Monday, September 24, 2007
Caitlin's Story Part X
It looks like this might go a few entries longer than the original ten planned. But, I'll try to get through these quickly. Thanks for your patience. This photo was taken after the doctor finally let me out of the wheelchair. This is Sarah and me at Fort Benning, Georgia, May 1998.
I hugged my wife and unborn child goodbye in the parking lot in front of my barracks. She cried and drove away. All we knew was that I was broken and that I had four years left on my contract. Sarah had no authorization to be with me so they made her return home. It would be another four months before I saw her again. The Army really didn’t know what to do with me. I was physically unable to continue training. Therefore, I could not leave basic training for my duty station, neither could I go home. I was stuck. Moreover, I didn’t want to be stuck away from my wife as she underwent pregnancy.
My next appointment wasn’t for another two weeks, so I performed a lot of guard duty, and answered a lot of telephones. Drill Sergeant Canady told me how he was severely injured when the Marine Barracks in Lebanon were blown up and how he sat in a wheelchair for several weeks. One day, he decided to report to the doctors by pushing his wheelchair, thereby demonstrating his ability to do the job.
So, when I went to the doctor, I walked behind my wheelchair, pushing it in front of me. She was furious when she saw me walking. She screamed at me and threatened to file charges on me right out of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for failing to obey a direct order. The order was to stay in my chair. I calmed her down enough to see that I was only anxious to save my military career, and I wanted her to see how motivated I was to get better. She was not happy, but she relaxed. Then Mr. Intelligent gave her the file the civilian doctor gave me and she was mad all over again. “You are not authorized to see civilian doctor because you belong to Uncle Sam…” At that point, I tuned her out.
She made me sit in the wheelchair another three weeks and then started putting me on crutches. I only used the chair and crutches when I was at the hospital; my First Sergeant locked my chair into a closet, because he said it made him laugh too much to see me in it. As time went by, I convinced the doctor that I would heal, and had her explore other job opportunities within the Army. She was hesitant, but agreed to help. In the mean time, my Sergeants found me a job at the personnel office. It was the best thing to happen to me.
I talked to Sarah everyday, asking about her and the baby, and then I would hang up while she cried. We weren’t expecting to have these problems. I was going to be in Georgia 13 weeks, but now I had been here for eight months, and had seen my wife only briefly. In July, I convinced my First Sergeant to let me go home for the July 4th weekend. He said I was not authorized to travel that far, but allowed me to go “to town” for four days. I spent four days looking at printouts of sonograms that showed our baby, and hearing all about Sarah’s pregnancy. At the airport, Sarah got mad and said, “I am tired of saying goodbye to you.” Nobody more than me. I had been living in boot camp for eight months! I became desperate to find a way out of my predicament. The doctor kept trying to submit my paperwork to discharge me, but I told her about our unborn baby, and asked if she could delay it until December, the due date. I had no job to go home to, and I had nowhere to live. I hated the idea that I would stay in basic training for another five months away from my wife, but I didn’t know what else to do.
On a long shot, I submitted the paperwork for a job change, one that would get my wife and I together again. They laughed at my feeble efforts, but accepted my application for review. I put in for a job in military intelligence, specifically, linguistics. I wanted a job that I could use after my discharge in another three and a half years. I wanted to go to the mission field with my new language skills. If approved, I could take Sarah to California with me, and if all went well, she would move about a month before the baby’s due date. Things were going to get better, I just knew it. I didn’t know why God allowed me to break both of my legs, but there had to be a reason. Was it so we could move to California?
Later that week, Sarah called crying. She had developed problems in her pregnancy; her blood pressure was rising. I convinced her that it was no big deal, and that things would be okay. This was in August, the 9th month of basic training. Everyday, things became more complicated at home with Sarah. She was having problems with the baby, and soon, the doctors put her on bed rest. I was beside myself. The Army had forgotten about me in Ft Benning. My doctor had long since given up on finding me a new job, and submitted my discharge papers, but they were lost. I was lost somewhere between the cracks, just another number. Not only that, my chain of command wouldn’t let me go home to my wife nor would they let her come to me. I would hear her cry every time I called, and it tore my heart out. Then in September, on Labor Day weekend, I had five days off. My personnel supervisor agreed to let me have a few days off, and my sergeants would be gone on a cycle break for one week. So, I snuck home for a few days to see about Sarah. My personnel supervisor told me that if the Army discovered my absence, it would mean I went AWOL, but to call and let her know how Sarah was doing.
When I got home, things were getting worse for Sarah. All I could hear was her begging me not to leave her again. She was scared that the baby was going to die and that I wouldn’t be there for her. I couldn’t bear to leave her again, so I called my supervisor and told her that I was bringing Sarah with me. She was a great supervisor, and quickly pulled some strings to get me permission to stay with Sarah at a hotel for two weeks while she rammed my discharge paperwork through the system. We had two weeks only, after that, we were on our own. We managed to keep the chain of command from discovering our secret. Then it happened. Things got worse.
On a Monday morning, Sarah discovered that the baby had stopped moving. She was 28 weeks pregnant on that last Friday. I took her to the hospital where they started running tests on her. The doctor diagnosed her with dehydration, and admitted her into the hospital. They pumped IV fluid into her until I thought she would pop. On Tuesday, they ran more tests and decided that the baby was not doing well at all. Her (the baby’s) heart rate was dropping, and Sarah’s blood pressure was going up. On that Tuesday, I had to tell my chain of command that I had my wife here with me, and that she was in the hospital. They were mad, but let me have a few days off to be with her.
On Wednesday, Sarah’s condition grew worse, and the baby’s heart rate was dropping fast. The Army doctors were convinced that they could handle the situation, but it was obvious that things were spiraling out of control. The next sonogram was bad news. The baby had stopped responding entirely, and was six weeks behind in her development. Instead of developing to 28 weeks, the baby was at 22 weeks.
Sorry to cut in the break right here, but I’ll post again tomorrow.