When we speak of recovery, most people think of visits to the doctor or physical therapy; at least, that’s what I thought of when I thought of recovery. When you’re in the Army or here at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, it’s very different.
I want to thank all the surgeons, nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and anybody who has helped or assisted in my rehabilitation and recovery at Walter Reed. There is no better facility, no better medical professionals, than the ones I have seen here.
My recovery began about a week after arriving on January 19th. I had two injuries: a broken and dislocated hand, and a severely injured right leg. I began physical therapy, and it was disappointing knowing I would have to learn how to walk again. I was first taught how to go up and down a staircase seated. It was strange to realize all the simple things in everyday life I had taken for granted; to all of a sudden have a cast on your hand all the way to your elbow, or a leg you can’t walk on.
In the first part of February, left the actual hospital and was moved to what they call the wounded warrior barracks. These barracks are set up like a college dorm room or hotel suite, with a kitchen, laundry room, and two bedrooms. When I first arrived, I had a roommate who had also been injured; he has since returned home. I was assigned to a nurse case manager, a social worker, and a platoon sergeant, among others. My case manager took care of scheduling of my physical therapy and any other doctors appointments as needed. We were all required to check in once a day prior to 0800.
My main focus here at Walter Reed is physical and occupational therapy for my hand. My first day of actual occupational therapy was not until March. It consisted of practicing basic hand movement, which at the time was very limited, but it strengthened me. In regards to my leg, in early March, the 187 stitches I had were removed, and I was fitted with a brace and a boot. I got around in a walker for the most part. My occupational therapy for my hand has continued twice a week since I started in March. I undergo everything from heat treatments to grip and hand strengthening. I have been told by the physical therapist that once you break your hand, the hand is never the same. I would have to agree.
The hardest part of all this is the loss of mobility. I’m learning how to walk again and I have to say, wow. It’s shocking when something you learned at a such an early age, and that felt like it just came naturally, is all of the sudden difficult. Weekly, daily, and even hourly physical therapy with constant pain made it hard for me to be me.
I decided in early March to no longer use any pain medication, which, of course, made everything far worse. However, like many of the other patients, I had the right attitude, and remained positive throughout. That is honestly what has got me to where I am currently in my recovery. It is amazing what you can do with the right attitude, and with the help of professionals who truly care about your recovery. My attitude has always been positive since day one of my injury. Since coming to rehab, I realized early on that there are many soldiers, airmen, and others who have it far worse than I do. My heart goes out to all of them, and anybody who has ever been injured in combat.
One day, I will put my uniform back on and return to duty in some aspect, maybe in the National Guard, if only to sit behind a desk on a drill weekend. I have taken my experience with injury and recovery not as an adversity, but more as a test of my will, of my sheer desire to continue being a great leader and role model to others. My time here at Walter Reed isn’t over yet; hopefully, my surgery scheduled for Sept 9th will be my last, as will the remaining 12 weeks of physical therapy scheduled afterward. I thank the military for providing the facilities here at Walter Reed, and must also thank again all the professionals here who’ve helped me endure. They are the reason why the wounded personnel here able to return to somewhat normal lives. It is true when they say these veterans’ lives will never be the same after their injuries. But the people here work hard, long hours to give them a chance.