Socks and Back Scratch

10-7 2005

Judy, You know what it is, it is being vested. Not for pay but for the fact they are a human being, they are someone’s son, daughter, father, brother, or sister.

There was another young man in today and he was quite badly chewed up from shrapnel from a tank mine that ripped through his humvee. I first put a pair of footy socks on him and he said, “MMM, you just don’t know what a good pair of socks feels like.” His feet were bad, but those socks must have felt really good. He had just the hospital gown on and I asked him if he would like some pants and he said that he could not wear them due to his leg being so heavily bandaged. I went to the store room and brought back some break-away pants. I asked him if he had anything on under the hospital gown. He said yes and I started to unsnap the one side of the break a way pants and he untied his robe and there he stood in his boxers. I have to admit I was expecting a little more than boxers but he was so excited about those break-away pants, it did not seem to bother him. I had to do most of the clothing since he only had half of one arm to work with.  When he left, he had socks, shoes, some boxers for later and SOMEONE else to help with, break-away pants, and a zip up hoody. He said he was a new human being! He was having some kind of reaction to the drugs and he was itchy. He kept trying to scratch his back on everything. I gave him a good back scratch and he said he would be back down tomorrow after they give him his pain shot, because the walls just don’t scratch like that. My son usef to like my back scratches. He goes back into surgery Friday to remove more shrapnel from his eye, arm, and leg. Please keep him and all these kids in your thoughts and prayers.

I was speaking with a guy who works with patients coming from down range. His patients stay at Ramstein. These are patients that come straight through on the aircraft or that stay at Ramstein for a few days. He got wind of me and our project. They are kind of the forgotten ones and could use our help. They make trips to LRMC for whatever supplies, sweats, shampoo, pj’s, boxers, etc. that LRMC has to give them. We might also be getting a request from a small hospital in the field that does not seem to be getting any or much support.

Karen


 

10-8-05

Sue, I give these guys hugs all the time. I always ask first if it is ok to give them a hug and I have never been told no. When I hug them, I tell them thank you for everything they have done for me and my country and I support them. So I will give the next guy a hug for you.

We have a FOB that needs help now! They are under fire all the time. They get very little if no packages (last package was received 5 weeks ago). I can’t tell you where they are, but they are requesting just about everything. We need trial size shampoo, shaving cream and lotion (not hotel size), candy lets get someone in the group to take charge to do something special for Thanksgiving and Christmas that we can send ASAP. No SINGLE blade razors. I know they are more expensive but the other stuff is crap and the guys hate them. We need letters of support maybe from a school or scout troop.(DO NOT SEAL THE ENVELOPES) We need BEEF jerky, disposable cameras. Let’s get talking so that we know what each other is sending so that we don’t end up with all the same item.

Karen


 

10-10-05

Friday was a slower day. Most of it was sorting in the stock room. I did speak with the nurse from down range and she will be going back down on Monday or Tuesday.

I find it amazing what some people will send to the hospital!!! Some of it we just can not use and must give to Goodwill.

I spoke with the Mr. T, he does the ordering for the clothing closet. What a job he has! He has such a terrible time getting supplies in. What we can order and get labels on and get to him in 3-4 weeks takes him months. I have given him some of my contacts for ordering from Lands End so maybe that will help the process.

I met a young man who will lose his leg once he gets back to the states. He has nerve damage that can not be repaired and they will have to take it off. His liaison came down Thursday to get clothing for this young man’s roommate. I had given her (the liaison) black break-aways, white long sleeve t-shirt, a black hood sweat shirt and black knit hat. The liaison said that the kid who was being dressed and the kid who will lose his leg were going on and on about how sharp he looked in his new duds. She was asked to come back down Friday and get the second kid the same outfit. Well, I did not have a second black hoody but I had a medium grey one so I gave her that.

She asked me if I could take the clothing up to give it to him. OF COURSE !!!! I did not know what to expect, but when I walked into the room there was a young man of about 23. He had a few incisions on his face, but looked great. We talked for about 15 minutes. He told me that he was going to lose his leg when he got back to the States and will get a super human leg. He had such a positive outlook. He was glad to be alive because his buddies did not make it that day. I gave him my card for honoree information for a shipment. He left Saturday for his flight back to the States.

Some of you may know and some of you may not. Last March, I convinced the liquidation company for The Athlete’s Foot Store to give us all the shoes they had left over from their court ordered bankruptcy. One of the conditions was that I had to take EVERYTHING that was left in the store. Well, we had baby shoes, hundreds of shoe laces, sports cleats, reflective safety vests, red and blue footies and gel shoe insoles. I gave the sports cleats to the local schools, some of the shoe laces went to K-2 graders for crafts, the baby shoes went to the Woodbridge American Legion children’s project, and the safety vests went to a Boy Scout Troop that does parking for arenas in AL.

It was the last two items that had me for a loop since I did not want to throw them out but knew no one that wanted them. The guys in the field do not like the gel insoles for their boots and these were mostly woman’s sizes. WELL, I was talking to the Chaplain who works on the mental health ward and he said those guys are forgotten a lot and they only had the hospital slip on slippers. I told him about the little footies I had and asked if they could use them. He checked with the ward and IT IS A GO. Brian has mailed them to me and I will take them in tomorrow.

The gel insoles are also here and will be given to the hospital staff. So, that means that all the items given to us from the Athlete’s Foot Store found good homes and none of it was taken to the dump.

Karen

They Are Not Watching

10-04-05

Today was much slower with patients than yesterday, but I was very busy packing, unpacking, and sorting boxes.

Yesterday I helped a young man who was in a wheelchair. I’m not sure what his injuries were, but I’m guessing they were private in nature. He came to the hospital with only a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. The weather here has turned cold and rainy, so I knew when he came in he had to be cold. His liaison was talking with another volunteer on the other side of the clothes rack. The young man was just sitting there shaking from the cold.  I asked him if he wanted to put on the sweats pants and the zip up hood right then. He looked around and said he did not think he could. I smiled at him and whispered, “OH, they’re not watching, we can do this.” The zip up hood sweat shirt was easy, but the pants were another issue. We had to do both ankles at the same time then up his legs very slowly, but we got it! When we went around the clothes rack and he was dressed, everyone was shocked. I asked him about his shoe size and thank God we had his size. He could only wear one shoe at the time, but we slipped the other next to him in the chair. He had the biggest smile on his face. I was asked today why and what I got out of doing this? It was the smile on that kid’s face, just makes your heart ten times bigger.

I also realized today the number of our young men wearing hearing aids. It hit me after seeing about four of them come in back to back. I talked to one young man last week, but it was today I realized that we have a lot of them wearing hearing aids.

A patient I spoke with put a twist on the care packages they are receiving down range. I was explaining about the huge amount of toiletries that we have and he laughed and said they have several connex full at his camp. He said that the American people are very generous, but they have so much of it they can not give the stuff away to others in the field. He comes from a camp with a very small exchange. (For non-military here that means they have a very small store). He also explained that people give as if they were the only ones giving to a group, not realizing that there might be 200 or more other people that give to the same group of 100 deployed people. He asked me if I knew what 140 to 160 degrees inside a connex did to deodorant, shaving cream, or shampoo. He said that they have sent thank you letters to people thanking them for their support, and try to nicely say thanks but no thanks, but it still comes. He also explained that if the storage of those items was the only issue, then they could handle it a little easier, but all those boxes cause more convoys. Then he said with convoys come the risk of losing our buddies or our own lives for more of the same stuff that we don’t need. WOW, did that open my eyes a lot!! He was not the only one in the clothing closet and they were all in agreement with the amount of stuff they have at their camps, especially toiletries. One of the guys said if there was a group in the field that did not have any, WHICH HE DOUBTS, (He was at a FOB) he would rather see it go from site to site in the field then have resources wasted the way they are now.

I have done a lot of hmmmm’s since I have been here. Views from the hospital staff, liaisons, the drivers that transport the patients every day, the chaplains, the other Red Cross volunteers, and seeing how we all interact with the patients differently and the patients themselves. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!!

Karen


 

10-05-05

Judy, I have a problem with releasing an address to 1,000’s or even 100’s of people. It puts her son in greater risk.

Chaplains are upset that their address is out there on as many sites as it is with incorrect needs of the clothing closet.

I know that a couple of the guys have come in complaining about a site that I know some of you use. They said at first they thought it was a good idea, but then once the address was out there, they could not turn the shipments off even tho their address was not being listed anymore. One marine said this morning that his group came into the field and “adopted” 3 connex full of stuff left from the previous group. They took it all out and destroyed it. They are giving stuff to the Iraq communities because they don’t have a need for it or it has gone bad in the heat.

We also discovered that Iraq seems to get more attention than Afghanistan. But there are places even there that have more than enough stuff. A Major this morning said they are receiving swiffer wet mops. He said, “what are we going to do with those, we don’t have floors.” The captain from Iraq said they did not need another package of baby wipes. From what I can figure out people are taking items from different lists or guessing and just filling boxes.

William, who is a member of this Yahoo group, spent his birthday in Iraq. I sent him 1 package for his birthday. I tried to make it items that I knew he would like and items he could share and enjoy with his friends. I don’t think receiving 2 or 3 thousand birthday cards so he would have to worry about anthrax would have been the way to go. I know that my space in my tent in Bosnia was VERY small (5×8). That space had my cot and had to hold all my gear; I sure would not have wanted two or three thousand cards in it. I can’t imagine how William did it at Christmas playing Santa for us.

I just know that unless I’m told exactly what a group needs; item 1, item 2, and item 3, we are not sending it. I’m not saying don’t give, we just have to do it smart.

Karen


 

10-06-05

This was the busiest day since I have been here. I got hit hard this morning with patients, sometimes up to eight or nine at the same time. I almost broke down and cried today with a patient but I managed to hold it and talk him through the pain spasm he was having, thank God! Just thinking about him brings tears to my eyes.

I am usually the only volunteer working in the morning; sometimes the only one working all day, which is usually not a problem, but this morning was difficult. I had a lot of patients in the clothing closet that I had been helping when this young man (28-32) came in and I knew right away I had to help him fast. I asked him to sit in the chair and I got him shoes. I was on one knee in front of him, when the pain hit bad, he leaned forward and put his forehead on my shoulder.  I whispered in his ear to breath slow and relax. I just kept talking him through the breathing. It took 3 or 4 minutes before we could get the second shoe on. He whispered in my ear, “I hate pain, I can’t take this.” I just wanted to take it for him. The only thing I could think of to whisper back was, “I know hun; it will get better trust me.”

I asked him if he needed a wheelchair back to the room and he said no they (the doctors) told him that he had to start walking. I told him that might be true but he did not have to do it all at once. We waited about a minute more and I helped him up and got him back to his liaison, but it took me a minute before I could turn around and go back into the clothing closet to help the rest of the guys. It was much quieter when I turned around and looked at everyone. I guess they might have been watching us.

In the afternoon, it let up a little bit. Then while I was waiting for the bus to come home, one of the liaisons had a patient whose humvee was hit with an IED. He needed clothing, but the chaplains had left for the day and I did not have the keys anymore. I sat and talked with him while they were trying to find out if they could find his bags from down range. His hands were badly burned and his face was slightly burned as well. He will be transported out very soon to the burn center. We sat and talked for about half an hour. He is from XXXXX and his family does not support what he is fighting for. He believes that this is something that we had to do for the people of Iraq and he HATES CNN. He said that was the worst thing when they came into the country.

Karen

Why Is Your Name On My Boxers?

09-21-05

I labeled and packed 120 candy welcome bags with music DVD’s (there are no movie DVD’s) phone cards and candy (that we shipped, that was a nice feeling).

1 box of Nathan’s shipment of jackets arrived today; maybe the other will arrive tomorrow. We had to unpack them at the post office since the box was too large for the car. Then one of the chaplains’ assistants helped us get them into the hospital. The reaction from the office was “WOW, you guys buy NICE stuff.” Don’t you know I was proud as could be? I gave them an address to a GySgt in the Balkans who has 300 marines looking for items that we have available; so that shipment will go out very soon.

Karen


 

9-22-05

Someone asked me a long time ago, “Why don’t we pack ready made backpacks or gym bags?” So if you ever want to know why we don’t pack our backpacks or gym bags ready to go with little shampoos, toothpaste, toothbrushes, boxers, t-shirts etc., it is because I just spent the entire afternoon unpacking these items from groups that spent their time packing this way. The reason we don’t pack this way is that the troops come in looking for just shampoo or just boxers, or the group will pack med briefs with an x-large tee, so it all gets unpacked here. Some of the guys are going back down range and don’t have the room for all the extras in these prepared bags. OK just had to get that out of my system.

I meet some very wonderful guys today. One particular young man happened to receive a package of boxers that we shipped. When he saw the tag he said something about it and I said that was a group that I was part of in the States. After he realized that we honor Fallen Heroes, he asked if we could honor two friends of his, SPC Carter and SGT Ruth of Eco. 1-15 INF BN 3 BD 3ID. I have no other information as of now, but I’m sure we can find them on the net. He was in need of sweats, guess what – the shirt was ours!! He began to tear up. He said that he had come back to the States during a mid-tour break and had been spit at. He thought that there would be more of a welcome than there was. He was surprised at the support that this group gave. (I believe the shirt was from Kathy’s family and the boxers were from Sherry’s family). He told me that he wished there were more like me that supported the troops in the States and I told him, “Honey, there are!!” and I gave him a hug. After clothing this young man from head to toe and making sure to take into account his injuries, we said goodbye.  He asked if he could come back tomorrow to maybe pick out some books. The reply is, “Of course.” So my request to you now is to show this young man that he is truly supported. If you send me a PRIVATE email I will give it to him if he does come back tomorrow or next week. His name is XXXX. Please do not mention injuries or the incident on his mid-tour break, just that we support him 100%.

Other items of interest. Please forgive me I don’t remember names; but I saw sponsors from IN, CA, and KY go out today. I do know that these sponsors went out to day also:  Kathy, Dad, Sherry, Lehn, Stafford American Legion, and Civitan Club. They have some of our sweats from our Jan shipment that are just now going out.

They are in need of WOMENS SMALL sweats.

I’m really tired right now and can’t think of anything else to let you know.

Karen


 

9-24-05

Today (Saturday) I had not planned on going into the hospital to work, but after getting an email from the office that they were very busy, I jumped in the shower and went right over. Our sweat suits may have not all gone out last winter, but they sure are going out now.  I don’t even look at the sponsor labels any more, because most of them on the shelves are ours.

I do have to tell you a funny situation that happened today. We had about 3 guys in the clothing closet and they were picking out their items. One of the guys kept looking at me and looking at the package of boxers in his hands. I went and asked him if he needed help. Some of them are on some strong meds and get a little distracted. He said, “No, but why is your name on my boxers.” It took me a minute to realize he had one of our packages and I was the sponsor and he was looking at my Red Cross name tag. So I told him about our project. Both of us thought that was very cool.

The weather here is cool but sunny, but these girls and guys are freezing when they come in. So I’m glad we sent the jackets when we did and there is another group that sent wind breakers that some of the guys are taking. They are red and not going over so well, but soon it will be too cold for them and they will have to be stored anyways.

I’m still not sleeping through the night. That is it for now.

Karen


 

9-28-05

I meet a man today who received the Purple Heart. He joined the U.S. Army because his friend died on Sept 11 at the towers. He is giving 6 years of his life to honor his friend. He told me about the friends that he has made and lost in this war. He has my email address if he wishes for us to honor any of them.

I meet a young man who was wheelchair bound. It is amazing the determination to overcome these young people have. After being in a chair after my foot surgery, I know how difficult it can be to maneuver on the ground, but he would not allow us to help him.

For the American Legion people here, I met two gentlemen from American Legion Post 1. They had come in to help pack boxes, but just as with anyone, they have to go through the Red Cross Orientation, Training, Occupation Health Check, and I forget what the other office was called.  Then you get to start.

For those of you that are local to my area and have seen my POW/MIA jacket, WOW, I have never had so many comments about a jacket before. I will be walking down the sidewalk and get this hand gesture from someone I have seen earlier in the day. You know the one that says TURN AROUND so they can show whoever they are walking with the back of my jacket. But I’m very proud to wear that jacket and very proud to be able to help these great people here.

My time here is going way too fast. It is a magnet that pulls me every morning and it is difficult to leave at night. I can’t even think about leaving in Oct; my heart goes to my throat each time I think about leaving here.

Well, starting to get sappy and it is late so I will close.

Karen

P.S. Thanks, Sue, that is one very thankful military member on this side. I had one young man that came in today that was very amazed at all the things he received. He said that he did not think anyone back home cared any more.

P.P.S. We are looking for any information about groups (Church groups, Civic Groups, Schools, Scouts, etc) that you might hear about that are sending items to the hospital. If you could provide an email address, web site, or phone number to me about these groups we would appreciate it very much. We are going to try to curtail the items that we don’t need and have them send the items that we do need. We need all the help we can receive in this effort. THANKS!!!

Karen

Please Stop!

09-12-05

I have arrived here in Germany and other than being tired and on the wrong time zone, all is well.  I start Red Cross training Monday and then other in-processing after that.

Karen


09-15-05

I’ve had to have shots because the military lost my records in the big military database in the sky and the paper shot records I had were not up to date enough. I can not start working until my shots are up to date on official records.

Karen


09-19-05

They are in urgent need of AT & T or MCI 120 minute (no more than that) phone cards. They also said to spread the word that they DO NOT WANT TOILETRIES. They have been sending their stuff into the field and even the field locations are saying PLEASE STOP!!! I have a Red Cross training class in about an hour so I have to go. More later.

Karen


 

09-20-05

I went to the Chaplain’s Clothing Closet today and I found the last two pairs of shoes that we sent back in Feb or Mar on the shelf – still with the sponsor labels on them. The volunteer there said that most of the shoes we sent were gone in less than a month. I don’t remember the exact number, but I think it was close to 200 pairs or was it 300?

I also saw the book that everyone signed from the benefit at the Lorton American Legion on a table in the Chaplain’s office. It is with boxes of candy and the pastries that Bernie sent.

I bagged some candy today for the welcome bags and went through custom forms to be entered into a data base for thank you letters. It was strange seeing my name and our project come through on the other end. If and when they need more bags, they have to be half gallon size, snack size is too small to fit movies in them. However, right now, there are no movies and we have more than enough bags.

There was a young man in the clothing closet when I was there talking with Jennifer, the volunteer and chaplain’s staff. The chaplain’s staff was telling the volunteer about our project and the young man came up and said to tell each of you “THANKS.”  He said that you truly did not know what this meant to him. He said that it was over 100 degrees in Iraq when he left and even though to us this was sweater weather, he had his long johns on and was wearing two sweat shirts. He is coming back to the States on Friday.

Karen