Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Phone Rang

Back in August of 2010 we were living at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, CO, I was working full time at Brookdale Place of Colorado Springs and getting ready for my husband to deploy.

On August 4th, 2010 my husband deployed for the third time, and this time it was to the Arghandab River Valley near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Shortly after arriving in theater our company had its first casualties, some being close friends.  SSGT Jesse Infante, PFC. Chad D. Clements, CAPT Dale A Goetz, SSGT Kevin J. Kessler, SSGT Matthew J. West. died Aug. 30.

Pictured (clockwise) are Staff Sgt. Jesse Infante, Staff Sgt. Kevin Kessler, Pfc. Chad Clements and Capt. Dale Goetz. Not pictured is Staff Sgt. Matthew West.

Then on the morning of September 15th at 4:07 a.m. my phone rang.

"Hey babe, I'm coming home.  I got injured."

At first I didn't believe him.  He had to be joking.  He told me he wasn't, but I still refused to believe and actually nagged him about how it wasn't funny.  Then being completely serious he said he had to go they were wheeling him into the OR and he loves me and will see me soon.


Still in shock I called his mom and since I never call her that early the first words out of my mouth was "he is alive,but..."  I don't remember much of the phone call after that.  In fact the next hours no days were a blurr.  I remember calling my boss and saying I wouldn't be in that day or the next.  I remember sitting in my house in the wee hours of the morning and pacing waiting for someone in my world of friends to post on facebook so I knew they were awake and I could call someone.  Can you believe I was worried I might wake someone up?  I can't looking back.  I finally pulled myself together got dressed for work and took the kids to school letting them believe everything was fine.  When I got back home I waited.

I waited and I waited and I waited.

My friends finally started waking up and I started notifying them.  Then the friend I called around 9 am was my FRG (Family Readiness Group) Co-Leader.  She could not believe no one had contacted me.  She bless her soul was so upset she basically hung up on me.  She called around and nobody even knew about any new casualties.  So I waited.  Finally around 9 hours after Tommy called me (about 1pm) I called his rear D.  They still knew nothing and I was the one notifying the rear d commander.

Then I started getting calls from Tommy, but he wasn't making any sense.  He was so drugged and fatigued I could not understand him.  It was like I was speaking to one of my dementia or alzheimer residents.  Around 430 pm I was finally notified through a phone call from the rear d commander that my husband was in an accident involving an LMTV that had been pulling two 600 gallon fuel pods on a trailer.

This is an up-armored LMTV without the trailer of fuel pods.  This is Not the same truck.

He was in limb saving surgery and had facial lacerations.  My FRG leader and the co-leader are sitting in my living room.  I couldn't break down.  So I told them what I was told and after a little while the left.  I put my work clothes back on, some make-up and went and picked up my children.

Time was dragging on.  I hadn't eaten anything, the phone wouldn't stop ringing, and I am trying desperately to be normal for the kids.  Finally the kids are asleep and I am sitting on my porch trying to take it all in.  Then as we military wives know TAPS sounds.  I can't cry so I start cleaning. 

 Now you may think the way I am telling all of this is selfish, but I promise you I am not trying to be.  When all this was happening I was looking desperately for information on what happens in these situations and found nothing so maybe my experience can help some others.  Once my head cleared I started to locate some information and I will gladly be sharing it.

Day 2

I cleaned all night.  Come morning I got dressed for work again and took the kids to school.  Shortly after getting home I get the official notification.

Thursday 9/16/10 8:34 am

A Staff Sergeant called from Notification to inform me SGT. Thomas Jung had just finished another surgery.  After he spoke with the attending nurse he informed me that they washed out his right leg that was fractured and had bandaged it.  They also informed him they changed the bandages on his face and cleaned his lacerations.  I asked him what kind of mission this was and he first answered that it was a mounted combat logistics patrol in the Arghandab River Valley in which the vehicle had a rollover. It was his personal opinion that the rollover was the result of the driver losing control.

He asked me if I had any further questions and I stated yes.  I informed him my husband had called me roughly 6 hours prior at 2:28 am stating that he had developed Compartment Syndrome.  As a result they had made an incision on his leg from his knee to his ankle to relieve pressure.  "Is this true?"  He said "Honestly mam' I do not know the answer to this.  It was not given this information in the report."  He then told me he personally would call the nurse back and ask her more information on that issue as soon as we hung up the phone. 

I asked him if he was calling with movement and he informed me that no he was calling me from Notification, and that it is their duty at this point to notify me every 8 hours.  He described that they (the case managers at Notification) have three different shifts and it is the responsibility of my assigned case manager from each shift to contact the (hospital, doctor and or nurse where my soldier is at) and receive an update on his condition.

He then stated that my husband was scheduled to leave for Germany in the morning.  He asked if I had anymore questions and when I said no stated he would call the nurse back and then call me.

Thursday 9/16/10 9:01 am

SSGT called back from Notification to give me more details on Tommy's condition.  He told me he spoke with a different nurse who looked at his chart and said that the information was the same as he had informed me as far as she could tell.  She then told him they would update the report if his condition changes.
He then asked if I had any further questions and I said no.  He told me to have a great day and then hung up.

Thursday 9/16/10 around 10am

My husband called me told me more about the compartment syndrome and explained How he was injured.  He was on mission and had to fix a radio in the the back of the LMTV with a very inexperienced driver, when he turned around they were about to crash so he braced himself and instructed the driver to roll the vehicle.  Now this is the point where the stories I have heard change.

Version 1

As the vehicle rolled the door came off of the hinges and my husband was ejected from the rolling vehicle further ahead of it and when it stopped rolling it landed on his right leg.

Version 2

As the vehicle rolled the door popped open and somehow how his leg ended up pinched and pinned him underneath the truck when the vehicle stopped rolling.

Whatever happened his leg was crushed and he developed compartment syndrome.

Compartment syndrome is the compression of nerves, blood vessels, and muscle inside a closed space (compartment) within the body. This leads to tissue death from lack of oxygenation; the blood vessels being compressed by the raised pressure within the compartment. Compartment syndrome most often involves the forearm and lower leg.

 These are of Tommy's leg in 10/10.

 So I waited for my flight to his bedside.  I finally told the kids daddy had been injured and I was going to his bedside the day before I left.  I let their schools know what was going on took them to a friends and caught my flight.

Thursday 9/23/10 930pm

I stepped off the plane and walked down to baggage claim in the San Antonio Airport.  There was a SSGT waiting for me with my name on a piece of paper.  We walked to a green army van he put my stuff in and we drove to the hotel I would be staying at with my Mother-in-law.  Then it was time to see my husband.

We drove across the street to Brooke Army Medical Center where my Mother-in-law was waiting for me outside.  I was finally almost there.  I had a hundred questions but no words would come out.  I don't remember seeing anyone on the way to his bedside.  I am finally standing at the foot of bed and he is asleep.  I go around and kiss him say hi and leave.  I can finally relax some.

Angie and I walked back to the Powless Guest House and I was finally able to sleep peacefully.

Friday 9/24/10

Walking into BAMC the next morning was a shock.  Though I knew Tommy was safe stateside, everywhere you looked you saw amputees, burn victims, people in obvious pain.  My heart broke for these men and women who lost so much for our freedom.  Then it hit me these people were laughing, joking and carrying on their lives.  These are some of the most awesome people you will meet.  They have such amazing stories and strength.

Tommy is doing great.  His facial lacerations were minor and only have minimal scarring today, (not even visible unless you know what you are looking for).  His leg has been saved and he has a 8 inch sleeve of metal in it.  We are now living together as a family again on Randolph Air Force Base in Universal City, Texas.  He is now attached to the Warrior in Transition Unit (WTU) at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. We still have many doctor appointments ahead and more surgeries, but he is now walking without a cane on most days.  We have been blessed.