Dearest friends and loved ones!
Where to begin, indeed! The last update was sent just about one month ago. We hadn’t left Florida yet but did so on May 15th. When we arrived in Texas, our first hurdle was where we were going to stay. All existing RV parks in the surrounding area were full because of oil workers. Finally found an RV site in Seguin, Texas, 20-some miles from LaVernia, where Kris is at Country Care Manor... still.
The next hurdle was finding Kris in such a decline again, and being able to pull her back up. It seemed as though everything was so up in the air about what was happening, what was going to happen, and how it would happen, I decided to send an email to all the “powers-that-be” and then pray very hard.
Then George and I went to see two facilities we had heard about with the same potential programming as CORE, the facility west of Austin that seemed to still be Kris’s destination SOMEtime! One place did not accept PEG-tube fed patients, the other place would, but it is not VA funded. This is the main consideration now, it seems, since Kris will be retired officially as of July 28th from the Air Force and will be on VA funding.
While all this was going on (within the first week), Russell contacted the administrative assistant from Kris’s former department (now at Brooke Army Medical Center), who said anyone who would be involved with a retirement reception for Kris seems to be either deployed, retired or moved on. We contacted the administrative assistant for the dental and oral surgery department at Wilford Hall Medical Center (who really “runs” things there!). Kris went there for so many appointments over the past two years, and this person has become a dear friend. She has managed to set up the entire reception for us. It will be Wednesday, 20 June 2012, in the Wilford Hall Medical Center (WHMC) auditorium from 1300 to 1500 hours (1 to 3 p.m.), and anyone is welcome to attend!
Over the past two weeks or so since we have been here, I have been walking Kris every day with her walker, and I’ve started to feed her again – little half-teaspoons of yogurt. It took a little patience but I truly believe now she will eventually eat. What started with just one teaspoonful the first week, became 11 earlier this week. I am thrilled (really upside-down tickled!!!) to report to you that she ate 20 teaspoons full last evening (Saturday, 6/2) and I promised to bring her some pureed rice and cheese today. (She loves rice and cheese!) What she is given must still be soft, easy to swallow and very moist. Heavy, thick, creamy or chewable doesn’t work. And she cannot feed herself yet, but I know she will when the swallowing is much farther along. Right now... last evening, it all went down slick as a whistle! And THAT is a definite praise the Lord!
As I said, we left Florida Tuesday, May 15th, arriving here Friday afternoon, May 18th. What a reunion! What a lot of smiles and hugs! What a joy to be with Kris again, but what a heart wrenching time, too. So much of the great work at the VA Poly Trauma Center back in February and March is all but gone. But prayers are answered, and a meeting was called this past Friday to discuss the future plans for Kris.
First, the Air Force military liaison (the meeting was in her office) will soon turn the mantle of supervision over to the VA liaison (who has been working somewhat in the periphery these past months) now. She will take charge, especially since Kris’s retirement has been set, and she will be the main contact person for questions/concerns. She explained a great many things and has set goals, the first of which is that now Russell will commence renovations on their house in September. Everything will be in place by then to make it possible for him to do that.
Another prayer answered is that Dr. Johnson, the director of therapies at the VA Poly Trauma Center, has agreed to have Kris return there for two or three weeks prior to her being sent to CORE. You may remember that CORE is her main choice for the final months of Kris’s rehabilitation and to get her as close to home living capability as possible. This was my hope (that she would go back to the VA PTC), especially when she had to return to Country Care back in March since CORE wasn’t ready at that time to admit her.
My fear and deepest agony was that Kris had “fallen through the cracks” and it just seemed as though no one was listening. But, thank a great God in heaven, they are listening and there is the outside chance Kris will be home by Christmas or shortly thereafter. The way is paved now. There is a plan and we are just absolutely delighted!
Two things happened over this past few weeks since we are here which made it imperative for us to return by mid May. One – we wanted to be here for Kris’s birthday on May 23rd. Two – we wanted to be here for our grandson’s graduation on June 1st. The pictures attached tell the story somewhat, but let me fill in the spaces.
On Monday (two days before Kris’s birthday), I asked George if we could do a little program here for the folks at Country Care but, most especially, for Kris to help celebrate her birthday. He said, “Of course!” The folks at Country Care said “Of course,” and even Kris shook her head “yes” when I asked her if she would like that. We did it. It was just the greatest time! The folks loved it (they always love music), and Kris was animated and delighted, bouncing her head and keeping time with her feet. We even invited friends who came: dear friends who invited us to sing in their church last summer up in Kerrville, TX, a sweetheart of a nurse (from the VA who cared for Kris) and her husband came, and the very administrative assistant from Wilford Hall who is helping to plan Kris’s retirement reception along with the former dental technician (now retired) who use to take care of Kris’s dental needs the past two years – they all came!!! Of course, Russell and two other family friends were here as well, and the cake was beautiful. Kris had some cake, too, (but more icing than cake!) which she loved, and enjoyed opening all her gifts and cards. What a day! And many thanks for all the cards, too, that were mailed to her! It all helps!
The next major event was Joshua’s graduation, which was Friday evening, June 1st, at 8 p.m. in the high school stadium. Planning to take Kris was a moment-by-moment question: Would she be able to do it? She shook her head “yes” several times, but it takes a great deal of work and planning to make something like that happen. I gave her a shower early, got her dressed, Russell came and we loaded her up in the big truck; wheelchair in the back. When we arrived at the field, cars and people were everywhere. I explained our situation to one of the policeman at the main entrance (which was barred now), and he let us drive in right up to the closest parking point, which was also barricaded. Another policeman agreed to let us park, but it was still on the opposite side of the football field. Kris had her hand on the door knob, and we decided to take her over to the grandstand. Once there, I wheeled her up the ramp, all the way to the middle where the students had just begun walking out onto the field. When she saw Joshua, she waved; he saw her and waved, grinning from ear to ear. I couldn’t do anything but shed tears of joy. She did it all.
We couldn’t stay very long but I must tell you... as we were leaving, once all the students had taken their places, the salute to the flag was called. We were then down off the ramp and, when I looked to my left, there was the flag and all the students had turned toward us because the beautiful American flag was in between. Russell asked Kris if she wanted to stand, and we helped her stand up for the salute. She held her hand up in as best a salute as she could do, held it there, and continued to stand for the National Anthem. My heart nearly burst!!!
After the graduation ceremony, Joshua came to see her in his cap and gown, and I can’t tell you how much that meant to Kris. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see her so happy (tired and already in bed though she was) to see her son. It was a monumental moment in her life now to be able to see him (albeit just a short while) at his graduation, and then have him come to see her in his cap and gown, holding his diploma.
I have decided that, somehow, Kris is going to her retirement reception in her full Air Force dress uniform, with her major cluster and all her medals. I have also decided to take her upright walker so that she can stand when the colonel pronounces her retired. I’ve asked her if she wants to do that, and she shook her head “yes.” I know... when Kris puts her mind to something, nothing will hold her back. She’s always been that way! We will be right there to help make it happen for Kris.
Please enjoy the photos attached. I know many of you have been wondering what’s happening, and I apologize for taking so long. I have discovered I don’t have quite the stamina I had before, so it takes me a little longer to do things. We still plan to leave on June 27th, to begin our summer tour. While we are looking forward to all of that, we have decided it will likely be our last one. One more joy before we go is that our oldest daughter, Diana, will join us for a week here, and she will be here for Kris’s retirement ceremony. Leaving on the 27th will be... well, I’m trying not to think about it, really. But the joy of sharing our gospel ministry will help, as it always does.
Pray for our safe travels, and continue to pray, please, for Kris, for her family, for all that needs to be done yet, and that she is on the final road before going home at last. Your prayers mean so much! They always have and they always will!
Carol and George
[I am having issues with downloading pictures from emails, therefore I can’t attach the pictures Carol sent. They are really good, too. Sorry.]