Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One foot forward - update on Nate and then some

Fashion footwear for fall? 
There's nothing more annoying than someone stealing your spotlight. Not to be outdone, my tibia decided it was sick and tired of Nate's ACL getting all the attention. So yesterday my left leg became encapsulated in an orthopedic boot for the next three weeks and I'm only to walk a total of one-two hours A DAY. That'll teach Nate and his so-called ACL repair...OY!

Seriously though, my oldest OS is doing so well. The Hubs went to visit him during a business trip and they bravely went to New York City. It's scary enough walking around the Big Apple as an able-bodied person but as you will soon see in this video clip, my OS took on NYC like a BOSS. 

I love how the lady by the curb doesn't even step aside as Nate comes barreling through. Nice. Thank you Mobilegs for making such a great product, your crutches have made such a difference in my son's recovery.

That awkward Cinderella moment
between brothers - the shoe fits!
When Aaron and I were at West Point, I observed brotherly love in a fresh way. Five years ago, almost to the day, Nate had his first ACL surgery. Aaron and Ike attended to Nate in the manner fitting of a then 12 and 10 year old. One of the post-surgery highlights was when the two guys competed each day to see which brother could collect the most wee-wee from the urinal. Such a proud mommy moment.

Thankfully everyone has matured. My orange haired, freckle face almost 15 year old stayed behind for driver's ed but loaded up a box of treats for Nate replete with a funny card. He spoke to him regularly and showed sincere concern.

Just moments before saying goodbye
It was my middle OS that displayed such a servant's heart, I found myself nearly thankful for Nate's injury. When Nate's surgery was scheduled first thing in the morning, Aaron cheerfully awakened to join me at the hospital. Anything Nate needed, Aaron offered to help. Anything I needed, Aaron was equally joyful to do. Fill Nate's ice machine, get him fresh water, fluff his pillows, Aaron literally poured himself out to his brother and he was remarkably patient with me. My boy sacrificed his own Fall break to help Nate and then only three days after getting home from New York, Aaron was the patient. He had wisdom teeth surgery!
Final pics of Aaron's wisdom teeth

It's not the best quality picture but I captured a tender moment when it was time to say goodbye. Of course, the lacrimal glands were activated as I hugged my boy's neck. We had had such a treasured time together. There was another WP mom picking up her son by Grant turn-around and she wiped tears from her eyes at the sight. 
Aaron carrying his big brother's laundry and
stuff as Nate crutches back to life at West Point.
Yes, I was crying.  

But then I really lost it as Aaron accompanied Nate to the barracks. Nate was limping along on his Mobilegs as Aaron carried Nate's stuff back to his room. Two beautiful, godly young men and brothers displaying love and gratitude. They are there for each other. They share joy and sorrow, struggles and success. Neither distance, nor disability of any kind or length, nor differences will separate my three OS from each other. Ever. Let it be so. 
my AWESOME oliveshoots

Sunday, October 16, 2011

SMH - Thanksgiving Days

Nate up and around in the hotel near some
of his cards and notes
It's been a few days since my last post but Nate has returned to class per doctor's orders. The rigors of a grueling academic schedule, a long-distance love affair, and an active social life are a heavy load to carry by themselves when you're a firstie at West Point. But Nate must now add frequent physical therapy visits to his busy life. I do not envy him but of this I'm certain, my OS can do it.
Nate and his pretty bonita Lu in El Sal

Now at home, I am reflecting on the blessings because they abounded during our journey to New York. At times, I find myself just SMH (a term I noticed so often on facebook, I had to google it).

SMH - shaking my head and that's what I'm doing at the cornucopia of sublime treasures we experienced. If I didn't share them and attempt in some measure to take stock in the blessings, it wouldn't seem right.

The mums were spectacular! 
Weather - gentle autumn days teased us with a sense that colder temps soon awaited. During our entire stay, we enjoyed bright sun, blue skies and trees just starting to change colors. During the trip to New York, Aaron and I even spotted a rainbow in the sky. Me likey rainbows in the sky!

Traffic - what traffic? This was a big concern of mine because I'm not a great traveler and I'm even worse when my given mode of transportation isn't moving. Pretty sure this will never happen again but we cruised along the highways!
I have fallen in love with the Hudson Valley. I took this picture as we drove away from the hospital so thankful to have my boy in my car beginning his recovery. 

Destination - And get this, we hardly ever got lost! I can't make my way out of a paper bag but going from our home in North Carolina to New York and back again was practically effortless. I was convinced Aaron and I would be hopelessly directionally challenged even using the GPS but we all worked so well together!

Food - Whether it was the curry chicken salad my friend Gigi made for us, the calzones at Schades, the lunch platters at Foodies, our tummies were full of deliciousness.

Laundry - since we stayed at a friend's house for several days, I got to wash clothes. It does a mama good to do the laundry for her Soldier. Gigi's hospitality gave Aaron and I a relaxing place to chill. 
Nate chiling at Keller the night prior to surgery

Crutches - A West Point mom told me about Mobilegs and you should have seen Nate zipping along on these after surgery! We went to WalMart just two days after surgery and I had to start walking in front of him just to help the shoppers realize a guy with crutches was barreling toward them! He didn't give them time to react. Someone was going to get hurt and I didn't think it was going to be my Soldier!

Healing - ACL surgery is painful but my oldest OS was a model patient. Helping my family is a special joy to me and Nate appreciated anything we did for him which only made me want to do more. 

Homemade, hand-dipped
dark chocolate caramels
drizzled with sea salt.
Keep your grubby
hands away from them or
I am not responsible
for my actions.
Thank you.
Friends - the prayers and loving support of many people are good medicine for the body and soul. One West Point mom made a bunch of delicious homemade caramels for her daughter's Army sports team and guess what she did? She dropped off THREE bags of it for my crew! Dark chocolate, rich caramel with a hint of sea salt...oh.my.word. Please don't ask how many I ate versus how many the patient and his brother enjoyed. All's I'm gonna say is I deserved it. Final answer. 

Another mom and her family back in NC made Nate homemade cards and caramel corn. Nate now has two homemade bookmarks from little kids who encouraged him. They are Marine kids which makes it even more fantastic! The dad drove the treats over to my house the night before we left, such thoughtfulness.
"Um, thanks Dad for the Batman briefs..."
Throughout Nate's days of recuperation, I would bring him small gifts from others. It was remarkable how each gift was perfect timing for him. Whether it was the Batman undies from his dad, the PopTarts from his grandparents, the Amazon gift card from his aunt and uncle, the cash from his grandpa or the weird plastic caterpillar from the orange hair, freckle faced youngest brother, there was a sense of love and community from all around.

And I'm not done. There are more blessings but on this perfect autumn day, I'm going to bask in these gifts. May I suggest you do the same. Not in my blessings which I pray bring you a measure of joy but on yours, they are there even if you have to look a little harder. I hope you find them today, my friends.

More soon,

Friday, October 7, 2011

Army Strong - Day One post surgery

Outside the hospital
We're sitting in a darkened room at Keller Army Hospital on a crisp autumn day at West Point. The sound of the CryoCuff Cooler chugs along giving Nate icy respite from the pain of surgery. We are only a few hours post-ACL surgery and even though this is not easy for any of us (especially Nate!), I'm so happy my middle OS and I are here.
Nate will come to love and hate 
this machine during his rehab

Though my family often chides me for asking a lot of questions, today I think Nate at least would agree, that trait does have its merits. I had myriad questions of the surgeon but didn't barrage him. A mama wants to effectively advocate for her son. If you've ever been to the doctor or had surgery, you understand how important it can be to have another voice speaking on your behalf. In the short time he has been a patient at the hospital, I have run interference for my OS. When Nate was thirsty, I requested water, when he drank Sprite, I asked if he could have more. The medical staff have many patients, Aaron and I have one. It's not being a diva or a prima donna, I'm not a Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, just a mama, if I can do something quicker or easier, than I want to assist. 
Saw this in the waiting room - Rick Springfield 
on a talk show this morning...
I think he's had some surgery too! :) 

When Nate's IV monitor was sounding "occlusion," I fetched someone to investigate. When he thought he might throw up, I inquired of a barfing receptacle. I'm sure Nate would have managed but not very comfortably because he's too weak to do much. Aaron has faithfully stayed by Nate's side even though there's really nothing for him to do here. I am proud of my boy for his sacrifice and love. 
Aaron and I went apple picking with a friend
yesterday - we are the two amigos!
Here's an example of how Aaron and I have been a good team. A short while ago, a male nurse came to help Nate with a basic biological function. Nate did not want my intervention (totally understood that!) so Aaron and I waited in the hallway. The nurse gave Nate his privacy once he had transferred him to the toilet. He left the room and told Nate he would get him back to the bed. Nate used the restroom and Aaron and I stepped back in the room. Nate began to wobble and he looked white as a ghost. I yelled for Aaron's help in case Nate fainted as I retrieved the nurse. Aaron stood by his brother's side until the staff got him safely back to bed. Now Nate is fast asleep, problem avoided, thank the Lord. 

My OS has entered the subset of cadets who find themselves needing surgery during their 48 month sojourn at USMA. It's a unique subset of the Corps and if possible, I'd recommend finding another "club" to join! Seriously! Thanks for your prayers, concern and support, it means so much to us. Army Strong!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Surgery - when the time is right, whenever that is!

Gorgeous skies blanketed the journey to West Point
Unfortunately, the adage "expect the unexpected" and the expression "hurry up and wait" are true this morning as Nate's surgery has been delayed. He walked into the surgery room, mentally prepared to get his ACL fixed and walked right back out minutes later because of an equipment malfunction.

The night before, the three of us enjoyed dinner at Sushi King followed by ice cream just a few doors down the street. Nate was as ready as he could be for the surgery bright and early in the morning.

But at this point, my OS has been told that the equipment might not even be fixed today. The sterilizer is broken. I think that's a good reason to postpone things however, my firstie is hungry, thirsty and frustrated, who can blame him?

Yesterday I found myself counting our blessings, taking stock of the goodness which has resulted through this trial. So instead of complaining which is unproductive, I'm going to concentrate on the positive. This is just a partial list and I hope to later include other blessings which have lifted our spirits. 

Don''t be jealous, get your own ACL surgery ;)
My van is loaded with treats for Nathan. Cards and gifts from family as well as from people who don't even know my boy! When Nate said he wanted me to bring him dehydrated apples, I obliged but a mother who doesn't even know him also wanted to support a member of the military. She dehydrated a bunch of apples for Nate. They look delicious! 
Bible Study friends holding a bag of dehydrated apples.
They donated 40 pounds of apples for my OS!
The women in my weekly Bible Study pitched in and bought a box of apples for me to dehydrate for my OS. We're talking 40 POUNDS of apples! In addition, my Bible Study leader and another WP mom donated bags of apples for my healthy food project. Such bounty! When I popped open the back of the van to give Nate some of the things, his mouth was agape at the amount of apples he now has to enjoy! I felt so proud of my friends and the community of support.
Nate now has a ridunkulous amount of dehydrated apples. 

The West Point networks for parents and mothers are extraordinary. Through a parent list-serve and a closed West Point Moms facebook group, I have been encouraged beyond measure. I learned about Mobilegs which is a lightweight crutch alternative. When I contacted the company and told them about Nate's upcoming surgery, they eagerly offered me a military discount. 
Nate trying on his Mobilegs before surgery

The Mobilegs arrived at his barracks yesterday afternoon. 
When we met Nate,   
he was grinning and carrying them. "I'm actually kinda excited to use them," Nate remarked to me last night. 

In front of Sushi King - Nate and his
Zoolanderish brother Aaron
During dinner, when the owner of the restaurant learned that Nate was a West Point cadet and having surgery the next day, he made him a free special mango sushi roll. Our spirits were high. Truly I'm learning that the little things we can all do for each other are very significant. THANK YOU SUSHI KING!!
Mango, cream cheese, crab sushi roll made
just for Nate - delicious kindness

Another great blessing was Aaron and I drove to West Point and enjoyed a scenic, pleasant trip. We got along 96% of the time and although the last 4% was pretty ugly (we were less than ten miles away from West Point!), our relationship quickly returned to its formerly happy state. 

And as if we hadn't be given above and beyond what we even imagined, we had a surprise awaiting us. I opened the small closet in Nate's hospital room and there, tucked in the far corner, I spotted the thing we never expected. A pair of bright red boxer briefs!!! Carefully I pinched the undies with my fingers and wiggled them at Nate! He was, um, speechless! I'm pretty sure an angel had left them there for my boy. It doesn't get better than that, my friends!
A complimentary pair of undies left for Nate! What great fortune!
 And there have been other blessings which I must acknowledge. Right now though I'm completely exhausted and trusting in the Lord's perfect timing. Please know that your words and thoughtfulness are so meaningful. We'll keep you posted...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Doing Hard Things - Nate needs a new knee in New York :(

August 5, 2011 became a day our entire family will remember. For my oldest OS, it was not only a day that marked the passing of my grandma but Nate endured an additional painful moment that the rest of us didn't.  
Nate in happier days!
It was an hour before completion of CLDT training at Fort Bliss. Overall it was a lackluster experience for my OS and I best leave it at that. Putting it mildly, Nate was ready for it to be over and to return to West Point for the beginning of his "firstie" aka senior year. Prior to leaving the base, Nate was relieving stress by joking around and wrestling with some of the other guys. The next thing he knew a much larger NCO (non-commissioned officer) pounced on Nate and threw him backwards. As he dropped to the ground, Nate heard the dreaded pop in his left knee.

In 2007, Nate first heard that "pop" during a soccer game. It marked the end of his soccer season for the year. My OS was 17 when he had knee surgery and began a long rehab for a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In time, he recovered well and was resolute in absolutely never having to relive that experience ever again. 
But the Lord had other plans on August 5th. Now on Wednesday, Nate returns to the operating room. Not in the comfortable environs of our hometown but this time at West Point. And on the same knee no less! Tomorrow my middle OS Aaron and I travel to New York to be with Nate before and after the surgery. According to the surgeon, my OS will have a different operation to fix the problem. Based on Nathan's future job as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, the surgeon advised him to have a patellar tendon graft. This is a harder surgery with a tougher rehab and an uglier scar but it insures better results for his long-term success. I guess you could say Nate will have a Soldier's Knee.

My boy will have to summon a great deal of strength to heal from this surgery. With the help of his fellow cadets (let it be so!) and his faith in the Lord, I know he can do this but I hate that I will be so far away. Would it really be that awkward if I just stayed in the barracks and promised to not be a bother??? ;) He will return back to class almost immediately whereas the last time, Nate recovered at home for nearly two weeks. Four years ago I could take care of him. I brought him food, as a family we helped him. Nate had plenty of visitors and attention, we all rallied around him. Now I will only be able to stay for a few days. His dorky brothers even had daily competitions on who could collect the most urine in the handy receptacle near his bedside, I doubt anyone is going to volunteer for that job! 
This is a leg brace; however when I had my ACL surgery
I called it the most horrible orthopedic device
ever created! How I loathed that thing!
Be of good courage, Nate! You can doey it!
Nate will be in a full leg immobilizer for six weeks. He'll be hobbling all over the base and be expected to fully participate in West Point activities. Jesus knows my heart and hears my prayers. 

So to the extent I feel comfortable, I'm sharing part of my prayer with you, dear friends.
Suddenly plebe year is looking a lot easier
than recovering from ACL surgery AGAIN! 
As you well know, I don't understand the reason for this injury but I don't have to comprehend all your ways. You don't ask for my permission and I realize that. Forgive me as I acknowledge my weakness in this area for even questioning your sovereignty about why this happened again. Lord, in your perfect time, speak to me and give me ears to hear. Calm my anxious mama's heart and allow me to trust You through this process. Reveal to my boy new things about who You are. Bless my child with Your presence when he is in pain and feeling discouraged. Surround him with the compassion and kindness of others and allow my boy to notice your manifold blessings. Though I will not always be near my son, you promise in your Word to never leave or forsake us. You never sleep, you are always present and that is a comfort to me. Lord, though his knees aren't the greatest (!) you and I both know Nate is tough but so very tender hearted, thank you for fearfully and wonderfully making him this way. Because of You, he can do this hard thing! In Jesus' name, amen.
One of my sweetest blessings = my boy
Thanks y'all for praying for Nate and caring enough to read this post...