Sunday, September 23, 2007
Caitlin's Story Part IX
You will never know the empty feeling as you hear the words, “You will never walk again.” Always before, God gave me a peace during tough times, or a gift of faith. This time, I could feel nothing, I heard God say nothing. It seemed as if God had left me to ponder my new life and how it would change things. I wanted to stand up and shout out for God to deliver me, but there was no strength in me, there was no great hope of a promise to come. It was just a wheelchair, my new future, and me.
The doctor pulled me off my bed and carried me to a wheelchair as if I was a helpless victim. She discussed my very limited options with me: 1, I would have surgery and I might walk again. 2, I could not have the surgery and never walk again. After I refused to have surgery, she gave me the sternest orders to stay in my chair, and then sent me home for one month, after which she would re-evaluate my condition and decide about the surgery. Technically, my body belonged to Uncle Sam and the choice wasn’t really mine.
“I’ll take impossible situations for 500.00, Alex.” Imagine having to call your wife from 1300 miles away and tell her that you will never walk again, and that you will be home in a wheelchair, but not to worry, because everything will work out okay.
I bought a flight home to Texas (to my parent’s house, because we no longer had a home of our own) for early the next morning. One more night in the barracks presented a very difficult problem: I had to have some soldiers carry me up stairs to my bunk for the night. They helped me pack up while my First Sergeant inventoried my gear. I looked out the window and saw the sky spitting snow flurries. I could only think of my fellow soldiers sleeping out in the cold night air. It was down into the teens that night, and I was not with them, sharing their misery. Up to that point, I had ignored the pain and simply endured my circumstances. But now that I knew what was wrong with me, I could no longer ignore the pain. As I lay on my bunk, I began to suffer tremendously as the painful burning and aching began to consume me. I dearly wished that I could have taken some kind of pain medicine, but I was a trainee and pain meds were a controlled substance. You guessed it! I wasn’t allowed to have any pain meds at all.
On the flight home, I thought of my Bible study guys and wondered what they would do without me. I smiled when I thought of how they would call me Preacher Man. Even my Drill Sergeants called me Preacher. Whenever they would cuss out our platoon, they would make me cover my ears, as if to preserve my innocence! I felt that I was abandoning my new converts. I had never felt such defeat, not to mention self-pity.
Sarah and my father met me in Dallas. They were somber as they picked me up and sat me in the pick-up seat and stowed my wheelchair in the bed. We tried to be positive.
What can I say? It was a long month in my wheelchair. Not once did I try to get out of my prison without help. We did see a civilian specialist who told me I might heal okay, or I might not. It was up to God. Well, I could live with those odds, and if it was His will, then I would live with His decision. Sarah and I returned to Ft. Benning for my follow up appointment on March 5, 1998, the day my company graduated from boot camp and AIT. I saluted them as they marched past me on the parade field. I was proud of them, and dearly wished I could be one of them. I still had not heard from God.
At my follow up appointment, the doctor told me to stay in my chair and sent me home for another month. She also told me that my career was over. We were disheartened, for we wouldn't get to see the Army lawyers about an adoption. Perhaps disheartened is the wrong word. There must be one that describes our depression and consternation with better accuracy, but I think you get the idea.
Back home, my doctor scowled and reached for my hand, pulled me out of my chair, and told me to walk. It happened painfully, but it happened in a “broken hip kind of way.” This civilian doctor put me on therapy and gradually got me back on my feet. On the weekend before I would return to Ft. Benning, I was walking with only one crutch. My doctor gave me a thick file to take to the Army doctors outlining my progress and sent me back to Ft. Benning, Georgia. Things were looking better for us. If I was walking when I returned, then maybe I could keep my job and the adoption option open.
On the trip back to Georgia, Sarah and I stopped in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the night. Sarah was coming down with a stomach bug, and I was not happy about having to travel with her sick. That night, on a whim, she bought a pregnancy test, and it came out positive, or negative, whichever indicates that there is a baby to be born! We were so excited! I could walk again, and we would be parents! God was truly watching over us! Little did we know that things were going to get worse…