Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign: My Promise

When we first met, I don't know what it was about you but I wanted us to work out and be together more than anything. I can't explain it. I wanted to drag you with me to Texas or North Carolina or wherever I went to school and never be apart from you. A lot has changed since we first met. I've never been a fan of change, but I've had to learn, that's for sure. When things didn't work out in our first time around, I was crushed. For the first time in my life I found myself, like so many veterans, drowning my sorrows on weeknights in a bar alone. The events that followed were like a sad movie. I saw you cry for the first time. As horrible as that was, I still cherish that the only time I've ever seen you cry was when you thought you were going to lose me. That's how I know you love me. When you were trying to "court" me the second time around you were so good at writing letters and I fell so much deeper in love with you. You don't do that anymore, much to my dismay. But you still hold my hand. And you still tell me you love me before you hang up the phone or leave the house..every time..no matter how much we're fighting or how mad you are at me. That means something to me, even if I begrudgingly say it back at the time. If you didn't say it, I'd feel lost. Please don't ever stop. 
A lot has happened in our first year of marriage, we had a baby---and while he is the love of our lives, and we wanted to have him,  I know in retrospect we both feel like we lost out on a part of our chance at couplehood. But like many military couples, we moved very fast because we were so happy to be together again and because you were getting medically retired and wanted me to be taken care of with health insurance. I didn't know you before PTSD , before TBI, and before combat. Sometimes I feel jealous of other wives who were with their spouses beforehand. I feel like they have something/someone to hold on to that I just don't have when things go bad. I always say when things get bad you have to fall back on your foundation and what happens when your foundation is shaky? We are making our foundation right now. And it is so hard. But at the same time, I feel lucky that I've only known you post-deployment. I don't have to learn to love a "new" you. Yes, you had gotten worse there for awhile, that's no secret but now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like we were lost for a little while, but because of your strength and determination we are moving forward and not apart. I am so proud of the fact that you've never turned down help. I actually boast about that fact. You've never turned down a medication, or a therapy technique, or counseling. Anything that has the possibility to help, you're willing to try. I know you do that for us.
I saw you without me--it wasn't a pretty sight watching you drink yourself to death. I know that it'd be so easy and so much less work to go back to that, then to have to fight every single day to make our relationship and our family work. I know you don't enjoy going to counseling now every week and hearing me complain about different things. It can't be easy for you. But I also know you don't want to live without us. So you've learned to admit you are wrong. You're learning to recognize how what you say affects me. It takes a very courageous and loving person to set aside their pride and not get defensive and actually listen. You know it's hard to be married to you sometimes--with not only mental health issues but physical limitations, but I'm so glad YOU haven't given up. Like a true soldier, you've always "pushed through" when you've needed to. Even when I've felt like there was no hope. I believe you are so strong-willed that you can do anything. I'll never forget the day our son was born when he had to be under those lights crying, and you stood and held his hands for hours. I don't know where you found the strength to do it, but it was an amazing testimony of love.You defy odds and amaze me sometimes.
I also will never forget the time you drove all night to see me at the drop of a hat. I'd be lost without you. You're my best friend. You are my rock and with you, I feel safe. I'm proud to be married to you. You're the guy that stops to help old ladies, broken down cars, anyone in need.  You're a day to day hero, but you're also a war hero. I know you were just "doing your job" when that firefight broke out after your second IED, but you didn't cower like some of the other soldiers did. You never cower. You told me recently that no matter what happens or how mad you get, you're not going anywhere and you're never going to leave. I'll never forget that conversation. You're a fighter and I'm so grateful you fight for us. I think it's easy for us to get stuck in the daily problems and bickering that get blown out of proportion. Things have never been easy with either of our families and it's easy to become resentful and lash out. It's also hard taking care of a new baby. But I want to make it work with you. I know we don't speak the same love language a lot of the time but I hope that with help, we can continue to try to learn to be on the same page.
I want to work together to make our relationship better and better. I want to be happy with you, and plan our future, and grow old together. I want to have a little sister for our son someday. I'm so happy I see a future for us again, and I promise you that I will never give up on us either. I will fight for you just like I always have. No matter what happens with our families, we will always have each other and our own little family. If we both never give up, we'll never have to know what life is like apart from each other.
Thank you for being willing to make changes to help our relationship. I will try to listen more and talk less.

This is my promise to you, and my hope for our future.
I love you.
Always & Forever, 
Proud Wife of a Veteran

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visithttp://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Monday, January 30, 2012

VetsPrevail.org Brings Hundreds of Veterans Support and Gift Cards with a Rewards-based Transition Program

After our first month, we’ve already had hundreds of US Military Veterans and their supporters come to VetsPrevail.org, where Veterans are standing by for instant message chats in our online programs and are sharing knowledge in our question and answer community, ready for anyone else who’s ready for the opportunity to sign-up, learn and earn.

At the core, as many of you know, we create a customized, easy to access online program that helps Veterans experiencing the usual difficulties of reintegrating or transitioning after the military, to better overcome challenges we all face with jobs, in our relationships, and daily life in general.  For others, we’re that and so much more.  Week to week, we have members completing different levels of our program, aiming to get higher point scores, for which they can redeem for gift cards at retailers like Best Buy, Starbucks, Target and Macy’s.  Other members share what they’ve learned from years of military experience or navigating the difficult Veterans’ benefits space, and they ask questions they need help with waiting for you to log in and share what you know to help them.

Feedback on the program has ranged from members telling us, “I wish I had found [Vets Prevail] sooner” to “I can’t believe more people don’t know about this yet”.  Even though there have been a lot of positive experiences so far, like military training taught us, we can always improve ourselves.  We’ve applied that spirit to Vets Prevail and look for any Veterans who want to support their brothers and sisters in arms by testing out the program, and giving feedback.  This testing and feedback is so important to us, we’re giving out gift cards just for those who can help us improve it.

Other Veterans, often ask us how they can help and to that we say, sign up, give the program a shot.  You may learn something valuable while you’re on our site to help out a buddy, or maybe even help yourself.  The truth is, we need to get the word out to as many Veterans as possible and are currently setting up programs where if you finish the first Interactive lesson yourself and feel like it's a service that you would be happy to spread the word about, then you’re paid cash for each person you refer to the program that also does the first Interactive Lesson.

Anyone interested in this opportunity to help Veterans or beta-test Vets Prevail and provide feedback, can contact us at info@vetsprevail.org.  Anyone else who wants to help Vets Prevail can do so by spreading the word about VetsPrevail.org via social networks and sharing a word or two about the positive impact that’s being made.  If you’re not joining today, and want to stay informed, you and friends who also support Veteran causes should definitely follow us on Facebook.

We want to send a big thanks to the hundreds of Veterans who are already Vets Prevail members and are currently participating in our rewards programs, asking important questions about Veteran topics, or sharing knowledge and answers to aid Veterans in need of support.   We appreciate your service and look forward to seeing you all in the Vets Prevail program.

The Vets Prevail Team

Monday Momism: A Letter to Uncle Sam

Dear Uncle Sam,

How are you?  It's been awhile since I wrote but family still needs to stick together, especially in hard times.  I've heard things are pretty rough for you right now, being the government and all.  I almost didn't write this but you didn't raise me to be that way.

Uncle Sam, I was honored to go to war for you and the rest of our family.  Our name, America, is one I am proud to have.  Sure, we have our problems and in all honesty, I don't understand the cold shoulder I have gotten since coming home but I want you to know that if you needed me, I would rise up and defend you again today.

All families have problems, Uncle Sam, and I understand this.  I do need to say I'm not quite sure why the problems of combat are pushed aside but I am trying to trust the uncle I was always taught to respect.  I'm an adult, though, not a child, and I have to admit I see things that puzzle me.

Our children are told not to pledge allegiance to your flag or bring God into things, yet you allow a church to celebrate the death of my comrades? 

My mother gets upset and goes Mama on people when they put me down because, even though she wasn't in a war zone, she sees how it changed me.  Her favorite expression when she deals with people who aren't “perfect” and like to indulge in things they shouldn't is “He has a brain injury from war, what's your excuse?” 

Okay, even now, Uncle Sam, honesty has to prevail.  I'm the Mama.  I started this letter as if it were from a veteran but it isn't.  It's from the mom of one of your descendants, a young man who left for war at the age of 19.  He went for me, his brother and sister, and for you.  He was raised that family is family and worth fighting for. 

Just as he fought for you, I will continue my fight for him, even on, ESPECIALLY on, his bad days.  No, his brain injury isn't an excuse.  It's a fact. 

You wear your uniform even today, Uncle Sam.  I see it in all your pictures.  Try to remember those who are wearing it or have worn it in the past.  The irony is, most of those making decisions that affect us have never faced what our troops and veterans have.  Truth is, I'm not sure they could handle it. 

I'm going to end this letter now, Uncle Sam.  I really do hope you are doing better than what I'm hearing in the news.  We should get together some time and have coffee and catch up.  Maybe if you spent time with family, you would be reminded of who you really are.  

Have a wonderful day, week, month and year.  Oh, and Uncle Sam?  If you ever need to talk or just say hi, I'm here.   We all are. 

A Veteran's Mom

Submitted by Monica Newton

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And then there was one.....

And then there was one..... PTSD INJECTION: 7 days later....

And then there was one.....

Picture yourself dangerously close to a storm. A tornado is coming. Every fiber of your body is buzzing, in tune with nature the way its Creator had intended.

Fight or Flight....

Its coming. The once warm day has dropped at least 10 degrees within minutes, and goose bumps raise tiny red flags that alert you to move. You stand outside despite the threat. Amazed by the beauty, the force, its seducing you to stay. The wind moves your hair and brings with it a moist kiss from the impending rain....

Yet you stay.

The wind moves around your body harder, and you shiver from the depths of your soul. The atmosphere is angry shades of purple, then green. The pressure changes, everything inside of you is telling you to run....

Yet you stay.


The moment you knew was coming pours on you, the storm is on top of you. You can run, but you won't get far. You can move, but the lighting will follow. And the deafening rumble of the tornado is right in front of you.....


Oh God, what is happening? I feel so small and alone and scared I am SCARED I am SCARED.


That is how I feel right now. The injection for PTSD my husband received on January 17th, 2012, still seems to be working. This is an adjustment. We are both scared. He says, "I don't want to ever be that way again, I'm so sorry" and its true, I don't want him to ever feel that way again either. I see my husband starting to enjoy himself, being calm, and he pulls back away from me.... afraid that this is truly too good to be true. "F" YOU!!!! HOW MUCH MORE CAN YOU TAKE FROM US!!! I HATE YOU PTSD. I thought we would have this opportunity to start over, it would be quick, like a reset button on an electronic.... We have been reset, but we are slow to reboot.

This ambiguous and unmapped territory. I hate the fact that I have lived such a sheltered life. No losses to speak of, no trauma unheard of, I have my health and my children..... I have been ill prepared for this life. I have. I am 31 and have had a very good life with many blessings and few curses and heartache I couldn't fix. This shouldn't be so difficult, this should be happy and celebratory, but instead it is tender and raw and slow.

Tender and raw and painfully slow.

But so much good has come from all of this. A child has started to reconnect with his father, A man is feeling loving feelings toward his children and wife, A soldier has found relief from war related illness and injury, A wife can curl up to her husband at night, and fall asleep to sweetly dream of what the future will hold.....because now of course, there is a future.

But we went from raging and violent storms to the eerie quiet that reminds me of a hot and humid summer day in Minnesota....the kind where the clouds roll in and offer a brief reprieve from the heat....but cold sneaks in to spoil your rest, and it storms, the great and loud humid summer storms, where you can smell the rain long before she lets go.

I feel like I have lost my place. I knew where the storm was. Before the injection I could count the seconds between claps of thunder and flashes of lightening to calculate the precise moment of impact.

I hear no thunder....
I see no lighting....

I am unable to predict, to protect, to move my world to the safety under the stairs.... I am navigating blind.

I suppose this is where Faith comes in....
*Written by Kateri Peterson, wife of James, and fighter of PTSD.  This is an intimate look into the very real feelings experienced by a wife of an OIF combat veteran who has battled PTSD since 2004.  The fight is not over, yet I feel overwhelmed with gratitude, that we were given a very powerful tool worthy of this battle.  On January 17th, 2012, James received the Stellate Ganglion Block, a new and innovative way currently being researched by Dr. Eugene Lipov and his incredibly competent and compassionate staff at Advanced Pain Centers, Hoffman Estates, IL.  If you or someone you love is suffering from war related illnesses and injuries, it is important to explore all your options, and make an informed decision.  You are own best advocate.  For more information on how the Stellate Ganglion Block is effective in some cases of PTSD, and in my own husbands case, his unexplainable, uncureable foot rash, contact Dr. Lipov and his staff at Advancedpaincenters.com or call 1-847-608-6620.
*The results we are experiencing are not unheard of.  However, more information is needed and more studies need to be done.  If you feel you would like more information on his study happening NOW, call today. 
*Be advised that any information, idea, or implied ideas, are not neccessarily the ideas and opinions of Family of Vet, INC, or of Advanced Pain Centers, Chicago Medical Innovations, or Dr. Lipov himself. 
*Be advised that it is imperative to your health and wellbeing that all members of your current care team WANT to know if you are exploring alternative methods to PTSD treatment, and given your past medical history, only your provider and Dr. Lipov will be able to safely guide you to informed choices.  Everyone involved in your care, be it VA, or Private Doctors, and your family members, WANT you to not only survive this life with PTSD, but THRIVE! 
*Just like with anything, every BODY reacts differently to everything.  If your results are not the same, I cannot be held responsible. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Veteran's Life

I am a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I have many war wounds, none of which can be seen from the outside. Most days, if you were to look at me, you would never know that anything is wrong. However, the inside is destroyed. This is the life of a modern combat vet.

I was injured in Iraq, although I never knew it. It could have been many things, or a combination of everything. As most Iraq vets, I have been there and seen things that I hope most people never have to endure. I have been attacked in just about every way possible, but I was lucky. I came back with all my body parts, and seemingly, no effects.

That is until one day I woke up and couldn’t move. I eventually made it to an MRI. The Doc read it, and asked me when I broke my back. I didn’t know I ever did. But with 5 fractured vertebrae and 7 ruptured disks, it was quite obvious. And to think, I was actually going in to get my knee checked out, since I have torn ligaments many times, and already had surgery once.

            Three months later, I was a civilian. Luckily, I was at the right place at the right time. I had a good job and a family. So what more could I want? My military career was over suddenly after 12 years, and my dreams were shattered, but life goes on. And then the PTSD hit. After being out of combat for a few years, I just couldn’t imagine that I had PTSD. But after being checked at the VA for my C&P evaluation, they found moderate PTSD. I was asked questions that I had never thought about; questions about hyper vigilance, anxiety, stress, sleep, etc. Just like I would have never thought that I had a broken back. Yes, it hurt, but what Soldier’s back doesn’t, right? But life went on. And as time went on, other things began to come up. I was having memory and vision problems, so they tested me for a Traumatic Brain Injury. And sure enough, I had a moderate TBI as well. Then my shoulders began to hurt, so I asked the doc about it, and a couple months later, I was having surgery.

            Things just seemed to keep popping up, and then I had a disk slip in my back, requiring surgery. I was in the hospital for two weeks before I had the surgery and the slipped disk wasn’t even in a place previously identified as damaged. Luckily, my employer accepted my new limitations, as I had a rather unique skillset. However, my home life was crashing because of the constant stress of managing medications (up to 18 at one point), trying to maintain my job, and then deal with a family that didn’t understand PTSD or TBI, nor even try.

Then one day, I got up from the couch, or rather attempted to, and was on the ground. Another hospital stay, but this stay left me no longer able to work ever again. I was left reeling and wondering now what do I do? Well, that question was answered for me, as my wife kicked me out because I could no longer afford to keep her in the manner she was accustomed.

So there I was, living on VA disability (Social Security and my private disability insurance both denied my claims). After bills were paid, I had enough for a bowl of Ramen every other day. I just ignored all the credit card bills and non-necessities, as there was nothing left. I continued to live this way, alone completely for a year. And my health got worse. So bad in fact, that I was sitting there one night with a gun in my mouth, debating to pull the trigger.

 At this time, something strange happened. I got a spam email from a good friend I had as a pen pal while in Iraq. And after talking for a month, we decided to move back home, where we were both from, and try to start a new life. I warned her what she was in for, both with my mental and physical well-being, and she accepted that, knowing that she would have to take care of me.

Life was once again worth living. We were home for about a month, and then on New Years day, I had a strange mystery pain. So we went to the ER. After the usual tests, they really couldn’t identify what was wrong. But the pain went away, returning 5-6 times a month. As time went on, my back continued to get worse. Unfortunately we lived in a second floor apartment (and still do). The VA here is great, so they provided as much as they could; a power chair, car lift, stair glide, ramp on the front of the house. It was still difficult to get around. I have been through worse.  As time went on the list of ailments continued to grow; a pineal cyst was discovered in my brain, I had more pain in my back, extreme pain in my legs, experienced numb feet, developed “mystery” pain, and a host of other things. Fortunately, the government passed the Caregiver bill, which now pays the woman who became the love of my life, to take care of me. It is difficult at age 37 to have a need to be taken care of, but I can adapt.
Then the VA recommended that I try a recumbent trike for physical activity. I had been looking for something I could physically do for quite a few years, and never found anything that didn’t aggravate my back, knees, shoulders, or in some other way hurt. I will try anything twice. So I tried it, and it was a miracle. Much like Family of a Vet was to me. After all, I was “forced” into FOV, which may have been the best thing in my life!

Finally, I got my trike. The VA does take a while, but it can work if you know the right buttons to push. I was so excited, not only could I do something physical, but it decreased my back pain. So much that I decided to form the FOV cycling team! Then the snow came, and I could no longer ride. It had only been a week or two before winter hit, but at least I was ready for spring!

Then out of nowhere, the mystery pain was back. It had come and gone before, with a few trips to the ER. But this time it was horrible. So I was taken to the local hospital by ambulance. After a 4 day stay, I find out that I have Sarcoidosis in my lungs (a diagnosis a week before) that got worse, but my Gall Bladder needed to come out. I can handle that, a Gall Bladder is no big deal. That is until the doctors got the CT results back. A Pulmonary Embolism was found in my right lung. At age 37?!?!

Somewhere along the line, my VA rating was increased to 100%. Since I can’t work, I filed for Total and Permanent (T&P) which has been pending for 9 months. This is a process that should take no longer than 45 days, but taking longer is the norm with the VA sometimes. They have a heavy caseload, and few staff.  Trying to get an honest answer from them of why there is an extreme delay is like pulling teeth. In reality, the T&P doesn’t really do anything for you, since I am already rated at 100%. However, it will open up one critical benefit to us and allows us to file for a Specially Adaptive Housing (SAH) grant.
The SAH grant is critical for us, as there are organizations out there that will provide a house for my family and I that fits my needs. It would be wheelchair accessible and provide me the opportunity to have more independence in my life. Yes, I have a roof over my head, but it is not designed for someone who has multiple disabilities, and has trouble moving around.

This may sound like a “poor me” story. However, this is not the intent. I am not alone, and there are always those that are worse off than myself. I am just one of many. I did what I was asked and suffered what I knew could happen. I accept that. I go on living the best I can, getting as involved as I can with Family of a Vet to not only help others, but help myself as well. To me, I just did my job; what was asked of me. Those around me, feel I deserve better; maybe they are right.

As you read this, realize that I am not alone. I could have very easily been a homeless vet you see on the street corner. I could very well be dead at a moment’s notice from a Pulmonary Embolism that is sitting in my lung as I write this. But, I am here. Fighting every day for the best life I can have for me and my family. The same way I fought for my country. And I wouldn’t change a thing. There is certainly nothing wrong with living on a shoestring budget, in a home that doesn’t permit me to have a great quality of life, with health problems that are going to take a major toll on my life, and keep me from doing the few things I have left to enjoy, but I wake up on the right side of the dirt every morning.  I will continue to fight to do so every day, the same way that many of our vets do every day. I have the benefit of having a great caregiver in my life and the support of an organization that is always there for me, which is a benefit that many of our vets do not have. I am an Iraq vet, who takes most of his days at medical appointments at the VA, but I see the older generation of veterans, who have suffered even worse, without the attention of the mainstream media.

All I ask is that you just realize that though you may have a rough day, there are those that fought for our freedom that are fighting a physical and emotional struggle every single day.  They fight just to have one more day. They don’t worry about their own quality of life. That is a concept lost on them. They are merely struggling to just survive.

This is the life of a Combat Veteran…

Submitted by Anthony Patchell
OIF Veteran
FOV Veteran Outreach Coordinator

Friday, January 20, 2012

PTSD and the impact on Soldier Foot/Stellate Ganglion block

This is a picture of my husbands feet in September 2011.  They often look this bad.
Today I had him get ready for work to do his foot care......

His feet are healed.

There is no open raw weeping area.

Only an open raw and weeping wife.

What the hell is going on here?!

We left for Chicago to Dr. Lipov on Monday.  His feet were open.  His feet are closed today. He has taken prednisone and keflex off and on for YEARS. 

I'm not sure if this is related to the PTSD injection or not.

What I do know is this....when my husband's ptsd and anxiety flare, so do his feet.

You decide.

Stellate Ganglion Block, it keeps going...and going....

Stellate Ganglion Block....it keeps going....and going....and going.....

Good morning/evening, depending on where you are located.

I just home from work/gym. My work out buddy, aka Puffy, was not at work tonight, so I had to go it alone. I did tell a few coworkers about the success of the shot for PTSD. I saw the look of disbelief on their faces....and I had to laugh.

I hardly believe myself, so I get it.

But, I called home tonight, once before bedtime, and once post bedtime. My husband said he did well with the three little monsters. He said, "I didn't even raise my voice once, and Simon was not following directions." Hmmmm. Interesting. Of course, I'll have to verify that with my children in the morning.

My little guy said, after Daddy returned from work, "Daddy! Is your brain injury all gone?!" He bounced around his fathers feet, looking up at him with hopeful eyes, and James said, "Well I don't know...I think so buddy". And my sweet sweet boy said, "So does that mean you won't be mean anymore?!" And he bounded off, keeping his level of excitement to a dull roar so as not to upset the sleeping giant (aka ptsd).

Out of the mouths of the babes, huh? I had to laugh. Well, its true. Maybe it means he won't be so vicious anymore. Maybe it means he will have enough of a reprieve from beastie boy PTSD that he can reprogramme himself into a calmer, more gentle and affectionate father.

Its true. Ptsd did create "space issues". I have them too. Its not that we are not an affectionate brood of people, its just that with his PSTD, there is no classic rough and tumble play a whole lot here. In fact, it doesn't even really exist at all.

Fortunately, I have 3 brothers, and my children can rough and tumble and be boys with them.

But, living in a house where children are to be quiet, to be still, and you must pretty much announce or make sure you are coming at my husband straight on, does create an akwardness. I wonder if we seem akward to those looking in. People always comment on my children, how well behaved they are, how respectful and quiet and self sufficient they are. This is beyond normal. It truly is. My children have to be that way. If not, then they trigger my husbands PTSD. I suspect they will always be this way now. Maybe there is hope for the little guy, who has not yet been completely programmed.

Anyways, just a quick update that yes, things are going well, and I came home to dishes in the dishwasher, supper put away (even though I still had to cook it) and the dryer running. That is a good sign. My husband is generally the helpful type, its just that he often gets so overwhelmed by clutter, so overwhelmed by children, that he is almost moved to inaction. Its hard to explain. But he does have a real hard time putting things in order, and making plans. He never used to be that way, but things seem to be naturally falling into place.

But here I sit, frightened. I wait quietly watching. Looking for signs. I am waiting for the other combat boot to drop.

Is this all going to all come crashing down around me? And how am I going to handle it? I can tell you I have already started planning. I still have a stash of things at my mothers house so if there is an emergency, the kids and I have a safety zone. Please refer to our website for creating your own safety plan, if you have not made one yet, I promise you it is the best thing you can do for yourself....

I also have a list of phone numbers in various places in case I need to exit quickly. If the beastie boy comes back, we will need to leave quickly, quietly. Dr. Lipov's number is in that list....not like he can do much....but hey, its worth having his number for sure.

I still am suffering from secondary that is obvious. I still have plans and rules and moves all set out before me incase it comes back. And I am starting to realize its time to get serious. It likely will come back, and I need to be alert. I need to prepare myself and not let myself become delusional. Better safe than sorry.

With time I will fully relax. I still am monitoring all of his things, I hope that this will lesson with time. I don't want him to become overwhelmed too quickly. He has to build himself up for a while.

I have been so touched by the emails I have been getting and I have been in contact with Dr. Lipov's office. I am moved by the things I am reading. Your pain is the exact reason why I am doing this, because I know that pain. I still have that pain. I don't know if that pain will go away, but it is quieting down inside of me for now.

For more information, or to share your story, which I promise you, I WANT to hear, email me personally at kateri@familyofavet.com

Goodnight :)

The Love Letter Campaign: My Husband, My Hero


There sometime seems to be no words to describe the things that you have done to protect your family.  You say you joined the Army in order to keep the fight away from your wife and children, to keep us safe and make a better future for us.  Along this ride we have followed you as the head of our family.  You have brought amazing people into our live and given us great opportunities that we may never have been able to experience, but along with those great opportunities you have experienced some great pain. 

Through you first deployment you saw the loss of many friends and were forced to do things that you never thought you would have to do, yet as a soldier you did what you were told and followed through with the mission.  During you second deployment you lost several members of you company early on and yet you still went out and full-filled your missions as expected. 

On your first mission back from R&R your Stryker was hit by an EFP, leaving you riddled with shrapnel up and down your whole left side.  January 3, 2011 is a day that changed our lives forever.  It showed me the great strength you had, I have always known you were strong, but to the extent I had no idea. 

And yet I didn't hear from the military of your injuries and attack, you called me to make sure I knew you were going to be okay.  Your concern was not for yourself but for me.  For you to worry about me during that time seems unthinkable, but for you, it is just who you are. 

Being with you during you initial recovery and helping you with wound care was a new experience and I can say that being around so many at Brooke Army Medical Center put many things into perspective for both of us and was a great blessing for us as well.  I would not have changed our time there together, for all the blessings and friendships we were given there.

When I see your scars all I can think is how much I love them, the are a symbol as to how truly strong you are in so many ways, as a soldier, husband, father, friend and leader to your other soldiers.

The impact that you made on others on you FOB and in your company that they would have a Special Forces Commander, who was already very impressed with you, hear you were hurt and pull one of his units out to find the person responsible shows that you relationships among others on your FOB and were respected by others as well.

I am proud and honored to be your wife.

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visithttp://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

PTSD INjection Daily Update

So its now almost 48 hours post injection, and its still working.   I let my husband handle all 3 kids this morning, our baby is ill too boot.....and I didn't hear ANY yelling.  I even heard my 7 year old shut the door a little too hard (which is a no no in our house) and I braced myself under the covers for the "GODDAMIT SIMON!!!!" 


I jumped out of bed.  James was fine.

He is still fine. 

This is incredible.  He slept well last night.  He did not have any nightmares, and he did not take his prazosin for dreams.  That is a feat in itself.

I do have to call his primary today at the va and fill him in.  I don't want to leave him out of the loop, plus, I don't ever ever ever recommend someone stopping medications with out a doctors blessing.  My husband in this case chose to do that, and I'm watching him like a hawk.

I did call his telehealth coordinator last night at 10 pm and gave him a 3 minute this is what the shot is, this is what is is doing, and holy crap this is amazing.  I assume I'll be hearing from him in about a half an hour.

In all my excitement I forgot to post information for the clinic and doctor.  The doctor said if  you have ANY questions, please call!!!! Right now he is also looking for Illinois veterans, males, between the ages of 18-55.  It doesnn't matter if you got PTSD from war, or a car accident, as long as you are a veteran with PTSD, then you may qualify for his study going on.  Its just a thought. 

http://www.advancedpaincenters.org/    I like this website better.....

http://chicagomedicalinnovations.org/     This is another website.....

His name is Dr. Lipov.  Pronounced Lip-ov.  To get your personal questions answered call this number             (847) 608-6620     

Anyways, the cost of the shot I do believe, though not sure, but I'm guessing, is NOT covered by tricare.  I dont' have tricare or medicare, we have BCBS and that does NOT cover it either.  It is about one thousand for the shot last I checked. 

Good luck on your own journey to peace people, and keep us updated on your journey! 

My usual disclaimer: 

I do not represent the VA.  I do not represent Dr. Lipov.  No one is being compensated financially for this information, favorable or not.  This is our own personal experience, and we want to share the journey with you.  I do not represent the sole opinion of Family of a Vet, INC.  Sometimes even they disagree with how I feel.....but they are being kind to host my posts.  For more information, you can check out damespaz.blogspot.com   my own personal blog. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stellate Ganglion Block, its still working, and we are home!

Home.  We made it home.  Safely tucked in the warmth and familiarity that only your refuge can hold.  Usually we get home and its such a huge transition (from chaos and anxiety, to calm and familiar surroundings) that everyone is growling and snapping and gnashing and biting at eachother.  Coming home often times can prove more stressful than the trip itself.

Not this time.  We got home, so happy, so at peace, and so READY for coming home.  Excited.  Eager.  We are ready to try again.

Dr. Lipov gave us a mulligan....we get a do-over.  We get to try this life all over again.  The injection used to treat PTSD in my husband (the stellate ganglion block) is still working.  We are now almost 36 hours post injection.  Know this; my husband is calm, easygoing, and back.  He is the James I met and married.  He is the James that I used to trust with my life, with my soul.  The James who I knew would lay down his life for me without a second thought. 

I thought I lost you......

The truth is, he had been here the whole time.... fighting just as hard to stay IN this world as I was fighting to drive these demons OUT of this world.  It feels like we won.  Have you ever won something huge?  It feels like that.  Though its so hard to place words to these feelings, I can tell you I feel like I won something big.... The lotto?  A car?  A Cruise?  Our life back.

If you don't have a loved one who has ptsd what I'm saying may not make sense to you.  You might think I'm a little dramatic.  You might think I'm excessive.  But what if your husband was dying from cancer and withering away before your very eyes.  And there wasn't a goddamned thing you could do.  What if things begin to feel so bleak and desperate, you contemplate your choices....leaving, or a mercy killing (so to speak), either way, someone is going to be hurt beyond repair. 

But I know if you are reading this, you believe in something that you can't feel, you believe in hope.  You believe in showing your vet the same loyalty he or she showed this country.  How could possibly justify walking away? 

We were given hope.  I told Kevin, the office guru for Dr. Lipov, that the last 6 years was not in vain.  This brief time we are experiencing relief means so much to us, that it is worth it.  If the shot is no longer working, we won't despair anymore.  We will surely be frustrated, and sad, but we will not give up.  Because we have seen the light.  We have been shown that there is more to treating PTSD than just "in the box" thinking....You have to look outside the box. 

I will keep you updated.  I will keep you informed.  I will be honest.  And we will tell you if the shot stops working.  Is PTSD gone?  I don't know.  Is it going to come back?  I don't know.  Will this work for even one more day?  I hope so.  So far this is very promising, and I pray and hope and implore the powers that be (aka our dear VA) takes this experience, and uses it to look at, to open their eyes, to see something other than what they are able to provide now.  Everything is hanging in the balance. 

For a long time, my husband and I hung in the balance.  We are no longer hanging there anymore.  We feel like our feet our planted firmly back into the ground, and we have been blessed by Dr. Lipov and his staff. 

Until the next post, you may contact me and my husband James at Kateri@familyofavet.com

Please remember that these are my views, and may not represent the full opinion of staff from Familyofavet.com 

This is my opinion of MY life, of my husband, of OUR experience. If you chose to have the shot for PTSD as well, you may not have the same results as us, and Family of a Vet, INC, myself, my husband, my employers, Dr. Lipov, or Chicago Medical Innovations cannot be held responsible for results that differ from ours.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The PTSD Injection, SGB, Stellate Ganglion Block Holds promising results


This is my opinion of MY life, of my husband, of OUR experience.  If you chose to have the shot for PTSD as well, you may not have the same results as us, and Family of a Vet, INC, myself, my husband, my employers, Dr. Lipov, or Chicago Medical Innovations cannot be held responsible for results that differ from ours.


It worked. 

I am seeing my husband tonight.  The one who always gives me the window seat.  The one who opens every single door and says yes ma'am in that sweet lover way.  The kind of behavior I have ever only seen by Veterans, and more specifically, combat Vets.  I *love* that.

The first thing I noticed in the ride back to the hotel was that my husband did not one single time engaged in nervous antsy behavior.  When my husband starts keying up he gives off subtle physical cues that I have been accurately trained in.  In the past 6 years with my husband, I have become the professional mitigator.  I know whats going to happen LONG before he actually amps up.  The look in his eye.  The hand rolling.  The posturing. 

NONE of this happened tonight.  Not on the ride home.  Not at  that hotel.  Not at the supper.  I was well aware that the shot was working.  You know how?  Because *I* was at ease.  He was calm, ergo, I was calm.

So I took a stab.

Straight for  the heart. 

You know in PTSD world, we fight hard, we fight fast, and we fight dirty.  Well,  I am no exception.  I have lived with my husband for 6 years.  I'm a skilled killer, too. 

I said two words to him that I KNOW would send him off the charts.  I won't say this here because I don't want to trigger anyone else....mostly because I can't be there to help you calm down....

But I said it.  At the steak house on Algonquin road.  He, with his mouthful of steak, he hadn't eaten all day, stopped chewing and looked at me, cocked his head....

"What'd ya say that for?"  He wasn't angry, he was confused. 

Happily, blissfully unaware, and confused.

James!  You didn't get up and run out!!! You didn't freak on me!!!! The last time I tried to talk to him about these two triggering words he covered his hands over his ears and screamed at me.

This time was merely a "wha?"

SO what did I do?  I had to call my bff right there at the table and tell her it fucking worked.

So I told her while we ate, and apparently I said the words a few more times....totally aware of what I was doing, I hung up the phone.

James, do you realize I just said it three times more?

And he said, No, you said it four times.  And there we sat.  Completely okay with it.

This is huge.  This is HUGE!!!!!!!  I don't know if this will last, but I do know this.  My husband would do it again.

And so would I.

We got the Shot! We did it!!!! PTSD INJECTION.....

My dear husband just had it done today!  A stellate Ganglion block for ptsd.  There was another combat vet there too to get one!  He didn't have his wife with, and I was more worried about him than my own husband.  I kept trying to peek on him, to make sure he was okay.  Both of these men did wonderfully!  Very brave, and very much deserving of a break from the shit that PTSD causes.  

My husbands eye is red and droopy, but that is to be expected, and that will go away soon.  I keep asking him, did it work?  SHould I scare you?  (cause believe, by now, I know all the right things to say and do to make him flip out)....  But he is still gun-shy so to speak.  He smiles and says, I think it might have :)

I think it might have is just fine for me.

He said on the ride back to the hotel, should we go to Medival TImes?  That resturant!  I did a double take?  No are you crazy?


I don't know if we will catch a movie or go to a loud a resturant, but he is WANTING to try to go out.

Holy Crap.

I said, do you want others to try this?

He said yes.

Chicago Fox News was there and they asked us some questions, it went very well.  James was even talking about things that normally would freak him out...  Go us!  I'm very proud of James.  I'm very proud of the other vet too, I won't say his name...but you know I already called his wife :)

Dr. Lipov was kind and funny and patient.  Everything went off without a hitch.  This couldn't have gone better.

And to think, how worried was I?  I am tired of the constant worry.  I think its time for me to let go a little bit.

Thats all for now folks, thanks for following, I'll post an update later tonight, and likely when we get home, or to the airport.

Seeing how James reacts at the Chicago O'Hare Airport will be the true test.