Do not fear for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strenghten you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteaous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Monday, July 1, 2013

Anniversary

On May 29, 2009 it was my husband's and my 9th wedding anniversary. Little did I know that a month later, on June 29, 2009 our lives would change. June 29, 2009, I received the call from the Department of teh Army informing me that my husband was wounded. He sustained a traumatic brain injury while on patrol in Iraq. Now, 4 years later I still remember that day so clearly. That day my heart sank, I thought I lost the person I loved and I thought it was the end, but I was mistaken, my dear husband came back to me. My husband returned physically but cognitively he was a different man. He had to learn how to live with impairments he didn't have, and he had to learn how to start a new life: one that has certainly marked our paths forever. During these 4 years we have the priviledge of meeting the most wonderful people we could ever imagined (selfless, compassionate and dedicated), we loved each other more than ever, we have accomplished things that we never envisioned, and most of all, our heart is dedicated to serve others that are walking the path we walked. On that morning of June 29th, I vowed to myself that I was never going to be broken, that no matter the circumstances I would take one day at a time and find meaning in all our circumstances. Today, I still live with those principles in mind but above all, my love, devotion and gratitude goes to the Lord, the One that helps me to continue moving forward. My faith is essential part of our journey and my trust in the Lord has been my comfort in difficult times. Since that morning of June 29th, we have comfronted many challenges, but we have also won many battles and have thrived in all. Like my husband will say "Never give up, it is a new beginning". I personally wouldn't change anything because our life has turned out to be a wonderful story of hope, love, compassion and commitment, for the World to see that these prevailed even during the most difficult times. Warm Regards, Roxana

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hearts of Valor Retreat

This past weekend I spent three days sharing with families of Wounded Warriors. One have to believe that they are the strongest women on Earth and that is what we hear constantly from people who support military families. As I do some reflection exercise about this weekend, I cannot avoid but to think of the various backgrounds, the variety of flavors in culture, professions, passion and military branches these women represented. Despite this variety there is one thing that really stands out; we are one family, we see pass our differences and we become more similar than ever. God has allowed me to speak to these spouses and the opportunity that Hearts of Valor provided, was difficult to put a value to it, because there is a wealth of experiences lived during this weekend; there is nothing that can pay for such wonderful memories. It is my hope that each of the spouses and mothers that attended the retreat were able to see this event was coordinated with sacrifice, love and commitment from the Operation Homefront Hearts of Valor staff (http://www.heartsofvalor.org) and the “anonymous” financial supporters. As I sit here in the airport waiting for my flight, I can’t help but to wonder, how many of the people seating around me, completely submerged into their own World know how empowering families of Wounded Warriors can be? We are a new breed of veteran’s families, we endured frequent and long deployments, and we have the power to change history. Back during the Vietnam era, spouses didn’t have support and help to cope with their new life after war; the public was not supportive and they suffered a great deal of pain, sorrow and loneliness. I always thank them because they stood up to make sure this war wasn’t going to open a space for this insensitive and painful past to resurface; they made sure our Wounded Warriors were recognized and valued for their bravery and sacrifices. We, as spouses and families of Wounded Warriors, lets stand up together, as one voice and let the World know, that yes we are strong, we move on with this heavy load but we will carry on and we will stand up for our brave Warriors, for their memory, for their love and courage to our great Nation. We stand up for liberty and we stand up for Freedom, and we are ready to take on this new fight in our lives face all these challenges because this battle is ours and we will thrive, because we are one body, one family, one soul and one spirit, we are the Hearts of Valor.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year!

Hi friends, I hope that when you read this post you are enjoying life like it should be and undisputedly we all should strive for. Sometimes we let our life conform to the shape of our circumstances. Just imagine if the clay is not well work by the artist, then the vase would never have the intended form.  I always tell people that I live my life to the fullest and I do not let my past or current situations define who I am, but I will learn from the purpose of each one of them. That said, I want you know that my husband is improving significantly, not because his impairments resolved but because everyday he is learning and striving to manage everything in a way that he can fulfill his goals.

As a caregiver of a Soldier with traumatic brain injury for the past three and a half years I can say, I have walked in various paths that were unexpected. I wasn't ready, I never envisioned this new life but this new life have brought one of the most meaningful experiences, the opportunity to serve others. Taking the sorrow and converting it in the fuel to help others while helping myself was challenging but it has been successful. I'm thankful for a great support system, including our online community of friends. Some of you I already met during my travels and some of you I'm anxiously waiting the moment when we will meet.

Three and a half years can go so fast or so slow, that is all individual perception. I feel this time has been so long and full of experiences. Victor and I have gone to places and have met people we never imagined. It has been time  and energy consuming but it has been all worth it. There were times that I felt discouraged, frustrated, lonely and many more things that took breath away from me, but my heart was always ready to move on, to grab and hold tight because the ride was going to be fast. Today after so many situations, good and bad, we still standing strong, ready to conquer whatever come to us. 

People ask me all the time how I manage to assume so many responsibilities and I just share my perfect recipe for strength, peace and joy no matter the circumstances. This recipe may or may not apply to you and I respect your opinion but I feel compelled to share as it has been my greatest source of hope:
1. I wake up each day leaving behind the load from the day before
2. Give thanks for all I am, will be and the beautiful day I'm living.
3. Daily prayer and devotions
4. I thank God everyday for all that it is in my life with the certainty that He has a purpose beyond what I can perceive at the moment. That is the faith that allows me to continue to move forward.
5. I see in others the good in them and forgive any wrong doing . I value others regardless of their position, education or any other superficial characteristic
6. I maintain a positive perspective despite any present circumstance, I always seek the good in the bad.
7. Most of ALL and beyond anything else I trust the Lord with ALL my heart and never rest in my own understanding. I seek His presence and I strive to love others just as He loves us.

During this time of the year, take a minute to count your blessings and start moving forward to a new year, with a positive attitude and hope. I am looking forward to beautiful life. This year 2013 I may not strive to loose weight or make more money or obtain  material things. I strive to reach out to as many as I can, I want to complete my doctoral studies to be able to use my talents for the good of others, I want to share a beautiful life with my husband and would like to live a fulfilled life.

God bless you all, my dear friends!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Living in the Present

For the past couple of years more scientists are studying the benefits of living in the present. As I woke up this morning I thought about all the caregivers that are worrying so much about their future. I have heard things like "But what if he doesn't change", "Will this situation going to be like this forever?" "If he doesn't get the retirement or rating we are expecting, we won't be able to support our family" and many more concerns about the future.

All these concerns are legitimate and many times takes part in our dreams, take time from our sleep and it is revolving constantly in our minds. When thinking on all these this morning I couldn't avoid but reflect on it. During my “me” time this morning I thanked God for all the wonderful things in life, because definitely could have been worst. Pretty much we can all relate to knowing someone who is worse than us, but that is not the point. The important thing is recognizing that we all have our own and unique circumstances that many times we cannot change, so the question is "How are we going to live with this situation in our lives?”

It is not a simple matter and definitely complicates our daily emotions, it is like being in an emotional rollercoaster, hanging in there, tolerating the rapid and fast turns, creating that pressure in our chest and taking our breath away. That is the reason that this morning something came to my mind:

"Don't make Today the tomorrow you anxiously awaited because soon it will become the yesterday that will never come back. Live in the present. Each day is unique so make the most out of it."

Today is a day that will never come back, it is the day that so desperately we were worried about yesterday and soon it will be the past. If we live everyday worrying about tomorrow, WE WILL miss the opportunity of living the day that is quickly passing through, we will not create memories for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will look back and notice that we missed every second worrying so much. We will not have precious memories in our "life's treasure box" and we will be sad for a past that went by too fast. It just reminded me a passage in the Bible that says:

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:34

Let's start building a very robust link of memories and I challenge you to start taking each day as a unique, special one in your life. I do not say that it is easy but it just takes a grain of faith and abundance of hope. I wish you, all my caregiver friends, a beautiful, joyful and peaceful time of the year. Celebrate based on your convictions (for me I celebrate Christmas) and be Happy, after all we all live one day at a time , to the best of my knowledge we cannot go back to the past or jump to the future, so let's live today for what it is, "the present that will build our future, or the gates to the future" Hugs!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Marriage and Intimacy

I was asked to write about marriage and intimacy. What a topic of so much divergence and complicated to the human nature. When I see marriages that survived WWII, Korea and Vietnam I can’t avoid thinking “wow, how they made that happened”, but the more I speak with more experienced couples the more I see a common theme among them, values and commitment. I remember seeing my grandparents’ growing old and still saying “I love you” like it was part of their daily language. “What have we forgotten or when did we disconnect?” “There is no intimacy, there is no marriage”. These question and statement are so common and have been brought to my attention by spouses of wounded warriors. One afternoon I am sitting at home and I am reflecting in all the comments that I have heard and the pain and sorrow that these situations bring to these spouses. Are you the spouse of a wounded warrior? Life is not over, like my husband will say, “It is a new beginning”. The problem is that sometimes we are young and full of life and in a minute we feel that life as we know it is gone. In 2009 when my husband was wounded and medically evacuated I was uncertain about our future but I was certain I would work hard to make it a better one and I was determine to bring color to our life. At first all the colors I saw could have painted a rainy gloomy day, however I knew my palate of colors had to expand to be able to paint that beautiful clear rainbow that comes after the rain, and so I did. When I think of intimacy I do not think it can be interchangeably and uniquely seen from the perspective that usually society defines it: a sexual encounter. My first question was “How elderly couples or even severely wounded couples achieve intimacy?” Well it came to mind that intimacy is what you make of it, it is how you define it and “Oh how happy I am”, that means I am in control of it. Many times with a spouse that has been wounded, the physical scars (if any) may heal but the emotional scars are sometimes the most devastating. Expectations is a meaningful factor when it comes to intimacy so let me describe it this way: If I expect my husband and I, to have intimacy as many times described by society and it is not achieved, then I could feel disappointed, discourage and unhappy, only because I haven’t reach my expectations, it is part of human nature. Do you know what that means? it means you have control of your expectations. If you set your expectations so hi that with your partner’s conditions makes them unrealistic, then you are in trouble because you will be unhappy, disappointed and discouraged. On the other hand if we define intimacy as our own we could describe it as a nice afternoon in the park holding hands exchanging words of affirmation of love, then it may be more a reach. For me intimacy is my husband brewing coffee, serving it and having a nice conversation. In winter would be having hot cocoa in front of the fireplace and embedded in a dialogue and laughs. I never expect more or less than a good time and that is what helped me achieve intimacy, strengthen the marriage and achieve happiness in the phase we are. You may say that it sounds easier than what reality is and I completely agree but if I found my formula to reach that point of contempt then I encourage you to create your own formula to success, each one of us is different and I know you can do it. I am a very positive person so I tend to identify good attributes of every so-called bad circumstance. I describe marriage as a journey of various scenarios and adventures but more than that, it is the ultimate sacrifice of love, holding to one another and never let go when the hike gets steep and rocky. In marriage communication is an attribute and skill that needs refinement and perfection with time. Communication is not just talking: it is about expressing a thought in the various ways possible; it is how you look at each other, the way you pass the plate for dinner, a gentle touch, and the last words you say when starting a busy day or what is said before going to sleep. In reality, couples sometimes think that communication is a formal way of taking time to discuss issues and resolve problems. Communication should be the way you utilize various mechanisms possible to express a feeling, idea or message. A daily positive communication can safe a marriage from devastating consequences, and it should be practiced in a daily basis. It never hurts to provide kind words, to smile, to look in the eyes and say it all. I encourage you to take the next week and think about that person you married, who she/he was, How you first met and how you both knew you were in love? What is a good anecdote or story that made you laugh so hard that you cried. When did you decide to get married and why? What was that special connection you had that made you decide you really wanted to spend the rest of your life with that significant human being in your life? And I would say, ask yourself this final question: How can we both start a new beginning and a new normal in our lives, one that would be better than what we ever imagined?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Catching up....

It has been quite some time since I last wrote. There have been many new developments in our lives. Very good news is that our cause to bring awareness has been picking up and more people are looking for ways to help spread the word. I had the opportunity to go to the State of the Union Address last January and needless to say it was an amazing experience, thanks to Congressman Reyes and his wife Carolina, it was like a dream come true. We have also participated of numerous events as well as helping families cope with this new normal in their lives.

On February I participated of a weekend retreat for Wounded Warrior Wives (WWW). This organization is helping the WWW community in ways that I cannot finish to describe. One of the many commitments they do is that they take this retreat around the Nation. For more information go to http://www.woundedwarriorwives.org and sign up to become a member (it is free). Anyway, I spent a weekend with other WWW and I realized that each of our cases are so different but we all share something in common, we love our Warriors and we are willing to run the extra mile for them. I met the most beautiful, strong and wonderful wives. I was so empowered by their stories and at the same time we shed tears listening to each other stories. I felt like I had finally someone that understood exactly how I felt, just like we shared the same feelings and at the same time we decided to strive for a better tomorrow. Overall I can just say that it was an amazing experience that I am so glad I had.

On another topic, many things have been amazing in our lives but still sometimes I feel like all these is surreal, it is like I am expecting to wake up and go back to where I left two and a half years ago. I have these days when I want to wake up and go back and some other days that I just want to keep going and make huge differences in people lives. I received so many e-mails about the posting I did long time ago about “marriage after a brain injury”. I will do a second part because there is so much I can share, not just my experiences but my perspective of things. I would just say, hang in there, sometimes it may feel like you are in an emotional roller coaster and yes that is normal, but tighten your seatbelts that and don’t let go easy :)

Thank you for all your patience. I know I have been MIA but please keep writing me e-mails at rdelgado@tbiwarrior.com and I will be honest and answer all of your questions, after all we are all in similar boats, similar storms so let’s share the strategy to keep floating and stay alive. Until the next time, make sure you take care of yourself while you care for your loved one, take one day at a time and do not let negative thoughts come to your mind. Know that I am here of you need me and together WE WILL THRIVE. God Bless!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year, New Beginnings!


Wow! The Holidays are over and I still feel it was yesterday when I put up the christmas tree. This new year I have various goals and I will work toward them one by one. I have goals that can be categorize in personal and professional. The professional goals include the completion of my doctoral dissertation (which I am just starting) and to continue to succeed at work. My personal goals are the ones complicated because this year I have to work toward improving various areas. It has been a little over two year since my husband sustained a TBI. I really need to listen more and not push him to hard. I am always full of life, wanting to do multiple things, go to many places and never rest. Well, that doesn't help my husband, because he needs to go slower. I noticed I did better in the past when the injury was recent, but now two and a half years later I am again like the old me and that is not working. I expressed my feelings in the past about how we caregivers change our mode of being, our life due to our new circumstances. I developed skills in so many areas to be able to help my husband but there are areas that definitely need 911 improvement. I want to work on having more patience with my husband, talk slower, not ask questions back to back and trying to fix everything or do it for him. These are things that can deteriorate the emotional state of the person with TBI.

Victor and I enjoy having amazing communication between both of us and we have regular conversations about how we feel and share opinions of how to improve. Well, in the last couple of conversations he indicated that I am forgetting he has certain conditions that prevent him from keeping up wih me, and I felt so bad because to some extent I know it is true. Am I forgetting he has TBI, is the compassion period over, am I getting tired???? I reflected on these and realized none of those are the case but believe me I became worried. What happened that now I am faster and in some way he felt I didn't care? Well, I have to admit "mea culpa". Sometimes if he was slow doing something I would just do it to get it done faster, and in no way this is good. I am glad he had the confidence to tell me and didn't buried that in his heart. This is the reason why frequent and constant communication is so important.

This year will be full of blessings. I have many goals and resolutions, but one thing I am certain is that "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28. There is no doubt in my mind that things will always be for the good and not the bad. Throughout the years things have been better and I am confident that this year even better experiences are ahead.

I wish you a very Happy New Year and full of blessings. Know that you are never alone, that there is always someone that will understand how you feel. If you need a friend that will udnerstand what you are going through, please rest assure that I am here. Feel free to send me e-mails, leave comments or send me a post. Let's share our story, the story of being a caregiver.

With Love,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Veterans Day

Last Friday we celebrated Veterans Day and soon we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. On Veterans Day I took Victor to dinner and we had a wonderful day. I thanked him for ALL he has done specially all his sacrifices. I feel Victor sacrificed his health for the Freedom of this Great Nation and I love when he tells me, he will do it all over again in a heart bit. Sometimes, things that we take for granted are taken from us. I am glad I never took my husband for granted because I always ppreciated all he was and now all he is.

Veterans day for me it is everyday. The appreciation I have for all their sacrifice is always there. I am grateful for a Nation that values and recognizes their veterans. We, the spouses of military play a vital role in their performance and their well being. We, the spouses are what I call the backbone of the family, because we keep it all together while they are gone; so I am also thankful for all those military spouses that chose the sacrifice of living a life different than others.

Reflecting in last week's celebration I was reassured in how blessed Victor and I are. We are still together when he could have died, he walks, he talks, he sees and well, we have a long list of blessings that we enjoy every day. Sometimes I see how people are ready to be completely devastated because of unexpected circumstances in their lives. I chose to look the other way and started counting all the great things that I still have. My husband has his days, some better than others. The bad days he can be blunt and don't even notice or he makes bad judgements or he cannot make simple decisions. Those days are becoming more uncommon each year and it is getting better.

I am THANKFUL because the day my husband was wounded he wasn't KIA, that despite his brain injury he is full of hope and keeps improving every day. Victor may not be the same person he was but he is a wonderful new version ;) If you reflect in your life, there are always things to be thankful for. I am thankful you are reading this blog and it is my hope that if you are in my shoes that you don't feel lonely and if you are not in my shoes then even better :) I want to share my experiences because some caregivers feel they are alone when in reality they are not.

In this blog I always try to bring some positive spin to all life circumstances. There are days that are better than others and there are days that the smile is wider than others but one thing is for sure; "keep smiling because situations should not define our state of being but our state of being defines how we will overcome those

situations".

Sunday, October 2, 2011

TBI Advocate

Hi Friends,

I apologize, it has been too long since I updated the blog. Many great things happening in our lives. In the past months Victor and I have been involved more than any other time with higher leadership in the military talking about our experiences as a wounded family. We were invited by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, GEN Chiarelli to speak at a symposium he and his staff coordinated. Who would have thought that Victor and I will have the opportunity to speak with the Vice? When we met GEN Chiarelli and having the opportunity to talk with him, I realized how much of an advocate for brain injuries he is. He is committed and changing the policy in the army in how TBIs are diagnosed and treated. GEN Chiarelli is definitely working hard on these initiatives and he definitely needs the support of policy makers and others in the military.

Two years and 3 months ago when Victor was wounded I never thought our lives were going to change forever in this way. We have become advocates of TBI to create awareness among policy makers, military leadership, the patients and the families. Despite the difficulty of maintaining this lifestyle we do it because we are visionaries of a better tomorrow. My dream is that one day, all the patients with TBI, military or civilians, can receive care without hardly inquiring, that families with a member with TBI will be able and learn how to manage in a way that there will be happiness and that those with TBI be empowered and strong enough to raise their voices unanimously. I know one day things will be better than today and I know that together we can make huge differences in the lives of others.

Loving is caring enough to act accordingly for the health of our loved ones.

With Love,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Traumatic Brain Injury and Family


In the past couple of weeks I have been ask several times, How am I doing and how I keep up with so much? I honestly don't know how to answer that question but yes my life is pretty busy. I tried to maintain a good spirit, always a smile in my face and rather look for positive things in my life. It saddens me so much when I see spouses that are in the first stages of having a loved one with traumatic brain injury (TBI). I tried to support them and go back in time and place myself in their shoes but it is never easy to say "It will get better". "It will get better" is a phrase that Victor always told me and at times in a tone like he wanted to convinced me about it. At times I was so frustrated that I said to myself, "yes it will get better for him but what about me?" How did I find happiness in the midst of all the situation? Now 2 years later I look back and I can say things are definitely better. Today Victor and I have found new hobbies, we bond incredibly working hard to be advocates of TBI and we are very strong. In fact some people say that together we are dynamite. We are looking forward to our future.

I would like to see couples thriving in their relationships after a TBI. The reality is that there is so little help and so much burden that I have to yet find somebody that tells me "Oh yes it was so easy and smooth to get care for my wounded warrior". Unfortunately the spouses of Wounded Warriors with TBI need to serve as case managers and that takes too much from our life, it is very time and energy consuming. I just learned a friend got divorced and that really made me feel sad, not because I think people shouldn't get divorced but I knew how much they loved each other. There are situations that requires a separation but it is never a pleasant news.

I always encourage spouses to read and learn about TBI so the symptoms and situations don't become a surprise factor. When Victor left me once in the grocery store and forgot about me I didn't get mad because I knew it was part of his condition. Or when he asked me the same question 10 times in 1 minute I never got mad because I understood, NOTHING was a surprise for me, luckily ;)

For more information about TBI I always visited www.brainline.org, it is a great resource. Most of the time it is easier for the person with TBI to watch a video so Victor and I watched several videos including this one at http://www.youtube.comwatch?v=9izH26JzmIo. Dr. James Kelly is the Director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE). This is the Center where Victor and I went for almost 3 weeks in Bethesda, MD. Dr. Kelly is Victor's TBI hero because Victor learned most of his injury through Dr. Kelly's videos. Now after meeting him, he is not only a very knowledgeable doctor but he is compassionate and humble. Needless to say that the whole staff at the NICoE were fantastic and we commend them for their hard work.

TBI and What Military Families Need to Know:
http://www.brainlinemilitary.org/content/2011/05/traumatic-brain-injury-tbi-what-military-families-need-to-know.html