Thanksgiving days pondering blessings after ACL surgery

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It’s been a few days since my last post but Nate has returned to class per doctor’s orders.

IMG_20111007_172711The rigors of a grueling academic schedule, a long-distance love affair, and an active social life are a heavy load to carry by themselves when you’re a firstie at West Point.

But Nate must now add frequent physical therapy visits to his busy life.

I do not envy him but of this I’m certain, my OS can do it.

Now at home, I am reflecting on the blessings because they abounded during our journey to New York. At times, I find myself just SMH (a term I noticed so often on facebook, I had to google it).

IMG_20111006_094816SMH – shaking my head and that’s what I’m doing at the cornucopia of sublime treasures we experienced. If I didn’t share them and attempt in some measure to take stock in the blessings, it wouldn’t seem right.

Weather – gentle autumn days teased us with a sense that colder temps soon awaited. During our entire stay, we enjoyed bright sun, blue skies and trees just starting to change colors. During the trip to New York, Aaron and I even spotted a rainbow in the sky. Me likey rainbows in the sky!

IMG_20111004_134657Traffic – what traffic? This was a big concern of mine because I’m not a great traveler and I’m even worse when my given mode of trans- portation isn’t moving. Pretty sure this will never happen again but we cruised along the highways!

Destination – And get this, we hardly ever got lost! I can’t make my way out of a paper bag but going from our home in North Carolina to New York and back again was practically effortless. I was convinced Aaron and I would be hopelessly directionally challenged even using the GPS but we all worked so well together!

Whether it was the curry chicken salad my friend Gigi made for us, the calzones at Schades, the lunch platters at Foodies, our tummies were full of deliciousness.

Laundry – since we stayed at a friend’s house for several days, I got to wash clothes. It does a mama good to do the laundry for her Soldier. Gigi’s hospitality gave Aaron and I a relaxing place to chill.

Crutches – A West Point mom told me about Mobilegs and you should have seen Nate zipping along on these after surgery! We went to WalMart just two days after surgery and I had to start walking in front of him just to help the shoppers realize a guy with crutches was barreling toward them! He didn’t give them time to react. Someone was going to get hurt and I didn’t think it was going to be my Soldier!IMG_20111004_204206

Healing – ACL surgery is painful but my oldest OS was a model patient. Helping my family is a special joy to me and Nate appreciated anything we did for him which only made me want to do more.

Friends – the prayers and loving support of many people are good medicine for the body and soul. One West Point mom made a bunch of delicious homemade caramels for her daughter’s Army sports team and guess what she did? She dropped off THREE bags of it for my crew! Dark chocolate, rich caramel with a hint of sea salt…oh.my.word. Please don’t ask how many I ate versus how many the patient and his brother enjoyed. All’s I’m gonna say is I deserved it. Final answer. 

Another mom and her family back in NC made Nate homemade cards and caramel corn. Nate now has two homemade bookmarks from little kids who encouraged him. They are Marine kids which makes it even more fantastic! The dad drove the treats over to my house the night before we left, such thoughtfulness.

Throughout Nate’s days of recuperation, I would bring him small gifts from others. It was remarkable how each gift was perfect timing for him. Whether it was the Batman undies from his dad, the PopTarts from his grandparents, the Amazon gift card from his aunt and uncle, the cash from his grandpa or the weird plastic caterpillar from the orange hair, freckle faced youngest brother, there was a sense of love and community from all around.

And I’m not done. There are more blessings but on this perfect autumn day, I’m going to bask in these gifts. May I suggest you do the same. Not in my blessings which I pray bring you a measure of joy but on yours, they are there even if you have to look a little harder. I hope you find them today, my friends.

More soon,

“Um, thanks Dad for the Batman briefs…”IMG_20111008_163311

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Army strong – day one post surgery

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img_20111007_125642We’re sitting in a darkened room at Keller Army Hospital on a crisp autumn day at West Point.

Though my family often chides me for asking a lot of questions, today I think Nate at least would agree, that trait does have its merits.

I had myriad questions of the surgeon but didn’t barrage him. A mama wants to effectively advocate for her son.

If you’ve ever been to the doctor or had surgery, you understand how important it can be to have another voice speaking on your behalf.

In the short time he has been a patient at the hospital, I have run interference for my OS. When Nate was thirsty, I requested water, when he drank Sprite, I asked if he could have more.

Watching Rick Springfield in the waiting room. Pretty sure he's had a little surgery himself!
Watching Rick Springfield in the waiting room. Pretty sure he’s had a little surgery himself!

The medical staff have many patients, Aaron and I have one. It’s not being a diva or a prima donna, I’m not a Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, just a mama, if I can do something quicker or easier, than I want to assist.

img_20111007_172711When Nate’s IV monitor was sounding “occlusion,” I fetched someone to investigate. When he thought he might throw up, I inquired of a barfing receptacle. I’m sure Nate would have managed but not very comfortably because he’s too weak to do much.

Aaron has faithfully stayed by Nate’s side even though there’s really nothing for him to do here. I am proud of my boy for his sacrifice and love.

Here’s an example of how Aaron and I have been a good team.

A short while ago, a male nurse came to help Nate with a basic biological function. Nate did not want my intervention (totally understood that!) so Aaron and I waited in the hallway.

Apple picking with my boy

Apple picking with my boy

The nurse gave Nate his privacy once he had transferred him to the toilet. He left the room and told Nate he would get him back to the bed. Nate used the restroom and Aaron and I stepped back in the room. Nate began to wobble and he looked white as a ghost. I yelled for Aaron’s help in case Nate fainted as I retrieved the nurse. Aaron stood by his brother’s side until the staff got him safely back to bed.

Now Nate is fast asleep, problem avoided, thank the Lord.

Seriously!

Thanks for your prayers, concern and support, it means so much to us. Army Strong!

Surgery – when the time is right, whenever that is!

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Unfortunately, the adage “expect the unexpected” and the expression “hurry up and wait” are true this morning as Nate’s surgery has been delayed.

He walked into the surgery room, mentally prepared to get his ACL fixed and walked right back out minutes later because of an equipment malfunction.

The night before, the three of us enjoyed dinner at Sushi King followed by ice cream just a few doors down the street. Nate was as ready as he could be for the surgery bright and early in the morning.

But at this point, my OS has been told that the equipment might not even be fixed today. The sterilizer is broken. I think that’s a good reason to postpone things however, my firstie is hungry, thirsty and frustrated, who can blame him?

Yesterday I found myself counting our blessings, taking stock of the goodness which has resulted through this trial. So instead of complaining which is unproductive, I’m going to concentrate on the positive. This is just a partial list and I hope to later include other blessings which have lifted our spirits.

Don”t be jealous, get your own ACL surgery 😉

My van is loaded with treats for Nathan. Cards and gifts from family as well as from people who don’t even know my boy! When Nate said he wanted me to bring him dehydrated apples, I obliged but a mother who doesn’t even know him also wanted to support a member of the military. She dehydrated a bunch of apples for Nate. They look delicious!

Bible Study friends holding a bag of dehydrated apples.
They donated 40 pounds of apples for my OS!
The women in my weekly Bible Study pitched in and bought a box of apples for me to dehydrate for my OS. We’re talking 40 POUNDS of apples! In addition, my Bible Study leader and another WP mom donated bags of apples for my healthy food project. Such bounty! When I popped open the back of the van to give Nate some of the things, his mouth was agape at the amount of apples he now has to enjoy! I felt so proud of my friends and the community of support.

The West Point networks for parents and mothers are extraordinary. Through a parent list-serve and a closed West Point Moms facebook group, I have been encouraged beyond measure. I learned about Mobilegs which is a lightweight crutch alternative. When I contacted the company and told them about Nate’s upcoming surgery, they eagerly offered me a military discount.

Nate trying on his Mobilegs before surgery.

The Mobilegs arrived at his barracks yesterday afternoon.

When we met Nate, he was grinning and carrying them. “I’m actually kinda excited to use them,” Nate remarked to me last night.

During dinner, when the owner of the restaurant learned that Nate was a West Point cadet having surgery the next day, he made him a free special mango sushi roll. Our spirits were high. Truly I’m learning that the little things we can all do for each other are very significant. THANK YOU SUSHI KING!!

Mango, cream cheese, crab sushi roll made
just for Nate – delicious kindness



Another great blessing was Aaron and I drove to West Point and enjoyed a scenic, pleasant trip. We got along 96% of the time and although the last 4% was pretty ugly (we were less than ten miles away from West Point!), our relationship quickly returned to its formerly happy state. 


And as if we hadn’t be given above and beyond what we even imagined, we had a surprise awaiting us. I opened the small closet in Nate’s hospital room and there, tucked in the far corner, I spotted the thing we never expected. A pair of bright red boxer briefs!!! Carefully I pinched the undies with my fingers and wiggled them at Nate! He was, um, speechless! I’m pretty sure an angel had left them there for my boy. It doesn’t get better than that, my friends!

A complimentary pair of undies left for Nate! What great fortune!

And there have been other blessings which I must acknowledge. Right now though I’m completely exhausted and trusting in the Lord’s perfect timing. Please know that your words and thoughtfulness are so meaningful. We’ll keep you posted…

Doing Hard Things – Nate needs a new knee in New York :(

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August 5, 2011 became a day our entire family will remember. For my oldest OS, it was not only a day that marked the passing of my grandma but Nate endured an additional painful moment that the rest of us didn’t.  

Nate in happier days!

It was an hour before completion of CLDT training at Fort Bliss. Overall it was a lackluster experience for my OS and I best leave it at that. Putting it mildly, Nate was ready for it to be over and to return to West Point for the beginning of his “firstie” aka senior year. Prior to leaving the base, Nate was relieving stress by joking around and wrestling with some of the other guys. The next thing he knew a much larger NCO (non-commissioned officer) pounced on Nate and threw him backwards. As he dropped to the ground, Nate heard the dreaded pop in his left knee.


In 2007, Nate first heard that “pop” during a soccer game. It marked the end of his soccer season for the year. My OS was 17 when he had knee surgery and began a long rehab for a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In time, he recovered well and was resolute in absolutely never having to relive that experience ever again. 

But the Lord had other plans on August 5th. Now on Wednesday, Nate returns to the operating room. Not in the comfortable environs of our hometown but this time at West Point. And on the same knee no less! Tomorrow my middle OS Aaron and I travel to New York to be with Nate before and after the surgery. According to the surgeon, my OS will have a different operation to fix the problem. Based on Nathan’s future job as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, the surgeon advised him to have a patellar tendon graft. This is a harder surgery with a tougher rehab and an uglier scar but it insures better results for his long-term success. I guess you could say Nate will have a Soldier’s Knee.


My boy will have to summon a great deal of strength to heal from this surgery. With the help of his fellow cadets (let it be so!) and his faith in the Lord, I know he can do this but I hate that I will be so far away. Would it really be that awkward if I just stayed in the barracks and promised to not be a bother??? 😉 He will return back to class almost immediately whereas the last time, Nate recovered at home for nearly two weeks. Four years ago I could take care of him. I brought him food, as a family we helped him. Nate had plenty of visitors and attention, we all rallied around him. Now I will only be able to stay for a few days. His dorky brothers even had daily competitions on who could collect the most urine in the handy receptacle near his bedside, I doubt anyone is going to volunteer for that job! 

This is a leg brace; however when I had my ACL surgery
I called it the most horrible orthopedic device
ever created! How I loathed that thing!
Be of good courage, Nate! You can doey it!

Nate will be in a full leg immobilizer for six weeks. He’ll be hobbling all over the base and be expected to fully participate in West Point activities. Jesus knows my heart and hears my prayers. 


So to the extent I feel comfortable, I’m sharing part of my prayer with you, dear friends.

Suddenly plebe year is looking a lot easier
than recovering from ACL surgery AGAIN! 

Lord,

As you well know, I don’t understand the reason for this injury but I don’t have to comprehend all your ways. You don’t ask for my permission and I realize that. Forgive me as I acknowledge my weakness in this area for even questioning your sovereignty about why this happened again. Lord, in your perfect time, speak to me and give me ears to hear. Calm my anxious mama’s heart and allow me to trust You through this process. Reveal to my boy new things about who You are. Bless my child with Your presence when he is in pain and feeling discouraged. Surround him with the compassion and kindness of others and allow my boy to notice your manifold blessings. Though I will not always be near my son, you promise in your Word to never leave or forsake us. You never sleep, you are always present and that is a comfort to me. Lord, though his knees aren’t the greatest (!) you and I both know Nate is tough but so very tender hearted, thank you for fearfully and wonderfully making him this way. Because of You, he can do this hard thing! In Jesus’ name, amen.
One of my sweetest blessings = my boy

Thanks y’all for praying for Nate and caring enough to read this post…