Reﬂections on a Visit
Healing, Lessons, and Ever-present Challenge
–By Eva Flanagan
I feel compelled to share some thoughts with those who care about Greg, on my time spent recently in San Antonio. I donʼt see how anyone can visit the Brooke Army Medical Center complex and not be moved. For most of us our day to day reality does not involve physical pain, a struggle to complete basic tasks of daily living (eating, using the bathroom, moving about our homes to put things away, etc,). Most of us donʼt worry about heading out to the store or a restaurant, wondering if they have space for a wheelchair, or worrying about people staring at us because of the way we look. While at BAMC I continue to be struck by the large number of (mostly) young guys who are missing limbs, or are severely burned and disﬁgured. Wounded in the line of duty, while sacriﬁcing their own safety for our freedom, I have an enormous amount of respect for them. My heart goes out to them for the challenges they do and will continue to face. Yet, I ask myself, why do they need to continue to be put in harms way? When will our leaders decide there’s been enough loss of life and limb, and bring our troops home…..
Heading down to San Antonio on July 31st, with Pat and our boys, Kyle, Ryan, and Tommy we were ﬁlled with eager anticipation to see Greg. I last left him on June 18th. At that time he was still in the ICU, in excruciating pain, unable to get out of bed, his wounds still very raw. Visiting Greg in those early days after his attack I had been shocked. Despite working for several years as a nurse, never before had I seen such massive trauma to a human body. How could this have happened, I wondered? How is it possible to heal from such extreme injuries? Fortunately I was able to gain hope from both Gregʼs own determined attitude to stay strong, and by seeing other wounded warriors in further stages of healing, and walking on prosthetic limbs about the facilities. I didnʼt want to leave Greg that day in June and wanted so badly to stay and help with his nursing care, sit and hold his hand, anything to ease his burden.
This time walking back into Gregʼs hospital room, almost 6 weeks later, I was again shocked. After seeing Gregʼs raw wounds I was now struck by the rapid healing that had taken place in a seemingly short time. Of course it was a busy time for Greg: He had had several more surgeries and he had pushed through the physical and mental pain day by day. This time his skin looked amazing. He will always have large scars, but now his wounds were almost healed! More of Gregʼs hard work and progress was also immediately apparent when I walked into his room. He was out of bed and sitting in his motorized wheelchair. Anyone who saw him those ﬁrst days and weeks would be impressed at how Greg is able to transfer himself from bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to car or couch, etc using his good left arm and his healing lower limbs. Itʼs inspiring and amazing and gives me a new appreciation for all the little things I take for granted in my own daily existence.
My boys had been anticipating this visit for weeks by now and couldnʼt wait to hug their Uncle Greg. The gravity of Gregʼs condition was not lost on three young boys. The ﬁrst meeting with him was touching to say the least. Hugs, kisses, questions…what impressed me most about that ﬁrst meeting came from Greg. Itʼs a testament to his good character that, in talking to his nephews about his injuries, he made it a point to tell them that he forgives the people that hurt him. No doubt he is a victim of some of the worst evil this world can produce, yet even through all heʼs suffered, and even when faced with a long hard road to ʻrecoveryʼ, Greg ﬁnds forgiveness in his heart. He still recognizes the importance of sharing this with young children. Itʼs a precious life lesson for child and adult alike to witness Gregʼs compassion and forgiveness in the face of such hardship. Sure, heʼs not upbeat every minute of every day (and who is?) but overall his outlook is admirable.
We were honored to be part of some of Gregʼs recent milestones- highlights being moving to outpatient living and a ﬁrst meal out at a restaurant since the accident. During our visit Kyle, Ryan, and Tommy proved that small kindnesses go a long way. They tried to be helpful in any way they could to Greg, from helping move his things to the Fisher house, to pushing him around in his manual chair, to buying him that last choco-taco at the BAMC cafeteria. Little Tommy even reached out and held down Gregʼs ice cream sundae dish so it wouldnʼt slide around while Greg dug in with his left hand. In return they got a few joy rides in his motorized chair!
Heading back to New York this time wasnʼt much easier than when I left Greg in June. More hugs, kisses, and tears…I look forward to the day when itʼs easier to leave, when Greg regains his independence. For now the path ahead of him remains long and full of challenges. His days are tiring; ﬁlled with appointments to various doctors, case managers, physical therapy, etc. Next week Greg is scheduled to begin intensive physical therapy at the CFI (Center for the Intrepid). This is exciting since itʼs here that Greg will begin to ready his body for use of prosthetic legs, but itʼs also going to bring new challenges physical and mental alike. While his wounds continue to heal he still has many areas on the skin graft sites that require daily wound care. The phantom pain has decreased but will always be present to some extent. Sleeping through the night still hasnʼt happened. Most troublesome is Gregʼs right arm. As Summer mentioned in a recent post, it doesnʼt function as a usable limb at this time. The bones arenʼt healed, the elbow is missing, and there will always be extensive scars and limits on weight-bearing. Only time will tell if the doctors can ﬁx this arm so Greg can truly use it…I hope and pray every day that they can.
Stay strong Greg, we love you!
Love, Eva (Gregʼs sister)