the Mahjong-Solitaire-Spider Solitaire-Hearts cycle until the phone rings or I fall asleep: whichever comes first.

I hate waiting.


~Jess


In Which Jer May Or May Not Get Onto A Plane

So Jer is currently in a holding area waiting. This is because the plane broke down. I am glad they are fixing it and giving it a thorough check over before they get in the air, as I would rather not have Jer half-blown-up twice if I can help it.

He's doing pretty well-- a friend of ours in Germany was able to visit him quickly right before they loaded him on the bus and said his spirits were high (Thank you, Jason!). He'd started running a low-grade fever last night, but while they didn't have any information about it today I'm assuming it's well under control or they wouldn't be moving him.

You will recall that it took three tries to get Jer up off the ground when he left, so while they've said it will only be a couple of hours I'll take that with a grain of salt. I'd like them to REALLY give that plane a good going-over, so I don't mind the wait.

They'll let me know when it's up in the air, and hopefully he'll be arriving some time late this evening or early tomorrow morning. The first 72 hours we'll have to limit our visiting and touching him, since they have to wait for the blood work to come back and make sure he doesn't have malaria or one of those other nasty little diseases you can pick up in Afghanistan. While Connor and I coming down with malaria would undoubtedly make for dramatic writing material, I think we'll try and avoid it at all possible. Especially for Connor. Yeesh.

Though now that I think about it, malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, so kissing Jer shouldn't do anything. Unless he's picked up some other bug. Oh well; better safe than sorry.

We should with any luck get to go in and see Jer tonight though. I can't wait! Needless to say I slept hardly a wink last night. Good thing I now have some top-of-the-line under-eye concealer, thanks to my shopping extravaganza of yesterday.

As there's been a little confusion, I should probably clarify that when I said he was coming home, I didn't mean to our house. He'll be in the hospital-- probably for some time-- while they bolt pieces of him back together. While there he'll probably have a couple of plates inserted in his heels too, which should be amusing at airport security checks.

Jeremy's going to let me know as soon as he's up for visitors other than Connor and me, and I'll pass that along. We may try and space them out so we don't have the masses descending upon us all at one time. Give us a week or so-- I'll let you know if he's ready for y'all before then and you can come on down.

They've said that he'll be in a private room with a bed for me, which is nice. Connor can visit during the day but he's not allowed to spend the night, so I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to work that yet. I may be calling various people who live on post to see whether or not Connor and I can crash on their couches for a night or two so we don't have the commute in the morning. We left some flex time in our respite care hours so that Joanna can take Connor for a couple of nights and I can stay there, but that's not a long-term solution. It will largely depend on Jer's wishes, what procedures he's having done, and whether or not I can sneak past the nurses with Connor in a large duffel bag after visiting hours are over.

Joke, people. Joke. I could never fit all my new toiletries in there with a toddler crammed in my overnight bag anyway.


~Jess

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In Which I Go A Little Nuts

No new information.

If you had been near the mall in Puyallup today, you would have seen a crazy red-eyed woman driving around in the parking lot with the windows down and a huge grin on her face, belting out the lyrics to (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the top of her lungs. That was me.

This has been simultaneously the best and worst birthday of my life, and while I am totally giddy and drunk with happiness at the moment, I never, ever want to have another one like it again.

I feel sort of like I did the night before I got married-- elated and excited and nervous all at the same time. I spent the vast majority of the day either on the phone (Thanks to everyone who called or wrote with birthday good wishes!) or shopping.

I did a lot of shopping.

First I went out to Best Buy and picked up a laptop, which is probably the most expensive birthday present I have ever gotten for myself, and certainly the most expensive purchase I've ever made without doing any research or price comparisons whatsoever. Then I went to the mall, where I proceeded to spend an obscene amount of money on a new dress, makeup, waxing, haircut, and dye job. I have to look fabulous when Jer sees me again, and those huge under-eye circles and an inch of ash-blond roots weren't going to cut it.

I then drove to the bookstore and picked up the next three books in the series Jer wants to continue reading while in the hospital, and some reading material for me. I'm normally fond of books with meaty intellectual content; poignant reads with strong emotions and characters, such as Anna Karenina or Catcher in The Rye. The books I picked up today, however, all contain protagonists whose most pressing problem in life is whether or not their Louis Vuitton handbags match their Giuseppe Zanotti shoes. These are books that I can totally escape into, since while they are well written the women in them only think about camouflage in terms of whether or not it's in as a fashion accessory-- in short they have lives so completely removed from mine that I can't relate to them at all and they let me relax for a while. (Though given the amount of money I dropped today on my clothes, hair and makeup perhaps I have more in common with them than I think.) Let me know if you have any book recommendations in this genre as it's not one I'm exactly familiar with. So far I've read a couple of Sophie Kinsella books and pretty much everything ever written by Meg Cabot.

Possibly I might have gone a little overboard. I mean, the man saw me a month and a half ago, for goodness sake! But I don't really care at the moment. Hopefully by this time tomorrow Jer will be here. I can't wait!


~Jess

JER'S COMING HOME!!!!!!!

I got the best birthday present EVER today.

Jer's coming home!!

He'll be coming back tomorrow, and they're bringing him here to Washington state so we're not moving!

Muscle grafts aren't necessary-- much less muscle damage than I was originally told, and he'll walk again!

They're going to wait for some more skin to grow before they do the reconstructive surgeries, so they'll do those here.

He does have a fractured spine, but it's a pretty minor fracture and by the time he's up and moving again it should be completely healed.

I spoke to him for about an hour. He's in good spirits and is giving me book requests for when he gets back-- I'm going to nix my trip to Pike Place and run to the bookstore instead.

I'm off to start getting ready for his return. This birthday present totally tops the goat.

Happy Birthday to me- can't WAIT to see him again!


~Jess


Friday, August 14, 2009

Update

Got the news this morning that Jeremy has made it out of Afghanistan and is now in Germany. He's being evaluated there and will go into surgery again tomorrow for a more thorough cleaning of his wounds and an MRI to check out his spine. I'm so glad that he's made it there, and I'm absolutely positive that he's in good hands; practically all of the injuries those doctors deal with are trauma cases, so they have A LOT of experience and are fantastic. Hopefully we'll find out within the next couple of days where he'll be returning to, and we may even get the chance to talk to a doctor or nurse in Germany. We'll just have to see.

I realized looking back on my posts in the last few days that I may have given the impression I'm angry about the lack of information we've received. I want to let everyone know that I don't feel that way. Not knowing exactly what happened and what the extent of his injuries are is frustrating, but I understand why that is the case-- the doctors are busy saving lives, and while me waiting for a couple of days to hear what's going on isn't going to change what happened or Jer's condition, the doctors taking breaks to answer questions can literally mean the difference between life and death for some of their patients. I know the army is doing everything they can to keep us informed; I'm very glad that they have their priorities straight.

A big thanks goes out to the Mary Bridge Audiology department today, who squeezed us in at 9:30 in the morning for an emergency hearing aid repair, and to Olympic Pharmacy in Gig Harbor who is not only rushing to put all of Connor's ordered equipment together (a bath chair, floor positioner, feeding chair, and toilet modifier) but on top of that refused to let us pay for our sixty cans of Pediasure. Thank you also to all of you who have offered to help us get settled in wherever we may end up-- you've got about a 50% chance that I'll be taking you up on your offer, depending on where it is that we go.

I'm feeling a little more grounded today-- got up this morning, took a shower, blow-dried my hair and put some makeup and jewelry on. I've found I feel better if I know I look decent; putting on makeup feels kind of like I'm donning armor. I'm just not putting any mascara on right now because I don't have any that's waterproof. I'll have to make a trip to the store.

It's funny: I'm hungry all the time right now, eating like a horse, (I'm having half a rack of pork ribs, three baby artichokes and ice cream for dinner tonight) and not exercising, and somehow I've managed to lose about five pounds. I guess all the adrenaline is kicking my metabolism up. Despite its evident success, I would not recommend the Get-Your-Husband-Half-Blown-Up Weight Loss Program as a good idea for anyone, no matter how desperate. Seriously.

Tomorrow's my birthday, and since Jer will not be Fed-Exing me a goat as planned for my birthday present (The cats will be so disappointed!) I'll have to figure something else out. I'm thinking a cheap laptop might be a really, really good idea so that I can continue to keep in touch with people wherever we are. This blog seems to be a really effective tool for keeping everyone informed about what's going on. Saves me a whole lot of phone calls.

I was looking forward to meeting that goat, dang it.

I'm also going to head down to Pike Place Market. I have respite care the whole day, so I'm going to walk to the little yixing teapot store downstairs in the market and pick one out. Jer always gets me a teapot for our special occasions, and while this birthday is not going to be my best, it's definitely going to go down as one of the more memorable ones so I think it warrants a teapot. I'll have to take a picture so he can see what he got me.

Lots of people have offered to spend the day with me, which I'm grateful for. I haven't decided yet just how much company I'm going to be up for; I'll let you all know, probably at the last possible minute because I'm just considerate like that.

As a final thought-- can you imagine what it would have been like if Jer's arms and hands had been damaged and not his legs and feet? How would I have pushed two wheelchairs? How the heck would he talk to Connor, who needs sign language and doesn't lip-read that well yet? And we would have been in serious trouble if it had been his eyes, as I am a super messy person and leave crap all over the house, never in the same place twice, and our child is non-verbal so we'd have that whole communication problem again, just in reverse. And Jer's head and torso contain all sorts of fiddly body parts that seem to be pretty important for, you know, living.

Thank goodness he injured something relatively unimportant in the scheme of things!


~Jess
photo credit goes to Lucie of LZH photography

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coping

No new information.

I spent a good portion of today running around trying to get Connor ready to travel, potentially for a long period of time, so that I can focus on Jeremy when he gets back to the states. No word yet on where he'll be returning to, but the odds are looking pretty good that it won't be to here. We may get as little as 24-48 hours notice that we'll be moving so I've got to have Connor totally squared away. Connor snapped a piece on one of his hearing aids yesterday, so I'll be taking him in to get it repaired tomorrow morning and to get new ear molds made for him. We're going to try to get his g-tube replacement moved up so that he's got a new one in and I don't have to worry about it for another four months. I've already talked with his primary care manager, neurologist, nutritionist, EFMP case manager, and therapists, and I have calls in to his cardiologist, gastroenterologist, and developmental pediatrician. Once we know where we're going I'll let them know and have them give the new doctors a briefing so we're not starting over from scratch and can make a smooth transition.

I talked to our apartment complex today; I don't think we'll be able to stay in this apartment, as it will be too small for the additional equipment we'll probably need, and I don't know whether we'll eventually be returning here or if we'll be going somewhere else permanently, but they're willing to work with us. I've also contacted Connor's school district-- he was supposed to be starting up in early September, but that's pretty up in the air now.

I've been trying to keep Connor on as normal a routine as possible; he's very much a creature of habit and gets really stressed out when we change things. So we went to his Toddler Treasures reading group this morning at the library, and we'll go out to the farmer's market and our CSA tomorrow just as usual. I've told him what I think he'd understand: that Daddy was in an accident and got hurt, but he is at a hospital now and the doctors are taking good care of him and helping him get better, and also that he will be coming home early, and he'll be in a wheelchair just like Connor. Connor got "Daddy is coming home" out of that, and so now he's been acting really happy and excited and asking about Jer a lot. It's very sweet.

As for me, I'm doing fine. Okay, well I'm not doing fine but I'm coping and doing the best I can to stay busy. I've already discovered some things that I should avoid, such as listening to sappy music on the radio (bring on the Rage Against the Machine) or reading books with any kind of emotional content whatsoever (Where The Red Fern Grows is now back at the library). I know from prior experience that the worst thing I can do is sit around feeling helpless, so I'm making sure I'm devoting time to activities such as the things I did today that make me feel like I'm accomplishing something. I'm also eating and sleeping. Not sleeping well, but sleeping. And I'm making a lot of highly inappropriate jokes (Don't worry-- he'll walk it off!), which seems to be how this sort of thing affects me. Stress does funny things to people.

Speaking of stress: the cats have definitely picked up on it. It's pretty neat how animals do that. Any time I'm sitting down I now have both of them plopped down on various portions of my anatomy. Currently Loki is making a total nuisance of himself by shoving his head up under my chin while I'm trying to type, and Cricket just gave up trying to balance on my shoulders and is now sitting on the window sill butting me on the back of the head. Or maybe they're just out of food. At any rate it's nice to have something soft to cuddle, even if one of the somethings I'm cuddling has razor sharp claws that he's currently using to knead my chest. Ouch.

It's been amazing how many people have dropped me a note to tell me that they're thinking about us; I've received over 200 e-mails, phone calls or messages in the last couple of days. I had no idea there were so many people out there who cared so deeply about our family and it means a tremendous deal to me to hear from all of you. I'm still asking for get-well cards for Jeremy to keep his spirits up as he starts down the road to recovery, and I'll be printing off the e-mails I'm getting for him as well. Keep 'em coming!


~Jess

In Which I Finally Get Some Accurate Information

Got a wonderful, blissful half an hour to talk with Jer on the phone this morning. I finally have some accurate information and some answers.

The news, unfortunately, leans more towards the "managed to save his legs" side than the "one fractured heel" side. While Jer does not have any bones broken in his legs (including his ankles) both of his heels were shattered. They are open fractures, which the doctors have gone in several times and cleaned out. He is hooked to a machine that is keeping the swelling down right now, and as soon as they get to Germany (he's not there yet) he'll be undergoing reconstructive surgery. They will probably be putting some plates in and trying to reshape things, and he may have more surgeries down the road for that.

He also has severe lacerations and muscle damage to his legs, especially the left leg. The deep wounds run from the bottoms of his feet up to his calves. The damage to his left leg was pretty severe-- he may need muscle grafts, etc. He's also been immobilized for a possible compression fracture to his spine, which is common in traumatic injuries like this one, and they'll do an MRI when they get to Germany to see whether or not there's been any damage. I think right now that's more a precaution than a suspicion-- we'll just have to see.

We know that the recovery process will be extremely slow and he will probably be in a wheelchair for a long, long time; at least six months to a year if not permanently. I'm so grateful that the damage wasn't more severe and that I'll have my husband back soon. I'm still not sure when he'll be heading back to the states yet, and I'm still not sure whether he'll be heading here or somewhere else. We'll just have to see.

He's in good spirits, though bored and rather lonely. I let him know everyone was thinking about him and he said to tell everyone he's okay and not to worry.

Oh, and I did get official word-- remember that injured soldier in the article I posted earlier who was crawling around slapping tourniquets on other people? Well, the original release was wrong; another uninjured soldier put a tourniquet on the journalist. The injured guy who crawled out and put the tourniquets on the other soldier, though? That was my husband.

Can't say I'm surprised at all.


~Jess

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Press Release

One of the soldiers in this article is Jer.

~Jess

Update

We've had some good news! Confusing news, but overall good news.

I talked with a liaison several times today about Jer's condition, and each time it seemed to get incrementally less severe. The first person I talked to used phrases like "managed to save his legs" and "shattered heels" and "broken ankles" and "uncertain prognosis." I spent a good part of the morning with a measuring tape trying to figure out how we could rearrange all of the furniture to make the apartment totally handicapped accessible and periodically breaking down in tears when I couldn't immediately solve problems like where I would put the dishes so he could get to them and how he'd wash his hands in the sink.

The second person I talked to today told me that Jer was still in Afghanistan, and was not moved to Germany last night. They said he'd had an x-ray, and the good news was that "his legs looked fine."

"No broken bones?" I asked.
"No!" the woman on the other end replied cheerily.
"What about his ankles?" I asked. "They told me earlier they were broken. And what about his feet?"
"I don't know," she said. "Let me check."
I could hear rustling paper in the background.
"I don't have anything about his ankles, but he went in for surgery on his heel and it went well. He just got back."
"I thought they were doing that surgery when they got to Germany," I said. "And wait-- was it just one heel? Which heel? What was the surgery for?"
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. "I don't know," she said. "I'll call you back."

And so I waited. She called me back about an hour later.

"Okay, so they did the surgery on his right heel for bilateral fractures. His left leg is good."
"Good how? Good as in not injured? What about the multiple broken bones in his feet other than his heels? Can you tell me what was done in the surgery? What about his ankles?"
"I don't know," she said. "This is what I've got. He's had surgery on his right heel and his legs look good and his condition has been upgraded from Serious Injury to Not Serious."
"Not Serious? That's great! What system of classification is that? What's the definition for Serious?"
"I don't know," she said. "He never lost consciousness and he's doing great and they're going to be airlifting him to Germany sometime in the future."

I know that she's giving me this information via a giant game of Telephone. She's a non-medical liaison who's talking to another non-medical liaison who's talking to a nurse who's talking to a doctor. At the same time, I'm getting really, really tired of hearing the words "I don't know." Also it's confusing to be getting so many mixed signals. This morning his legs were half blown off. By the afternoon he has one fractured heel but is otherwise "fine." My guess is that Jer is actually somewhere in the middle of the two, but I won't really find out anything concrete until I can talk to either him again or a doctor who's seen him. I'm a little scared to celebrate the good news right now because I don't know what the next phone call will bring.

It's frustrating because I'm the kind of person who thrives on information. That's how I got through the first few months after Connor was born-- I spent any free time I had in the library looking up medical terms and conditions until I knew them backwards and forwards. Here I don't have anything to look up, and the information I'm getting is so muddled I'm not sure what's real and what's hearsay. I can't, for example, find any information at all on "Not Serious" as a classification for injuries in the military. You would think they would use a more technical term. I also have a hard time with the juxtaposition of "doing great" and "airlifted to Germany."

But at any rate, I'm thankful that things are probably (hopefully) not as bad as they first sounded. By the time he gets back here, he will probably have just a stubbed toe.

I want to thank all of you for the amazing outpouring of support you've shown for Jer, Connor and me over the past day. So many of you have asked how you can help and what you can do for us, and have sent Jeremy and me your well wishes, thoughts, and prayers. I'm trying to answer e-mails as they're sent but things are kind of getting away from me, so let me just tell all of you this:

Thank you. Thank you so much. We're doing well; we're fine financially (thank you to those who asked) we have enough to eat (thanks to those of you who offered meals) and so many shoulders have been offered for me to cry on that I don't think I could ever manage to make the rounds.

There is one thing that I'd like help with-- please continue to send your well wishes and prayers for Jeremy so that he knows you are supporting and thinking about him. For those of you who have asked about sending him cards or letters: I don't have an address or any contact information for him yet, but I've set up a PO box and you can send letters for him there care of me and I'll save them for him until I either have an address or he's home. I'm also saving all the e-mails people are sending and printing them off for him to read, so he'll know just how many people out there care about him and are wishing him a speedy recovery. You can send get-well cards to:

Jeremy McGuffey care of Jessica McGuffey

PMB X108
10715 Valley Ave E
Puyallup, WA 98372

What will happen over the next few weeks? I don't know. But at least I know we'll have friends and family standing with us when we find out.


~Jess

In Which Our Lives Change

The events in this post happened yesterday, but I wanted to wait for word to get out to extended family before I put it up here. I'll be updating you as we get more information.

I am sitting in a dentist chair today, having my teeth cleaned. I don't care for the dentist-- the drills, the gritty paste-- never have, and my experience today probably isn't going to make me like them any more, but that's beside the point. I am sitting there having my teeth cleaned and chatting with the dental tech (28 years old, two kids, one of five siblings, grew up in Olympia) when my phone buzzes in my back pocket. It's a 718 area code: one I haven't seen before, but I answer it because of Connor. Not even thinking of Jeremy-- thinking it might be one of Connor's doctors, because they have cell phone numbers from odd places sometimes.

"This is the Department of the Army," the nasal-voiced woman says. "We are calling to inform you that your soldier has been seriously injured in Afghanistan. They will be airlifting him to Germany."

Numb. Numb and a little sick and the lights overhead are making me dizzy.

"They were able to save his legs. Both his ankles are fractured and there are other injuries to his feet. We'll be calling you when we have more information. You'll be receiving phone calls three times a day to update you on your soldier's condition. He is conscious and stable at this time."

The dental assistant is listening to my end of the conversation. I'm repeating things like a robot. Germany. Saved his legs. Fractured ankles. Updates. She takes off her mask and leaves the room.

It was an IED. An IED hit his Stryker and blew up and tried to take his legs with it. And the first thought in my head, the first crazy thought that hits, is "How the fuck am I going to fit two wheelchairs into the trunk of our car?" And then I think "Well, thank God I didn't marry him for his feet," and then I have to choke back hysterical laughter and blink very quickly for a moment behind the sunglasses they have for me to wear because this is one of those upscale dentist offices with granite counter tops in the bathroom where they give you not just a toothbrush as you leave, but a little plastic travel pouch with toothpaste and floss and mouthwash and a business card that says "Have a Nice Day."

The woman from the Department of the Army with a nasal voice gives me a 1-800 number to call and hangs up and I'm left with a phone still pressed to my ear, my other hand in a fist pressed to my forehead, trying to figure out how to breathe again. The dental assistant comes back and tells me that I can come in some other time, no problem, that she'll make me another appointment but I tell her no, let's just clean my teeth, let's just do it because I don't know when I'll get another chance to come in. My voice sounds okay. A little tight, but okay, and they can't see my eyes behind the sunglasses.

So they do. The dentist comes in and says he's heard and he's so sorry and did I know that I have beautiful incisors? And he scraps away at my teeth and chatters on about nothing while I do my best to think about nothing too. Because nothing would be better than what I have to think about.

I drive back to Anna's house and pick up Connor. The Rear Detachment Commander is waiting there for me with red-rimmed eyes. He takes me into the back room and tells me what he knows, which is pretty much what the Department of the Army woman knew but he at least says it like it means something. I wonder how many people you have to call with that sort of information before it doesn't mean anything any more. Checking names and body parts off a list.

And somewhere between picking up Connor and driving home something shifts inside my head and I'm locked into my crisis mode, the place I go whenever something horrible is happening, the place where nothing short of death is going to make me lose it. I've got too many balls to juggle to be able to fall apart. I've done this so many times before with Connor that I'm able to function and put everything else aside in a little box to open later. I can talk without my voice shaking and even make jokes and schedule appointments and wash dishes and do what needs to be done for as long as I need to do it.

And later that afternoon our phone rings, our house phone and not the cell phone, and I think for a moment that no one is there on the other end. Then Jer's voice comes on the line, scratchy and muzzy with pain medication, and I know that no matter what the next few months bring everything will be okay. Jeremy is alive. He'll be undergoing surgery in Germany to reconstruct his shattered heels, and he has two broken ankles, multiple fractures to his feet and lacerations on his legs, but he's alive and he knows who we are and he's still all there, my husband, no matter what his legs look like. We'll cram two wheelchairs into our car somehow, and we'll go through surgery and physical therapy and occupational therapy and doctor's appointments. We'll do what needs to be done.

I know we have a long road ahead of us, but it's a road we'll travel together.

Thank God for that.


~Jess

photo credit goes to Lucie of LZH Photography

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No words tonight. No words.

I'll update tomorrow.

~Jess

Monday, August 10, 2009

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

Connor's weight and height, at least from our home measurements, continue to improve. He's now solidly in the 40% on his length-for-weight percentiles which I think is just about perfect. Height predictors (though I'm iffy on how accurate those things are) are now saying he'll hit 5'3" at adulthood as opposed to the 4'10" the doctor told us at age two. He's really shot up like a weed! I'm so, so glad we made the decision to get the g-tube.

On a totally different topic-- I was helping get a little girl with a CI acclimated at a local daycare center this morning, and I had Connor with me. One of the other kids in the class asked about Connor's hearing aids.

"Connor has a little trouble hearing," I explained, "so he wears his hearing aids to make things louder and help him hear. Your new friend (the little girl I was there for) also has trouble hearing, and she has a cochlear implant to help her. Connor has trouble walking too, so he has a wheelchair to help him move. Some of the other kids in here have other things to help them, like that little boy over there, who has glasses to help him see."

"And you're his mommy?" she asked, pointing to Connor.

"Yep!"

"Oh!" exclaimed the little girl. She studied me closely for a minute. "Well, what's wrong with you? Why don't you have hearing aids on?"

Kind of a different perspective on things.



~Jess

Sunday, August 9, 2009

In Which Everyone Does Not Help Me Clean The House

Today was rather an exercise in futility as far as getting anything done around the house went. The excitement started early; I heard a crash in the office at about two in the morning and (armed with my trusty machete) ran down the hall to check it out. I found a chagrined lump of a tabby cat underneath a mound of yellow fabric on the floor. Apparently Loki thought climbing up the curtains might be an innovative new way to get to the windowsill. It didn't work very well. So now my new curtains are leaning up in a corner waiting for me to reenforce the holders so they don't rip out of the walls again.

On the way back to my room after the curtain incident (I refrained from using the machete on the cat, so you should all be proud) I stopped by Connor's room to check up on him, only to discover he had pulled his medicine intake valve open again and there was formula all over the bed. I changed out his sheets and attempted to go back to sleep. Connor, unhappy at being disturbed from his (undoubtedly soggy) dreams, began crying. When Connor cries he forgets to swallow and ends up coughing and ultimately, if there is anything in his stomach, throwing up, which is what he did when I walked in and picked him up out of his crib, christening my hair, robe, and his formally clean sheets. Since he was out of sheets, he finished the night out with a blanket over the mattress.

When I woke up this morning I walked into the living room to discover that Loki had found the dried lavender in the vase on the dining room table and, in protest at being out of food, shredded it with his teeth. There were little mutilated lavender bits ground all over the tablecloth, chairs and carpet. Our upstairs neighbors had thrown their beer cans in my garden again. The sink backed up. I looked out the window just as a flock of ducks used my car for target practice. Their aim was dead on.

I'm not sure why all of the sudden everyone in this house thinks I need help getting everything messy. I can do that perfectly well by myself, thank you very much.

Some days are like that, I guess.

~Jess

Saturday, August 8, 2009

In Which We Ride Many Times Around The Park

Connor and I drove out to Bradley Park today and did some serious tricycle riding. I say serious, because according to Connor tricycle riding is apparently a very serious activity. He stares down at the peddles with this look of intense concentration, as if he can will them to move through sheer brain power. It's very cute.

He's been doing a lot more rocking on the trike trying to move it himself, which is encouraging. Bradley Park has a number of gentle downslopes on their walking trail, and he figured out that when we were on those downslopes all he had to do was push really hard with one foot to get himself started and then he could coast all the way down. It was really exciting for me to be able to stop pushing him and watch him move around on under his own power-- made me tear up a little bit. He still can't go anywhere on level ground yet, but he's slowly getting the idea and making progress.

Someday when he's old enough I'd love to get a tandem bike converted so that he and I could ride together. I think that would be really fun, and good exercise for both of us.

We rode around for almost an hour; he was totally exhausted by the time we left but still asking for more, and he got kind of upset when I took him off the trike and we went home. He's trying so hard to learn and it's obvious that he finds it to be pretty thrilling. I put him down for bed and he zonked out within five minutes.

The trike riding is doing something else for him other than just helping him figure out coordination. Since he started riding I've seen a visible improvement in the muscle tone in his legs, and he's much more solid on his feet now. Now that the worst of the heat is over we're going to go back to horseback riding, too. I'm excited to see what the combination of activities will do for him!

~Jess
 
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