Friday, February 25, 2011

Veterans... homelessness... finding hope

I was reading this article (now posted in our news blog) earlier today about some steps being made in Providence, Rhode Island to help homeless veterans. Homelessness among our heroes is one of those topics that just gets to my heart. It makes me sad and angry. It's just unfair... and especially so because (in my humble opinion) in all starts from the moment we fail to properly educate, support, and surround a veteran and those in his or her support network in those first critical months at home. This timing... this danger zone... is no secret. Everyone, from yours truly (a lowly, veterans wife), to the (overpaid) director of the VA, and all the people in between, are fully aware that those first months set the tone. Why can't we figure it out? Instead of pouring billions of dollars in the wrong places - in places that will only need more money in a year or two - why not put it in the right place once? Come on people! This isn't brain surgery!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

TBI "Real World" Rehab - Got to Say I'm Sort of Excited!

I read an article on this morning (the article is now POSTED HERE on our News Blog) about a TBI Rehab facility within the Washington DC VA Medical Center. I'm so excited about it being a step (even if it's a small one) in the right direction, that I'm shouting it from the roof tops!

You can read the details in the article, but basically they've set-up a real-world "look a like" to give Veterans with TBI the opportunity to re-learn how stand on their own two feet. The program is appropriately called "Independence Way". Here's why I think this is such a good step forward...

Until recently, the VA's plan of "treatment" has been simply placing one band-aid after another on our Veterans. They give them more and more drugs... send them to "treatment" program after treatment program that doesn't really have any major long-term impact. The goal hasn't (seemed to have) been for them to start successfully functioning, only for them not to be an issue... not to be a problem.

This is a miserable way for any person (and their family!!) to live. Just existing in a drugged out stupor gets old... and sad... and eventually makes you really pissed off. Which, in turn, at some point, starts making PTSD / or the behaviorial TBI issues worse.

So, if this new step toward Independence... toward actually helping our Veterans figure out how to successfully function again is an indication of a shift in treatment philosophy (however small), I am one happy veteran's wife :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

F---, What an Arse Ache

This story we received from a Veteran's wife today is short and sweet. And, while the title had to be edited a bit, I still thought it was really important to post. It's one of those things that no doctor or clinician is going to tell you about living with someone with PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), sometimes they act like they have multiple personality disorder. My hubby has literally in the span of a few hours gone from accusing me of sleeping with multiple people (who has the time or energy when you're caring for a 4 year old and a 100% disabled Vet?) to telling me I'm the most wonderful, beautiful wife in the world and he's the luckiest guy in the universe (a little bit of a stretch but nice to hear) to sitting, staring, telling me how horrible our life is together (and me thinking that I can't exactly argue with him at that exact moment). So, I guess my point is, the next time you feel like you're living with 3 or 4 people instead of just one, remember you're not alone!

I would also like to point out, that this wife (and those of us like her) should also look into Secondary PTSD (Information available by CLICKING HERE). After living a period of time under this type of strain is entirely possible for a wife, caregiver, etc., to develop the disorder.

Here's this wife's story...

I have known, learned about and married 'Legs' since 1986. God knows what I was thinking. I was 26 years old I met him. I am now 53. I have worked very hard to nurture trust, intimacy and a lifetime of trials and tribulations ("memories") for us, my children and his children and our grandchildren and I still feel like I am wanting. Just tonight, he has accused me of being a lesbian???? What is he thinking? Two weeks ago, he screamed at me that I am a loser and he is sick of me. I just scored a good contract position and he says 'I am proud of you'. I THINK I AM GOING CRAZY!!!!! HELP ME

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today at 1:00am

Sounds way too familiar to far too many people. Thanks to this veteran's wife for sharing her story!

Right now my husband is sleeping on the living room floor, because our bed hurts his back. An IED got him the first time in Iraq, and the second time (2004) a grenade to his back. I am the wife of a surviving veteran that has been crying out for help for 6 years. We have been in and out of Washington State VA hospitals without any help, and all this neglect has made my husband's PTSD shoot up so bad that I'm now walking on eggshells. He is not the man he used to be.

Today he has vomited, his sciatica pain is beyond words, stomach hurts, and body chills. You would think to just take him into the hospital to be seen,but that is exactly the reason why he is going through all the pain here at home. For 6 years we would go in and out of the VA hospitals E.R, urgent care, with only pain pills in our pocket. The same pain pills that make him throw up. They would say "you need to call your doctor and set up an appointment". We would do that with a month out wait time,( leaving messages on machines ) and doctors even loosing paperwork in the past.

Before he got out the Army they did an MRI, but not once in six years did the VA look at them, nor take new ones. He has never been tested for brain injuries either. It is very hard to help his PTSD when he is in chronic pain! Last 2 years have been the worst on our marriage and family. His anger scares me sometimes, and I really don't know how " real" his words are.

We told the VA verbally and in person to the psych doctor that he is suicidal, and they did not call us back, or do a followup. After he attempted to end his life (while on a road trip) I called the National Hotline for the Veterans and they told me " sorry we can't help someone who does not want to get help".

Since then we are now living in California and in the few weeks we have lived here the VA hospital has been WONDERFUL! He has a MRI scheduled, x-rays done ,and a case manger calling us to see how he is doing. It is a true miracle ! The problem though that leads me to 1 am and a stubborn hurt man is, after 6 years of being ignored by those who are supposed to help, he does not want to go to E.R tonight. He assumes he will have to wait 10 hours to be given pain pills and sent home. Mentally it is to late for him - he is so depressed. Physically he can't move, can't do daily activities, and support our family . I have high hopes that the California VA system will help him, and help with his PTSD. I just wish that 6 years ago he could of got this kind of support. In the next couple days he has another appointment, so I am hoping that this truly is a new start.

Five Killed

This story was shared by an OIF Veteran who is struggling with memories of his time in Iraq. For some, it really helps just to get their story on paper (or on screen). Thanks for having the courage to share your story and for reach out. I know it took a lot!

I was in country for a couple months when this happened. As part of the scout team for my platoons convoy security, we came upon a possible IED. I was driving a Caiman MRAP with jamming equipment and a rhino attached. We spotted a bag that shouldn't have been there, we rolled up to it and my gunner couldn't see anything, so of course, I opened my door to take pics of this suspicious bag. The dust in the air had distorted the pixels. So, I got out on foot and walked up to the bag looking for command wire and possible infrared sensors. I got down on myhands and knees to take close up pics of this bag. I opened it up to see that my crew and I running it over back and forth had crushed everything in the bag. I no longer have the pix thanks to S1, but happy to help; We marked it with red chem sticks and hung one on a stake I pounded into the ground to alert other crews coming towards this IED. We continued to our mark and got word a couple hours later that the same IED had killed 5.

I think what gets me most is I was on hands and knees over this thing, 3 propane tanks linked to another 2 across the road in the median that we didn't find. As I sit here, I think about the families and what they're going through because I didn't clear this IED. We did what we were supposed to do, found it, marked it, let all other units including EOD know we had marked it, and somewhat dismantled it and CM. I thought we had done everything, and I would love to tell the families that we tried to do everything we could. I had other things happen similar like this, but not as bad. I hope this helps someone dealing with deployment recovery. I love my country and will love the Service, I will do it all over again. Congress and those elected really need to learn and know what its like to be there and put their lives on the line for their families like all of us who have.