Well, the store rooms are looking fantastic. Our shelving did not come in for the new WWMC, so the shelving in the new WWMC can not be moved back to the store rooms yet, but they are cleaned and getting organized thanks to having 5 volunteers
this week so far. The patient load has been really light and that has helped with spending more time with the sorting, cleaning and moving of the old WWMC and the connecting store rooms. I mailed out about 32 boxes of excess supplies from LRMC to our contacts in the Middle East. There are 6 more ready to go and 8 more standing by as soon as they come from the warehouse.
This will probably be the last post before I leave as tomorrow is my last day at LRMC and the WWMC. I am leaving Kathi’s care tomorrow morning and will be moving in with a preacher and his wife. They will help me turn in my rental care and get me back to LRMC Thursday morning. Then I have a liaison who will be taking me the 1 1/2 to 2 hours to Frankfurt. We understand that there is some major construction between here and there now and so we will be leaving at 6 in the morning on Thursday to go to the airport.
I have had several people ask for pictures of patients. This is strictly forbidden and would ruin any chance of me returning to LRMC to work in the future. Sorry, but I won’t take that chance.
As this trip ends, as usual I have mixed feelings. I will be glad to get home. The air mattress is great, but nothing like your own bed and hanging clothes in a closet. However, I will miss the men and women that come through LRMC. They are young and old, man and woman, from every state of the union and even different countries around the globe, every shade of color God created us, but they all have one thing in common. They all took up the call of duty to serve and they need us to share in their suffering if only for 5 minutes a day.
Today at the bus stop, there was a heated discussion about the war between a woman who was obviously against it and some of the wounded and ill. One of the guys told her that he was not fighting merely to make the world safe for democracy, but he was there to protect the roots of democracy. One of the other guys today said that they are making a big impact with the children of Iraq. The literacy rate for Iraq is 40%. If they can teach and help the children, that is where the difference will come from. He saw big changes in Iraq and he wanted to go back after receiving care at Walter Reed.
Tomorrow will be spent finishing up the last little bit of the store room and I can only hope that the new shelves come in so that I can say I saw them on this trip and help complete the NEW and IMPROVED WWMC.
As Peg would say “As the Landstuhl Turns” has come to an end again this year. If I have internet access tomorrow, I will post again, but it will probably not be until I return home.
Sorry Peg I did not realize I should send out the warning. I just put my thoughts and feelings down and hope you don’t think I have lost it. I sometimes wonder on days like today.
I went to work at 8:30 A.M. It was a very slow day until about 4:30 P.M. when the patients arrived on the buses. Things get hopping then but slowed down quickly on the weekends. During the week is a different story since they see their doctors and clinics first.
I could use 10 GOOD volunteers for 8 hours and we would have the storage rooms finished. Then we could move on to the next storage place. I just don’t feel like I got anything done today.
I was asked to come in for a VIP tour today, but was told it would be early evening. Once I was at work, I was told they would arrive at 6:00 P.M. Then it was 7:00 P.M. and then shortly after 7:00 P.M. I left work at 7:45 P.M.
The amount of adaptive clothing that is stored here is enough to blow your mind. If we had as many patients that need this stuff as we have in adaptive clothing we would have half the hospital staff without legs, arms or in some type of brace. We have so much adaptive clothing that it is filling one entire wall of one of the largest store rooms and there is still not enough room. It is sad to see the time and money that is put into making these and they are sitting here but it is a good thing that we do not need these items.
I am really tired and chilled to the bone today as the weather was chilly and rainy. I am tired and it is time to call it a day.
I worked 11.75 hours today thanks to the support of a woman that has belonged to this group for just over 3 years. She gave in memory of her mother who was very dear to her heart. She gave anonymously but nothing stays a secret with LHCP board members for too long. I hope that my work here would have made your mom proud. Thank you for your very generous contribution. The rest of my trip is in honor of your mom. If you would like me to release her name to the group let me know and it would be my pleasure.
I hope that everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July.
For most of us the 4th of July or Independence Day is a day off of work. The post office is closed and we celebrate the independence from Great Britain with baseball games and car races, barbecuing hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and concerts in the park. We take the young ones to carnivals with cotton candy and rides; we line up to watch our local town parades. We try to remember to fly our American flag and then we catch some wonderful views of fireworks and maybe listen to the great patriotic songs such as the “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful”, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, “This Land Is Your Land”, and “Stars and Stripes Forever”.
Some of us take a minute and remember our heritage and customs by ringing replicas of the Liberty Bell while others decide to make it a day to remember by becoming a citizen of our nation or reenlisting in the military.
President John Adams wrote his wife, “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
President Adams was off by two days. From the beginning, we celebrate independence on July 4, the date shown on the Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.
As everyone was leaving Thursday night and saying have a nice 4 day weekend or have a Happy 4th of July I thought about the patients that would still be arriving at LRMC. I could not provide them with hot dogs and hamburgers, a parade in their honor, or shoot of fire works but I could be there to show my support.
So I let the chaplain’s office know that I would be there to work. They were happy to hear it, as they also had a VIP coming through.
I was at work at 7:30 A.M. and it was rather quiet. Gary Sinese and the Lt Dan Band are here to perform at Ramstein for the 4th of July. Gary Sinese came by the hospital and visited many of the patients. He did not come by the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center so I did not get to see him, but I did hear about it from all those that were out front when he came in.
We are now almost completely moved into the new WWMC. The old storage room has a lot of work to be done. The old WWMC will now become another badly needed storage room and all the rooms need a serious clean-up/sorting job done on them. I will not get it completed by the time I leave. The work never ends here.
I waited on several patients for the 4th of July. Many of them came in saying Happy 4th of July before I could get it out of my mouth. Two were particular funny to me. One had a visible hand injury, so I helped him with a pair of shoes. He had tried to put them on himself and he could not get it, so as I bent down to help him, his buddy said something to the fact of him already getting sympathy. The patient I was helping said yeah no one thinks I can do it myself. I told him to take all the help and sympathy he can get now because later we expected him to work hard to get the hand back in tip top condition. His friend said yeah he was injured also but since no one saw his they did not help him. He had TBI. He was also trying to find a pair of shoes but as he stated, “I am picky.” He decided to not take a pair and would try to find a pair at AAFES. His friend reminded him that they were going on a tour on Saturday and if he could not find a pair that he would have to walk in his combat boots all day. I told him to take the pair that was a size to large and that way he would at least have a pair and he could always return them if he found a pair he liked and fit him better.
When they came in, I was trying to hang an American flag. I could not reach the ceiling where I wanted to hang it. The guy with the hurt hand said he could help and I told him no, that I would do it later. While I was working on his friends shoes I caught him on the step stool trying to hang the flag! I got him off the stool and told him that once he got better he could come back to help but for right now, STAY OFF MY STEP STOOL!! He then tried to convince his friend to hang it, but that was not going to happen either since I knew his friend was there with TBI. I have to get that flag up by Monday or they will be back trying to do it again. Trying to hang an American flag on the 4th of July with wounded troops and a step stool that was two steps too short may not be a typical 4th of July, but it is a great 4th of July.
Our VIP visitors came through and got a tour of our new WWMC. They only stayed about 10 minutes and were gone. They did not introduce themselves other than to say they were from the Pentagon.
When I left work I knew that the patients that had all flown home on the 4th of July with Red, White and Blue pillows or blankets. It was not easy to find 32 of them, but each went home with one. As many of our SoL members know, you use the scraps from your other projects and not too many of us use red, white and blue in our projects. So, there are limited items here in those colors. Those colors are the most popular along with the themed military service pillows. I have about 7 Marine pillows left and none for the other services. An LHCP camouflage comfort pillow went out yesterday also. I think I know who made it but I don’t want to be wrong. So if you made one know that it is gone.
Kathi, Brian, and their boys and I went to Ramstein for the 4th of July evening events. We listened to Gary Sinese and the Lt Dan Band. They were fantastic and had the crowd singing, clapping, dancing and screaming. I loved to watch the little kids as they danced. There were 7 children all standing on a bench next to us. Since kids usually copy each other, they all did as the first one did until the rhythm got into their soul and then they would take off doing their own thing and then the rest of the group would follow that one.
I found a Purple Heart recipient sitting behind me. As we got up to watch I noticed his arm was scarred from his injury. He looked young but his eyes told a much different story. I could not help but to look at his eyes several times during the night and wonder what he had been through. He wore a baseball cap very low on his head and face, so I had to wonder if he had more injuries. I saw his wife next to him and I secretly thanked her for sticking with him through his recovery. So many don’t or can’t for what ever the reason. In fact one of the young men that had been in early during the day said he got to look forward to a divorce when he got home. My heart sank to my stomach. I know that it is not an easy task by no means for the family members. Having been a caretaker for a family member going through 22 surgeries and the caretaker for another with serious health problems for about 2 years, I understand the hardships it can cause. I think the most difficult is the patient hating you for the care you must do and know is necessary.
As the Lt Dan Band began to sing God Bless the U.S.A by Lee Greenwood, I stood in silence as they got to the verse, “And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” I drifted to our honorees, Daniel, Justin, Maria, Nathan, Hoby, Randy, Ross, Sam, LeRoy, Robert, Peter, Laura, and Charles. As the second verse was sung I was thinking of Kyle, Andrew, Christopher, Eric, Ben, DeForest, Dustin, Toccarra and Merideth. Their faces were all flashing in front of me, but I knew I was forgetting the names. I think I was the only crazy person in the room with a tear rolling down my face as that song was being sung.
As the band was finishing up with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Gary Sinese finished it by saying there was no valley low enough and no river wide enough for him or the Lt Dan Band to show their respect to the military and all those that served to protect the U.S.A.
We then walked to see the fireworks. I have seen fireworks on rivers, fireworks in baseball fields, fireworks at the nation’s capital, but I think watching these will stick with me for a long time. We were up on a small hill over looking part of the flight line where they had C-130 aircraft parked. Having flown on these in and out of Bosnia they are not my favorite aircraft, too damn cold, but they have been around since the mid 50’s. They have been modified over the years for a variety of missions. You often will see them in fire fighting or aerial spraying; they are often used for natural disaster relief missions or low-level operations (these suckers can get low). Anyone that lives close to a military base knows what I mean when I say the “Sound” of freedom.” It is the sound when one of these beasts comes over your house and you just know the plane is going to come sit on your roof top. Everything shakes and rattles, but as long as they are flying we are safe and free.
As the fireworks started, I thought of our troops deployed and the only fire in the sky they would be seeing would be tracer rounds. Not the kind I would hope for everyone to see on the only holiday really for our nation as a whole. As the fireworks rained down behind the C-130’s, I could not help but wonder if our forefathers could have imagined such a show in the sky with such a force on the ground in a foreign nation.
Today I worked 6.5 hours thanks to the man who stole my heart 27 years ago. Without his support, these trips would be impossible. We have been separated during birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and for over a year at a time. We always said once he retired we would not miss those special moments again. Well, he knows how important these trips are and I could not do it without his support. Hun, I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July.
Today I started the day on the run. I must have hit the alarm clock and not realized it and I slept until 6:45. I jumped in the shower and was out the door in 30 minutes.
I am still moving items from the old WWMC to the new WWMC. Finding space for all the items is tricky since we had 4 connex to put the items in and we did not have to actually have all the items in the WWMC. Now that we have moved into a room that is not any larger than the old WWMC, it is difficult to find room for all the items that we need without having to walk back and forth all day long.
Today I moved the shoes. That was a large task that started with the moving of all the boxes. Most of the shoes were in the shoe boxes, but some of the boxes were still in the case box of 12 pairs. I found a box of shoes that were all loose. I thought at first that someone had sent them to us and did not send the boxes in which the shoes were packed. Since the shoes were all mixed up I decided to start pulling them out to match up the styles and sizes. I pulled out about 18 shoes and could not find any matches. You know when you have one of those DUH moments and it took me about 6 more shoes to realize that the box was for our “onesie,” or better known as our single shoes. These shoes were the left over shoes of all the patients that had come in to LRMC missing a leg and only needed one shoe. As I looked at this large box of shoes, I felt my heart hurt.
All these brave men and woman had given up a part of their life in the GWOT and would never have it back. How do we ever repay them? As I looked at this 15x18x18 box, I had mixed emotions and knew by talking with many of them here that they just wanted to go back to the Middle East to finish the job. Even missing a leg, they wanted to go back. Of course they miss home, the wife, the kids, the normal life that we all take for granted, but these men and woman were fighting to keep the war “off our shores” and so many of us don’t even think about them each day. As I looked at the box, I found tears in my eyes, but I was also proud. Proud to know that such people lived to protect us and the war that “only lived in our living room on our TV’s.”
We had another semi-slow day as far as the patient load was concerned. The weather was rainy and so it made getting supplies out of the storage rooms a little messy but manageable.
I have updated our How to Help page with some new items and a new location. There is a new picture of the CASF. I will post pictures of the Ramstein CASF when the blog is posted to the web page.
Tonight when I started to leave I had to come back twice. I can’t help myself. When I see a patient walking to the WWMC I just have to keep going back to help them. I unlocked the door twice tonight. I am sure that the DWWMC thought I was crazy asking for the keys and turning them back in 20 minutes later to only ask for them less than 10 minutes later and then turn them back again in 20 minutes.
Tonight I am going to bed before 11:00 P.M. so this is going to be it for tonight. Today I worked 10 hours thanks to the support of Callie Waddell.
We are moving the WWMC from the outside connex to an indoor facility. The facility is set up a little weird with windows and bathrooms, but we might be able to get everything in it. Yesterday, we only had 14 patients come in on the flight. We had about half that many come into the WWMC. Ed, one of the greatest volunteers at the WWMC, and a new woman were working with me. We were not to move the items until Wednesday, but we decided if there were some items that we could move and not interfere with the service to patients, we would move in on Tuesday. So Ed and I walked up and down the sidewalk ALL day long taking items to the new location.
Ed left about 4 and I stayed to work a little longer. By 4:20 I was starting to hurt really good. It started about 3 days ago, but was tolerable. On the way to the car I stopped to talk with one of the German guards and he knew right away I was not feeling well.
I told him that I was debating going to the ER. After a couple more minutes I did go to the ER. They did a CT scan of my kidneys and blood work. I am happy to report according to their test my kidneys are doing better.
They thought I had acute pancreatitis. They ran tests for that and it came back clean. They had me on 10mg of morphine with pain still coming through. I decided just to go back to Kathi’s and try to sleep it off. I had the ER call one of the liaisons who had Kathi’s phone number. By the time Kathi got to the ER, the doctor decided it was best to admit me for a good case of electrolyte, magnesium, potassium depletion and imbalance or something along that line. I fought with him, but I lost.
After finally being admitted at about 11, I went to sleep. It was not a great sleep, as I was dreaming and found myself handing off clothes to wounded warriors. However, none of them would take the clothes from me. Each time I would open my eyes, I would find my arm out stretched, but of course no one was there to give clothing to. I mean, I was lying in a hospital bed and it was after midnight.
At 5:00 A.M. I had to get another shot of morphine. During the morning hospital rush of regular routine things I had blood drawn again. The male nurse kept coming in asking if I was ok. I told him I was and he said that I was such a quiet patient. Most of the time a patient will set off the call button 3 or 4 times during a shift, but they had not heard mine.
I was mad about being admitted. I did not want to take their time, as they put me on the ward with the wounded warriors. I was there to help the hospital, not to be a patient.
Anyway, I was discharged this morning at about 11:00 A.M. I went to the WWMC, as we were to move everything today. It was already completed except for the folding and stacking of shelves. So I helped with that.
We have a German company that has joined the LHCP effort and their shipment was delivered today. We took some of the items over to the Ramstein CASF. When we arrived back at the WWMC, I continued to work until 4:30 and then went home to Kathi’s house.
There was a detour going home tonight and so of course, of all nights, I got lost. The Germans must not believe in putting out detour signs past the first one. A 25 minute trip took me 90 minutes.
With the move going and the patient load being low, I have not had a chance to really talk with anyone for very long.
However, I did meet a young man yesterday who said that while being at LRMC he had an epiphany. He said that he knew he was young and sometimes acted way younger than his age. He said since he had been to LRMC and seeing how people treat each other, that he knew he had to grow up. He had one of the doctors tell him that his mother raised him right. I asked me if he had told her that yet. He pulled out a tiny spiral notebook and said ma’am, to tell you the truth I have not yet but I have a note to myself to tell my mom that. I told him that instead of telling her that the doctor said he was raised right that he should tell his mom that he thinks that he was raised properly and that he knew it was never easy but he now understands what she what had gone through raising him and that he thanks her. He told me that he thought she would start crying if he told her that. I asked him if he believed my statement to be true about his mom and his up-bringing. He said he did and I said then it will not matter if she cried because it would be tears of joy. He agreed and said that he would call her that night.
Later during the day a man came in to get a black duffel bag. As we stood there and talked I found out that he was from Huntsville, AL. We had lots to talk about since my parents live in Huntsville. It is a VERY small world. The last man that I met at LRMC who was from the Huntsville area died from his service in Iraq. Many of you sent sneakers to him or Capt’n Crunch cereal to his friend.
Well, Kathi just woke me up again, so I am going to email this and tomorrow I hope to have more to say.
The last two days I worked 8.5 hours and 4.5 hours. I would like to thank Callie Waddell for her generous contribution.
Today, I got up at 7:00 A.M. and did some emails to only find myself at 10:00 A.M. asleep with my hands still on the keyboard. I guess I must have still been tired. I washed clothes yesterday so I was all caught up on the weekend duty to prepare for the next week. By the end of the week, my suitcase is empty and so Saturday I have to get every thing washed and put back in the suitcase in nice stacks so that I can find things during the week. I thought I might try to find my way to a little place that I went to last time I was here, but then I thought I would go by the hospital today. I kept telling myself don’t do it; that I needed a break to just get a way, but sometimes I think when you get that inner-voice you should listen to it. Anyway, as I was driving to find this place from last year; I kept fighting with myself go to the hospital, no take a break, go to the hospital, NOOOO take a break. Just as I was passing Ramstein, the big blue bus with the red cross on the back that I am so familiar with pulled down the ramp in front of me. OK, ok, I smiled and looked to the sky and said I get your message. I followed the bus to the hospital. As I arrived, I was shocked to see 2 buses already there and I had followed the third. I got the keys and went to watch the buses unload. I was again disheartened to see that they were still pulling litter patients off a third bus. Usually, the first bus or so are litters and the last ones are ambulatory patients. So having 3 buses as litters made my heart sink. As I was talking with one of the liaisons, I learned that we had another two buses coming in. Another one would still have litter patients on it. So this was the reason I had to come to work today. As the last bus started to unload, I knew I had to get to the WWMC ASAP to prepare for a large influx of patients and liaisons.
I filled duffel bags with get well cards and letters and stocked them on the shelves. I folded ankle socks, undershirts, medium boxers, and put out more toothbrushes, shower gel and shampoo. Then I waited about 45 minutes for the patients to get finished with their briefings and seeing their case managers. Then they came. If I did not know better, I would have thought there were 200 of them. They just kept coming and coming. Shoes, socks, sweats, shampoo, toe nail clippers, pj’s flying every different direction. Twice I was told thank you for being there on Sunday for them. They could not imagine me showing up just for them. Little did they know I did not have a choice. When the man upstairs throws a big blue bus in front of you, well, you don’t ignore it!!
I only worked 4.5 hours today but it feels like a full 8 or 9 hours. Today I want to thank Kathi and Brian Jenkins. They have opened their home for me to stay while in Germany working. Kathi makes sure she brings home plenty of water from the commissary for my kidneys. It is never easy to have an extra mouth to feed or the extra cost involved with that one extra person doing clothes or showers. So I thank both of you!
Most members of LHCP know I say things very straight forward so here goes.
I have a contact in Afghanistan that needs help with some children’s items. Some of the items are for the military members to send to their own children, or read to their children over the phone and some of the items are for the local children when the unit goes on humanitarian missions.
LHCP will not take part in this mission so DO NOT send these items to me. If you do they will go to Good Will. However, if you have been in good standing (only sending the items we request for units is a good start) and a long time member with LHCP I will give you the contact’s name so that you can ship directly to this unit.
Some of the requirements I have when I do this through LHCP members is that you ONLY send what is on the list, you stop when the contact ask for shipments to stop and you please mention LHCP. This contact will be given a list of those shipping to them for security reasons and will be asked to let me know if there are any problems. Since I will be in direct contact with the military member down range as my grandmother used to say, “I see all,” “I know all,” so please let us help this unit but stay within the guidelines. If any member of LHCP steps outside these guidelines, they will be removed from the group. I have only had to remove a member once, but we have a great place in our military members’ hearts and I wish to keep it that way.
The unit is requesting:
Again please stay with in the guidelines as they have a long list of items they DO NOT wish to receive anything such as candy, ADULT reading material of any kind, playing cards, etc.
If you wish to help within the guidelines and have been an ACTIVE member, please email me privately for the information.
Today we had very nice weather, not too hot and not too cold. I was invited to see the patients’ bus unload this morning, so I went to see if any of our pillows came off. I did not see any of our pillows, but I did see our thermal weave blankets on two ICU patients. The blankets were very well worn and I do not know what hospital they had come from, but I am guessing we will have to do a blanket fund drive in September for the winter months again.
The patients that came off the first bus were covered with medical equipment. I saw our blankets as their feet came off the bus, then all the equipment, and then as the front of the litter came off, I could see part of each patient’s face. I stood there and swallowed hard. I felt my heart in my throat and I immediately thought of the phone call the family would receive or maybe they had already received, the call that no family wants to receive. I remembered back when 5 of our family members were serving at one time in the Middle East and what each night felt like as I tried to close my eyes and pray that none us would get “the call.” As I watched the 4 litter patients come off the bus, I thought of those families and I hope that each of them would know that as I stood there my heart went out to them. Then I thought it was such a stupid thought, since they would never know I was there and they would never feel my respect, the admiration I have for their loved ones, how much this country is indebted to their children. So, I turned and went back to work without saying a word to anyone.
I am still working on the shipment that came in Wednesday and Thursday. So much of the shipment was ruined that it has to be thrown away. You just can’t ship pens, pencils and paper with snacks and juice bags.
The stress level some of these kids hold inside is tremendous. One told me the other day that they feel more relaxed in the Middle East than back home. When I told him that was a normal reaction, I thought he was going to cry. I think most family members think that when they come home they are going to feel safe and all will be ok. But the level of fear can actually be higher than in the war zone.
Service members in a war zone build a trust with their battle buddies that can be closer than a relationship between spouses or other family members. This can cause problems with a service member’s ability to trust and be emotionally connected to those they were close to before leaving for the Middle East. Once this starts, the family feels disconnected and pulls away, and then the service member becomes more stressful and less likely to trust and the circle grows and grows.
The service member may feel that if they share their story with their loved ones they will be rejected. I had one that emailed me about 18 months ago that would not go to his family reunion or BBQ’s. He felt that they were all watching them to see if he was going to “Go Nuts.”
The guilt that many of them carry with them is extreme. They can feel guilt that none of us might think would be a good reason to do so, but it is a strong and true feeling for them. I think that group support with other military members is the most effective treatment. I have seen it work with great success.
Today I had a change of scenery and went to the Ramstien CASF. We will be picking them up to support after I return. The guy in charge was very happy to know that we could supply most of what they needed.
I have heard from 3 patients this past week that insurgents in Iraq have started concentrating on mail convoys. I was told that they are leaving US troops alone more or less and hitting the supply convoys. I guess if they can’t get us one way they will try another.
I am tired and it is time for bed. Today I worked 8.5 hours thanks to the support of Peg Seljeskog of Rapid City, SD.
Yesterday was such a hot and humid day that I think it got to me more than I realized. When I walked in the door last night, Kathi took one look at me and said something about long day or that bad. If I looked half as bad as I felt, I looked really bad.
Someone asked me about the job and what the WWMC looked like. There are some pictures on one of our web pages. It is late and I am tired so someone will have to look for them and post their location for me.
Most volunteers work anywhere from 2 to 4 hours a week. I have been told that I work more hours in my 30 days than most of the volunteers do for their entire year. But I only came for one reason and so working 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. or later is what I am here for.
There are 4 separate rooms to the WWMC. The first room is where the patients shop for their items. The second room is very small and we keep the shoes and winter jackets in it. The third room is as large as the shopping area and contains school lockers that we separate the sweats into. Each size has it own locker. So to clarify, there is a locker for small sweatshirts, then small sweatpants and then small adaptive clothing; then a locker for medium sweatshirts, sweatpants and then adaptive clothing and so forth. This room also has shelving that contains plastic bins of pj’s, t-shirts, boxers and briefs by sizes. There is more shelving that contains bins with all the lotions, toothbrushes, razors, shampoo, batteries, CD players, etc. In the 4th room, which has just recently been added since my last trip, are bins for sorting the mail. There are tables in the middle to set the boxes on and then bins around the outside to put items into. This room is always in a state of confusion since things are always coming in and going out. This is also where things are thrown away that come in damaged. We also have a German Red Cross box for those items that are used, since only new items are given to the wounded. There is also a box for the American Red Cross since LRMC is limited by certain safety codes to distribute items. This room is as large as room 1 and 3, but these rooms are smaller than my garage and so it gives you an idea of the storage space available to the WWMC. When those that ship items to LRMC that are not on the wish list, it is a loss of man hours and precious space. LRMC is a hospital and is not set up as a warehouse or distribution center.
All liaisons wear badges to say they are a liaison. I usually welcome the patient into the WWMC and then have them fill out the top of the yellow paperwork. During that time, I am asking them if they know if they have their personal bags from downrange. Most have not, so I tell them that many times bags do not arrive and the bag that we will put together will be all that they have until they can get their bag or get to the BX to spend their $250 voucher.
I get a black bag and walk them through the WWMC. Most of the volunteers just let them look around but these men and woman don’t want to take anything or are lost because they have been shot at, blown up, and thrown around a little bit. Their brains might not be working right and by filling the bag for them, you get to talk with them and they get to actually think if they need an item instead of an overload of everything at once.
So, I will walk them down and ask if they need boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs if we have them for their size. What size they need and pull them from the container for them and put them in their bag. Then we move on to their t-shirts. I move them down to sweats and socks. I can usually start off with a joke with most of them, because if they tell me they do not need underwear, I will ask if they are sure, because you know your mom told you to always have clean undies on just in case anything bad happens to you. So they think about it and many have said, “I might be able to use a couple pair.”
As we move around the room, we get to the blankets and pillows. There are items that we really are trying to move around here. So I point those out and do a sales pitch on them. Woman’s items, lotions, cream and powder, I might say something about they just came in and they smell nice and they seem to be a “HOT ITEM”. Or I just make sure to point it out so that the patient can see it. We have children’s toys and I try to always ask if the patient has kids if they are going back to the states and they can put a toy in their bag to have for their child when they get off the aircraft or see their child for the first time in the states. Most love that idea. Today, a chaplain came down to fill a bag for a female patient and she was not feeling well at all and was quite embarrassed about her injuries. As I filled the bag, I thought about one of the stuffed animals we had just received. It was a rabbit with long floppy ears. I put it in the bag. As I finished filling the bag the chaplain took the rabbit out and stuck it in the side pocket with the head and ears sticking out. When he walked into the room, he just had the rabbit peak around the door at the patient with the rabbit’s ears flopping. The patient laughed and was much happier. I am glad I thought about the rabbit and thankful that the chaplain was not embarrassed to use it in a playful way with the patient.
Most will say they have all their toiletries, but I walk them over there any ways and ask if they have a NEW toothbrush or foot powder and toe nail clippers. Most take those items. Q-tips are another item that many won’t take and not realize that they will want later.
We are trying to push baby wipes or bath wipes. So I tell them if they are having surgery and can’t get up for a while that they might want to take some to wipe themselves up. It has been moving some out the door. I just cleared the rest out of here by moving them down range. They just don’t move here at LRMC. They have bins and bins full of them and more in the warehouse.
Black bags are pre-packed with cards and letters since the guys will not just take them. I had one tell me that they receive so many in theater that he did not have time to answer the ones he had. So to get them out of LRMC we pre-pack the black bags with them. We also prescreen the cards. We do not send out anything with a child’s name on it that has contact information on it. It is for the child’s safety.
Toothpaste has an expiration date on the end of the box and the end of the tube. I have tried to check all the bins for any that might have expired. Many times we have found people that shop at the dollar store will get expired tubes and send them.
The first thing I do is look at the badge of the escort and see where they are from. This helps me understand where they are from in the States and maybe where they are in-theater without having to ask.
All patients or liaisons that take items fill out an inventory form. The form was yellow but some new ones were just printed by accident on white paper.
We have our allies in LRMC receiving care and they can take items just as our troops do.
We will be moving the WWMC to a new location next week, we hope. It was to be in 3 weeks and then 2 weeks and now maybe next week. This will not give us any more room; in fact, because of the shape of the room, it might actually be a little less room. However, the room is attached to the hospital and patients do not have to exit the hospital to get to the WWMC as they do now. This will also open up room 1 for storage. This will cause problems for quick access to items that might not be in stock in the WWMC but you gain one benefit and you lose another.
Today, I had a really nice conversation with a Navy Seabee and a Marine. We talked about both of them wanting to go back down range and neither being allowed to. We talked about how Americans feel the war is going and how they feel it is going. To make it short and sweet: DO NOT WATCH THE NEWS!! We talked about how one of them did not sleep and how the other was told to get a good buddy to change his bandages since his injury was backside. His lower backside, the soft cushy backside we all have. I smiled at him and told him that must be an interesting bandage to get to and change. We talked about some of the missions I had been on and some they had been on. The one told me that he was having trouble talking about some of the things and that some things he would never tell anyone. I told him that we all had to find someone to tell these types of things too. It is not always the wife. I have heard many of the guys tell me that their wives say they don’t want to know what their husbands did or what their missions were. I feel this is very sad as a husband and wife should be able to lean on each other but I guess if the wife does not wish to deal with it so be it. This leaves him no choice but to keep it locked inside or find a chaplain, stranger or another battle buddy to talk with. I told him that one troop told me that he shared his stories with his grandfather. That his dad had not served in the military but his grandfather had and it brought the two of them together.
One of them told me that when he went home the town had a big party for him and his brother who is also serving. He told his dad that he did not wish to go because the town never really looked kind on the family until they found out he was a Marine. He said that a man came up to him and shook his hand and the Marine asked him who he was and the man told him he was his neighbor. He said he had lived next to him forever and he had never cared about him or his family before. He found it interesting.
We talked about how spoiled we are as a nation. This is the second time since I have been here that I have heard this coming from kids no older than my son. This young man told me that we only think about ourselves and what is in it for me and sometimes we do not even think about our own families. He said that he has seen what it means to be without now and his whole life will be changed because of it. The first time I heard this was last week. It was explained in even more detail. How many of you have more than one tube of toothpaste open in your bathroom right now? How many of you have more than 3 bottles of shampoo or conditioner in your bath tub or shower? How many of you have more than 2 bottles of soap or body gel? Now think about if you had to cut open your tube of toothpaste to get all of it out or you did not even have a tube of paste.
I was also told of a little girl that was taken care of by the American military. She was transferred to one of the local hospitals only to have her catheter tubing and meds given to other patients. Her IV block and tubing was removed to be given to another patient. She passed away a week later.
I find some of these kids way beyond their years and I wonder if I could have matched up when I was there age.
One of my patients who came in yesterday for another pair of shoes saw me as I was leaving tonight. He did not look good and asked to speak to me for 1 minute. He had been in a few days ago and had come back in to get another pair of shoes because the first pair was too small. He was to bring the first pair back, but did not do so. So tonight when I saw him he pulled me over to the side and said he was very sorry that he did not bring them back; he had been in the ER with heart palpitations. I told him not to worry about the shoes. How was he doing? He told me that he now had to go back to the States and he was not happy about it. He just kept telling me how sorry he was about the shoes. Sometimes they worry about the smallest things. I told him to take care of himself and told him that he could find me through our website. I do not bring business cards here as I am not here to promote LHCP but only to care for our wounded. I thought he was going to cry as he asked if he could give me a hug and told me bye. He leaves in the morning and was going to Ramstien tonight. You sometimes never know who will grab a piece of your heart here and walk away with it. If a piece of my heart helps him get through his ordeal, I am happy to give it to him.
Well, it is another late night and I said I was going to be in bed by 11:00 P.M. tonight and I lied again.
Today, I worked 9 hours thanks to the support of Maria Waddell.
We are out of ankle socks and pillows until the shipment I sent before I left the U.S. arrives. What is in the bins or on the shelf is it. Glad to know that our pillows have arrived in the Middle East and patients will be arriving with our pillows to use while here.
Someone sent us really big cans of tuna fish. I guess LRMC does not have a kitchen to feed our wounded. OK, I know I can have a smart mouth, I will stop.
Bernie, all of your mirrors were taken to LRMC and they will be on the wards. I don’t imagine they will need any more for a while.
I was asked to prepare two bags and take them up to one of the wards. Well, I should know better than to wear white. I had one strap over one shoulder and one strap over the other shoulder and dropped off the bags to the room and just as I was leaving the ward I noticed I had big brown stains on both shoulders. These are not the bags LRMC normally purchases. They were donated and I guess since the bags LRMC purchases did not stain anything I had worn in years past, I never thought about it. I had to get a second shirt to wear to finish the day. Kathi has been bleaching it, using stain remover and anything else she could think of while I was at work today and the shirt just needs to be burn now and put out of its misery. As much work as Kathi did on it, she might need a vacation by the time I leave here.
I have been packing boxes of excess LRMC items to be shipped to the Middle East. A huge carton went out today and I started a second one. Kathi has been threatening me that I had better not hurt myself and that I had better drink lots of water (due to the renal failure 3 weeks ago). She says that she does not want to have to call Brian and tell him any bad news. Well, today I can say I sent sweat and blood to our units in the Middle East. I cut my finger on the tape gun and sliced it well enough so that it kept bleeding through 3 Band-Aids. Since I wanted to finish the boxes I was working on, I just kept my finger stuck straight out until I had them all taped up but you could see little drops of blood under the tape. I think they need a new tape gun here.
We had a quiet afternoon with patients coming in to get bags filled, but patients seemed to all be drifting in one by one and when I asked how I could help, they told me they were just bored. So, one by one they filed in until I had 6 in the WWMC. One had seizures, one was almost blind, one has to have wrist surgery, one had to have ankle surgery and I do not know about the others. Little by little I got them all talking to each other and then just backed out of all the conversations. I find that they do a lot more healing sometimes when they find out they are not alone among their own peers. I am not their peer even though I was in Bosnia. Each of them in that room could share their story and help the other. I just listened. The almost blind patient asked me a question and I answered. They all started saying they should leave me so that I could have some peace. I told them that I was pleased to have them all there and had they noticed that it was pouring rain outside. None of them had. One of the patients asked if they could come back tomorrow and just talk and I said of course. The blind patient told me that all of them must feel comfortable with me to talk the way they had for almost an hour without noticing the rain. I told them it was not me that they had shared their stories with each other and they had to continue to do so. That it was part of the healing process. Another patient told me that my statement might be true but they all had found their way back to the WWMC knowing that I was working there and none of them needed anything and so that said a lot about me. It was very nice but I think things some times just happen.
I had a triple amputee come down to the WWMC tonight just as I was closing up. The heat today was unbearable and the humidity was very high. A bad storm rolled through and he and his liaison came down just after the storm passed, it was just slightly raining. As the liaison was rolling the wheel chair down the sidewalk, I could see that the patient was a double amputee but did not see he was also missing part of his arm. We have 4 rooms lined up in a row and I was locking up the 4th room as they were heading down. The 4th room does not have a cover over it. Just as I was walking back under the cover at room 3 the gutter water came pouring out. Yep, I was wet. The patient saw that I tried to duck to miss it. He asked me what happened and I said the water from the gutter got me. He laughed and said “OOH”, he thought I was trying to get away from Al Qaeda. I should have said, “If that was the case I would have hit the ground,” but I let it be. He made a funny!! I asked him what he needed and he said a razor. Since he only had the one good hand right now I asked him if he would like an electric razor. He said he would and so I got one from our special stash. He also wanted batteries for his camera. We have thousands of them so I gave him a large pack. I asked one of the other liaisons that had walked in if he would cut the razor out of the protective hard plastic wrap. He did. I then asked him as I was getting the batteries if he would take the cover off the top of the razor. Now, I have known this liaison for a long time and we joke with each other all the time and he said, “What else do you want me to do for you,” in a snotty voice. The patient said it was God’s intention and way. I was not sure I had heard him right, or if he was even talking to us at first until his liaison said he should explain what he said. He said that it was God’s intention for man to help woman. It was man’s job and should be his pleasure to do so. Now I just looked at my liaison and I know I had to have just had the biggest grin on my face, because the patient’s liaison said, “Look, look at her face.” Ladies, you know the look that we can give, one of those looks like ha, ha, ha, now whatcha going to say to me, smarty pants. You got busted and by one of your male counterparts. We had a very nice time with this guy, who by the way was not an American. He was one of the many nationalities that support our troops in the GWOT.
We got a very large shipment in today. It was a lot of snacks but unfortunately they had mixed Little Debbie cakes with Capri Sun drink bags. They mixed shampoo with chips. The chips were smashed and some of the bags were opened. The Little Debbie cakes were flat, and one of the Capri Sun drink bags had busted open. They also had sent stuffed animals but because of the juice box they were all sticky.
If you are supporting units and mailing your own boxes please take all of this into consideration. If you want to see what your box would look like when it arrives, package it up, mail it to a friend on the other side of the US and have them mail it to a friend of theirs and that friend can mail it back to you. Do that 3 or 4 times and you will get the idea what happens to a box when it comes half way around the world.
Tonight needed to be an early night, as I am sore and tired, but it is late again so I will finish this. Maybe tomorrow I will have time to post to the group what the process is when I wait on a patient.
Today I worked 9 hours thanks to the support of our wonderful secretary and SoL leader Maria Waddell.
Sorry about not posting yesterday, but I had to get caught up on some LHCP work and FINALLY got our sponsors updated on our web page. Yesterday started busy and it really did not stop. It looked like there was a party in the WWMC over the weekend and the place had to be cleaned and restocked. The bins of socks were empty and many of the shelves were also bare. With patients coming in at the same time, this is a difficult thing to accomplish. On most days, only a few patients arrive in the morning, but there was a large influx over the weekend, so they all came back to get items they had not picked up with their liaisons on the weekend. There was a delivery from our warehouse also and those items had to be sorted and put up, and then mail came and the same thing started all over again. These are always fun tasks; did you hear the sarcastic note in my voice? The items from the warehouse are part of a very large shipment that was delivered here and many of the boxes are packed with multiple sizes in the same box. So, if we need large sweatshirts, we have to unpack 2x-3x-4x clothing just to get to the large sweatshirts. We have massive amounts of 2x-4x clothing. It’s become a huge burden here. When I say we could cloth the NFL and NHL, I really do mean it. This shipment also included shoes, which is a great thing, but the other day I unpacked men’s shoes in size 14, also a good thing, but they were pink and yellow. I always bring them out but no takers yet. So more precious storage space gone! I know, I am beginning to sound like a broken record about the lack of storage space here but every inch really does count.
LRMC is a large complex that serves active duty, reserve military, dependent, and retired military personnel throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. LRMC is a full service hospital with outpatient clinics, an emergency room and also provides elective surgery. The staff consists of members from the Army, Navy and Air Force.
LHCP helps patients on 5 different levels of care as patients pass through the military care system. If we consider the medic, where we are providing supplies to those working in a unit with no facility, then we can count 6.
I was thinking about this today as I listened to a patient tell me about his travels. As he told me the stops he made I would ask, “What facility were you at” and as he told me; I just thought to myself “Good, we already support them.” Here is his travel:
His first stop was his BAS, then to the FAS where his bleeding was controlled and his leg was splinted; I’ve called it ‘damage control’ surgery. He was stabilized and was forwarded to the CSH. They did more repairs to his leg at the CSH and then he was moved to LRMC. We support each of his stops with supplies. He said that if he had been injured in Vietnam, he would have lost his leg and even though he had a long recovery, he would keep his leg and it was thanks to the care he had received, not only at LRMC, but even in the very beginning from his buddies and the CSH. I think he was transported to Walter Reed today. Even though we have only supported Walter Reed with visits to patients and helping them clean out excess supplies, I was happy to know that LHCP has the bases covered when our warriors from the GWOT arrive for care. Three years ago we had a burn patient that I talked to that went to Brooks and I’m glad that LHCP can say we have helped that hospital with supplies also.
Our contact for LRMC had his going away luncheon today. It was very sad to say good-bye to a chaplain that I have known for 3 years. This man has worked in the ICU giving comfort and peace to family, loved ones and patients for a long time. He is a wonderful, caring chaplain and human. He was afraid that he would not be able to live up to the standards set by his predecessor. The chaplain he followed was known for staying all night with a patient in need. He made the mistake of telling the Colonel that once he started sleeping with the patients, things had really turned around and he felt more comfortable here at LRMC. He did not realize exactly what he had said until it was too late. Of course he did not mean ‘sleeping” with patients but he stayed at the bedside of the injured or sick. He turns red just telling the story to this day.
The ICU is combined with the medical/surgical unit and has 12 rooms and can be a very busy and a heavy burden for a chaplain. Not only are they responsible for the patients, family and loved ones, but for the staff caring for those patients. To perform the job for a short period of time has to be physically and mentally draining, but to have accomplished it for 3 years with such love shows you the compassion this man has. He has my utmost respect and thanks.
I remember about 3 years ago being at Walter Reed after a working trip to LRMC. I was outside of the radiology department when a young man came up with his father. He was looking at the board with the radiology department staff names listed. He said ‘Dad, look, this guy has the same name as I do.’ When I looked at the name, I realized I had been at LRMC when this kid came through. I asked him if he remembered LRMC and he said no. He had been shot in the head and did not remember anything. Then he said that there was one thing he remembered; the chaplain coming in and praying with his father. I asked him if it was Chaplain xxxx. He told me that he did not know, but his father said that it was and asked how I knew that. I told him that I had worked at LRMC when his son had come in; that we had not expected his son to live. To see him walking, talking, and other than the protective helmet for his head where he was missing half his skull, you would not know he had been shot in the head. The patient told me that he felt peace in his room when the chaplain was there. The dad told me that he was glad to see the chaplain walk in every night because it was the one time each day that he felt at peace and the machines and noises seemed to disappear. What a wonderful thing to be able to accomplish for a patient and a loved one.
Friday, a patient came in who seemed to be very tense. She had her hands balled up in tight fists. Before I started to fill her bag, I took her hand and put it in mine and softly pulled her fingers into my hand and told her she was safe; she could relax here. She told me that she was ok’ that it was a nerve condition but my hands felt good to her. They were warm and she wished hers could feel like that all the time. I just held her hand in mine as we talked for a minute or two and as I released it to fill her bag, her hand tightened back up into a ball to match her other hand.
One of the patients on Friday was trying to convince me that he was ok to go back downrange. He has no feeling in his left arm. I tried to explain to him that if he went back downrange, he could endanger his buddies and it was best for him to be at LRMC to be ‘fixed’ and then once cleared he could go back. He told me it should be ‘his’ decision if he wants to go back downrange and if he wanted to go then he should be allowed to. He was probably the most argumentative person I have had on this subject even though he was not the first.
He was not the last, as I had another today. An older Army troop who also wanted to go back in theater. I told him that he had to think about himself first. He told me he had been told that already. I told him that once he was back to 100% he could give his troops 100% again. He told me he had been told that also, but he still wanted to go back. I then asked him if this was one of his young troops, what he would tell them. He said nothing to me and got up and walked away. I guess I struck a nerve with that question.
We had another large transport of patients leave today for the States. It is amazing for me to see how quickly they move in and out of here, either back to the Middle East or to the U.S. I have watched the CCAT personnel while loading patients and making sure that every patient has what is needed for a safe flight. Since I have been an air-evac patient, I know the CCAT personnel are always checking in the day before to see what special arrangements, if any, need to be made for each patient. Even if a patient has complications at the last minute and can not be transported they can usually get another patient on the flight.
I know that patients can some times complain. I sure was not the best patient with my kidney failure 3 weeks ago. I can say that with the 9,000 plus patients that have come through here under the last commander of the hospital, I hear very few complaints. I am sure the new commander will do just as well.
Monday and Tuesday I worked 9 and 8 hours thanks to the support of my Vice President, who not only helped contribute to the trip, but is also helping to hold down the fort while I am away. THANKS JIM!
Thursday ended a little rough and I thought that Friday would have started better but the first thing I saw after opening my email was the link about Justin. It should be (orginal link = https://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid992398979/bclid1028788754/bctid1573187746)
For those of you that do not know the story of Justin, I met him several years ago while working at LRMC. His mom emailed me after he returned home to say he had a stroke. As you heard in the video, it was not a stroke, but an infection. When I returned from LRMC, I went to NC to visit him. He has been to one of our benefits and he used to call about every two weeks and say “Hey #2, it’s Justin” as if I would not know! He called me #2 because when his mom could not be at LRMC, I was there and gave him just as hard a time as his mom would have. He called me when he was able to use his arm again, he called me when his leg braces came off, he called me when he got well enough to drive and he called me when he found out he was going to be a dad. Then the 2nd attack happened. I hadn’t heard from him and I tried calling his cell phone several times until I finally just called his mom. We talked a long time. She told me he was in the hospital again. The next week I got the call that he was in Richmond, VA and they didn’t expect him to make it through the night. Ann, his mom and his dad were flying in but they didn’t know if they would make it in time. Could I get there to be with him? Richmond is about 90 minutes away but I have to confess I broke every law of the land and did it in 45 minutes. Brian and I went back over the weekend and we took turns in ICU with his parents as they managed their son’s care.
Justin left LRMC with bone and flesh injuries only. To see him as he is now breaks my heart. When he talked at our benefit he had me in tears talking about our relationship while he was at LRMC and the relationship that followed. His mom and dad have become my sister and brother and so to see this video Friday morning was just a reminder of the price our troops are willing to pay. Justin is one of the most fun people I have ever met. Justin’s mom says she wants no one to feel sorry for him; it is just something that happens. Let me explain how strong a statement this is coming from her. Justin is her ONLY biological child. Justin knew and she knew what could happen. Justin loved life and the Marine Corp. I have never heard him or Ann say a bad word about the war or the effort of the US. The reason this video was done was so that each of us could send it out and maybe find a cause of this virus and a cure. Justin is not the only victim like this. She thought if the story was out there maybe someone could help; so please pass this video link to as many people as possible.
We have many visiting surgeons and physicians that come to work at LRMC. All of them come here with their unique background and expertise in caring for injured patients. I think the program was to educate both civilian ad military doctors, but one of them last year told me that he thought he learned more than he taught. I hope one year that one of them will know how to help those like Justin. The doctor I talked to last year told me that he wishes he could have done more while he was here. I met two last year while working here. One had former military back ground and one had no military background, but both seemed to be just as impressed with the professionalism, compassion and commitment to our patients. It is the same thing I have been saying for over 4 years now and I glad to know that even professionals in the medical field feel the same way about the competence of the nurses, doctors, and techs. I’ve heard them speak this way of the ICU teams to the critical care teams that transported the patients on the buses and aircraft, from the ER staff to the liaisons. I listened to one surgeon last year say that he could tell that the patients were receiving superior care in theater because of what the wounds looked like when they went in to do surgery. The civilian doctor told me that he thought the organization of the hospital was amazing and it was as if he was watching a waltz unfold in front of him. From the time the call comes that “wheels are on the ground,” to the time patients were in for surgery – it all fell together beautifully. One of the things I hear the most around here is that everyone says “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” to everyone else. The patients tell me that they don’t hear that in theater often but here they hear it every morning several times. One told me the other day that he heard it 3 times before he even got inside the hospital. I think it is our grounding rod. To tell someone “Good Morning” feels good for both patient and care giver. It also helps to motivate the entire support team.
We had one group come through on Friday for a tour and one VIP visitor. I have often heard them say that they leave hear feeling humbled. One of the men I talked to on Friday said you just can’t help but feel humility because so many of the troops told his group that they just wanted to get back to their units. He said it did not matter what their injuries were; the only thing they were thinking of was the men and woman they had left behind still fighting.
I think this surprises not only the visiting doctors but also the VIPs. Many of them say they came to give thanks and support to our troops but they leave here feeling that they are the one that got more out of it than they left with the wounded troops.
Many are surprised at the level of care that LRMC can and does provide. Many people do not realize that LRMC recently received their Level II status. It is the only hospital outside the US designated as a Level II trauma center by the American College of Surgeons. If you look up the requirements for a Level II trauma center, you will see that LRMC has to follow some stringent guidelines and inspections from outside inspection teams to ensure that they are meeting or exceeding the standards set down. These standards include everything from the tracking of patients, to the documentation of care, to definitive trauma care no matter how severe the injury.
Wounded warriors needing ICU treatment usually stay here three to five days before being transported to the U.S. Others might stay a little bit longer. I met the father of one of these kids the other day and he was very impressed with LRMC and all those that were involved with the care of his son. He just happened to be in Germany on business when his son was injured and was transported to LRMC. Most of the liaisons care so much that one of them put him up in their quarters so that there was no cost to the family. His son was involved in the suicide attack that I told you about the other day.
Monday I will be trying to ship some items down range as it looks like there are non-profit organizations using our med bag directions, but sending them directly to LRMC. LRMC does not use them and they are piling up. Looks like some organizations may be using our list, but getting the types of supplies and where they go mixed up and sending them all to LRMC. There are also several other items piling up around here that I am going to try to move out of here next week. We have some 2×2 and 3×3 afghans that no one will take, so I am going to try to find a home for them. We have so many calf and tube socks that we have no more storage space for them and it looks like they might have to go to storage. I have given out two pairs of calf socks in the two weeks I have been here. The men and woman want ankle socks! We have enough 2x, 3x and 4x clothing to supply the NFL and the NHL. It is truly amazing; we just don’t have that many wounded coming through here that are big.
This has been a long email and I have many more to reply to tonight before I can go to bed. I have been asked to go over the process here at LRMC with my job and what LRMC looks like. I will try to hit that in the next email without going into OPSEC.
Friday I worked 10 hours thanks to the support of Peg Seljeskog of Rapid City, SD.
Sorry I did not post yesterday. It was a rough day and by the time I left work, I just had to decompress. Much of it I can not tell you, as OPSEC is concerned. But I will tell you some things, although I know I won’t do these young military men and woman justice.
We have many young and older men and woman come through LRMC. Some are here for kidney stones, some to receive glasses or hearing aids; others are here for back, leg, arm or head injuries. Some injuries are caused by them just being kids and being dumb and others are war related.
Some wish to talk and others just want their stuff and to go. I find both very interesting and each truly walks away with a piece of my heart. One young man took a big chunk yesterday. As I listened to him tell his story I could not help but think he was speaking as someone twice his age. He had some delay in his answers at times but I knew it was due to some TBI. As he spoke to the ambassador who stood in front of us drilling him with questions, I couldn’t help it, but I felt such great pride as if he was my own son. I found myself listening to his story of a horrible attack; but I found myself bowing my head and smiling because he was doing it with such honor, dignity but also meekness. As I looked at this kid, I was trying to figure out how old he was just about the time the ambassador asked him his age. He was the grand ole age of 19. I almost dropped to my knees. My heart ached as he continued to talk about a battle buddy that was killed. I wanted to give him the largest hug ever. This young man had been sitting the entire time he spoke with the ambassador until he was introduced to the ambassador’s wife. Then he showed her respect and he stood, as painful as it might have been for him.
When everyone had left the WWMC, I met the second kid that was in this week from the same attack. He spoke as well as the first. The pride this kid had in his military and the thought that went behind him joining and staying in the military was just so amazing that I just could not grasp it coming from someone his age. He talked about his bedroom wall turning into a bright ball of yellow as it exploded. That he got up to see what aid he could provide to others as he was himself throwing up. I had to ask right away how old he was. He was the grandpa at the ripe age of 21. I have met the Secretary of the Army while working here, I have met ambassadors and so many congressmen that I can not remember them all. But those that stick in my mind and heart the most are the military members. Go to your local VA hospital and volunteer and you will see what I mean. Our military members young and old, this war or past wars will amaze you.
As I was driving home last night I thought about the groups that have protested at our military members funerals. I thought about those that have fought against military pay increases. I thought about those that have fought against increasing VA benefits or the building of new VA hospitals. As I continued to drive with tears in my eyes, I thought about these 2 young men, who both wanted to continue to serve in the military. How and why would we not give them the pay they deserve? How can we not provide them with the VA benefits that so many of them deserve? How can we not force our states to enact laws to protect their families during their funerals? The pain in my chest grew as I knew that neither of these kids would ever really understand the gratitude, admiration or appreciation that I had for them. That I hope the nation as a whole will have for them one day.
Both of these young men will each have a long journey in front of them as they recover. I hope that they can feel a little piece of my heart inside of them and feel the love that I shared with them yesterday.
I worked 10 hours today thanks to the support of the Lorton American Legion of Lorton, VA.
PS I will post about Friday later this weekend. I thank you for your understanding in the lack of a posting last night.
The weather was very nice today, but is supposed to be bad tomorrow. Today was one of those days I just have to shake my head and think to myself, what kind of hospital do people think LRMC is?
I unpacked boxes that contained screw drivers, another box had duct tape. This is a major medical facility. This is not a CSH, BAS or EMED unit that might need these kinds of supplies. We also received a huge box of coupons. I can only guess that they could not find an address for the commissary and so thought to send it to the hospital staff for distribution. NOPE, does not happen that way. There is no commissary at Landstuhl. We got 6 or 7 Frisbees. We get footballs, soft balls, none blown up, but even if they were, I have never seen patients here play any of these or take any of these items. They don’t have the time. They’re in seeing doctors all day or sleeping. They are traveling from one base to another on the bus to shop for items or on the phone with loved ones. They are sore, broken up and just want to relax. I guess no matter how much I try to get the word out about the needs here, it won’t matter. People will send what they want to send. I was told that LRMC received a box of screws, nuts, bolts, and washers a few months back. They said that they had just all been dumped in a large box as if someone had emptied their garage and shipped it to the hospital. Why? What is the reason for that? I don’t get it, I guess. Some of the items come from other non profit groups, some items come from individuals but I am just at a loss.
They need 6 full time employees to handle the shipments that arrive here. They do not have enough volunteers to cover all the day time hours that the WWMC needs to be open. Then when they get dirty or used clothing and other items which cannot be used, it takes away from time that should be spent with the patients and preparing the WWMC with supplies they do use on a daily basis.
If we, as citizens supporting our troops, do not wish to take the time to prepare a shipment correctly and find out what is needed, then why would we expect a hospital and its staff who is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week taking care of the wounded to do what we wouldn’t?
ALRIGHT, I am going to stop the soap box.
We had three patients come in today from the mental health ward. Immediately I noticed one who seemed to be jumping inside. I let the other two be served by the liaison and other volunteer, and I went to him. I helped him prepare his bag and I spoke to him in a quiet voice. I wanted to reach out to him, but first I had to find out if he would be ok with it. After about 3 minutes, I put my hand on his forearm and said, “Hun, are you ok?” He said he was just a little jumpy, but I noticed that when I touched him he stopped. When I moved my hand, he was good for 20 to 30 seconds and then he started again. I would softly touch his arm again and he stopped again. As we moved around the room, I began to keep my hand on his arm and it seemed to calm him until it was time for me to get his shoes and for them to leave. I gave him a very soft hug, made sure to still give him his space, and I thanked him for his service. Over the years, I realize that some like to have distance between them. Others like just a small touch and some times it is difficult to know when, but for the 10 minutes he was there with me I hope he was at some peace.
If I had to guess, I would say most of the patients seem to be from Afghanistan this trip. I would also say a lot more Marines than I have seen in my past trips. It is strange how things change from trip to trip.
Today I worked 9.5 hours thanks to the support of Maureen Moniz of Convent Station of NJ.
We had sun today, we had sun today!! 😀 It was still cool enough for me to wear a long sleeve sweater, but the S-U-N was out. Kathi has threatened to hit me over the head with a baseball bat so I’ll start sleeping through the night. I can’t figure it out. One night I am so tired by 8:00 P.M. I can’t keep my eyes open; the next, I’m in bed at 10:00 P.M. and then up at 2:00 A.M. to 4:00 A.M. The next night it might be sleep for an hour and up for another 2 hours. Glad my sleep pattern does not affect my work all that much (just my typing, spelling, etc) 🙄
It was also a very slow day, which makes up for yesterday being so crazy. I think we only had 7 patients come in today, so that was a nice change from yesterday. We had lots of time to stock shelves and unpack boxes that arrived on Friday.
They are doing some nice work to the hospital itself. The building is having construction done just about everywhere. They started on the far end away from the clothing closet and last year they were remodeling the ward to the right of the WWMC. Now they have that one finished and they are remodeling the ward to the left of us. The chaplains have had to move out of their area to the finished section. They’re trying to set offices up and get back into the routine of everyday life here at LRMC.
The hospital is also changing the pictures that you find in the central hall. I call them hotel pictures. They are the type of pictures of flowers in vases, or buildings you have no clue where they are from. They had just the ugly old poster type hotel pictures.
Well, two years ago a photographer came in and said she would like to take actual pictures and blow them up for the hospital. She got permission to move forward and started working through GOV contracting. Two years later and some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen grace the walls of the hospital. They’re of sights around Europe. As you walk down the hall, they almost seem to be in a logical order. The size fits the wall they are on and the scenes flow together. In a hospital where so much heartache can become the norm, these pictures seem to add a peace that I much appreciate and I am sure the patients and other staff members do as well.
I want to remind everyone that if you send cards from children please do not put an address or email address on the letter or card. These cards can not be given to the patients. Since we don’t know if the child has communicated with their parents that they have made contact with another adult, it’s been decided that these cards will not be handed out. Contact information can be a principal or teacher of a school through the mail. Also remember that a unique card written for one patient is very special. Writing the same type of card 50-60 times and seeing that your room mate or battle buddy has the exact same card is not as special.
We opened a box today that was full of hotel toiletries. Tops had come off and it was a mess. Please remember that LRMC wishes to receive TRAVEL size. Lids stay on and they last the 3-7 days that a patient is in the hospital. I’ve had to throw away 15-20 bottles of shampoo in the last 3 days because of this problem.
I want to let all those that made comfort pillows know that the entire shelf of pillows now belongs to LHCP members. The last two bags of pillows I could find in the store room belong to LHCP. They are bringing more from the warehouse, so come next week they might belong to another non-profit, but for this week they are all LHCP. The quilts that are out belong to many organizations, but I know that one of ours was picked by a Marine today. I just happened to catch the LHCP label as it was going into his bag. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to see the name. It was a quilt, not a fleece blanket; the quilts are usually more popular. We had some really large fleece blankets come in today. I tried all day to get someone to take them but they took up almost half their bag and so they didn’t want them. They are nice, just too big when you are allowed one bag and it’s only 25-28 inches long.
Also, the only pj bottoms I could find today to put out also belong to LHCP. I know these came from a contact in the NE, but for the life of me I can’t remember who. There were maybe 200 of them, so if you are reading this you know who you are.
Well, I have to cut this short tonight as I have lots of LHCP business to try to get done, as we have units that need supplies. I was asked if we support really remote locations. I can tell you, yes!! How remote? So remote that they don’t have bathrooms. We have been supporting units for many years that just have a toilet made up of a wooden box and a bag. The bags are burned after use. I was told this a few years back but was just reminded of it today talking with two battle buddies, and then an email that I reread from last week. If that is not forward enough or remote enough for you, I don’t know what would be. We had some pretty bad facilities at some of the base camps I was at in Bosnia but nothing that bad.
Today I worked 9.5 hours thanks to the support of Donnie and Kathy Turrentine and their two wonderful boys.
WOW!! What a day. LRMC had over 47 patients that came in on Sunday so I saw most of them this morning along with the 18 or so that came in today. I was busy, busy. I was the only volunteer all day since the 4 day weekend is still on and the weather was not SO bad. Plus, the WWMC always has bare shelves on Monday after a weekend when no one works. I was not such a good girl today with taking it easy, but lived through it and all is good.
I forgot to tell you a story about Friday. Sometimes they just don’t stick out until days later when they kind of come full circle. Before I begin this let me tell you that my sleep is really messed up and my grammar, spelling, etc is due to the lack of good sleep. I know it is when I reread this stuff, but the last post was written at 0230 in the morning.
So here is the story from Friday. The chaplain’s office does tours; I guess once a month. Patients that get permission can go on the tours. The tour for today was of the Rheine River. So, 4 or 5 guys came in on Friday looking for jackets since it is COLD here. I told them that on the water it would be even colder and to layer since we had nothing more than wind breakers or zip-up sweatshirts. I had to force the issue with 2 of them and just kept drilling it into their heads: you will be cold: layer, layer, layer! Well, I got all of them to get layers of short sleeve tees, and long sleeve tees, and then a sweatshirt with a sweater or zip-up. I did not realize that the other guy in the WWMC was part of their crowd until today. He came in saying he needed a sweatshirt and to try to get some clothing to layer with. I made the comment that he sounded like me on Friday and he said that he was in there on Friday. That he heard me tell the other guys to layer their clothing but he ‘knew‘ he would be ok and just took a shirt and jacket. He said he froze. I asked him what his mom would say about him not listening to me and he said that he was from the Island and it doesn’t get cold there. I told him that was more reason to listen to me. He said he was going to write his mom and tell her that while he was freezing, he had thought about me telling them that I was a mom and telling them to layer to stay warm just as their moms would, and it made him think about her. I told him that he should write her, as it would make her feel good knowing that even though she was not here to take care of him, someone else was trying. He laughed as he left, saying he was going to listen to me from now on.
The guy from Friday with the messed up knees came in to visit me today just to talk. He said he found out he is going to Walter Reed. I told him that was my part of the country and I would come visit him and his wife while he was recovering from his surgery. He said he liked that idea, so I guess I am planning a trip to Walter Reed when I get home. He leaves here tomorrow but plans on stopping in before he leaves one more time.
Many of long timers with LHCP know that I don’t believe anyone should leave the WWMC without taking something. It started I think with my first trip and a Marine that said he didn’t need anything we had to offer. I told him with all the great things we had, there WAS something. After going through the long list of shirts, shorts, pants, books, paper, and gum, and him saying no to everything, I got worried until I hit on a pen. That’s when his buddies said “YES HE DOES!! He is always taking ours.” After that, it has become my mission to not let one troop leave the WWMC empty handed. Today, I had to do a little pushing again; another Marine who thought he needed nothing. I had to explain to him that my record stands at more wounded served than I could count over 4 years and he was not going to be the one to break it. I am proud to announce that he left with a pair of sweatpants. Which, come morning roll call out in the cold, he will be glad he took them. 🙂
It is amazing to me how many young kids come through here with stories to tell and LIVE to tell about them. I had closed up everything and was walking to turn in the key when three men started up the sidewalk towards the WWMC. I turned back around to open it back up to help them. The one man had been there before but the other two were new arrivals from today.
The one man told me that the two new men were from his group in Iraq. Then he said ma’am, these men should be dead! They should not be here with us. I looked at them, 10 fingers 10 toes and all the hair on their heads. He told me that they had a car full of explosives drive right at them and hit them. They had all their body parts, but of course were not ok. Both had traumatic brain injury (TBI). One was dizzy almost the entire time he was in the WWMC. These young and old military members will be out in public shopping in our stores, eating in our restaurants. Do you have patience to deal with them? Are you going to be able to tell them apart from the general population when they are out of uniform? Are you kind to someone if they bump into you not realizing they have lost their balance? Do you make fun of someone who speaks way too slow for the time you have to listen to them? Remember, our men and woman serving now are walking the streets of the United States. Can you pick them out of a crowd?
I have to tell you some behind the scenes things that just add to the whole experience of the trip. Kathi and I went to pick up the rental car when I got here and they asked if I wanted the additional insurance. I took it, since my insurance company does not cover me over here. Friday night I got home from work and Kathi’s husband came home shortly thereafter. He came upstairs to tell me he had hit my rental car before he left for work that morning. I had not noticed the damage, but the look on his face was that of a little boy and you just had to feel so sorry for him. The damage to his car was a little tiny mark, but the damage to the rental car was quite a bit more. Kathi and I went by the rental car company and gave them the insurance paperwork. Kathi was saying the whole time that she should be making her husband do it since he was the one that hit it. I just have to laugh a little, as I can still see the look on his face. Now this is a minor thing and only a one time thing right?? Wrong. Kathi and I went shopping on Saturday and as we are pulling out of the parking lot on Saturday, a car decides to back up without looking. Guess whose side they were backing into?? You got it!! My passenger door. The only thing I could do since I had no horn on my side of the car was to hit the window and say stop, stop, hey!! They did, but not in time to keep me from having a slight heart attack.
Life is never dull!!
Today I worked 8.5 hours thanks to the support of Bill Fowler and the American Legion Riders, Post 189 of Norwich, NY.
Picture of the many toiletry items available at the new WWMC
I have worked two days now and I’m glad to see that the hospital staff is just as caring as during the working visits in my years past.
The first day seemed to be very long, but it felt good to be of service to the men and women coming through LRMC.
The first thing I did after arriving at LRMC was to stop in the Chaplain’s office and let them know I had arrived. There were LOTS of new faces. I got a warm welcome from those that were here during my previous visits. LHCP and my past visits were commended when I was introduced to new staff members. (We are doing good.)
I then picked up my badge and went outside, just in time to catch the big blue military morning bus of patients come in. As I stood there with many new liaisons, I wondered how some of these staff members that have been here for years keep providing the same wonderful support day in and day out. Many of the liaisons are new since September, but there were some old friends left to talk with as the patients were off-loaded from the bus. When you talk with them, you realize that even though they too are military, the respect they have for the job being done by the troops serving in the Middle East runs deep, and that is what drives many of them.
After the bus was unloaded, I went to the WWMC to start my day. It started slow as we unpacked some boxes and stocked shelves with socks, sweats and white t-shirts. The patients slowly came in one or two at a time. By mid-afternoon the pace was picking up. I had a patient come in that seemed to be out of breath. He was not breathing as if he had run a race, but just a little out of breath. I noticed he had some very small beads of sweat on his forehead and I asked if he was ok. He said he was a little warm. Since it is still VERY cool here, my ‘mom’ flag went up a little. He asked for some Rolaids because he had heartburn. The other volunteer got some for him but I asked him if he was on any medication. He said he was taking some heart medication. I took the Rolaids away from him and told him to have a seat, as I was uncertain if it was a good idea for him to take it. He asked what he could take for heartburn if he couldn’t take Rolaids. I gave him some crackers. He was still warm and sweating a little. I told the other volunteer that I thought he should go back to the clinic instead of us allowing him to go to his room outside the hospital, so the volunteer went to call the clinic. He came back with a wheel chair and took the patient to the clinic. The patient came back about two hours later saying that he was originally supposed to leave LRMC the next day but now he was extended four more days. I told him I was sorry to hear that he was not leaving but I was glad to know he was going to be able to visit me for the next four days, and it was better that he get checked out again than to have something go wrong once he left. So, I guess ‘mom’ is already causing problems here. 😉
I had two guys come in just to see what we had before they went to their doctor appointment. As they left the WWMC, it began to rain and one of them said in a slightly whining voice, “it’s raining.” Now anyone that knows me, knows that comment and the way he said it leaves the door wide open for, “Now come on, do you really think you are made of sugar?” Not sure why, but he seemed to take offense to the thought I would not think he was made of sugar! We joked back and forth a little bit more and he left. A few hours later he returned and I just had to let him know that since he had not melted, my thoughts of his biological make up must have been correct. We went back and forth a little bit teasing each other while he got the clothing and other items that he needed. When he left he told me that I was the most fun- no matter what people said.
I had déjà vu today. A patient walked in that I swear was here last year when I was working. He turned around and looked at me. I told him “I know you”. He looked at me like I had lost it, which I might have, as tired as I was, but I was positive I knew him. I asked if he was at LRMC in September of last year. He said no, but he was there two months ago. He told me that he was also here a year ago. I said that I must remember him from his visit a year ago. He said that he was surprised that I would remember anyone’s face, with as many people as come through there. I told him I might not remember names, but faces I remembered. He was wearing an eye patch, so I asked him how he was doing. He told me he was doing well; that he had surgery two hours earlier. He told me his visit two months earlier was to fix his left eye and now he was in from Iraq to have his right eye fixed. He had to have both of his lenses removed and replaced with artificial lenses. He said that he researched it and that they had artificial lenses for the eyes that can be put in and they are good for near sight or far sight. You can choose one or the other and must wear glasses for the other sight. However, he had found an artificial lens that was now good for both. They were called progressive lenses and he would not have to wear glasses. When he came to LRMC for his surgery he was shocked and very happy to learn that they offered the progressive lenses. He did not think that the military would be so up-to-date on the medical advances.
Today I worked 9 hours thanks to the support of Bernie from France.
Today is June, Friday the 13th and it is cold. What is with this Germany weather? THIS IS JUNE!! I brought all short sleeve shirts and at the last minute threw in my jean jacket, thank goodness.
It is the start of a 4 day weekend for the military here, but I have decided to go ahead and work today, as wounded will still be arriving.
After today, I think men are much worse to help pick out clothing for than women. There used to be a commercial about a woman in a shoe store and the salesmen were carrying shoes out and she was not happy with any of them. The boxes of shoes were just piling up around her. Well, that was the picture today several times, but it was men each time. LRMC had a BUNCH of shoes donated to them. Now I have to admit that I don’t think I would go to the store and buy 99% of those that were donated, but when you have nothing to put on your feet, any shoe is a good thing to have. After I broke my metatarsal in my foot, I hunt for comfortable shoes, not so much for a fashion statement. These men, on the other hand, had to see every shoe in their size and then wanted to see shoes up to a size larger so they could find one that was ‘smokin’ or ‘hot’ or ‘jazzin’.
I had to laugh today because I had two men in the WWMC trying to pick out one pair of shoes each. I also had a woman in there. She was picking out clothes. She finished picking out her sweats, shirts, pj’s, underwear, shampoo, mirror, conditioner, jacket, socks, lotion, etc and the men were still working on their one pair of shoes. I had shoes EVERY WHERE! When they all left, she came back to tell me I had the patience of a saint. I told her not really; that I was laughing the entire time because women are supposed to be the indecisive ones.
The last guy that came in for shoes brought his buddy. After trying on several pairs and teasing him, I knew I had to bring out a VERY special pair of shoes for him. I told him that after watching him try on all the others, I now knew what he liked and had found the right pair for him. He was not sure as to believe me, until I opened the box, flipped back the paper covering the shoes, and his buddy standing next to me said, “WOW, those are it!” Just as he started to say he wanted to see them, I flipped the box for him to see the hottest, most jazzed pair of basketball sneakers you ever saw in pumpkin orange! He almost fell out of his chair. We all had to laugh and he made a decision on one of the other pairs very quick after that. I think he got scared that I was going to make him take the orange ones. 😯 I think from now on I will bring the orange ones out first and after those, they will take anything I bring out second since they’ll be afraid they’ll have to take the orange ones.
I listened to a romantic story today. A kid came in and will be going home with both his knees torn up. He said that he had just been home on leave but was going home for good now. He told me that when he went home on his mid tour R&R, he wanted to surprise his wife. When he landed, he called his local florist and arranged for them to deliver four dozen roses to the house about two hours after he was to get there. He knew his wife would be at work and he wanted to do the house up in roses and take a shower before she got home. Well, he got the surprise of his life also, because his wife was not at work. The power had gone off at her place of business and she was sent home. She was at home in bed. He saw her car and was disappointed. He left his gear outside and quietly went inside. He wanted the flowers to hurry and get there before she woke up, so he sat in the living room without making a sound for two hours, just waiting for the flowers. He said he was just sitting there nervous and waiting. He had put a note on the door for the florist to not ring the door bell, but the note blew away and they rang the bell. He just sat there. His wife got up, came into the living room, screamed and fell back onto the bed. He said 3 guys from the florist came in with their arms full of flowers and stuff. He was so disappointed that it didn’t happen the way he had wanted it to, but he really did surprise his wife.
Today I worked 8.5 hours thanks to the support of Mr. & Mrs. Wagner from Redford, Michigan in memory of their nephew Stuwart Barton.