Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tried and True

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future."

Life. To truly and fully live and embrace each moment. 
Is it possible to do this and never get hurt?


Marines. Wounded Warriors. No longer living life as complete due to their new injuries???
I use Marines because they are notorious bullet catchers and I have taken care of two this last week. Their stories are used with permission.

This is a broad gentleman with a shaved head and features reminiscent of Bruce Willis. He has the same stern look, coupled with the smile lines affectionately known as "Crow's Feet".
The demeanor of the career Marine in the Infantry is different than that of any other service member. They don't smile as much. They skip much of the day to day "Courteous" body language. They have seen the life and death struggle and see no point in facades or politically correct mannerisms. They are sometimes caught in action and exploited by the media for this, however they remain some of the elite in bravery because they go in and sign up, not just knowing that they could get blown up, but expecting it. They wear a dog tag in their boot in case they are suddenly in pieces. They live prepared.

*Disclaimer: Infantry is not the only branch that matches these descriptions, however, it is more well known as high risk*

As I began to care for my patient, as he began to trust me as a nurse who cared for him as a patient and a person, he began to open up. He was injured on a foot patrol in Afghanistan a few years ago. He described to me, "I remember the blast and thinking...'I didn't know I could fly'. Then I remember doing a head count as the dust began to settle. I started yelling at my men to set up a perimeter as I tried to get up. I remember getting mad at myself  because I couldn't get to my feet and didn't know why. I remember as the dust began to clear, looking in the distance and seeing my leg-over there. I thought, 'Hmm that's interesting.' That's when my sniper tackled me and began throwing tourniquets on every part of my body. I remember hearing two sucking noises and looking down at the trauma to my chest and abdomen. I was later told it was my lungs. They had 'popped'. I remember being carried out and as soon as I was in the medevac a nurse hit me with a shot. Then I woke up in the hospital." The extent of his injuries: left leg amputated above the knee, right leg damaged by shrapnel and burns, reproductive organs and lower part of stomach lost, both lungs popped from inside out, body split open all the way to sternum, left forearm and left hand shredded to the bone, both ear drums popped and most of his teeth shattered, mild to moderate traumatic brain injury.

This man sat before me with a will to live stronger than any I had seen. He told me he had died several times but they brought him back. He cracked jokes to lighten the mood. Once as I was leaving the room, I asked I could get him anything. His reply, "Another leg?" I replied, "Hmm. I think you have a few inches on me-mine wouldn't work, but I will check the storeroom." Continuing the banter he said, "No way, you are pretty big." Boy did I tear that one up. With a raised eyebrow I said, "Oh really?? Well some of us have to lift weights regularly in order to push big boys around in stretchers." As he attempted to dig himself out of the hole, I reassured him that I don't take things personally. His efforts of making things better included things like "Amazon...but not in a bad way" and "Wonderwoman"...but I was definitely not letting him off. I find that with these guys, people look at them and pity them but they don't want that. Many of the amputees are almost completely independent. They want to continue life as it was before, as much as possible. I try to look at them with respect and treat them like a person with a soul. If the opportunity presents, I will definitely make jokes as I would for any of my patients. Laughter is healing and chips away at an awful cloud of despair that many of these guys can fall under. 

To conclude for now, and back to my original question, "Is it possible to live life and never get hurt?" Yes, but are you really living life? This man knew what he was getting into. He knew the possibilities and yet he signed up to protect our freedom. As he lay in the stretcher, he said,"All us injured guys, we just want to go back to our men. We want to get back out there to what we were doing." He has lost some major parts of him, but his spirit is resilient. Life has been hard to him, but he has chosen the higher road. He currently travels around the country on a referral basis to spend a week at a time with other Marines struggling with their injuries of war. He also works with Troops First Foundation, an organization founded by former pro golfer, David Feherty. Troops First strives to provide meaningful assistance to the wounded military veterans of OIF/OEF. Despite the new physical limitations, he travels around the country helping, encouraging, and educating. He is living proof that the best way to get over your own problems and despair is to get your eyes off of yourself and help or encourage someone else.

In the several hours I cared for him, there were a couple of times I saw those crow's feet emerge in the light of a genuine smile. Most likely I will go into a file cabinet of his mind as 'just another nurse'. It is easy when you have had 49 surgeries. He, however, made an impression on me-something that I cannot simply forget. 

Remember, no matter what your struggles are there is always somebody worse off. Use them as kindling to light your fire of perseverance. Seek to live life fully and completely. Pain is a part of it, but embrace the hurt and learn from it. To summarize a quote I heard this week, "Bitterness and hate are like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to die." You can never get life or time back. Don't waste them in despair, look to the future. God has greatness planned for you, if you will only cast aside your problems and stop fearing your potential. Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.

1 comment:

rikon said...

Your descriptive words really painted a scene and made an emotional connection, i didnt know this side of you existed, keep writing!