Tuesday, March 19, 2013

3-19-13 Family Update

I just wanted to put all of this out to those who care before I get a thousand texts and emails. I do not see myself online for the few days. So much has happened in the past week. I just need to take a break. 

First we are fine. Losing Derek has been hard on all four of us. We have been so invested in their  family since day one. My brain cannot comprehend that we won't be seeing him anymore. Team Derek was a part of our family. I do believe I am still in shock, because it just doesn't seem real. Please just know we are as good as we can be with all that has hit us recently.

The best news is that Chaz is set to be discharged from the hospital this afternoon. Everything is looking very good. He will be receiving antibiotics for eight weeks at home. This is our third discharge with a PICC line and Deryn has called dibs on it. (I think we have a nurse in the making). We are so happy for him to be coming home. Originally they thought he'd be there the rest of this week. So this news yesterday was a very bright light for us.

In other news, the girls and I are going to DC today. We were supposed to all four have been there Sunday for me to work and for Chaz to get his new legs. I delayed our trip 48 hours so we could figure everything out. Chaz is going to our home with my Mom and sister while we are gone. The girls are coming with me. Yes I have care plans for everyone. My plans would make your head spin, but the good news is I have them.

The past few days have been incredibly tough on me. I have been pulled in 46,000 directions it seems. Words cannot describe how incredibly stressful this past week has been for us. So please before you judge me for going to DC without Chaz, please know he insisted I go. And please know I have already dealt with some incredibly insensitive people the past few days who have no idea what this journey is like. Let me tell you there's nothing like someone who has no clue of what you have to deal with trying to make you feel like a bad person because you are attempting to help so many at one time. Luckily I know a few great caregivers who gave me some pep talks yesterday. I am so thankful for the ladies who know exactly what I am going through.

I am taking the girls with me because we have so many friends there who want to help us and to be honest I want them with me. I have missed them so much this past week. After what happened yesterday, Chaz is happy one of us can be there for Derek's family. It's so strange sometimes how everything works out.

Because of the recent events, I am taking a time out from the online world. I am going to get on a plane today with our girls and enjoy them. Then I am going to get to Walter Reed and help where I can.

The past week has been very hard on our girls too and they need some Mommy time. Just know that all is as good as it could be. Know that we are fine. Know that God has a plan for all of us even if it breaks out hearts every once in a while. And know you cannot have a testimony without tests. Thank you for your support and I'll update again in a few days!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why No VA?!

For those who are not tracking, Chaz had an abscess next to his spine. We discovered the problems Sunday and sought medical attention on Monday. He is doing better thanks to my instance and reactions to what was going on with him. 

The question that keeps being asked is "Why didn't you take Chaz to the VA for medical attention?" I am going to take the time to spell this all out for those who are confused. Also I want to help those who will separate from the service and need to know this information. But let me make this clear, DO NOT LET YOUR TRICARE LAPSE!!!! Make sure you enroll your service member in Tricare with you and your family. Make sure you have all the paperwork in and have your premiums paid up. I cannot stress this enough. Tricare has been our saving grace.

We tried to go to the VA. We called the Murfreesboro, TN VA first thing Monday morning. They could not see Chaz until Tuesday at 3pm at the earliest. Chaz needed to be seen pronto. I knew in my gut Chaz needed immediate attention. I was not going to make him wait any longer. Chaz had a ticking time bomb in his back, waiting was not a possibility. You might be thinking ER, but I knew he'd get better attention by seeing our Primary Care Manager and I was right.

We are all four enrolled in Tricare. Thanks to Tricare I was able to get Chaz seen immediately. Then he was able to have an MRI immediately and admitted into the hospital immediately. We discovered later that had we gone to the VA. Chaz would have been transferred from the Murfreesboro VA to the Nashville VA and then to a private hospital, more than likely Vanderbilt. Basically taking him to the VA for what was going on was not the right answer. He needed care, not shuffled around then care.

Chaz is currently classified as a Category 6 to the VA. He retired from the Army on January 19, 2013. The letter from the VA dated March 11, 2013 and signed by Tony Guagliardo, the Director of Health Eligibility Center, Chaz is still listed in the lowest category they have. This means he is eligible to receive services from the VA, but we are expected to pay out of pocket. Here's the letter front and back.

So you're thinking wait, he's 100% service-connected disabled. Yes we have some paperwork here that says that. Until that paperwork goes to Seattle WA for verification, then to Nashville for processing Chaz will remain in Category 6. As you can see we are approaching 60 days. There are some service members who have waited a year for the verification process. (More about this later).

Now we have co-pays with Tricare. Even if Chaz stays in the hospital for 90 days we are still coming out cheaper with using our Tricare option. Tricare charges us $11 each day that Chaz stays in the hospital. The VA charges $1184 for the first 90 days. that $13 a day for Chaz to be there because he is still in Category 6. Is this all making sense now?

We didn't go the VA because it was in the best interest of Chaz's health to go through Tricare. We pay for it, so we're going to use it. We didn't go to the VA because they couldn't see him that day and I am actually thankful they couldn't. Going through Tricare was the best thing to do for Chaz. It is better for Chaz's health and our household budget. Tricare not only helped Chaz receive excellent care, but the cost share expected of us put Chaz's mind at ease. So let me pose this question why should we go to the VA for anything besides preventive care?!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crash Course in Caring

We have been doing so well for so long. Our little family of four had our routine down and we were just moving and grooving right on through it. Then Monday Chaz came down the stairs and said he didn't feel right. He had me look at his hip and I instantly knew it was shingles. We had just had a bout with shingles in October and this was the same spot and looked identical.

I knew we had to have immediate medical attention. We are so blessed to have choices for care. We have the Ft Campbell ER. We have the Murfreesboro VA and since I enrolled him in Tricare we have a regular doctor to see as well. We decided to go with the VA because he had been seen there just last month and he likes his team there. While Chaz called and sat on hold I text his AW2 rep, Melvin. Melvin's job is to make sure to help us when we need it. I cannot sing his praises enough. Melvin is a rockstar. Melvin is also a veteran and most importantly Melvin gets it. He has been such an amazing addition to our team.

The three of us got the ball running. The girls had something going on that evening so Chaz drove himself to the VA and they saw him, listened to him, treated him and sent him back home. He immediately began taking the pills and looked a little worn by the time he got home. He said he was fine, just sore. Monday was not that bad.

Tuesday we were set to travel to Kentucky to see a house being built by Helping A Hero. When Chaz woke up at 7, he felt awful. I had a conference call and told him I'd call our builder after my call to cancel our trip up. I called and left a message and then went upstairs to check on him and he looked great and I mean great. He asked if I was ready to go. I was puzzled since I just called and cancelled. He then grabbed his cell and called and told her we were leaving shortly. We made it to Kentucky and checked out this fabulous house. It has our floor plan and it was amazing to see in person (more on this later). Our builder watched Chaz walk around it so she could take notes on adjustments he may need. Then we headed back.

On the way back home, Chaz noted that he wasn't feeling good at all. I knew the Tylenol was wearing off. And bless his heart his sinuses were bothering him too. Once we got home it all started going down hill.....

That afternoon Chaz could not get comfortable. He hurt so badly and it was all over. He did not sleep well at all and neither did I. Wednesday was a day full of uncomfortable for him. Every time the Tylenol or Motrin wore off I knew it. He has to take the shingles meds five times a day and I was trying to help him with that. He was trying to keep up with it because I was doing everything that he normally helps with and was still working my two full time jobs. He felt bad for "being a burden." Silly men, we all know you're a burden when we say "I do" and hello we do it anyway.

Thursday was worse than Wednesday, but at this point I had had very little sleep. I was up with him for three nights straight now. He hurt too much to move and our home is not handicap accessible to him at all. So I was waiting on him and helping him with everything. It was just like when we first discharged from the hospital except now I am doing tax returns and Yellow Ribbon Fund work, homeschooling the girls, cooking, cleaning, driving them to activities, and, and, and, and......

Thursday I yelled at my hubby. I wanted to help him and this "being a burden" crap had to stop. I cannot stand to watch him hurt. The lack of sleep and extra duties had just got to me and I lost my temper. I told him he was going to listen to me and he was going to let me help him and that was the end of it. He was dehydrated and I could see it. Dehydration happens very quickly to amputees and you have to watch for that. I was not going to just stand by and watch him suffer. Once again my hubby learned my stubbornness is greater than his (granted he was in a weakened state and couldn't really put up a fight). I gave him his care plan,left Deryn in charge and took Ryann to dance. By the time we returned, you could see he was better. I guess yelling does work?!

Friday morning came and you could see he felt better. He was slowly getting himself recalibrated. Saturday was better. So good in fact he took Deryn to softball practice. It looks like we have the shingles under control, but he is having a lot of pain in his back.

I really did not need a crash course in caring for my wounded hero. I really do not need to watch him suffer in pain again. I have had enough of that. I did not need to be reminded of how much caregivers do on a daily basis. I found it funny that I did an interview with the Washington Times on Thursday. Bless the reporter's heart she got an earful. I was too tired to hold back. It did turn out to be a great story though and I hope my crash course in caring makes others think about how much caregivers of wounded heroes do day in and day out. I am just one of thousands out there doing this job 24/7-365 and some days it is absolutely exhausting. But no matter what happens, I am just thankful to still be here to care for my hero.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Being Angry.....

Yesterday was a rough day. Friday evening Chaz and I were notified that our friend's husband had ended his own life. We spent the night in shock. Our friends were with us and I think that's what kept me from advancing to the next level of coping with his passing.

Saturday I woke up to heart break and overwhelming sadness. I could not shake the image of my friend and her girls and what they were going through at that very moment. I was so thankful our girls were still at sleepovers. I truly believe that was a huge blessing. I think seeing our girls at that moment and knowing that their friend's dad had taken his own life and trying to hide my sadness would have been impossible. As those thoughts rushed through my head, I cried pretty hard for a minutes yesterday morning in our bathroom. Chaz grabbed my hand and let me get it out. Then I shook it off, I knew I had to get myself together. Chaz and I committed ourselves to an event for Fisher House and we needed to see that through.

During the car ride to Murfreesboro, I was multi-tasking (shocking I know). I was texting, emailing and facebooking with all of our friends answering as many questions as I could. We were discussing how and if to tell our kids, what to do for our friend and her girls and of course the shock of the entire thing.

This is not mine and Chaz's first experience with suicide. Unfortunately we've dealt with it way more than you want to know. However, this was our first wounded hero suicide. We've been healing together with this family for over a year now. We've attended many events together. When our girls are together; they have the best times. Their little girl made my day when she attended our American Girl day. She told me it was the best day ever, gave me a big hug and said thank you. My friend was the one who started all the mommy tears that day. I jokingly yelled at her for making me cry. We have had a lot of fun on this journey together despite what we are going through. She is one of my kindred spirits that God has blessed me with on this road. She is truly one of the greatest additions to my true friend roster.

The last time I saw her things were better. Just like all military families they had their rough patches, but they were doing well. We chatted about parenting and shared some girly laughs. (We both have two girls). My friend's smile can light up a room. She is an absolute delight to be with and I always guilt her into attending my YRF events so we can be together. My favorite moment with her (so far) was when we were talking about things from our childhood that we want to do for our girls. Days later she shows up with a crimper for me to use on our girls hair. I could go on and on about the moments that we have had and the laughs we have shared. I choose to focus on those right now because to be honest I am so angry.

How could her hubby do this to them? How could he hurt them this way? How could he take those smiles away? How could he just give up? I am so angry at him right now. I can't help it and I know it's normal. I do not care if someone tells me I am wrong in being angry at him. He left us all wondering why? And wondering what we all could have done? Chaz and I have every right to be angry right now.

I know this anger is normal because this is how I felt when one of Chaz's soldiers put us through this. All these unanswered questions that we all just have to let go of or they will drive us all insane. We just have to surround the survivors and help them heal. What hurts me the most in all of this is now our friend is just a statistic to the government. Do you know want to know who he really was? He was a great guy with a great laugh. He was a father who had two little girls who loved him unconditionally. He had the love of his life who did anything for him. He was a friend to so many. He was a Hero. He served our country and brought back demons with him. In the end those demons consumed him and have now taken our friend away and left my friend a young widow and two beautiful girls without a father. And this has all left my wounded hero and I incredibly angry......