Thursday, April 12, 2012

Back in time-Surgery causes paralysis

I've been contemplating starting this blog for close to a year. What stopped me, until today, was the thought that what I have to share isn't that interesting. Until recently, I didn't have the desire to dig up the past 5 years of tragedy, betrayal and heartbreak. However, what I have learned is that I don't have to do that in order to tell our story. My good friend, Roxana at reminded me that if I can touch one person, then our story is worth telling. In reflection, I now see that our story is one of perserverance, courage and a desire to move forward. Although, this will be a bit dry to start, it is necessary background to help people understand how this all began. So, bare with me thru the details:

On 1/10/07 my husband Aaron was given orders to deploy to Iraq for 13 months. His departure date was set for 2/23/07 and it appeared that he was going to one of the prisons in Baghdad or S. Iraq near the border. I journaled, "At least this time he'll be safer...I'm teary even thinking about it and yet I know so many woman have done it before me....I'm proud of what he does & stands for & I'm proud of him."

This all changed when on 1/16/07 we consulted with a Thoracic Neurosurgeon regarding Aaron's worsening back pain. The surgeon recommended having surgery now and Aaron's wanted to wait until he returned from deployment. The surgeon felt this would be a mistake.When we finally made the decision to schedule Aaron's surgery it was because we  feared that if we didn't, Aaron's ability to walk might be affected for the rest of his life. We knew that this surgery would be serious, but were assured that Aaron would be back to work in 6 weeks and able to resume O.R. Nursing duties. We never imagined , after that day, that nothing would ever be the same.

On 2/7/07 Aaron went in for surgery and at 11:45am I was put into a private room to meet with the surgeon. He told me that Aaron was not able to move his legs, but it was likely due to "spinal swelling" and he had a chance of walking within one year. I told the Dr. "That's allright. I'm a military spouse and we'll get thru this." Obviously, I was in shock and had no idea what was ahead of us. It was several hours later when I was taken to see Aaron that I realized everything was not allright. He was in excruciating pain and going in and out of consciousness.

After 2 months of inpatient rehab at the VA, Aaron returned home and this is where life got really tough. He is paralyzed at level T-9 and with that comes a host of daily and lifelong medical issues. I could go into great detail about the anger, resentment, grief and near end of our marriage that was the fallout of this tragedy, but what really matters is where we are now. We're still learning our new normal and how the dynamics between us have changed. I've had to learn to become more patient, compassionate, less controlling of my environment, cope with my emotions & fears in a productive way and biggest of all to forgive. Forgive all the people that weren't there for us, the entitlements that were denied because his injury wasn't combat related and to forgive one another for our weakness' in dealing with the tragedy that has forever changed the landscape of our lives.

So, this is where this blog begins. You now know the background of our story and from time to time I will reference past events to clarify the journey. It is my hope to encourage others and allow them to see that it can get better. It isn't easy, but as I learned from a popular quote "life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." This is a daily life lesson that I keep in my mind when I get sad or frustrated. I can honestly say that I wouldn't want to go thru the past 5 years over again, even though I know it's what made me a better person. The pain and grief were almost unbearable at times and to feel you have no control over someone else's pain and suffering made me feel weak and useless. It wasn't until I became a Christian 3 years ago and got counseling to help me learn coping strategies that I became more resilient, compassionate & grateful to be the wife of a man who gave his health for his country. I'm finally at the point that I know what my purpose is and I have hopes and dreams for the future again!

Five years ago, I didn't think I could live this life, but now I know with Aaron by my side we CAN live this life and I'm proud to live it with him.


  1. I am so proud of you, Karen! I've been "too busy" to get my blog going, but it was someone else's blog, someone else's story that first got me to Operation Home Front Wounded Warrior Wives, got me to my first retreat, to all of those precious connections and friendships, and began my path of healing. If I could do that for just one other person... Thanks for the inspiration and for everything you do. I feel so blessed to have met you and your husband and call you my friend. :)

  2. Karen, I am very proud of you as well. I know that getting the story out there is the hardest part especially when you worry about being judged when that is the last thing you need in your life. You really helped me realize that I needed to help myself and that I have to let go of the anger I have so I can move on with life. I hope that you all have a great time when you get to your new home and that it makes for a great new beginning :)
    God Bless you and Aaron