Captain Jason

The latest news on the recover of Jason after his injury in Iraq by an IED.


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Snail Mail:

Cpt. Jason Scott
WRAMC Building 20
Mologne House Hotel #316
6900 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington DC 20307

Phone: 202 577 0092

Friday, February 24, 2006

We Have Been Thrown Out of Better Places Than This...

I expected Thursday would be "quiet and routine," a time to rest before Jason's surgery on Tuesday. "Foolish me," I should have known better after 4 1/2 months; there is no "routine day" at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Accept this as the norm and it captures life as a patient and family member(s) experiencing the challenges of a life-long, beginning October 15, 2005 for us, healing process.

The day started calmly enough, Jason got up; did his morning rituals including bagel and cream cheese which after a month we learned were free to patients at Mologne (no information posted in the restaurant so I had been paying for them), and he went off to PT/OT as normal. Jason checked on his appointments for Monday: two pre-ops, one at 8 AM for heterotopic ossification surgery on Tuesday the 28, and one at 9:30 for the left arm surgery later in March. Jason had been notified that his glasses were in so he also checked on the 7th floor office but found the department employees gone. Jason will have to continue to check to pick up the glasses. When I returned later in the afternoon I found Jason watching Law and Order and becoming increasingly drowsy, easing down the path to sleep land. About 4 PM he "closed the blinds" and took a nap.

Remember that I had written that I felt isolated, the Goodness of the Universe (sometimes called G_d) filled my day with one encounter after another with good women. My day started with a session of counseling at WATER with Diann Neu (Social worker and PHD in Ministry) then on to getting a hair cut.

This haircut appointment became my personal experience of "Barbershop" the movie, but way upscale,not the south side of Chicago, as all the staff and patrons except for me at the salon were African American. I seem to have a propensity to draw out the "talkiness" of beauticians instead of their listening to me confess the details of my life as the stereotype tells us. All of the staff and patrons were rather shocked at my presence-body language and facial expressions, but all recovered and said, "Come on in." I have to admit I look scruffy with black sweatpants, black Columbia jacket and a button that reads, "Imagine Peace, Birth Justice."

When asked "How would you like your hair cut?" I replied, "Short, I am at the bedside of my seriously wounded son in WR." I don't have any interest to talk about "the weather." The stylist was receptive to my self introduction and affirmed who I am and offered prayer support and scripture passages. She honored Jason's life as a soldier and who he is today by saying and doing, "You tell Jason he can do anything with his left hand. Tell him I am going to cut your hair with my left hand (she is right handed)" and so she did.. for the next 1 hour. (Now if you look at the length of my hair and cut, you realize that it should take---max 20 minutes for a trim)

As she cut my hair and shared with me a letter to her daughter a freshwoman at Carnegie Mellon (and all the mother-daughter difficulties they are encountering); she shared how she has applied for a patent on a machine to mix chemicals for hair this month. Another patron asked about Jason and gave her political views on the war and how difficult it was now for her to show an American passport in Europe; she will be going to Brussels next week. She assured me of her prayers and that of her community. Another staff person shared his stories of grief and grief work. Folks dropped by to say "Hi" to the stylist and offer to get her lunch. Patrons hugged the stylist and each other. The stylist asked, "Do you need a hug?" I said, "Sure" and she did. My time in the beauty shop, 1 1/2 hours or so, but who is counting? What a blessing, what a gift from the Goodness of God. What a gift to the American community at large, our African-American community would be if we(white America especially) are willing to share the circles of our lives.

I won't go into the details of my other conversations but I spent most of the day visiting with mothers (and one father) of sons who were injured in Iraq. The common themes of the conversations:
  • How to balance the "want of folks to visit the patient" with the "need of the patient to rest."
  • All are surprised but can understand the need of their patient sons to sleep/take naps. Some are not able to sleep well at night.
  • Some struggle with "Is PT/OT pushing/challenging my son enough?"
  • All struggle with deciding when to "help my son" versus "He has to take the initiative."
I said "Goodbye" to Barbara, her son Neil arrived shortly after Jason and she will be returning to MN and her teaching position on Sunday. Barbara said, "I plan to burn every piece of clothing I wore at WR." She continued, "No one except another mother at WR would understand." One mother talked of her son's completing his 59th surgery; I honor her and his strength, courage and perseverance. She is hoping he will be able to leave WR in a month. We watched the Olympics together. I met Jane as I spent an hour walking around the track behind the Mologne House. I went shopping at Whole Foods with Georgiana to buy "carry in of cajun ribs" for her First LT son Bryan and Cap. Jason which brings me to the headline teaser of the day (I am sure you have been reading breathlessly till now):

Georgiana and I had talked last week of going out with our sons to dinner in Silver Spring. Bryan thought better, he is confined to a wheelchair having been injured in both feet and lower legs. He can't walk till April. So we decided to "bring food in for the guys." I will set the stage for you: Imagine hotel sized rooms and imagine one wheel chair and 4 people trying to eat a meal. Doesn't work neatly, does it? It is impossible to entertain guests in a hotel room when we would like to sit down and eat a nice meal. There is a "restaurant" (read snack bar) off the lobby of the Mologne House, first floor. It does not serve "meals," and it has no wait staff. It has a free continental breakfast of bagels in the morning, hot dogs and pizza are "served for lunch/dinner."

Not only the menu but the room where food is consumed with tables of 4, is used for the weekly:
--Family Accountability meetings; held every Monday morning,
--the USO weekly women's gathering for crafts and support, etc.
--Today it will be used for entertainment from a local radio comedian, titled "Indoor picnic and comedy performance with The Greaseman."
--I attended a presentation by the Wounded Warriors on Financial Planning in the room a couple of weeks ago.

Get my drift---it is an all purpose room as necessitated by programming for the patients and family members who LIVE here (notice I wrote "LIVE here," some for as long as a year). The Mologne House Hotel is a House/or extended care facility/or rehab center, not a Hotel! Some folks may only stay a short while or be moved off campus if recovery permits; but like Jason many soldier patients are looking at 6 months or longer. In Mologne House live patient soldiers with non-medical attendants who are visited by family and friends. The situation with patients and family living at Mologne (war started in 2003, Afghanistan earlier) I think now requires long term solutions. There is a great need for a space to entertain guests which in the American culture always includes food. There are no separate places outside of the "restaurant seating" to entertain visitors.

Now the "Restaurant" has an unwritten rule, "No eating outside food!"(I asume when the snack bar is open for its morning, lunch, and dinner hours.) I have never seen more than 20 people in the eating area at one time. There is no competition by patrons for tables/chairs. In the evening most soldiers are found in the bar partitioned off from the eating space with folding walls.

Jason nor Bryan nor we the mothers wanted a "dinner of pizza" but we sure needed a place to "set out the food we purchased and enjoy it." Georgiana and I assumed that eating in the space described would be okay until we were talking on the way up in the elevator carrying the BBQ ribs, salad, sodas, chips, strawberries and blueberries and chocolate fondu (doesn't that sound like a wonderful meal?). Two soldiers riding with us immediately said, "NO way, the restaurant won't permit outside food." One said, "pull rank and maybe they will let you stay and eat."

Jason is a Captain, so I thought, "Okay, a Captain should do us." Ha, Ha! Getting to the room I warned Jason, "We just found out that we may not be permitted to stay! Will you use your rank to help us?" Jason, looking forward to the ribs said, "I'll give it a try." He knew the system a whole lot better than I, naive civilian mom. We go into the "all purpose area" sit down, put out the food, Bryan in his wheelchair and begin to eat. Almost immediately, the manager shows up with a sergeant. The rule is "No outside food permitted in the restaurant." End of discussion. Jason said, "Show me the printed rule" as Jason's maxim is "If it is not printed, it's made up." The manager becomes befuddled, says he knew we wouldn't respect him (meaning civilian) so he brought the sergeant not knowing Jason outranked him.

This is where civilian meets Army. The sergeant says, "Sir I understand your position, the rule is.... I will report it tomorrow when I report the log." Immediately Jason and Bryan begin to pack. I am filled with anger, what is going on? The place has about 5 other patrons with 95% of the seats empty. I say, "We have no place to entertain and eat a meal. What is a patient and his family to do? Mologne has no space for us! I will let my Congresspeople from Il know of this treatment." Jason says to me in his Captain voice, "You have made your point, let's move." I certainly didn't expect this reaction from the Mologne staff nor the Army. I feel for all the families before us who must have encountered the same intransigence and abuse. I feel blindsided, what trumps the needs of families and patients for social gathering and support?

So we are thrown out of the "restaurant space" and into the cold. Where do we go? There is no other place to eat....except the "Hotel" lobby itself. We set up with two chairs, a lamp table, Bryan in his wheel chair, and I on a long bench along side the front doors to the Hotel. We enjoy the food and drinks. We discuss what just happened.

Here's my understanding from Bryan's and Jason's input. The Army has no structure/positions to manage a hotel for conferences, as the original mission of this building was even though it is located on an Army Post. Therefore the Army contracted with a civilian management group to "run the place as a hotel."

When this occurs Jason and Bryan gave examples of problems from their own base experiences; they expect problems to occur. (and as noted in prior blog entries by me.) Our experience tonight was an example. Jason says, "In the army if you can't show the order, it truly does not exist." The manager was trying to enforce something no soldier would have to obey. However, the sergeant when he told the soldiers "I will report the situation to the commanding officer" translates to "I hear you, don't leave me hanging for not doing my job." Jason and Bryan knew the sergeant was saying he would report the situation as an "event" and his commander would respond to our expressed concerns. Neither Jason nor Bryan wanted to get the sergeant in trouble, that is how the Army system really works protecting one another; so they backed off and moved to protect the sergeant who was being straight with them about the situation.

Possible Solutions by the Army to support families:
1. The Army recognize the "mission of Mologne" has changed and take over the management of Mologne as a "WR health care center/annex."
2. The Army renovate as many as needed "Hotel" rooms to "family spaces" similar those found in any civilian nursing home so families can entertain and support each other.
3. The easiest/low cost solution: Mandate to the present management of Mologne that families can bring in food and sit at the only tables available and eat a meal and support each other.

Do I hear an "Amen" out there?

Sitting and eating in the lobby we had a nice dinner time talking about the plans for the men after they leave the army or stay in (Bryan can't decide yet), their girlfriends, and the attacks that brought them to WR. Jason shared how his unit destroyed the "roadside stops" from which the IED came. His men looked for his arm, couldn't find it, assumed it was destroyed in the fire that destroyed his Humvee. Jason described the Humvee window glass: bulletproof glass, layer of gel to absorb shock, layer of epoxy to set pieces, another sheet of glass. When the IED hit Jason's vehicle; the force blew the whole window which did not break into the side of his head; this fractured his face (12 hours of surgery to repair) and destroyed the vision in his right eye. Jason bragged on his left handed control purchased by Jodi and soon both men were waxing eloquently on the fun of playing Madden (football on the playstation). We said goodbye and returned to our rooms, Jason to wait for his call from Jodi and I to head back to the "restaurant space" to watch the women figure skaters search for the gold.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dennis said...

Katy, the title of today's blog was truly enticing. Who could not read it, if only to find out its context? I was deeply touched by your accounts, both in the beauty salon and in the "hotel restaurant." I loved your cut-to-the-chase introduction-- no small talk or chit chat here-- and the compassion you found amongst your Black sisters. God is truly everywhere, he/she is the great I am. You are so strong, which is just one reason why I thank God for your mentorship in the 90's and your friendship ever since. I sense your frustration, righteous indignation which is to be expected in face of the SYSTEM, which so often is the enemy. You kept me involved and I just wish our Word group could gather once more and give you a group hug and a resounding A-men. Please know we love you, Jason, and your whole family. We will never know the crosses you bear, but you describe the pain with eloquence. You really must write a book and go on "Larry King" or even Jon Stewart. Peace and love to you and yours.

Friday, February 24, 2006 8:41:00 PM  
Blogger Katy, Jason's mom said...

Dennis,

I too remember our time in Word as Kyros time, Sacred and life nourishing. Thank you for your comments concerning my writing, coming from a life long teacher and lover of English I accept them with honor.

But Jon Stewart?
Katy

Sunday, February 26, 2006 10:12:00 AM  

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