I am so glad that we left during the transition to the new hospital. That was one of the smartest decisions Chaz and I have made yet. We were able to recharge our internal batteries and get ready for more. I am pleased to admit our first day at Bethesda wasn't nearly as bad as I braced for.
I was ready for a crazy storm. Chaz got up to catch the shuttle for his 9am appointment, but he had been told the wrong departure time so he missed his shuttle. He had to cancel to that appointment and make it for 1:30 instead. So we got the girls up and ready and decided to just shoot to make it there by 11am for Capt Phipps vehicle presentation, stay for lunch and explore the hospital. By the time we were done it would be time for his appointment.
Before we could get out the door, Deryn, our almost 9 year old, had her first melt down of the day. She did not want to go anywhere but back to Tennessee. I told her she had to get dressed and that I was sorry she didn't like the situation. I told her to work on her cursive writing while I ran to the store and got Ryann some medicine for her stuffy nose. Chaz said she was fine and did her work while I was gone. But when I got back he was trying to correct some of her work and she flipped out and lost it. She wasn't going to be corrected right now. I said fine we'll do it when we get back. I think she was super tired and just didn't want to do anything. I explained to both girls that we were on a new adventure and that only Daddy had seen the new hospital and we needed to go check it out.
Overall everything was fine at Bethesda. Parking was pretty crappy, but I was ready for that. We got to see Capt Phipps' new training vehicles for the driving-rehab program. Just so you know this program is the only program like its kind in the entire Department of Defense. Capt Phipps is able to to give our warriors here an advantage. She's right here and more than happy to help them succeed. She is the perfect person for this job. She is caring and passionate. Now if we could wake up the DOD network and see how important this program is then she wouldn't be the only one, she would just be the first one! She is giving our soldiers some of their independence back. Her program is extremely important to the healing of our soldiers. We are so blessed to have her on Team Allen.
We walked around and explored the campus. If you go to the Team Allen pics you'll see my favorite signs of the day. "Here's your sign" is what I thought when I saw them. Although I don't know what they are, I really think there are great reasons for the signs. Chaz and I like to laugh and we had lots of laughs because of these signs and we just had to share. I hope they make you giggle too.
We went to Building 62, which turns out to be the central office for the Wounded. Everything we need is in that building, except for the medical care. The SFAC (Soldier Family Assistance Center) and WTB (Warrior Transition Brigade) are all in there. Chaz's company is now all on the same floor in the same area and you can easily get to all of them. I like organization, so this was a very good thing for me. On the face of it, it seems a lot better. People did not seem as stressed as they were before we left a month ago. I saw a lot more smiles. Thank goodness!
What I didn't like was there are hardly any handicap buttons for the doors. You know the big squares you push and the doors magically open. We had those everywhere at Walter Reed, now they are scarce. At Walter Reed families like us were everywhere, people hardly even looked at us when we walked by because we were just a part of the crowd. Yesterday we got a ton of "aww, you poor thing " stares, which by the way drives me absolutely freaking crazy! The hospital was very crowded and we were horribly outnumbered. I felt like cattle on the field. You were herded in every direction you went. Due to the construction going on, some elevators were open to construction crews only, hallways were taped up and signs were posted to help with directions. This caused the walking areas to be smaller and more crowded. My assessment is they were totally not ready and the move should have been delayed. I am not thrilled to have our babies and my hubby around so much heavy equipment. Deryn is allergic to dust, so I'm sure that will be an issue later.
Upside is they had staff everywhere to help us with the doors and to direct us. The mood there seems a lot less stressed. People seem a lot more confident. Confidence makes a lot of difference. I am sure that as time passes everything will get easier. We all have to get into our routines and then we'll rock it out.
The best part of the day was everyone stopping us to welcome us back. My favorite was the delightful lady who works at the front desk of the SFAC. She's a Team Allen supporter and I got a great hug from her. Then of course Capt Phipps and our friends at RideAway, our fellow wounded warriors, executive services and our medical teams. I truly love having people in our lives who are excited to see us succeed. We are so blessed to have so many awesome people in our lives.
We got lunch at Subway, Ryann's favorite, and then got Chaz to his first appointment back at Bethesda. While we were waiting for Daddy we ran down to the Red Cross and got a new game, some videos and art supplies. I found a great book on the food chain so we went back to the waiting room and had a science lesson on the food chain, predators and prey and producers and consumers. In addition we found an article on the oil spill's aftermath in Louisiana, so we talked about the environmental impact it had. We had just finished our lessons when he showed up. So it was perfect timing.
We went home and all crashed for thirty minutes and then we got to our reading comprehension and to correcting Deryn's cursive. Then we got to math. We got all the way through math and then we got a full on meltdown. So we sat and talked about it. She said she didn't want to home school and she didn't want to live in Maryland. She wanted her house and her friends. She wanted to know why couldn't doctors in Tennessee care for her Daddy. I hate to think she held that in all day. I think she got some of it out and then when we got back she let out the rest. The funny thing is Deryn doesn't really remember when Chaz went to Iraq.
Our awesome pediatrician can tell you that was a fun year. Ryann caught almost every funky baby disease possible and then we discovered Deryn's asthma. It was a rough year full of road trips and different doctors. So I sat De down and told her the story. I told her that we love her and her sister so much that Daddy and I (mostly me, because he was deployed) drove everywhere I had to to get her the best care possible. Most importantly we'd do it again and again. But right now it's Daddy's turn. I had to explain that Daddy is in the best place possible to receive care for his injuries. I reminded her that five years ago I drove countless days to get her and her sister the best care possible and now we had to do that for Daddy. I explained that she is a very important part of Daddy getting better and that we can't do it without her. I told her if she wanted to go to public school we would do that, if she thought that could make her happy. I told her we are open to ideas and are ready to listen. I explained to her that being a parent doesn't mean we have all of the answers. I told her Daddy and I are figuring this all out as we go. I also said you have had a lot of really happy days and only a few bad ones, so I think we're doing our jobs pretty well. She agreed and then cried it all out. God Bless her, it's hard to be almost 9. She was much better after that. Then I reminded her we start gymnastics the next day (today) and that her birthday is next week and we have some great surprises in store for her.
I am glad Deryn finally let it all out. All this back and forth is not fun, but it is necessary. I told her that when she was sick five years ago I did not think we'd ever get the answers. She was on so many prescriptions back then and now she only has two and occasionally has a flare up. We have come a long way. I told her that we are going to be through all of this soon but I just don't know how soon. I told her we have to work together to get through it all. In the meantime we are going to have a ton of fun while we're doing it.
We have not forced the girls to talk about any of this, we are just here when they are ready. I sat them down the day after Chaz was hurt and answered all of their questions. I also assured them I would not lie to or hide anything from them. I told them that if they have questions they were to come to me and then Daddy when he was better. I told them it was our job to answer the questions and that they shouldn't go to anyone else but us. You cannot force healing on anyone. You have to let it happen on its own time. We have listened when they want to talk and answered questions when they have had them. We will not lie to our girls, but we will also not inundate them with information. They will let us know what they need and we will be there for the meltdowns as well as the smiles. The battle of being the parents to small children is another fun part of this war. I am just so thankful to have such an awesome battle buddy to help me through this part of the war.