Saturday, July 30, 2011

So What? Does the Military really care?

You know, you hear of the soldiers with TBI and they get the treatment and the “classification” IF their TBI was actually diagnosed while they were still active duty.  But, what about those that retired right after they come back?  What about those that it didn’t even cross their mind that they might have gotten injured, and it was found out after they retired?  We know that my husband has a TBI; we know that he has PTSD.  The PTSD has been verified.  With the TBI, the best we could get out of the doctors is “it may or may not” have been from their service.  The question I have is this.  Where the hell else would my husband have gotten his head shaken so bad and on such a regular basis that the ventricles closed up and he has Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.  Does anyone know why we’re having such a hard time getting the disability, and why we’re slowly drowning in our bills?  It’s because after his first surgery for a shunt, he became so ill, that we really were not worried about filling out the “required paperwork” for his disability.  Really, Uncle Sam…my husband means the world to me, and if he is in the hospital with the doctors baffled as to why he was so sick to begin with (they found the infection after he was in the hospital for a couple of days) why would you think that me sending in the paperwork with the exact instances of his experiences on time?  So, of course, all disability from the military got denied.  ALL OF IT!  The best we can hope for now is that they at least expedite his appeal, and from what we’ve been told, the “expedite” service can take at least two years!!!!

Now, because his TBI has not been “classified” as a service related injury, we do not (let me repeat that…DO NOT) qualify for any type of extra help.  He doesn’t get any therapy whatsoever for his brain injury.  Everything that has been done has been done by me, and there’s only so much that I can do.  Yes, I’m classified as a caregiver for my husband, but because he’s high functioning with his TBI, and we’ve found small ways to cope with this, and (oh yeah let’s not forget this one) it’s not “related” to his service YET, I get no outside help.  I pay the bills, I handle all the appointments, I help him with his schoolwork because he is determined to not let his TBI stop him.  So, on top of all that, I also have a 2 year old to take care of and a house to keep clean.  And let’s not forget the three times each week I stay up until 3 AM to help him with his homework, and then get up at 4 because our son doesn’t sleep through the night yet, and then again get up at 6am because that’s what time my son wakes up for the day.  There is very little time to take care of me.  I don’t get the respite care that other people with TBI get.  I don’t get the respite care that we so desperately need.  Instead, I’m a mom, a caregiver, a tutor, a secretary, a wife ALL THE TIME!

There’s only so much a person can handle until they break down, and guess what…I’m only holding on by a hair.  We’re in the process of losing our house, and very close to losing the truck also.  We haven’t had any funds to get more chickens for our farm because they were all killed last year while he was in the hospital.  I don’t know what it’s like to be able to take a day and get a manicure or pedicure, or even get a haircut and spend time just with me.  I’m too busy taking care of my husband and my son.  When I married my husband, I said for better or worse, and in sickness and in health…and I’m still here and would never leave my husband.  But, I REALLY REALLY REALLY wish there was some way for us to qualify for the respite care that others get…it all stems back to not being classified as a “service related” disability. 

I get on average of about 3-5 hours of sleep a night.  I help my husband with his homework so that he can at least get some sleep.  To help with our finances, I’ve started entering sweepstakes and contests.  A lot of those prizes that I do happen to win, I usually sell to pay our bills.  There are people that are able to go to Washington and tell the president, “Hey, we need help.”  And they are great advocates.  But what about those of use that are barely surviving?  What about those of use that have fallen through the cracks?  When do I get my respite?  When can I take a day and just relax?  Instead, I worry constantly about our bills.  I worry constantly about my husband.  I worry constantly about how to take care of our son.  I’ve become very thrifty.  I’ve learned how to use coupons.  We eat very cheap, like most of the time it’s rice and beans.  We let other things go, like my dental work.  In order to get our dental insurance it would be another $77 a month our of our already small checks.  So, I’m afraid to smile because of a broken tooth. 

I have a wonderful husband and a wonderful son.  My life has been very blessed.  At least my husband can function at the level that he does.  He is able to go to school with modifications.  If you were to look at him, you wouldn’t even know he has a brain injury.  But, when you talk to him, and he forgets what you say or you see him walk, and he doesn’t walk a straight line, that’s when you know.  That’s when you realize that any sense of normal left my life three years ago when his brain injury was detected.  Before then, he was taking on average of twenty aspirin a day, just to deal with the headaches.  You see in the papers, that the military is taking steps to get the soldiers their disability sooner…but how many can even hope to hold on to what they have when they’re unable to do the things they used to do.  What about the ones that are struggling to just SURVIVE?  Not to mention, what about those that the military agrees are caretakers?  Do I get a paycheck for taking care of my husband?  NO!  Do I get any days off, or any time to myself?  NO!  Do I get any recognition for all that I do or training to make some of it easier?  NO…everything that I’ve learned, everything that I use to help us, I found on my own, and have devised on our own. 

My husband served this country for 20 years!  He was in two wars, and has over ten different combat patches.  What do we have to show for this?  Over draft every week trying to survive, arrangements with the different bill companies to pay past the due date, and one VERY VERY VERY tired wife.  So, while everyone is focused on those soldiers that get injured in active duty, maybe they should also pay attention to those that the injury doesn’t show up until after they’ve retired or been discharged?  And especially those that don’t live close to any VA Hospital for the therapy that would benefit them?  There is a great need to look at those soldiers that are barely surviving on their own, without all the programs that are “designed” to help them!  Maybe our military should remember those soldiers!!  Maybe the military should also remember those that they have already said are caretakers, yet we don’t get paid one single penny!!  Those that are slowly falling apart because they’re doing way more than is humanly possible!  Maybe you should notice those spouses?  Notice that they are slowly falling apart!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chairs4Vets is starting to become a reality!

Many of you might remember last year when my husband was critically ill.  The one thing that bothered us the most about the VA hospital was the lack of wheelchairs for inpatient use, or for people needing one for day appointments.  There are many veterans that are otherwise able to get around on their own.  BUT, if they're seriously ill, or unable to navigate the long halls of the VA Hospital, there is usually around a two hour wait for a wheelchair.  I don't know about others, but we get to the hospital about 30 minutes before the appointment, and don't have time to wait. 

It was during this frustration, when my husband was barely able to walk, that we came up with this idea.  What if we started a charity to provide these wheelchairs to the VA hospital on a regular basis.  Thus, Chairs4Vets was born.  

Next Tuesday, July 19, 2011 there is going to be a donation of a wheelchair from Beta Sigma Phi to the Fisher House in Houston.  This came about because I had mentioned to one of the members our dream of providing wheelchairs to the VA hospitals.  They wanted to provide one to the Fisher House because they are also going through the same problems as the VA Hospital...no wheelchairs for the visitors.  You're invited!!!
It is at the Fisher House, next to the VA Hospital at 6:00 PM. (I think....will update if I'm wrong)

I'm really excited about this because I get to see my wonderful sister soulmate Egg.  We're going to probably spend the day together and of course be us, which is totally unique.  But also, I get to see my dream slowly come to life.  Egg and I will also be doing a joint blog/tweeting thing-a-ma-jig (she doesn't want it to be a tweetup) somewhere...I really don't know where yet, but it's gonna be in Houston.  So, for those that live in Houston and have been waiting to meet me...guess what...I hope this is enough advanced notice!!!

Of course, as usual, I will have pictures of Egg and I, and of course there will be totally unique, silly pictures because that's how we roll! Hope to see you guys there!