The Job At The Closet

by Karen Grimord on June 26, 2008

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.

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