Sean left Aberdeen on August 6, 2005 and returned 642 days later on May 10, 2007.
The weekend before Sean came home Aberdeen received 9.12 inches of rain in 48 hours. Brown County, including Aberdeen, was declared a disaster area. Streets and homes were flooded. The school where I teach was closed for several days.
When the rain started on Saturday night my daughters came upstairs to tell me there was water running into the basement. We had frequently had some water leakage during heavy rain, so I was not surprised or alarmed. . . until I went downstairs. Water was rushing into the basement from under the walls. We worked quickly to haul things upstairs, set things up off the floor, and protect what we could. Our basement took on approximately three inches of water, but that was nothing compared to the devastation in neighborhoods all over town. More than 100 homes were condemned, and many more were deemed unliveable.
Over the next few days we worked endlessly trying to vacuum up the water and find new places to store our belongings. Sean’s brother came to help remove the carpet and furniture which needed to be thrown out.
With my house looking like a refugee camp for misplaced items, Sean called on Thursday to say he was coming home. “When?” I asked. “I’m 30 minutes away.” He said happily. So many emotions went through me at once. The house was a wreck, I hadn’t showered and had been working on clean-up all day. I was tired, excited, nervous, and relieved all at once.
After driving for almost 11 hours Sean was exhausted as well. The kids and I waited anxiously for dad to arrive. When he came in, there were hugs, kisses, and tears. Sean was home! It was finally over!
And it was just beginning.
February 16, 2007 Sean left WRAMC and returned to base.
The doctors at WRAMC recommended that due to Sean’s lingering health problems he apply for CBHCO (Community Based Health Care Organization), a military program which allows soldiers to return home for their medical care, while remaining on active duty.
On March 12th the CBHCO application was denied. The explanation was that his case was too complex and he would need to remain in medical holdover as CBHCO was not for soldiers with long-term health issues. When Sean requested to reapply, he was informed that he was too sick to come home and taking too many medications to be a part of the program. However, he was not receiving medical care except to see his case manger 15 minutes a week and refill his medications. He was also told by Dr. X that the care plan from Walter Reed would still not be implemented because he only needed that follow up if his symptoms worsened, they did not want to do maintenance.
March 22nd Sean came home on 30 days convalescent leave. He presented three not-so-promsing options: 1. CBHCO, which had already been denied, 2. begin the process for a Medical Board to be medically discharged from the military (at this point the diagnosis was medically unexplained physical symptoms–a category that does not exist for the medical board, so he was told this was not an option), 3. come off active duty, return home, and go back to work for the fire department and seek treatment at a VA medical facility.
Sean talked to Dr. X and his case manger about his options and expressed frustration at not being up to the strength and stamina required for his position at the fire department. He was told that it is not the Army’s job to get you back to work in your civilian job, just to make sure you’re well enough to do your Army job.
After spending a month at home, Sean returned to base and after a couple of weeks came home for good on May 10th, 2007.
Wow, I didn’t realize it has been almost a year since I tried to work on this. I think about it all the time.
“I’m going to finish. . . “
“I’m going to update. . . “
“I would really like to work on. . . “
So, now I’m committed to bringing this story up-to-date. And this time, I mean it.
I want this to tell the whole story, and where it hangs now is so far from the whole story. So much has happened and changed in the last three years. I had envisioned this not only as a way to share, but also as a means to heal and put things to rest and help us move on.
So, I’m going to get out my notes and review and reorganize and then I’ll be back. Hopefully in less than a year.