#ThankfulThursday: Reflections Upon My First and Second “Tours” of Walter Reed

If you remember, I had written for our Memorial Day article mentioning about a family member receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now that my family member made it “official” on social media that they are being treated for cancer, I think it is safe to say (at least), that the family member I was referring to all this time is my brother. I just returned from a “second tour” of two weeks (last time I stayed a little over three weeks in May), and I am still amazed and inspired. I wanted to take a moment to share a slice of what I had learned during my most recent trip there.

As always, the medical and support staff at Walter Reed are phenomenal. I feel that my words do not reflect how much I admire and respect all that they do at the hospital for active military and veterans. The medical team working with my brother has been diligent (sometimes over-diligent, but that’s okay). He is still not affected by nausea from the chemo (thank goodness for those newer anti-emetics!) However, he was more fatigued this time around (and lost more hair). Seeing him this way was kind of hard for me. What had kept me up was his attitude through it all. He has kept a positive attitude and, whenever he would go in for an appointment (for the infusion, labs or follow-up with the doctor) he would be like, “Let’s do this!” I am very happy and grateful for the way he has been handling this.

Like last time, we were staying at the Fisher House. This time, however, were a different mix of patients from my last visit. I spoke to a few of them and listened to some of their stories. Between their stories and the stories of my brother, I got a glimpse of active military life. There was one man who was there with his mother – I am going to call him “Joe.” When we – my brother and I – first saw him, he looked like anyone else, except that he was visibly missing the right half of his head. I was amazed that he was able to stand, walk and speak pretty well. Later, when I struck up a conversation over breakfast with him and his mother, and I learned a lot more about him.

About 13 years ago, his convoy was hit by an IED (that’s Improvised Explosive Device). The shock and shrapnel hit him in his head. One of the people in his unit refused to leave without him, despite others telling them to “just go.” He wasn’t expected to survive the night. He was flown to a hospital in Germany, where his mother met up with him. He was alive, but still wasn’t expected to survive very long. He was stabilized and brought to Walter Reed. I am not sure what happened next (they skipped that part of the story), but eventually, he did awaken and was in a wheelchair at first. His medical team remade part of his skull with a plastic-like polymer, so his brain could still be protected (of course). They are here now because that polymer “shield” had gotten infected and they had to remove it. Now, they are preparing to put a titanium one in its place.

Joe can still understand what you are saying and he can keep up in a conversation. Sometimes, if you mention something that strikes a memory in him, he will tell you. He said that his neurologist uses him as an example for his lectures at the teaching hospital. They think that his brain made new connections to compensate for what is lost. He learned to walk on a therapy horse, because their hips move similar to ours when they walk. I then learned that he is blind in his left eye and doesn’t see very well in his right. Sometimes, he has to walk with one arm on his Mother for guidance. He still remembers music/songs that he likes and is re-learning to play the bass guitar (again, I was amazed because the right-side of the brain supposedly controls creativity and music appreciation). The one blessing in all of this, is that he has kept a positive attitude, despite all that had happened. Yes, he had been frustrated at times when he couldn’t do or remember something. No signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) either. Otherwise, he has been pretty happy, he said that he would still enlist, even after knowing that this would happen.

Hearing from their experiences has given me more perspective on things. There were times I would feel down and hopeless. Yet, my brother and Joe still maintained a positive attitude, despite what they are going through. I am definitely inspired and I am humbled by their experiences.

So, my dear reader, I hope that my short story gave you some inspiration and perspective. Again, I realize there are times where we feel overwhelmed and stressed with the tasks of daily living. It may help to try and take a deep breath, then think to ourselves, “This is only temporary; this will come to pass.” Also, it would help to remember that keeping a positive attitude while weathering the current storm can help us emotionally and physically in the end (ex: less stress, less strain on the heart, less emotional toll). I am also a big fan of “talking it out,” because sometimes, by saying it out loud, it helps with the problem’s “release.” Plus, you may get some needed advice and guidance from the person you are discussing this with. There are also crisis hotlines available that one can call or even text – some depending on your area, but most are nationwide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a list of crisis lines available (in Chicago, they are listed here: http://namichicago.org/en/crisis-lines/), which includes the Suicide Prevention Hotline as well (1-800-273-TALK).

Is there someone that you know or met in your life that gave you as much inspiration as Joe and my Brother had given me? Feel free to share in the comment box below!

–Maeven

Lincolnshire Marriott Resort & Three Embers

 

Porte Cochere_ Lincolnshire_Photo Credit Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort
Photo Credit: Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort

Let me preface this by reminding you I love my family. I love our busy schedules, I love going on adventures with them, and I equally love staying at home and having the girls put on various talent shows for me. Sometimes, however, I need something for myself. Beyond the networking events, beyond work, beyond brunch dates, sometimes I need some “me time”.

Outdoor Dining on the Lakeside Plaza_Photo Credit Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort

Photo Credit: Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort

And a mini staycation at the Marriott Resort in Lincolnshire could not have come at a more perfect time.

 

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Memorial Day 2018

I know that we try to keep our blog light-hearted, but I wanted to mention some organizations that assist the military and their families during their time of need.

Disclosure: The person that I am writing about is a close family member that is, in general, a very private person. Though they have social media accounts, they did not announce the news on that platform that I am about to state here. They decided to let the family and friends know individually and through word-of-mouth. Due to this, I am going to omit pieces of information that may disclose their identity. Though I will be discussing their health, I will only be giving snapshots of the complete picture of their experience.

I made sure that I was granted permission by this person with what I can and cannot share before posting this blog as well.

I know that we try to keep our blog light-hearted, but I wanted to take this opportunity to present a few things. I wanted to mention some wonderful organizations that help our military families in order to bring awareness for them. I once worked for a company that matched charitable donations, give perks like wearing jeans for a month if you donate to their featured charity and, if you volunteered 30+ hours in a calendar year, they give you $500 to donate to the charity of your choice. So, I was always looking to donate my time and money somewhere. Whether it is through programs with your job, or if it is the end of the year and you want to get a tax break through charitable donations, I hope that this article can inspire you to help these organizations out also. Plus, with Memorial Day coming up, I thought that the subject would be apropos.
If you already do something similar, such as sending care packages to the deployed troops overseas, or you volunteer your time and skills with veterans transitioning back to civilian life, then that is great! Keep doing your good deeds! (However, if you happen to fit in any of these other organizations in the future, then I will be happy too!) I was aiming to bring these organizations to light to those who were like me – unaware that they exist — and present the good that they do to support the military and their families.

So, as far as my story goes, it begins a little like this…

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LobsterGram Feature

Ever want to get fancy AF, but really REALLY don’t feel like putting pants on? Story of my life.

Ever want to get fancy AF, but really REALLY don’t feel like putting pants on? Story of my life.
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Wanderlust Wednesday: Trip to the Land of the Rising Sun

Tokyo, Japan

I am not sure why, but I had always been drawn to Japan. I originally went on a group tour around part of the country. Initially, I had the philosophy of only going somewhere once, unless I had already finished seeing all that I needed from the world. So far, this is the only place that I made that exception.

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Suburban Highlight: Schaumburg-esque

I’ve come to realize a growing popular opinion: The suburbs have nothing to offer.

Excuse you. Check yourself.

So I’m going to do a mini series of suburban highlights. I’ve had to reiterate how often we do date nights within a 10-30 minute drive and not have to get on a highway. It’s so nice to NOT have to pay for parking or walk a couple blocks from our car to get to the front door of the restaurant. I’m starting with my hometown of Schaumburg. Because trust me, you’re going to enjoy this as much as I do.

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First Bites Bash 2018

Every year to kick of the coveted Chicago Restaurant Week, Choose Chicago hosts a little event called First Bites Bash. With over 60 restaurants, it’s a means of getting a glimpse of the 14 days that follow.

This year, it took place inside the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, and it was a perfect venue.

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As you walk in on the lower level, you are obligated to not just look around you but ABOVE you, towards the grand ceiling.

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You were also able to enter on the second floor and from the wrap-around balcony, getting an aerial view of the hustle and bustle below.

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