Today is Friday. This week seems to have gone very fast. I went to one of the bunkers that LRMC Chaplain’s Clothes Closet (CCC) uses to store excess supplies. WOW!! That is all I can say. I stood there in amazement at a bunker larger than my house – full of items. They have three bunkers, all full. The CCC and LHCP have been putting out a “Do not send” list for years.
The items they have in storage…well…wow! They have so many aqua-colored shoes, I don’t know if they will ever get rid of them all. They have containers upon containers of lotion, cotton balls, combs, conditioner, paperback books, magazines, decks of cards, pens, stationary, blank cards – the list just continues on and on. Storage space is precious at LRMC and it has been taken up by items they just don’t use. I need to try to help them clear some of this out, but I just don’t know if it is possible. I am hoping that our units in the Middle East can use some of it, but I am afraid much of it will not be used by anyone. They also continue to have expiration dates expire on toiletry items before it arrives at LRMC or will expire soon after it arrives.
Today I am going to take one of our IPOD shuffle donations to a wounded warrior in ICU. I was asked to deliver it to him personally. I knew it would be difficult, but after all these years it still gets to me worse than I thought it would. The liaison and I went up and the patient had been moved from his bed to a bed/chair. They were asking him if he wanted to move back to his bed and even though he could not speak the word “no,” we all understood that the sound that he made meant no. The liaison told him why I was there; he explained the CCC and LHCP. The patient just looked at me. I thought about my own family members that have been deployed and I realized I was putting them in that bed. I had to choke back what I was feeling and told him that I was happy to meet him and that I wanted to give him one of the IPODs. One member of his family was flown in to be by his side and since the warrior was paralyzed from the neck down, I gave it to his brother. I turned to look at the warrior and he had a smile on his face. This man is younger than my son and I just melted. I asked the brother if I could give the patient a kiss on the forehead. I then asked the patient if I could give him a kiss on the forehead. Both answered with a yes and so as difficult as it was, I gave him a whisper of a kiss on his forehead. My heart was pounding so hard by then I knew I did not have much time before it overwhelmed me. As I started to leave the room, we were told that a 3-star general was outside our door and could we please wait. I do not seek out “distinguished visitor” visits. I am uncomfortable and would rather seek out a patient or a box to unpack. I squeezed by everyone in the room and stuck myself in the corner. It was all going well until the liaison said he would like to introduce me to the 3-star. I whispered no to the liaison before he could get the first couple of his words out, but it did not work. The general asked about LHCP, the CCC, and my yearly visits. Then he thanked me and asked that I be sure to thank all our members and donors. After he stepped out of the room, I made my silent departure.
I went back down to the CCC and found two large carts of excess supplies waiting for me to find them a home. So, around to all the clinics I traveled. I did clear out four or five bins, but still came back with several full ones I could not clear out. Monday, I will try again.
Today is Saturday and the last of my clean clothes. We had the regular wounded warrior trip today, so the clothes must wait. This group will also take a trip down the Rhine. It was a beautiful day with temps in the 80s. I found a chair by the side and sat and watched the hills and castles go by. I had several wounded come up and sit with me and I realized that my heart was in pain. The patients were all smiles and taking pictures, but I kept thinking about the patient in ICU. I caught myself twice with tears welling up and would turn away from a patient so I could compose myself. Would the patient in ICU ever be able to breathe on his own? Would he be able to eat by himself, dress himself or even walk on to a boat for a river cruise? I thought about how wonderful the sun would feel to him, and as strong as I could, I wished the warmth to him. Sounds silly, I know.
By the end of the trip, most of us looked like we were in the running to be Rudolph (red noses). We moved all the patients to the bus for a short trip to the restaurant where LHCP paid for lunch again. As I looked around at all the tables, I saw a gunshot patient, I saw the PTSD patients, I saw the shoulder patients. If some of them were not wearing American logos on their shirts, you would never have thought anything was wrong with them. Then I noticed one patient with head in hand. I got up and went over to him to ask if he was ok. He said he had a headache. I asked him if he thought it was from the sun and he said yes. I looked around and they were just putting glasses of water on the tables. His would be last so I went back to my table and gave him my glass. In another 3 or 4 minutes he received his glass and drank that water as well. Within about 20 minutes, he was feeling much better. One of the patients told me that I was connected to them by a small fiber. He said I knew when one in almost 40 people was not feeling well.
I was almost finished with my lunch when one of our ladies got up and walked out. Silva and I noticed about the same time that something was wrong. I told Silvia I would go with the patient. I found her outside with tears in her eyes. I asked her if she would like to go for a walk and she said yes. She is having panic attacks and not sure why or what set this one off. I held her hands and promised her these episodes do get better. It might take a while and not be as fast as she might think she should heal, but they would. She explained some personal things and we slowly made our way back to the restaurant. She will be heading back to the states for further care. When Silva saw us walk back in, she told me that I really had a way with the patients. I told her that I am not sure that it is me. I believe that they really have a way with me. They have a way of getting inside my heart.
After lunch, the patients have about one hour to walk around and look at the German shops. I took my group into several stores. We found the largest cuckoo clock I have ever seen. They asked me if I had a wall large enough for the clock. I laughed and said no, but I also did not have a wallet large enough to pay the 25,000 euro price.
The bus was rather warm when we got back to it and it did not take long for them to all fall asleep.
Today is Sunday. It was another 0600 day as one of the chaplains asked me to his church services. He also asked some of the wounded warriors, and we took two of them with us. Afternoon plans were cancelled, so it gave me the perfect opportunity to get clothes washed. Tonight was rather calm as I sat outside the building and talked to wounded arriving throughout the three hours I sat there. Then we all went inside and watched the football games.
Dianne and Frank Lane have been long time supporters of LHCP. They have also helped support this trip over the years. I want to thank them for their continued support and dedicate the last few days to them. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I worked 10 hours, 15 hours, and 18 hours.