It Never Stops (or Who's Caring For Whom?)
It Never Stops (or Who's Caring For Whom?)
So, I wasn't joking, last night was very busy. No, it never stops and, I don't want it to stop...because, if it does, I've got a bigger problem than what I'm dealing with on a personal level. I do wish that the nightmares would stop (Yvonne's and mine), but, they are a sign of her memory working (maybe a little too well at times). Now, the photo that you see above this entry is in reference to a previous post; but, it's a great memory (the photo could use work) that I hang onto as if it were a shiny diamond. It is representative of a moment in time before things got bad or, did they get better? I know that I'm rambling here, but it was a rough night. Maybe I can give you a little background in order to put things into a little more clarity.
"You're either dumber than a box of hair, or harder than woodpecker lips", my P.A. said to me, as we were looking at my MRI. He was referring to the information that we had just learned; about why I was feeling a strange "tingling" going down my arms and legs.
"Your C-4/5 vertebrae are rubbing together and pinching your spinal cord," he explained, "and your L-5/S-1 is crushed and pushing into your cord below. T-3, 4, and L-1 through 3 are herniated..." I interrupted him, "Doc, please don't tell me what's wrong, tell me if it can be fixed." He jumped from diagnosis to treatment.
"We're going to have to put a cadaver bone between C-4/5 with a bit of metal and have them fuse into one chunk," he added, "and, once that heals, we can do a laminectomy on L-5/S-1 which, in time should alleviate some of your pain, and you'll be able to stand up straight, again." I soaked it all in, and did my best to not wince in pain as he slapped my back. So, now I knew what was going on, and there was a plan of action to fix it as best as they could with bailing wire and Hubba-Bubba.
This all happened before I met Yvonne, the cute one in the picture on my profile. I was alone, for the most part (I had a brother, mother, and a good friend) but those that were "helping" were doing more to hurt me, in retrospect. Life was completely different now and I realized that I needed to spend some time working on me, and a little less time focusing on what everyone else needed or wanted.
Let's go back a few years...
I joined the Army on 01 October 1992. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself; and, I wanted to be a part of something -- anything -- that would allow me to leave a positive mark on the world. I wanted to be a nurse. That wasn't going to happen. I was not a good student in high school, not because I wasn't interested in my education but because I was very bored. My interests lay elsewhere. My interest was in music, history, science, math. Sounds like I'd be a great student, right? Wrong. I didn't like that my teachers refused to have conversations about the subject matter; they refused to give a personal opinion on experiences that they were a part of through history. Maybe I'm wrong, but you have to engage in conversation to teach. You can't just say, "Read this and take a test, have a good day". I had only really good teacher. She was the mother of one of my best friends in world. Although my friend and I had a great relationship, I was more interested in what his mother was speaking about and, less interested in his computer and his videos of Star Trek. He was a great man, don't mistake what I say; he and I would be friends today if he had not passed away three years ago.
I've totally gotten away from what I was talking about.
Desert Storm was in full swing. I wanted to be a nurse, but I knew that would never happen. What I could do, however, was become a Logistician, a Supply Sergeant, a 92Y. I was watching one of the largest movements of personnel and equipment since World War II. How did they get all that equipment, and the personnel to operate it, across the ocean to defend people from an invasion? I was about to find out.
I joined the Army. I spent the summer after high school graduation enjoying my friends, band-mates, fishing and swimming etc. Then I was off to training. Now, here's a brief history of John Parks-Coleman's twenty-one years in the Army:
After Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training I went to the following units in the following places:
A 2/16th Cavalry (Fort Knox, KY) HHT 1/7th Cavalry (Fort Hood, TX) 266th FINCOM (Heidelberg, Germany) 8th FB (Baumholder, Germany) C 5/15th Cavalry (Fort Knox, KY) 52nd Ordnance Detachment (Camp Humphreys, RoSK) HHC 1st-509th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Fort Polk, LA) A Co 1st-509th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Fort Polk, LA) Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) (Fort Polk, LA) HHC 1st Medical Brigade (Fort Hood, TX)
I've been to a lot of places, sometimes twice and, I have a lot of memories that I carry with me (not all of them good) on a daily basis. Yes, I'm very proud of my career and I learned a lot, taught a lot, and was able to have an effect on people and places that I otherwise would never have met or even heard of had I not taken the path that I chose. There are some places that I've been that I was never supposed to go, literally; however, while I was there, i was able to save lives, and I was able to ensure that the right people were in the right place with the right equipment at the right time. So, all of my experiences in the military, as I've explained briefly to Denise (our friendly neighborhood Hero), have culminated in the capstone of my career -- becoming a Caregiver for the most loving and beautiful woman I have ever known.
Now, about last night...
Yvonne served in the Army for twenty years. She was a Nurse (jealous much, John?). She was later transferred, due to an over-abundance of enlisted Nurses, into the world of the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) Corps. As a Nurse, Yvonne was living a life of shift-work. I'm sure that so many who may be reading this can relate. Your days become nights, your nights are busy, your days are spent making up for everything that you missed at night: perfect storm for severe insomnia to develop. As an NBC NCO, during her multiple deployments, she was responsible for tracking incoming missiles and mortars and, determining if they posed a threat, chemically or otherwise, for the troops on the ground. I'll give you one guess as to what shift she was on during these deployments. So, as a direct result of all of her shift-work, nights get very busy around the Parks-Coleman household.
PTSD can present in a number of ways and actions. There are emotional, physical, and neurological effects that PTSD can pose. It used to be called Shell-Shock. It used to go without a diagnosis or ignored altogether. People used to just call us crazy. Bonz (pronounced Bone-zy) seems to understand what is going on, better than so many others. Bonz is a dog. Bonz is NOT a Service Dog, though he should be; sometimes, he just needs to be a dog. He's not really a companion dog, either. It's really hard to say what he is, so we just refer to him as our Unofficial Service Dog. What he does for Yvonne and I is something beyond what a lot of dogs would or could do.
Yvonne finally drifted off to sleep around 0200hrs. Now was my time to grab a little rest. I fell asleep next to Yvonne. I woke up at 0435hrs. What woke me up? Bonz woke me up. He was grabbing my arm. I've learned that Bonz follows his "Mommy" everywhere. Why was Bonz pulling on my arm. Yvonne wasn't in bed.
"Where's Mommy?" I asked Bonz.
He raced out of the room and down the stairs. In my mind "little Timmy fell in a well". Before I could even make it out of the bed room, Bonz came racing back in with that concerned look on his face that he gets. It's like he was saying, "Come on, Dad, hurry up!" Then he was off again, down the stairs. He was sitting at the end of the reclining sofa (recent purchase that has good and bad sides as you'll see).
There, under the sofa, which was in its full reclined position, lay Yvonne. She was murmuring coordinates into the radio (which was really a TV remote). There's really only a couple things that you can do at this point.. You can wake your Wife up, but she might bang her head against the underside of the sofa. You can try to drag her out but that's going to cause injury to an already injured body. The action I chose: move the sofa out from it's position, scoop Yvonne up, and carry her back up the stairs.
The VA was kind enough to finally have a stair-lift installed in our home. In this situation, I wasn't able to use it for a couple reasons. First, Yvonne, as light as she is, is dead-weight when she's asleep. Trying to put her into the stair-lift would be like trying to get a wet noodle to hold a certain position. Second, even though the stair-lift is very quiet, the hum that it makes as it goes up or down the stairs is not unlike the sound generators running in the distance (think of being in a large tent, and the generators powering the equipment inside the tent are one-hundred yards away). The low hum of the stair-lift can make things worse.
I gently picked Yvonne up; and, carried her up the stairs. I lay her, softly, back in bed; and, slowly, carefully, withdrew my arms from beneath her body. I listened for her breathing to return to her sleeping rhythm. Then, I made my way to the other side of the bed. Bonz was waiting for me, sitting next to the bed. He gave me his pup-smile, a sloppy kiss across my face, then, as I sat down on the edge of the bed, he rose up on his hind legs, put his front paws on my shoulders, and gave me a hug. Now, he was able to relax. He lay down on his bed and, before long, I heard his sleeping rhythm.
So, who's caring for whom? I'm caring for Yvonne, Bonz is caring for me, and, you, the reader, are now taken care of, knowing that you are not alone. It is now 1416hrs. I've only got a few hours before it starts all over again. Even though it can be difficult, I wouldn't trade this for anything. Yvonne is my Wife, and I love her beyond the definition of love. We have more great moments than we do interesting moments and, "Hey, Baby!" is still my little reward. Until next time, keep your eyes open for those little moments, those times when you can be able to have the right people in the right place at the right time. Thank you, Bonz, you get some extra play time today!
Like this article? Share on social
Join our mailing list
Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter that includes caregiving tips, news, support and more.