Going the Extra Mile
Hawaii couldn’t seem farther away these days. I ended my last writing in September, having just returned from an eight day trip to the island of Kauai. At that time, I was about to begin taking new college classes, had an internship starting, and had my 50th surgical procedure scheduled for a week later. I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to write sooner, but I have been going non-stop for the past few months, so here’s what’s happening:
Surgery number 50 was aimed at revising the tight scarring along my right arm, and to remove some jagged bone fragments around the fused elbow of the same arm. There were a couple of complications with that procedure, mainly to the nerves in my right hand. The surgeons are confident that they did not cut any unnecessary parts, yet the nerve responsible for opening my hand, extending my fingers, and lifting my thumb is not functioning. We will have to give it time to hopefully come back. It has been over two months since the operation, still with no signs of improvement. The other minor complication involved breathing toward the end of the procedure. Apparently I stopped breathing for a brief period, which prompted the hospital to keep me as an in-patient for a couple nights to monitor my oxygen levels. This is not uncommon, and I’ve had no lasting effects from this issue.
Last week, I had operation # 51. This surgery was done on my eardrums which had been blown out (perforated) by the explosion in 2011. Surgeons had repaired both ears last year, but the right ear did not heal properly, so we went in last week to redo the procedure. The doctors were happy with the results, but it will be a few months before we can determine the level of success. The pain has been worse than expected, and I have had a bad allergic reaction to a surgical glue they used along the incision line. This has made my entire body itchy beyond compare for almost a week, and resulted in very little sleep. The pain and the allergies are finally beginning to get under control today, five days post-op.
My college classes are five days a week. Biology and Chemistry (each with a lab) are Monday through Thursday nights at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD. Friday morning is Psychology at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Most weeknights, I do not get home from class until almost 10:30 PM, giving me just enough time to eat a late dinner before starting homework by midnight. I am more committed to this round of education than I’ve been at any other point in my life.
Yet while the hard work has been paying off with high grades, it has taken a toll on other aspects of my life. Routinely staying awake to three or five AM, I have been forced to shift my doctors and therapy appointments to later in the day. Unfortunately, this schedule has meant that I have not been able to start the internship. Luckily, the intern program is built around my recovery and transition so I will be able to start when I am ready. I am looking to take only two classes next semester in order to free up a weekday to start logging experience hours.
I still spend a few hours every day in physical therapy, and my walking has improved significantly. While still tied to the wheelchair for long distances or relaxing around my apartment, I am increasingly more comfortable leaving the chair at home. More and more I have been venturing out to the movies, dinner, or school (walking the entire time) as my balance and endurance have improved. Eight months ago, I could only walk about 200 yards before I would succumb to fatigue and dripping sweat. Today, under normal conditions, I can function in the legs for upwards of ten hours without looking like I just ran a marathon.
Speaking of marathons, a big thank you to my friend Emily Bernstein who ran the NYC Marathon to raise money for my recovery fund. I was able to make it up to NY to cheer her on, and very impressed to see her finish faster than her target time. I am so incredibly honored that she chose to support me and want to thank everyone who supported her efforts!
I was also honored to speak at my former high school in Connecticut on Veterans Day. I was moved to see that the Glastonbury Public School System did away with giving students the day off for Veterans Day. Instead, they held activities throughout the day focusing on Veterans, and service to community and country. I’m sure the teenagers were hoping for the day off, but as a veteran I couldn’t have been more proud to be reminded how I live in a country that really cares about the sacrifices we make. Thank you to the students and faculty of GHS who took time to listen to the experiences and advice of this veteran. I hope I made a difference.
Thank you for the continued support,