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Showing posts from 2010

Holidays!

Christmastime is usually a very happy and joyful season to many. I remembered 2004 was my first Christmas by myself and I didn't have any other wishes than having my husband back home, by then he was in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The other night I was thinking about the spouses of deployed soldiers and how they are spending their Holidays and the spouses of wounded soldiers spending days and nights in a hospital next to the bed of their loved ones. "I'm blessed" is the phrase that comes to mind everyday, my situation can be much worst and it isn't.

My husband has a brain injury and during this time of rush and celebration I tend to forget he cannot do things the way he used to. After a brain injury it is all about using strategies and modifying life pace and habits. This second Christmastime after his brain injury I knew that I had to plan ahead, buy most of the things online and take it slower than in the past. If we had an activity at night that means my husband nee…

I am Thankful for....

Last week we celebrated "Thanksgiving Day". While many people were navigating the stores to find sales we were having a wonderful time in Atlanta. We went to Atlanta for the wedding of Erika Porter, my husband's best friend and his Platoon Leader while in Iraq. She was in the same mission when my husband was wounded. She is a wonderful friend and we enjoyed every minute of the Thanksgiving and wedding day. We met her wonderful family to include all the generations, from grandchildren to great-granparents. They are all from Atlanta and they all welcomed us as part of their family.

My husband and I also met two wonderful professionals and human beings, committed to help others, especially those with traumatic brain injury. I cannot compete with my husband's eloquent description of Dr. Rachel Lacy and Tracy Quantum so please go to www.tbiwarriors.blogspot.com and read it for yourself. My husband became in contact with them but not in a ordinary way, it was special and ev…

Spinning in Circles

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I received a message from a dear friend that made me cried, not only because I could relate to her but because I felt there is nothing I could do to be there for her. This strong, beautiful woman is one of a kind. We were together serving in the Family Readiness Group and she was always ready to help and was instrumental in fulfilling the mission with families in deployment times. She had a sense of carism and she was vibrant, funny and overall fun to be around. Unfortunately her husband was medically discharge from the Army and the family they new has become distant. Yes, in the military we are a family and when we don't have that we feel we lost something precious.

I will never forget one specific statement my friend wrote and that I keep hearing from spouses of wounded soldiers, "I feel like we are stuck spinning in the same circles". They feel they were left behind and I can share that same sentiment but then she said "I just wish I could waive a white flag and &…

Marriage after a Brain Injury

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Today was a beautiful day in El Paso, TX. The Sun was shining and a blue sky make my eyes appreciate how spectacular is to live day by day. I do not worry about tomorrow, the enjoy the blessings of today.

Life after a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be challenging not only for the patient but for the family. My husband sustained a TBI and I also suffered the consequences that comes with it. That may be just me but I don't believe so, the more I hear spouses the more I realize that this injury although unknown by many, it is well lived by others. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the incidence of brain injury is approximately 1.7 million a year (http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/). That means that every day 46,575 people sustained a TBI. This statistic excludes TBI in Soldiers, so the incidence is even higher. The short and long term consequences of a TBI are(http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/outcomes.html):

•Thinking (i.e., memory and reas…

The role of self-esteem in TBI

Self-esteem is a key component in traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitation. Self-esteem is utilize mainly in psychology and it is define as the evaluation and appraisal of a person own worth. I remember when my husband sustained the TBI and was sent home on September 2009. He was angry and very frustrated, but all that suddenly changed to be sad and with a sense of worthless. One of the characteristics that distinguished my husband was how independent and sufficient he was, he would spend days in the field or he was deployed or he was just in any given mission the army sent him. He was so proud of his soldiering skills and of his soldiers.

Why am I writing about this? There is always a purpose in my blog and that is to show how it was before the injury, immediately after the injury and some later time after the injury. You will notice that things will not always have to be sad. Self-esteem is a very important component, it will determine how motivated the person will be and the cha…

Nothing like the love of my little sister

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Today I received a beautiful e-mail from my sister. What she doesn't know is that she answered so many questions I had, like, "Did I ever do enought to be a role model or a good big sister?" Little she knows that her e-mail just made my day and more than that, she made shine a big smile that will never fade away. Please meet my loving "little" sister Melissa, my best friend, my confident and the one who knows me better than anyone else, because we laught, we cried and we shared the best memories of my first 23 years of life. She is a great love in my life! Now unfortunately we live so far away.

Melissa said,

A couple of days ago, you wrote in your blog having a knot in your throat when you woke up from a dream with Victor as he was in the past. That you felt ashamed for just dreaming that, even if you have no control over your dreams. I guess most of the spouses in your position dream about it once in a while, which doesn’t make you a bad person, just human.

Sinc…

A Prayer for the Caregiver

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by Bruce McIntyre

Unknown and often unnoticed, you are a hero nonetheless.
For your love, sacrificial, is God at his best.
You walk by faith in the darkness of the great unknown,
And your courage, even in weakness, gives life to your beloved.

You hold shaking hands and provide the ultimate care:
Your presence, the knowing, that you are simply there.
You rise to face the giant of disease and despair,
It is your finest hour, though you may be unaware.

You are resilient, amazing, and beauty unexcelled,
You are the caregiver and you have done well!
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Today I woke up with a big knot in my throat, a sharp pain in my heart and the relief of knowing that everything will be okay. Last night was one of those days that I dreamed with how my husband was. We were talking and he sounded so clear, so like he was, he was so different (active, outgoing and very secured of himself). Yes, I still remember those days and I feel so guilty I dreamed about it and I wish so badly we can have our lives back. Today is one oif those days that I would love to have a time machine and go back in time and spend there even if it's 10 minutes, the times that we used to laugh without thinking about the future, that we could be all day long somewhere traveling and having fun without the exhaustion. I know, it sounds horribly selfish and for that I feel so much guilt. Sometimes I feel scared I will forget how his voice sounded and his gestures when he talked to me. The days like today I go back as early as our wedding day and try to recall every moment we s…

Love and Duty

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Dear Friends,


I hope you had a wonderful week full of good experiences. In 2002 when my husband joined the army as an active duty soldier I was so proud and I am still very proud to call myself an army wife. The military prepares and trains very hard to accomplish their mission and that is one of the reasons they are the best military system in the World. We, the spouse and family members play an important role in the life of soldiers. Broken and unhappy families will not contribute positively to the life of the service member.

After my husband's injury, my role was not only as a wife but also I was the cheerleader in his time of sadness and sorrow, his shoulder to lean on when he was falling down, his good listener and his best friend. Despite my own sorrow, pain and frustration, I did it ALL because of Love and Duty. I love my husband dearly and I was ready to fulfill the commitment as a wife and more specially as an army wife. My husband's heart is to return to duty and tha…

Home is the comfiest place to be…

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The other day (Friday) my husband gave me gift, an improvissed gift. It was a nice surprise since he used to do that all the time before the injury. He used to come home with gifts and nice details even if we were not celebrating anything. In celebrations he always make sure he made it very special and that never changed, but the sporadically gifting did. Not that now he is not caring but I guess his mind is in so many other things and he does not go shopping by himself which he usually did in past. Anyway, he gave me a beautiful card that reads as follows:

“Ask me about my day and I’ll tell you…
I spent it being grateful for your tenderness, thanksful for your soft caress-

Ask me and I’ll tell you….
That I whispered a little thank you in my heart because you are beautiful on the inside, too… so sweet, so sensitive. You care about me, laugh with me, and believe in me, sometimes more than I do myself.

Aks me about my life and I’ll tell you….
That it’s changed, I’ve changed –all because of y…

The Stages of Healing

Today was a beautiful sunny day in El Paso, TX. Hope your day (wherever you are) was beautiful and that you are enjoying the start of the new season. I was thinking today about the Seasons and how each one is characterized by different events in nature and weather. The same way the journey of healing is characterized by different phases that we as caregivers need to be aware. These are the stages of healing.

STAGE I - DENIAL
STAGE II - BLAME / HELPLESSNESS
STAGE III - WAITING
STAGE IV - WORKING on my problem
Stage IVa - Making a New Choice
Stage IVb - Evaluating the New Choice
Stage V - RESOLVING ISSUES

As caregivers we should be knowleageable about these stages to be ahead of the game and know what to do when your loved one experience any of them. I truly believe that knowledge is power and may sound like a cliché but the reality is that the more knowledge we have, the better prepared we will be to overcome obstacles. It sounds easy but it may not be as easy as it sounds. Most of the ti…

Hiking to Hope

So a few weeks ago I was in a business travel in Colorado. By the way what a beautiful city of Colorado Springs. Everything is so gorgeous, the nature, the birds, the mountains and I can keep going and going.

Well, my husband went to visit me and we had a great weekend. We went hiking, yes you heard right, HIKING!!!! I was nervous but really, how do you know there is progress if you don't try it. It was not a horrible hike, it was a trail going to the top of the mountain. Just imagine going hiking with my husband who has bad balance issues and dizziness. I have to say that I am so proud of him. Yes, it took us double or triple the time it takes anybody else but we made it. I actually filmed him on video and I captured how he used strategies to keep it straight and make it to the top of the mountain and down. He does not know about the video but I will tell him, maybe he likes it and posted in his blog :)

I thought about taking this video because it is not about limitations with bra…

Coping with Stress

Stress is something that happens to so many people because of their responsibilities as employees, parents and so many other duties in life. I see many people that under stress they loose their balance and even sometimes I see a personality that is so different than when they are in their comfort zone. I think about this all the time because that is not healthy. Stress does not have to be unhealthy but the question is " How are we coping?".

Being a caregiver stress can be compounded and multiplied by even little things. For example, Do you have an idea of how many times I have to remind my husband to do something before he actually moves and do it? The motivation and initiative to accomplish tasks was severely affected in my husband. Sometimes I have to repeat everyday, texted and invent new ways to make him aware. This "little" thing adds stress to my life because before I did not have to be chasing him to do things, I did not even have to pay attention to any of h…

Wounded Families and Caregivers Conference

Today the USO sponsored the Wounded Families and Caregivers Conference. The activity was very well prepared and targeted to Wounded Warriors family members and providers. A panel of caregivers along with their Wounded loved ones were invited to help the audience understand the position of the caregivers.

We know is not an easy road and one that we never desired to go through. We laugh and then we cry and then we laugh again, it is simply the nature of loving somebody that is injured. Yes! as true as it is we should never focus in what we lost but what we have, not in the past but in how we will transformed our future, not who we were but who we will become. Talking with several the spouses I heard over and over that they were not the same, that they lost their identity and that they had to give up everything they aspired in life. I felt extremely bad because I never gave up my job or my school. Then I thought to myself what a bad caregiver I am, but that is also what I mentioned in th…

What to say when.....

Dear Friends,

I was thinking today in how many things we as family of wounded, injured and sick loved ones have to endure. I remember when my husband was sent home a year ago how difficult it was to have him accept his situation. He was so discouraged and angry at the same time that I did not know what to say to make it right. It seems that when tragedy strikes there are no words that can make the situation right but I found those phrases of encouragement that changed ALL to the better.

You do not need higher education degree to say the following phrases:

"I will never know how you feel but I will walk beside you and be there for you"
"I will support you and will not leave you alone we will walk together this new path"
"If you let me I will be more than your ______(wife, husband etc.) I will be your best friend"
"Do not fear, be courageous and lets do it together"
"I Love you"

These are simple but powerful phrases that can transformed a life …

Explosions, Survival and the Aftermath: TBI

Dear Friends,

Sorry I was out of town very busy with work but here I am back. A new friend in my life, a wife of a wounded soldier (www.wifeofawoundedsoldier.blogspot.com) asked me to write about survival. She is an amazing military wife, caregiver and devoted to improve the health of spouses and caregivers.

In the last couple of years reading the newspapers I kept seeing how it is emphasized how the military have been improving their armor and tactics. The goal behind this is that better armor, less combat casualties. Too many Soldiers were dying after the exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). One article that was shocking for me was the one published last year "Military used pigs in blasts to test armor". http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2009-04-06-pigs_N.htm

In this article one sentence that really captured my attention was the following:
"If use of animal subjects in testing results in our ability to save lives or prevent injury to our troops, we're …

TBI in Perspective

Sometimes when I reflect in the past I can see a different picture of what it is our life today. Our life was one full of responsibilities and personal challenges. My husband a proud US Army Soldier always in military training and in missions and I was a full time clinical researcher trying to advance science through new discoveries. Today I am still who I was but with a new purpose, new journey and new mission. I am going to school full time to complete a doctoral program, I am still working full time, I am now 100% conscious of what it is my husband doing and I am (next to my husband) supporting the efforts to redefine what Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is for the military. When I reflect on the past I see a normal couple just enjoying life with goals and dreams, today I still see that happy couple with a set of goals and dreams that require so much commitment and drive. We are driven by the suffering of so many and because we have experimented what it is to see TBI knock on the door…

Future postings

Is surviving an explosion in Iraq or Afghanistan a symbol of success? Is coming home as a soldier that was wounded a reflection of care or responsibility? Is loving your wounded soldier an act or courage or commitment? How to reflect in the past without emotionally hurting? These are some of the questions that comes to my mind very often and I will address them in my future postings.

Traumatic Brain Injury in the Military, Not Everything is Lost...

Hi friends I hope you had a great week. I am again on my way home from business travel. It was a very productive week and I shared with a wonderful team of colleagues.
How many times we have heard the news and politicians talk about traumatic brain injury (TBI), the signature injury of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? How many times have we heard TBI referred as a psychological wound? How much Soldiers and Family Members know about this signature injury?

We have heard TBI in many forums and many times being referred as an invisible wound. Invisible? I constantly ask myself. Yes, maybe because it is a close head injury most of the time or because there are no scars to reflect the injury. TBI may not be seen, but like the air cannot be seen but creates the wind, that same way a close head TBI cannot be seen but can be felt in so many ways. As a wife of a TBI Soldier I can assure you that this invisible wound has been felt in so many ways in our life. Many times I have expressed how dif…

Military Life!

“Somewhere in Time”, I watch this movie for the first time when I was 5 years old, my sister and I watched it approximately 25 times. I do not know what it was but I always found the end so romantic.

When I married my husband I promised to loved him and care for him in health and sickness, no matter if we were poor or wealthy. Hmmmm! Those vows are serious and people are not paying too much attention to what they are commiting. I guess in today’s society divorce is an easy option if the marriage does not work according to plans. Everyday we are moving to the comfort zone of “If I do not have it perfect I just quit”. Please do not take this introduction in a wrong way, as much as I do not like divorces I am not against it. I do not believe in suffering a relationship that does not work or abuses, etc. Those who know me know that I am feminist, mostly described by the equality of genders beleiving that women should get as far as she wants without subjecting herself or family to unhappin…

Making sense of this situation...

Sometimes it is difficult to envision the possibilities and be confident of what it is ahead. I can tell you that even though this past year has been the most challenging year of my life I am confident that it will serve for a purpose. “What a year”, that is a phrase I could say all the time and instead I always say “What a journey”. Why do I call it a journey? Think about it, when you travel most of the time you will go to places you have never been, you sleep, eat and visit new places, Right? So, when an injury happens to a loved one you will travel to a new dimension and you are enriched with new experiences. You may say, “But when I travel I plan and enjoy” and Yes that is also a good point but in life I think it is all what you make out of it. I know there are particular situations that joy may not be even part of your experiential dictionary but what you make out of it is what will make you unique and one of a kind.

Who doesn’t know about Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana (RIP…

Military Research and Doing what is Right....

It is 5:30 am and I am on my way back from another business trip. This time I was in Phoenix, AZ attending the 13th Annual Force Health Protection Conference. What an amazing conference. Is in this forum that all research that has been conducted in military settings and/or conducted with military population is exposed to the scientific community. One thing is certain and it is that if it is not because of men and women in uniform and their willingness to contribute with the research community, this conference would not even exist. So to those who not only sacrifice for their country and our FREEDOM but that also run the extra mile and let us get into their lives and study all type of different issues, we Salute you and we are deeply grateful for your collaboration.

During this conference I had the opportunity to meet so many different people, some were directors of programs, others were providers and in general a healthcare community gather to discuss the health of our Warriors. I feel…

Relationships and TBI, it is all about good memories...

Today I am on my way back home form a business trip. During my flight I am thinking “I am so happy that everything went well”. I felt this business trip was a productive one, professionally speaking and in a personal way too. I had the opportunity to see people that live their lives meaningfully and in a productive way. I had the opportunity to shared with my colleagues and everyday I reminnd myself how blessed I am to have amazing people in my life. It is a delight to see how engaged they are and how they approach everything with the highest professionalism and excellence in all they do. Their satisfaction is to accomplish so much for those who needs it the most. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to share with my colleagues and friends. We all work hard with one mission in mind, “improve the healthcare”. One sad part of the story is that my friend Alex is leaving to India for 2 years and I know I am going to miss her but I’m also happy because I know it will be one of t…

The Stages of Healing

Today was a beautiful sunny day in El Paso, TX. Hope your day (wherever you are) was beautiful and that you are enjoying the start of the new season. I was thinking today about the Seasons and how each one is characterized by different events in nature and weather. The same way the journey of healing is characterized by different phases that we as caregivers need to be aware. These are the stages of healing.

STAGE I - DENIAL
STAGE II - BLAME / HELPLESSNESS
STAGE III - WAITING
STAGE IV - WORKING on my problem
Stage IVa - Making a New Choice
Stage IVb - Evaluating the New Choice
Stage V - RESOLVING ISSUES

As caregivers we should be knowleageable about these stages to be ahead of the game and know what to do when your loved one experience any of them. I truly believe that knowledge is power and may sound like a cliché but the reality is that the more knowledge we have, the better prepared we will be to overcome obstacles. It sounds easy but it may not be as easy as it sounds. Most of the ti…

Celebrating life...

Today is my husband's 35th birthday and he is here with me HURRAY!!!! Last year a day like today he was being mobilized to get a CT scan to assess his condition. He spent his birthday alone and my care package never arrived to him because he was in a deifferent location in Iraq and then he was transported to the hospital in Germany. Yes, it was difficult for me to think about it but being a military wife you adapt to many situations, those who are military wives understand what I am talking about :)

Today we are celebrating life, one more opportunity to reconsider the important things in life. Those who are in my Facebook and my friends know that I am all about "MEMORIES AND EXPERIENCES". The experiences we can only obtain by living them and then those moments are transformed in memories. Money and position cannot buy these two, so that is why for me is so important to live every minute like it is the last one and make the most out of it. I enjoy my friends and I tryly be…

Empowerment, the key to success....

I came across a study about the benefit of empowerment in the rehabilitation process. The reference of the full article is the follwoing:

Taylor-Ritzler, T., Balcazar, F., Suarez-Balcazar, Y., Kilbury, R., Alvarado, F., & James, M. (2010). Engaging ethnically diverse individuals with disabilities in the Vocational Rehabilitation system: Themes of empowerment and oppression. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 33(1), 3-14.

In this same line of thinking I was remembering when my husband was brought home. At first he was so angry because according to him he wasn't supposed to be here, but with his soldiers. He did not want to enjoy things because he felt so guilty and embarassed. God knows how much sadness this was for me because the husband I knew was happy, vibrant and kind. One day after almost a week he cried and told me "You know I am not supposed to be here, I need to get back to Iraq, please help me to do that". As soon as I mentioned that it was for his best int…

Are you ready to show your commitment?

When my husband and I married on May 29, 2000 I knew we had a lot of things we were going to share. We dated for four and a half years and we were just a 19 and 20 years old couple of students with big aspirations. I always saw how my husband was determined, responsible, kind, intelligent and many more beautiful qualities that made me fall in love with him. One other thing, he was so funny that automatically my parents fell for him too.

These 10 years have been wonderful. Why I am telling all these? well as a caregiver sometimes things can be frustrating but I always look back and know that many of the things that frustrates me now are the result of the brain injury. If I need to repeat the same thing 5 times because my husband forgot he already asked me or if as the result of impulsivity he does something I did not think was right, those are the moments I have to remind myself that I am wearing the shoes of a caregiver. Sometimes I meet spouses that say, "I was not expecting this…

TBI patient or caregiver, please share your story

Today was a good day. The day started taking a friend to the doctor. After his visit we went to lunch and it has been a long time since we had a conversation like today. I missed that. We have been working together for 4 years now and I enjoy every minute. His understanding and support means very much to me. He also is a great friend to my husband, they laugh together and they support each other. This is one of the blessings in my life.

Today I finished one of my Summer classes, Qualitative research. Mhhhh, what is that? Maybe this is your question so I will answer very simply. Qualitative research is a type of study that looks at the stories of people and explore their lived experiences. I like when people share their stories because believe it or not we all have a story. I think that is why living in the Southwest I like to collect "story tellers".

Going through this class I wanted to know even more about how patients with TBI feel and how their family cope. I think it is v…

Grief and resilience, how to cope with the loss?

Dear friends,

I just started the blog and I am amazed how many people have been writing to me and expressing their support. To ALL of you THANK YOU!

During this year, many things have happened, good and not so good. Last year I was accepted to a PhD program and I was very excited to start this new journey in my career but on the other hand my husband was deploying for the third time in the past 5 years. I had so many mixed emotions, things to celebrate but not next to the one I love. Well, my husband left on May 3, 2009 and our anniversary was May 29th so again we missed another important day. I cared when we missed Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays etc. but like everything in the military is all about adapting and overcoming. I love the military life, I feel very proud of being an army wife, it is just something that I cannot describe.

When my husband was wounded on June 29, 2009 I felt so worried because I wasn't sure how he was and I remembered that when he called me the first …

Do you have a lemon? Let's make lemonade together

Dear friends,

Yes! it is true that I haven't taken full responsibility on writing here. I have to admit that the last time I wrote I was writing in tears so I got a little bit scared of writing. I want to be strong and not cry or show emotions. If you are reading my husband's blog www.tbiwarriors.blogspot.com you will understand all that we have been going through. I have spent most of my time writing to Senators, Congressmen and others that can change the healthcare system for our Wounded Warriors.

The other day I was making some tea and had a lemon in my hands. I looked at it and thought about what my mom always said, "if somebody throws a lemon at you, just catch it and make some good lemonade, then share it with that person". That is exactly what I have been trying to do. I am transforming my sorrow and pain to happiness and joy. Let us work together and unite to make changes, ones that will serve well and will help our wounded soldiers and their family members. We…

The Day My Life Turned 180 Degrees

On June 28, 2009 I was on my way to work with my friend Alex. We decided that since my husband was deployed and we had to go to Colorado it was good a great idea to make a road trip from El Paso, TX to Colorado Springs, CO. We had a great time and so much that we forgot about cars running with gas, so we had a moment of panic when we almost ran out of gas. We laugh and we had a great road trip, I enjoyed tremendously. During our trip I was very nervous that I would miss my husband’s call in the strip between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM. This is one of the things about deployment, if I missed a call that was the most devastating event I could have, so I always tried to be available and that is sometimes difficult to manage with work and meetings etc. Well, finally I received that so pleasant call from my husband. He told me “I Love You” and he also said “I am so happy with you that if I could I would marry you again and repeat our live all over again”. Wow! That was so romantic. We ha…