In Pain He Still Said Good-Bye

My last day in Germany has arrived and, as always, it is going to be difficult to leave.  I have met some wonderful military members.  They serve our country and protect our way of living.  They have shown they are the few and the proud, they have done more before 9 am than most of us do in a day.  The military is not a perfect bunch, but they are a breed to themselves.

Monday was a busy day with not much of it being spent in the WWMC.  I said bye to many of the liaisons and spoke to one of them about Justin.  Many of you know him from my past blogs and posts to the LHCP yahoo group.  I dropped some excess food off at the USO and they have been very well stocked with LRMC WWMC items since I have been here.  I showed another volunteer where they were located so she can help clear excess food supplies.

I did my last pillow run to the wards.  Judy and Callie W., I am very proud to tell you that all the pillows Judy made and Callie stuffed and sewed shut are gone.  They have been for weeks.  I take the pillows to the wards in great big clear plastic bags.  The patients can see the pillows inside and yours were a great hit with the wounded.  One of your pillows was perfect for a patient to prop up his arm so his shoulder was comfortable.  He said the hospital pillows were a little too flat and big.

The day before I left for Germany, Kathy, Brian, and I were getting the last of the supplies in Virginia sent out to our contacts.  We had a lot of boxes to go through.  Kathy was opening and pulling the letters from the boxes and I was doing database entries and printing address labels.  Brian was taping up boxes so they would be ready to use.  As a box was opened, Brian and Kathy would ask which contact needed blankets, pillows, scrub caps, and so forth.  We had items flying every direction.  Kathy opened a box with some sneakers in it.  She had not read the letter in the box and asked me where to send the supplies.  One item was some sneakers and I told her all sneakers go to LRMC.  So, in the box they went.  Later that night she called me to say she had made a big mistake.  The box she opened had come from Judy.  Judy has traveled from Michigan to Virginia to help pack shipments and learn the database we maintain for our annual report.  One trip, she had a pair of sneakers on like I used to have.  I told her that these were the only sneakers I had found that did not make my foot hurt since I had broken my 2nd metatarsal and I wished I could find another pair of them.  I told her I had been to all the shoe stores with no success.  Well, my dear LHCP sister had found them and sent them to me for my trip to LRMC.  Little did we know they were on their way to LRMC, but not on my feet or in my suitcase.  All was well; I was heading to LRMC and would just grab the sneakers once they arrived in Germany.  Each time the mail came, I unpacked all the boxes in hopes of finding my pain-free sneakers.  Judy and Kathy, you will both be glad to know they arrived today.  I had to laugh when I saw them, as I fly back to the states in two days and they traveled to Germany by USPS and will travel back on my feet.  Judy, they fit perfect, I thank you for your help in protecting my puppies.

I came to work at 9 and left at 1630 but I don’t feel I can say I worked 7.5 hours.  I am going to only put down 5 hours for today.  Thank you to Shelley Jansen!

I went to work on Tuesday and one of the volunteers helped get the last excess packed up to go to Iraq.  I got the address labels on at 4:30 and they are ready to be sent out on Wednesday.

I met Mike, another patient from one of the tours, in the hospital.  He asked what I was going to do my last night in Germany.  I told him pack a suitcase and go to bed early.  He talked about going to dinner and I said that was a nice idea.  He had to get a battle buddy and their pass, since the patients can’t go off LRMC without one.  At 6:15, Gabi yelled down the hall for me.  I opened my door and she told me I had a lot of guests.  It was Weston, Brian, and Mike, all there to have dinner with me.  We walked to the Chinese restaurant across the street since I had already turned in the rental car.  We had a nice time and decided that we needed a group picture.  My batteries for the camera were dead and since none of the guys had their camera, we walked back to LRMC.  Weston got his camera and we had a USO volunteer take the last picture that was to be taken for this trip.  Brian was still very sore from his surgery which meant even more to me.  He came to say bye even though he was still not feeling well.

I worked from 9:00 to 2:00 in the WWMC and from 2:00 to 4:00, one of the chaplain’s assistants and another chaplain’s office employee took me to turn in my car, then we picked up chicken for the patients chicken night at the Wounded Warrior Transition Building and they dropped me off at the hotel.

I will be traveling home as life continues at LRMC.  We must continue to do what we do here so that we can make their job at LRMC and across the Middle East easier.

Thank you to Bob Tuscon and the Western States Big Q Shriners!

Weston and the Group

Around the Circle 11 Times

Yesterday, Sunday some of the patients wanted to go to Ramstien to spend their $250 voucher from DOD to purchase clothing.  I was to meet them at 10 and off we went.  As you head into the Air Base, there is a traffic circle.   It was the joke of the day as we headed around the traffic circle 11 times that day – Look kids, Big Ben.

We got to the Air Base and one of the guys forgot his voucher, so I took him back to LRMC to pick it up.  This is now twice around the traffic circle.  On the way back from LRMC, I had to stop and get gas.  On the way back to the base, just as we passed the circle, I realized I could not find my military ID.  The only place it could be was at the gas station.  This was now four times around the traffic circle.  We then returned to the base through the circle making it 5 times around the circle.

Then one of the patients wanted to send some Eis Wein home to a friend for his wedding.  We went to several places on base and decided to go back to the first place.  Somehow, between the time we left the last place looking at the wine and heading back to the first place to pick up the wine, I forgot and headed off base.  I remembered just as I passed the circle and started laughing because here we went around the circle 2 more times to head back to the base for a total of 7.

Then it was actually time to leave Ramstein and the guys wanted to find a restaurant called Big Emma’s.  I had no clue where it was, so we traveled around for about 20 minutes asking directions before we finally found it.  I will post some pictures from the restaurant once I return home.  This made 8, 9 and 10 trips as we searched for the restaurant, then 11 to take everyone home.

I dropped everyone off at about 7:00.  It was a long day, but they all had a sense of humor and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

This morning, Monday, I just did not get much accomplished.  I went to the storage room a few building away from our store rooms 1-4.  I walked in and realized it would take another 2 to 3 weeks to get that room organized.  Someone shipped 2000 pounds of candy here and it is in the room along with boxes upon boxes of flip flops, clothing, and I don’t know what else.

I do not have 3 more weeks here, so I guess another volunteer will have to attack that task.

Between running to the USO to drop off food items that we have so much excess of and then running to the store room for supplies, then going to the good bye luncheon and then returning to the hospital and visiting our young man from dinner who had his surgery today, and then getting my own shot, I don’t know where the day went.  Thank goodness for the two volunteers who put the last two boxes together for our contacts in the Middle East.  By the way the young man who had surgery this morning is doing just fine.

I went to work at 8:30 this morning left at 4:30, but I have no idea where the time went.

Thank you Michael and Debra Carter for making this possible!

”All Your Thanks and Appreciation Make Me Proud to Serve.”

I know it has been a while since you heard from me, but I have been busy.  A marine died on Wednesday, and I went to ICU to visit our volunteer who was there.  I packed seven more boxes for the mail room and I only have two more boxes to pack on Monday.  Our patient load has been very, very light, if none at all.  I have been asked to help take some patients to a cathedral in a small town about 90 minutes from here.  That is on Thursday, so I will not be in the WWMC then.

I worked 9 hours Wednesday thanks to the Mignella Family!

Thursday we took 11 patients to the cathedral and they all had a wonderful time.  They took hundreds of pictures and had a good lunch.  Everyone agreed that the German buildings are wonderful to look at and it was nice for them to get out of the hospital environment for the day.  I had five patients that hung out with me.  We were considered the “bad” group.  One of the guys, Michael, is from NJ.  He is quite the character and asked me to tell all of you, “All your thanks and appreciation make me proud to serve.”  That makes us, you and I, proud to be an American.  We all do our part.  It keeps us motivated.  Thank you Sgt Tucholski.

I have invited three of the patients to dinner on Friday night.  They are all from different units and different parts of the country.  One is from NJ, one from Iowa and one from VA.  I thank you for contributing to their dinner and will let you know how it goes.

I worked 9 hours Thursday thanks to Steve and Glenda Abernathy!
We had an Air Force Reservist come in to volunteer on Thursday and Friday morning.  All the store rooms look super.  We got store room 1 finished and we worked on 2 and 3 on Friday.

We had no arrival of patients and that is always a wonderful thing.  It gives everyone so much needed breathing room.

At 4:45, I met with the three patients that are guests of LHCP members for dinner.  Since the restaurant does not open until 5:30, I took them to Castle Nastein in Landstuhl.  It is assumed to be older than the first authentic mention of it in 1189, but the presumed actual origin date of 1162 is not firmly proven.  If you wish to see the castle as the patients did and learn some about the castle you can visit :

https://www.keithlaney.net/Legendary_Castles_of_the_Palatinate/Nanstein/castle_nanstein.htm

The patients were very impressed and we spent about 1.5 hours at the castle.  We then went to dinner and they had their fill of lamb and steaks.  They enjoyed the meal very much, they even cleaned their plates with the bread.

We sat and talked about everything from their childhood to marriages or lack of.  We talked about motorcycles and trucks.  Gerhart, the owner, came over several times to talk with them and Gabi came out of the kitchen to see how they liked their meal.  They just could not get over how good it was.  The steaks were at least two inches thick and they were shocked that they could cut it with their butter knives.  They reminded me several times to thank those back home that made this possible.  We then decided on some ice cream for dessert, but no one wanted the whole desert, so I ordered two with 4 spoons.  If they send me the picture, I will post it.

I worked 8.5 hours at LRMC, and then I was with the patients for the caste and dinner until 9:30.  I took them back to the base and then went to do laundry.  I finished that wonderful task at 12:30 am.

Saturday they again did not have staff to take patients on a tour, so they asked if I would go.  Saturday is my day to regroup, but I could not turn them down.  I have been on the Rhein Cruise when we were stationed here, but it was nice to see the patients enjoying themselves away from the hospital.  Muster was at 7:30, so I had to be there a little earlier to get the first aid kit, snacks and drinks together.

The patients had about 1 hour in St. Goar.  St. Goar is located on the Rhine, in the section known as the Rhine Gorge, and is impressively situated between mountains which rise on either side of the river.  It is known particularly for the legend of the Loreley, associated with the dangerous Loreley rocks which are a hazard to shipping.  It is also famous for the ruined castle Burg Rheinfels.  We then boarded the boat.  Everyone wanted to go to the open air top, but it did not take long for them to move downstairs once we got started and they realized how cold it was.  I remained on top with several patients until we were about 30 minutes to our destination; then we all moved downstairs for some coffee or hot tea.

We boarded our bus again to head out for lunch and then to the Niederwald monument in Rudesheim.  The monument is over 132 ft high and about 120 ft wide.  The main figure on the monument is the Germania, bearing the Imperial sword and the German Emperor’s crown.  32 tons of bronze were required for casting the weighty lady.  On one side of the monument is the angel of war and the other side is the angel of peace.  There are over 200 people shown on the monument.  I took pictures of patients in front of the monument.  They were only given 20 minutes, so it was back on the bus for the trip down the hill to the city of Rudesheim for two hours of walking and seeing the sites.  Some of the patients wanted to go shopping, while others wanted to go to a Torture Museum.  You got it; I took my group to the Museum.  I was shocked – I still found it after 13 years.  We had everyone back on board at 6:00 and headed for LRMC.  We returned at 7:30, put things back up, and I headed for the hotel.

These trips are a wonderful way for the patients to relax and have some decompression time, but I am beat, my feet and back hurt from carrying a backpack with gifts the patients bought for their loved ones back home.  Tomorrow, I have promised to take some other patients shopping in Landstuhl and then to Ramstein.

I worked 12.5 hours today thanks to our own LHCP vice president – Jim Spliedt.

GOOD NIGHT

CSH Nurse+LHCP President Meet at LRMC

Today was a very slow day for patients.  We only got 14 new patients and that is very good for a Monday.  Two are in bad shape and I pray that the one that went to ICU has the will and determination to live a meaningful and productive life.

Today was spent cleaning out store room 2 and part of 3. I had 4 other volunteers working with me today, so we got a lot accomplished.  I have 8 more boxes of excess ready to go to the Middle East.  We still have so much excess I am unsure I will be able to rid LRMC of it.

Last Friday I was introduced to a new liaison, Kim.  She will be here for 3 years.  I did not think much of the introduction until today.  She came in with her two new patients.  I got the patients going on the little bit of paperwork they have to do and then showed them where to find the towels, toiletries and clothing.  I don’t really know what Kim said, but something made a connection in my tired brain and I realized that she was at a CSH a while back and I had sent items from LHCP directly to her.

When I made the connection, I could not help but tell her that I had sent her stuff while she was in the Middle East.  All of the sudden, she said “Karen Grimord.”  She of course did not pronounce the last name correctly, but if you ask my in-laws, neither do I.  I told her I was Karen and she let out a big shriek and hugged me.  She then had to tell everyone in the WWMC that the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project had shipped supplies to her while she was at the CSH.  She told them that everything from blankets, pillows, clothing, endoscope, otoscopes, shoes, sheets, snacks, extra tall crutches, and duffel bags at her CSH were from the LHCP.

She told the patients that we provided everything her CSH needed.  That when she could not get pillows, she asked if we could send some and in a short time they were there.  One of the patients asked if they were the little travel ones and she said yes.  He laughed and said he had one and had a good morphine high on it – that it was a great pillow.  We all laughed and she said it was not just pillows, but the wonderful blankets and sheets.  We have Standard Textile to thank for that shipment.  She said she needed otoscopes and LHCP sent 2 to her.  She just kept saying what a small world it was and she was so happy that we got to meet.  I still do not know what she said for me to make the connection, but I am really happy that we got to meet in person.  It is not often that we get to meet those that we provide LHCP items to.

Thank you to all those that support us, it is days like today that make it all worthwhile.  None of us will ever know when we will meet a patient or hospital staff that we have supported.  When it happens to you savor that moment and let it fill your heart with joy and pride.

Friday, I worked 8 hours and today, Monday I worked 8 hours.  Thanks to Shari Miller for helping make this trip possible!

You Must Be The Talented One

Last night after work, I went to one of the German hospitals to visit “my personal’ body guard.”  There is a picture of the two of us in another blog.  He has been out of work sick for a while.  The hospital is about 30 minutes away and I have never been to that part of Germany.   The guest house owners gave me a map, wrote directions and then gave me a hotel cell phone.  I told them if I was not back by midnight to send out the rescue/search teams.  Their directions were perfect.  I only had to make one small turn around in the town where I was going.  The bad thing was, my “Bob” told me he was in ward 9 room 11.  I got to the hospital and there was no one to help get me to that ward.  I got in the elevator and noticed there were only 8 floors.  Oh, no, now what.  I got out of the elevator and found a young man in a wheel chair.  I explained to him what I was looking for and he said there is no 9.  There are only 8 floors.  I told him that I noticed that, but my friend said 9 room 11.  He asked if I understood my friend correctly.  I told him that it was a text message and I had to believe it was correct.  Then he said he understood that the German E on the elevator was actually floor 1 in the US.  So maybe my friend did it for US and not German.  He told me to check floor 8.  He went to floor 6.  On the way up, he said it was interesting that an American was looking for a friend in 9.11.  That was a very bad day for everyone across the world and no one will forget that number.

I went to floor 8, and sure enough, the rooms were all marked 8.  I finally found a hospital worker and explained my situation.  He looked at the paper that I had written the information on.  He said this is the correct hospital, but they do not have a 9, only have 8 floors.  I told him my friend had to be there.  He made 2 phone calls with no success.  Then he asked me what my friend’s name was.  Don’t you know my brain went dead.  For the life of me, I could not remember “Bob’s” German name.  I told him it was “Bob,” but I did not remember the last name.  Now you have to realize that “Bob” is not a German name.  So when I told him “Bob” he looked at me funny and asked if this was a German friend.  I told him yes.  He got back on the phone and the only thing I understood him saying was “Bob” and 9.11.  He hung up the phone and told me to follow him, that he could not explain how to get to 9.11.  We got to ward 9, yeah!!!  He told a nurse we were looking for Bob.  She had gone to some of her rooms and was asking if any of them were known as Bob.  My friend told the nurse that he was, and so he was expecting me when I knocked on his door.  The door opened so fast it scared me and there was Bob!  He gave me a bear hug and I turned to the man who was helping me and I said see, “this is my friend Bob.”  We had a good talk for about an hour and I told him I had to go since it was getting really dark and I did not know the area.  I made it back to the guest house with no problems.  The lady of the guest house heard me come in and came out of their apartment.  I turned to her and put my hands in the air as to cheer that I made it back ok.  She gave me a big hug and all was right in the world again.

This morning as I was getting ready to go to work I heard a car trying to start from the guest house parking lot.  You could tell the battery was dead, but they were still trying.  I went down and asked who the man was.  I found out he was American and had to get to LRMC.  I went outside and spoke with him and he told me he had a CAT scan scheduled at 8.  It was 5 til, so I told him I would take him.  I dropped him off and went back to the guest house for my breakfast.  I normally do not eat breakfast, but Gaby does not make anything bad and that includes breakfast.  I am going to be spoiled by the time I leave here and will miss her good cooking.

Store room 4 is almost finished.  Some last minute clean up tomorrow and we should have it done, thanks to a volunteer who came in and helped work on it all day with me.

We found more blank greeting cards today and I now know we really could open up a card shop.  I have sent 4 very large boxes of blank cards to the Middle East and could probably send 3 more.  I managed to also get 4 boxes of razors, t-shirts, stationary items and pens, sent out.

We had some VIP’s come through today.  We had a very nice time and they were talking about the amount of time it took to keep everything running smooth here.  When they were getting ready to leave, I told them on their next visit to wear jeans and a sweat shirt and I could put them to work.  They both laughed and one of them said he would be sure to wear his shirt and tie and the other said he would make sure not to come back while I was there.

We have a very large amount of items the WWMC can’t use.  These items are usually used clothing, so we have to pack them up and someone takes them to the German Red Cross.  We have had about 10 large boxes that have been sitting here since I came to work at the beginning of the month.  I told one of the chaplain’s assistants that I needed his help.  He and I have a wonderful relationship.  He is always promising to get a task done on a certain day for me and I always know that he will not get it done.  He is so busy, that just taking items to the Red Cross is difficult.  Anyway, I asked him to take them and he said he would have them out on Tuesday.  I knew he would not, especially since I was not there on Tuesday.  So on Wednesday, I saw him bright and early and he started promising me again.  He went to PT and on his return I started harassing him again about the Red Cross items.  He told me that he had to take a shower first and at 11:15 he would take them.  I told him that at 11:16, if he was not out of  the shower, I was going to open the shower door and tell him he was late.  He started laughing and said if anyone would do it, I would and he would not be in the shower at 11:15.  By 11:30 the shipment was packed up and ready to go.  That opened up just a small section of storage room 4, but at least it gave us more space to work.

I can embarrass myself anywhere, and I proved that yesterday.  I was packing up excess items for the Middle East.  We wear a badge on a lanyard around our necks.  I was holding the flaps down on a box, and just as I was getting the label in place, my badge fell into the tape.  I did not react quickly enough and taped my badge to the box.  Not just a small corner of the badge, but the entire thing!  Here I am, bent over the box with legs spread to help hold the box flaps down and stuck to the box.  I actually had to laugh at the picture it would have been if someone else was in the room.  Then I thought, “oh, this is not good if someone did come into the WWMC.”  I had just let go of the roll of tape when I heard the outside door open.  My worst fear..patients are going to see me stuck to the box.  Just my luck, not only one patient would see this stupid trick, but 3 patients and one liaison walked in.  The first patient looked at me and said, “Need some help?”  When I looked up, the liaison was just coming through the door.  The only thing he could say was, “So you must be the talented one.”  It is ok, you can laugh, I do.  I have embarrassed myself worse than this over the years.

We had quite a few combat related injuries arrive today.  There were 3 Purple Heart ceremonies today, but I did not work with the patients too much as there was a volunteer in the WWMC and I worked inside the storage room.  I work where I am needed, and those storage rooms are definitely in need during this visit.

I worked 8 hours today – thanks to Laura Haynes for helping make this possible!

I Had to See Him For What He Looked Like Before

Today we were just swamped.  I started the morning taking boxes from store room 4.  It is a mess in there and my mission for this week is to get it straightened out.  I also went to see the patients arriving at LRMC today, first time since I have been here this trip.  We had some of the most worst-off patients since I have arrived here.

A young man was the first to come off, and when he was rolled into the ER entrance, you could only see his feet and head.  The rest of this young man was covered with medical equipment.   He was obviously swollen and unresponsive to those around him who were telling him he was safe in Germany.

The patient that will stick with me today out of the 60-plus patients was a young man who had severe burns, shrapnel, and blisters to his face.  One of the young women who was helping unload the bus turned her face from him.  The liaison that was standing next to me grabbed my arm and just looked at me.  I could not turn away.  I had to see him for what he looked like before.  I had to see through the disfigured face he now owned.  This young man had a mom out there who would never see her young son’s beautiful face any more.  As I looked at him, I had the same feeling that many of them have given me over the years.  I so wished that he knew how much we all cared and respected him.  The more I tried to send him my heart, the more I felt lost.  I worry what will happen to these men and woman in 5 years, 10 years, 25 years.  Will Americans still care about them?  Will it still be the “in thing to do?”  We have to, we can no longer treat our military members like we have in the past,  WE CAN NOT FORGET THEM!

As the more seriously injured were taken off the bus, the second bus arrived with more litter patients.  I noticed that many had the thermal weave blankets covering them.  These are the blankets that we sent all the EMEDS, CSH, and BAS for their winter use.  I noticed many of them had familiar fabric covering the little travel pillows that we also send.  One had the beautiful fleece blanket that left LHCP several months ago with eagles soaring.  You know who you are and please tell your mom I thank her for creating such a beautiful piece of warmth for our wounded.  I had awed over the work done on this blanket when it arrived at LHCP.  I had teased Brian that this one would not make its way to the Middle East.  It had my name on it, but as all items donated to LHCP, it did make its way to the Middle East and I could not have been more proud when I saw it on one of our critical patients today.  We had 8 litter patients all with our blankets and pillows.  Then several more with just our pillows, then several more with the wooly Army blankets covering them.  I watched to see what liaison went to those patients so I can make sure we have support going to the hospital in which those patients came from.

One of the liaisons touched my shoulder and asked if I could help with one of his female patients.  She had no shoes and she needed some before she could leave the ER area for the many tasks ahead of her.  I went inside the ER as they were trying to get her off the litter.  The liaison asked her what size shoe she wore.  She did not reply but looked at him totally lost.  He asked her again what size shoe with the same response.  So I bent down in front of her and said, “Hun, my name is Karen and I am going to bring you some new shoes.  Can you tell me what size you wear?”  She looked me right in the face and connected with what I was asking.  She gave me her shoe size and off I went to get them from the WWMC.  I took them back just as the ambulatory patients were heading in for their accountability briefing.  This is just a quick check to make sure we have the patients expected to arrive here and what unit each one belongs to, so the right liaison has the right patients.

I went back to the WWMC to finish the work I had started earlier.  There was a volunteer who did a great job unloading the boxes that I had brought into the WWMC from the storage room just as the buses were coming in.  She had managed to unpack the 6 or 7 boxes and get all the items on the shelves.  She then left for the day and I went back to get more items just as our daily mail came.  I got all those boxes unpacked and put on shelves.  Please promise me one thing, no matter if you ship through LHCP or directly to units you are supporting, DO NOT put food in with clothing; do not put food in with books; do not put soft food items with canned food items; and do not put food in with toiletries.  The food does not make it safely.

If you belong to DAR, American Legion, K of C, VFW, or any group, please inform those that support the WWMC we do not have ANY need for books.  NONE, ZERO, ZIP, I cannot say it any more clear than that.  We have no need for legal pads of paper or blank greeting cards or stationery.  We have no need at LRMC for sun screen, mouse traps, insect repellent, or mosquito strips.  It is a waste of these great organizations money.

Tonight while sitting in the guest house restaurant, they received a phone call for an American reservation.  The couple arrived a short time later.  They were on vacation here when her husband got very ill.  Since he is retired military, he can be treated at LRMC.  His wife is at her wits end.  I started doing the thing many tell me is my specialty – getting information without coming right out and asking.  She told me that her husband had a lot of tests done today and she was so impressed with the hospital and staff here.  She said they have to go back in the morning for more tests.  Since the gate we go through in the evening to get to the guest house is not the same you can enter in the morning, I asked what time the appointment is.  I will take her and her husband to the hospital so she does not get lost.  I gave her a calling card I had so she can call their adult children and let them know what the doctors say.

Today I worked 9 hours courtesy of Larry Walley.  Thank you for helping make this trip possible!

Chocolate Easter Bunnies

This weekend I had not planned to work, but my plans got changed.  We had a rather large flight come in on Saturday, so I worked 4 hours and then decided to wash clothes.

We have some chocolate bunnies left over from the German company that donated them, so we gave them out to the patients that came in and some were taken to the USO here at Landstuhl.  I spent about 4 hours at the USO tonight just “hanging out” and talking with some of the people that came in.

One of the patients came into the WWMC on Saturday.  He remembered my name and showed me the sneakers he had on.  They were from the WWMC and one of the pairs that we had shipped to LRMC.  Many of the troops want black, gray, brown, or blue clothing.  If they choose black sweat pants, they want a black sweat shirt.  He is the first one on this trip that wanted tan sweat pants with a brown sweat shirt, white & black sneakers and a nice burnt orange shirt.  Now the shirt he had to buy with his $250 voucher that the GOV gives to them but he got the rest of his clothing from the WWMC.  Most of the guys say their wives dress them when they are home, but this guy needed no help.

Another patient I met a few days ago was also there.  She came up to say hi and let me know that her friend had to go back to the states yesterday.  She was not doing well and they sent her out ahead of schedule.  She was going back to her base to seek treatment, but now is at Walter Reed.  I plan to make a trip there when I get back stateside.

The USO is a nice facility, they have a small section for the guys to hang out and play cards or board games.  There is a kitchen area where they served an Easter dinner on paper plates that the men and woman could take back to their room, sit outside, or eat in front of the TV.  The weather here has been very nice and many of the patients are sitting outside and soaking up the sun.  The USO has computers, so everyone can check on email or send a loved one the daily update.  There are phones that they can use to call home for free.

They had a lot of volunteers there.  I wish some would come to the WWMC.  We could use 3 or 4 of them just to sort through mail.  When I got here, the storage rooms were not quite as nicely organized as when I left, but the chaplain’s assistants have so much to do during the day that the storage rooms don’t get a daily make-over.  I don’t know if I can get everything in them organized before I leave, but I will try.  At least I’ll make sure that I don’t add to it.   It is looking a little better by getting some of the excess packed up and shipped to our units in the Middle East.

My friend’s memorial service is Tuesday and I will not be working that day.  I thank all of you for your understanding.

With A Tease And A Thanks

We had a troop brought in with an infection and was placed in ICU.  His mom was called, and after talking with the young man’s liaison, I told him to stop by the WWMC for a quilt that I had just unpacked.  There were about 20 quilts that were just beautiful.  They were a little large, but very nice.  Just as we were talking, the mom was brought in by another liaison.   Since the first liaison had to go, I went back to the WWMC and grabbed one of the quilts and took it to ICU.  I got there just as she was being briefed by the doctors.  I just handed the quilt to the liaison and left, it’s not my place to stand there as a mom is getting told about her son’s condition.  Later, the liaison came down to thank me.  Well, to thank me the best way some of them know how – with a tease that I was not as unbalanced as I looked.  He gave me a pat on the back and said thanks.

Just knowing that this kid had a bad infection reminded me of Justin and has me thinking about him.  Many of you might have joined after this kid grabbed my heart and I shared the stories with the yahoo group, but you can find it in the messages on the yahoo group.  I hope that they can get this patient’s infection under control quickly.

Karen’s LRMC Blog #7

Today is Good Friday and it was slow, so that is something to be thankful for.

I got 14 boxes packed up and ready to head to the Middle East.  Our units may be surprised, because if they asked for batteries, they received an 18x10x10 box full of batteries.  We still have more left and I think it is sad because the heat in the storage room will kill the batteries before they can be used.  We had a unit ask for soap and they will have enough to finish their tour in several months and probably pass on some of it.  I still have 4 bins left on soap alone and no takers.  Our excess lotion is even worse, there are 6 bins of lotion just in the supply room, I have no clue how much must be in the bunkers and only one unit wanting any.  We were joking today that the troops could take all the lotion we have and bathe the Middle East and with as much as we have they could cut the sand storms to zero.

There were no flights today, so no new patients, but several did come in to the WWMC.  One does not live far from me in Virginia.  He has surgery in a few days and then back to the Middle East.

One of our patients that came in a few days ago came back.  He stutters really badly.  He gets so upset about it, which makes the stutter even worse.  He volunteered for this tour, his 4th, and has now been rattled by so many blasts as an artillery soldier, that his brain could not take any more.  The brain is an amazing part of the human body, but shake it up one too many times from a blast and it will fail you.  Blast injuries occur with the detonation of explosives that produce supersonic or subsonic explosions.  These injuries are made worse when the explosion takes place in a confined space; such as a Humvee, or between two walls during house-to-house searches.  Pressure from the blast wave affects air and fluid-filled parts of the body, lungs, ears, gastro, brain, and spinal cord.  This young man is returning stateside.  He has not spoken with his children yet, he does not want them to hear him stutter.  He also had not called his wife to tell her he is coming home.  He was afraid she would not love him any more due to his speech.  It’s not easy for the wife or husband of a returning hero.  We must pray that his wife finds tolerance and both of them have patience to work through this.  We must pray that his 6 children are not afraid of their dad and his new way of saying “I lo..lo…love you” and maybe they will repeat it with it the same way, “Dad I lo..lo.love you too” thinking he is only saying he loves them three times as much as before.

Today, I worked 7.5 hours and I wish that each of you can feel the gratitude that our troops display when they receive your donations at the WWMC.  Thank you Callie Jordan for helping to make it possible!

Shrapnel Wounds To The Face

I am up at 7 and not finished with LRMC and LHCP work until 11 or 12.  The one day I had off I did laundry and sat outside and read a book.  I think this weekend I try to find some place to go and relax without being on my feet for 8 hours straight.  That broken metatarsal fracture still drives me to walk on half my foot on days like today.

I know you probably think I have disappeared in the German countryside, but I am still here.

It has been busy here, and I hurt.  My feet hurt, my back hurts, my neck hurts and my fingertips hurt.  It must be ripping open the incoming boxes and taping the outgoing ones.  Next year, I will bring my own tape and tape gun. Using a pair of scissors and a small roll of tape is horrible.  I am spoiled and I will admit it! I like my commercial tape gun and blades.

Even  after I got into my car to go back to the hotel, I just sat there thinking wow, I hurt.  I had to stop and think about it…and think about the heroes we serve.  “You’ve been working all day…you’ve had a hard week…at least you know LHCP is doing something critical that really makes a difference.”  These guys may never remember my name or know LHCP is the non-profit that provides so many of the items they take from the WWMC, but they will remember the really nice, comforting Airman, Marine, Soldier, Sailor, and, I hope, volunteer who understood and gave whatever help they could.  Having staff like those that serve here at those critical times will make all the difference in the world to them.  So, I had to stop and think “do I really hurt that bad and how tough was today….really…”

Every year I come, I try to help LRMC with excess supplies.  Patients do not take large tubes of toothpaste, large bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc and it piles up.  So, I try to find a contact in the Middle East that can use the items or through out those items that have expired.  We have so many blank greeting and holiday cards, we could start a gift card shop.  The patients just do not send letters home from here.  They have free phone cards and it is much nicer to call than send a letter or card.

We have an amazing amount of 2X-3X size clothing.  I guess people think everyone in the military is BIG.

We unpacked a box today of white undershirts every single one had the side seam ripped all the way up the shirt.  I am not sure the reason, maybe the sender thinks we have a seamstress here.

This morning, I went to the German post office to purchase boxes for shipping the excess items to our contacts.  They would not take the credit card, so my landlord here purchased them for me.  The post office was trying to tell him I could go to an ATM machine a few blocks down, but Gerhert paid until I could get some more Euro.  They are fantastic people and very helpful.

This morning, a patient arrived in a wheel chair.  He was being pushed by a young man I thought might work on one of the wards.  Come to find out, they were both patients.  It is an amazing thing to see that they still care for each other even when they are wounded or ill.  Being in combat can produce ties that some families do not even have.

This afternoon, as I was preparing boxes for the mail room, 3 young men came in.  One had shrapnel wounds to his face and both his hands were bandaged.  He told me that he had decided to have some work done and it was much cheaper to have it done this way instead of paying for a plastic surgeon.  He had a great sense of humor and will be back in a few days to let me see how well he is healing.

My first patient and the last patient for today sum up how our troops feel about the WWMC.  The first patient said he “felt like a kid in a candy store.”  All new clothing and it is all free.  The last patient just kept saying he felt bad taking the items that he was collecting and putting into his bag.  He said he had been home for a family member’s funeral 3 months ago and he had been spit on at the airport in Atlanta.  This is the second time I have heard this.  The first time was a few years ago in the Miami airport.  That should turn you inside out thinking about it.  Both of these were very young kids serving their country.

Our coalition forces are being hammered right now.  Canadian forces and Romanian forces are being hit really hard, and they also are amazed at the items they can receive for free.  The coalition forces I saw doing rounds today were much worse off than any of the American forces I saw.  A Romanian had a gaping hole in his leg about 12 inches long.  It was obvious that the doctors did a fantastic job on his wound, keeping his leg together.  It must be difficult on staff at CSH not knowing what really happens to their patients once they leave their care.

An escort for two patients said she felt like she was lying by telling her patients they were going someplace that would really take care of them.  Now that she is at LRMC, she knows she did not lie, but actually understated the fantastic team at LRMC.

The patient that I wrote about several days ago (with the back injury and I carried her bags to her room) came back in today.  She was feeling better and looks like she will have to have surgery.  I have invited her and her friend to dinner here at my guest house on Friday.  I would like to have an LHCP member sponsor this meal.  Send Sharon and Maria a private email and let them know you wish to sponsor one or both their meals.  I would guess that each meal will be about 20 euro or $25.  If you wish to add a dessert to their meal, please send $35.  Thank you in advance.

Tomorrow is Good Friday and I hope it will be slow.  I have to make my trip to the ER in the morning because I still cannot give myself my own shot.  I have catheterized, placed suprapubic tubes, removed stitches, and taken IV’s out, ALL ON OTHER PEOPLE.  There is just something about sticking that needle in me that I have not accomplished yet.  I did not know I was such a wimp.

Yesterday, I met a young woman who is the head nurse for a new CSH we will be supporting.  She heads back to Iraq tomorrow and we have flip flops on the way to her.  I have 14 units that need sheets again.  We need to get some more purchased.  I would like to purchase 1000 sheets ASAP.  Many of you have purchased sheets for us before.  I am sure someone can post the link to the company.

Tuesday I worked 8 hours

Wednesday I worked 8 hours

Today I worked 8 hours.

Thank you Callie Waddell for your contribution which made this possible

Karen’s LRMC Blog #5

Well today was not bad for a Monday.  The chaplain’s assistants went to the bunkers to get more supplies.  There are 5 supply rooms here at LRMC and yet boxes and boxes more at bunkers.  There is still Christmas candy here, I had to throw some out today as it was expired.

It was a busy day but steady.  I got boxes and boxes of sweats and black duffel bags out.  We have another organization who donated black bags, but they are a little too small for the troops and we have a lot of them, so we are trying to get them all out the door.  We had 3 patients come back today asking if we had a larger bag.

I did not get breakfast this morning, so the staff forced me to go to lunch.  I guess after my renal failure last year and me spending the night as a patient at LRMC, they all feel they need to take care of me.  I get caught up in the work and don’t realize that the day is half gone.

Just as I was leaving, the young man with the infection on his face came in and I asked if he would like to go to lunch.  He did so I did not have to eat lunch by myself.  Maria just emailed me last night asking if I was going to buy any of them lunch and I told her I never know what will happen day to day.  Don’t you know she asked just in time and I told this young man lunch was on Maria.  (Please feel free to forward that check to Sharon Buck, our faithful treasurer . Ok Karen, I will!)  He said to thank Maria for him.  He had been really craving Subway so we satisfied that craving.  He is heading back to the Middle East Thursday.

The mom of the ICU patient came in also.  She arrived just as the hospital commander and VIP visitors showed up.  I was stuck on one side of the WWMC and her on the other, with the VIP and entourage in the middle.

The hospital commander explained to our visitors how the WWMC worked.  Then the chaplain told the hospital commander who I was and that LHCP had sent the plaque for the WWMC that the hospital commander had presented to the WWMC staff.  He shook my hand and thanked us.  He gave me a commander’s coin and thanked us for our work again.

I explained to our visitors that all the items were new and showed him some adaptive clothing.  The mom had moved closer and I felt bad I could not get to her.  I thought I would put the attention on her and ask how her daughter was.  It worked.  I explained to the visitors that her daughter was in ICU.

She said she did not need anything,  that she had just come in to thank me for helping her.  She gave me a hug and started crying.  My back was to the VIPs and she was facing them.  She told them that knowing the WWMC was here really helped the moms of our wounded troops.  It was an emotional scene for the VIPs as we hugged for about 30 seconds, but it is good for them to see the impact of the work done by the staff of the WWMC.

As I was leaving tonight, one of the chaplains was walking down the side walk.  He yelled out to me, “Karen, leaving already?”  I told him I was and he asked didn’t I have 5 more hours of work?  They are always teasing me about working so many hours and weekends, but that is why I am here.

I had several people email me privately asking about the story the young man told me the other day.  I still cannot tell the story, no matter if I send it privately or not.  If you want to know what some of our guys go through, get a book I read a while back.  “House to House” is a gripping story of life on the front line.  It is not for the faint of heart.  It uses foul language and describes situations that will help you understand what those in combat experience.   Some will not agree or like what is portrayed in the book, but read it and take time to absorb each chapter.

My back hurts and my feet hurt so I am going to just lie on my bed and read what may be another really great book about our troops and the life on the front line.

Today I worked 8.5 hours.  Thank you Bob Long!

Karen’s LRMC Blog #4

Today is Saturday and it was a little busy, but not like the old days of 2007 when it was non-stop patients.  If I had to guess, I’d say we had 22 patients today.  One young man was a return from yesterday, he looked much better than he did a short 24 hours ago.  He has a spot on his face that got infected.  No one seems to know how or why, but they had to put a stitch in and the swelling has gone down a lot.  He will be heading back to his unit in a few days.

I talked to another young man today that volunteered to work here at LRMC.  His battle buddy died a while back and since he also has a war injury, he can not go back to the Middle East.  He said he has only been to one military funeral and that was his friends and that he will never go to another.

So many of these kids are looking for their lives to be affirmed, they want to know that their lives have value and that they are valued by others.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, that does not happen as often as it should.  Many of them feel alone, worthless, and lost.  I still find it amazing that after all these years, we still do not touch enough lives with the passion we have to support, care, and even love them.  The more lives we can touch, the more confident they become and just maybe we can help with the healing process.  Not just physically, but with mental health problems.

It is nice to see any of our men and women come into the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center, but it is disheartening to hear that they do not believe they are worthy of all the items people from across our country and the world have sent.

We must never get tired of doing what is right.  We might not be able to bandage their wounds, but we do have a hand in whether they are broken-hearted.  We must use our experiences and talents to help heal them.  Not just now, but for years to come – just as if they were your own child.

As I was leaving tonight, a man came in that seemed burned out – lost and confused.  As the LNO was telling him how to go about filling his bag with clothing, the look on his face was, “I am hearing you, but I have no clue what you are telling me.”  I smiled at him and told him not to worry,  I was there to help.

Most of the LNO’s, nurses, chaplains, and doctors here are great, but I think that many of them handle the stress of what they see by shutting down.  At times, the exhaustion and failure to push on is just too great.  It is not just the patients that are tapped out emotionally, mentally, and physically; but also the staff that care for them.  They do not see a patient in front of them that is also burned out and lost.  They see a patient with an infection, a lost hand, or heart problems.

This is where LHCP can help.  This is where we need to really concentrate on only sending the items and quantities that staff members need and/or want.  When we send items they can not use or want, we cause another hassle in their lives that they do not need.  We have to be open to listening and not just talking.  We have to stop and not tell our story, but listen to their stories.  Sometimes just to have someone listen is the greatest healing tool available to us.  Visit a VA hospital, join a veteran’s organization and just listen to the stories.  You will accomplish much and possibly heal more than the visible wounds.

I was hurt today when a young man told me he could not share his story.  He felt people would know how horrible a person he was for some of the things he had done.  He had shut down and bottled it inside.  After touching his arm, I told him I wanted to hear his story.  I wanted to know anything he wished to tell me.  I was not going to pass judgment on anything he had done, that we all have done things we may not be proud of in war or our normal lives, but I wanted to be a part of his life and his story.  Due to OPSEC, I can not tell you his story, but when he was finished he asked to hug me.  He said he didn’t know he would feel so much better just saying it out loud and having someone listen.  I told him that he may have to tell the story several more times to really be able to heal.  He said that he was no longer afraid to talk to someone about those things that he felt horrible about.   When you just sit and listen, you allow a person to tap into your strength, protection, and love.  What greater gift can we give than a part of ourselves?  What greater gift than to not pass judgment on actions we have not lived through ourselves.

I worked 6 hours today.  Thank you Anne Dankberg, for your contribution to the work-a-thon.

I am tired and need to recharge my own battery.  Tomorrow is Sunday and I will not be working.

LDS Volunteers

I do not like military training days.  The hospital staff is gone and it makes for some very long hours.  I went to work at 9:00 and left at 2:30.  This morning, I worked with a very nice couple from Utah that is here for 18 months with their church doing work.  We stocked shelves and straightened up.  Other than that, it was very slow.

It is interesting to hear stories from those that come through here.  I met a woman who was a state trooper.  She had never served in the military, nor gave it much thought.  She joined the Army a few years ago because it was something she felt she needed to do.  She is now at LRMC because her back is really bad.  She would like to stay in, but thinks that she will be told she has to leave her military service due to her condition.  Because the doctor had given her a shot in her spine, she was unsteady on her feet.  So, I walked with her to the barracks and carried the duffel bag full of goodies we had filled for her.

LRMC is in need of some small tubes of toothpaste here.  With Sharon’s work-a-thon for my trip here, LHCP has been able to purchase 5,000 tubes of travel size toothpaste.  I thank all of you for your contributions and I look forward to seeing if our goal is met.  Our shipment should last them for a while.

Judy B., thank you for the comfort pillows that went out on the shelves today.  I can tell you 4 of them went on the shelf and I remember one being camouflage fabric.

Our Kohl’s order of towels is still holding strong and more of them went out today.

We could use 3 or 4 pairs of women’s size 5 and 6 running shoes.  They must be running shoes.  We have many of the larger sizes, but once in a great while, a very small woman comes in and we need a smaller size.

We also need men’s small flannel pajama bottoms.  I would guess 15-20 pairs will be enough to last through the chilly weather.

The mother I met yesterday was back today.  We talked a while and she is doing much better today.  I gave her my contact information, so she can let me know when her daughter is back in the States.  I will go to Walter Reed then and see if we can help with any needs they might have.

I worked 5.5 hours today and wish to thank Alice Blanchard for her contribution to the work-a-thon.

The Pain of a Family Member

One Day Finished

There are many things around here that change with every visit and there is one thing that does not.  It is the pain of a family member who has a child here; it doesn’t matter if the child is 2, 22, or 32.

The mom of an ICU patient came in today.  I knew right away she had been crying, she wasn’t all red and puffy, but I could tell.  She had flown to Landstuhl immediately after getting the phone call that her daughter was here.  I have been on both sides of the hospital bed; the patient and the mother of the patient.  As the parent of a patient, it is as if a thick cloud has descended on you and you’re being suffocated.  With each breath, you feel as if your heart, mind, and body are paralyzed.  Your mind spins with the what ifs.   There is no peace within.

She explained that her daughter was in ICU and she needed a few items while she was here.  She started crying and leaned towards me.  As much as I could, I let her know with my eyes I was here for her and gave her a hug.  She said she had lost a child many years ago.  It was clear that the pain was as fresh as if it had happened last week and it was playing through her head “what if” it was to happen again.

She told me her daughter had a positive outlook and that she, too had to stay positive for her daughter.  I told her that having a positive outlook was half the battle.  She said that she knew, but that she just had a difficult time seeing her daughter here.  She explained that her father had been in the military before she was born; that this had been a fear of hers.

We talked about the beautiful quilts on the shelf and I pulled one down that was close to the colors that she had on.  I told her that we often refer to our quilts as a “hug from home.”  I put the quilt around her and gave her another hug.

The chaplain told her that we were here, if she needed to come down and cry, yell, or fuss.  I also told her we were here if she needed to take a walk with someone, or if she just needed a shoulder.

Fear can be a horrible creature.  It feels as if destruction is all around us and we will never capture nor conquer it.  We must turn to others for support and release it.  The chaplains here provide such an outlet.  They help to cage that horrible creature so control can be gained, little by little.

Today was also another long day of breaking toiletry bags down.  We needed small tubes of toothpaste and I had the great pleasure of disassembling all the bags that someone had obviously taken lots of time to put together.  Many of the snack bags had to be thrown away because they were full of hotel sized items that had leaked onto the other contents in the bag.  As in the past, I have arrived the day before a training holiday for the military.  Tomorrow I will work, but the military personnel will be gone.  I really don’t know how this happens every year, but I will work and it will be a great pleasure to do so.

Today I worked 9 hours, and I thank Sharon and Tom Buck for their contribution.