After two weeks at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) I was flown to Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC) and stayed there for only three days. Even though getting shot was a terrible experience, there were (and still are) many positives. At each hospital there was an outpouring of support from visitors, mail, e-mail and Facebook messages. Friends, family and colleagues showed me that they were behind me in my recovery. My care was excellent at each hospital; however, I think that my nurses were always happy to see me go.
At Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) I questioned my nurses at every turn. If they said I could not do something, I wanted to know why. This became so frustrating to one nurse that she decided to ask me a series of easy questions that she knew that I would get right. After answering all of the questions correctly she said, “so you seem to know everything, why don’t you take over your own care?” To which I replied, “well sweetheart I did go to Union College and you went to Quinnipiac, so of course I am going to question everything you say.” (Union College is a small college in upstate NY while Quinnipiac University is a small university located in CT. Both schools are rivals.). I also routinely told the nurses that “ I am a Green Beret and I am going to do whatever the fuck I want, whenever I want.” Surprisingly, this did not go over very well.
At BAMC I also informed my nurses that I was a Green Beret and therefore that meant that I was going to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The nurses nodded their heads to placate me because they knew there was nothing I could do. The nurses did however take me seriously when I threatened to pull my feeding tube out. It was dangling from my nose and irritating me to no end. I did not see any reason to still have it in and asked/demanded to have it taken out. When I was told no, I threatened to rip the tube out unless I was given a good reason why I still needed it. When the nurses explained to me why it was still in, I relaxed a bit. It was a painful experience when it was finally removed. I was also sad to see my catheter go. I am probably one of the only people in the world that actually enjoyed having a catheter. Never having to get up and go to the bathroom was great.
By the time I had arrived at MAMC I was more attuned to my surroundings and on a lower dosage of pain medicine. My fits of rage and snarky comments had mostly subsided and I enjoyed the steady stream of visitors from the 1st Special Forces Group. At this point I had been in different hospitals for over three weeks and could not stand being in a hospital any longer. In the three weeks, I lost 30 pounds. I had gone from a strapping Green Beret to an emaciated person that I could barely recognize in the mirror. I was not allowed to eat or drink foods due to the massive trauma to my stomach. After I was shot and my medics were working on me, I asked for some water and they said no. This started an excruciating period of my life in which I did not eat or drink for over 8 days. Not eating was easy, but not drinking was one of the worst feelings I experienced in my life. I was properly “hydrated” through IV fluids but it did not compare to actually drinking fluids. In my drug induced state I was worried that I was going to die of dehydration. I fantasized about being able to drink fluids and eat something. I will never forget the day that I was cleared to eat and drink again. I ordered a huge meal and a cold Gatorade, I emphasized that I wanted the Gatorade to be extra cold. When the lemon-lime Gatorade hit my lips I was practically euphoric. After downing the bottle I moved onto my large breakfast. I ordered an omelet with home fries, toast, bacon, yogurt and fruit. I ate the yogurt and nothing else; my eyes were bigger than my stomach. After the Gatorade and Yogurt, I felt like I ate a Thanksgiving dinner. This was the new norm for a long time. If I ate too much I became ill and would often regurgitate my meal.
MAMC was my last hospital stop for a few months. Leaving this place was a large step towards recovery but my challenges were only beginning. Please leave a comment below or on the Wounded by War Facebook page. In the next article I will talk about my first day of physical therapy. I can be reached at email@example.com