Saturday, September 29, 2007

Caitlin's Story--The Finale

God gave me a better plan than to go AWOL.

I had met a Sergeant that cut travel orders and we had become friends. I told her what was going on and asked what she could do to help. Unfortunately, she told me there was nothing she could do, but occasionally orders get lost in the paperwork shuffle, and when the travel orders expire, they issue new ones. Well, I accepted that possibility and left it to God to lose my paperwork, then showed a picture of Caitlin to the Sergeant. Amazingly, my First Sergeant never brought me any travel orders. When I asked him about my request to go to California, he shrugged and mumbled something. Only a few weeks later, I had recovered enough to begin participating in our morning calisthenics. We ran five miles my first day back. I was in so much pain afterwards that I wanted to cry. I went back to the doctor and she examined my test results and wrote out medical evaluation orders for me. In short, my discharge was pending, and it would happen in just a few months. I only hoped that God would hold off until Caitlin was out of the hospital.

In the meantime, things were up and down with Caitlin. She started to become jaundiced, and was left under a purple light for three days. I felt so bad for her; every few hours the lab people would come by and take a blood sample, and then a nurse would give her upwards to 1500 dollars worth of medication. Then she would get her diaper changed, and then it would be time to weigh her and change her bed sheets. She received no end of torment. It was hard to watch. Sarah spent her entire day at the hospital sitting next to Caitlin. They would let Sarah hold her often and she would sing over her. Caitlin was a sweet baby. She would quietly squeak when we had to put her down. Those premature babies hardly ever cry.

She received so much medication, that the doctors inserted an IV straight through her chest. As much as I hated that, it was better than having to reinsert an IV needle into her arms and legs and head. To this day, she has many scars on her arms and legs from IV needles. Slowly, things started to get better. Caitlin drank more milk in gradual stages. She was up to around 20cc every few hours. She was even starting to gain some weight. A few more weeks went by and one day, we saw a big banner on her incubator that said, “I am a member of the three pound club!” We were so proud of her! Our little baby was growing!

Many things were going on around us. A baby near Caitlin’s bed had undergone three of the surgeries that Caitlin had. He had a colostomy bag, not to mention all of the other things that plagued him. Occasionally his heart rate would slow way down, or he would stop breathing. I really felt for him, his parents never came to see him, and nobody but the nurses could hold him. We bought him a Beanie Baby to keep him company, but we always regretted that we couldn’t help that baby more.

Another baby was born deaf and blind. His mother was a 14-year-old, and hardly ever came to see him. That poor baby would lie in his crib and cry, I suppose he could feel the vibrations of his crying and it felt good.

A little girl died one day while we were in the room. It was so sad to hear her monitor suddenly scream out and to see the staff run us out of the room. In only a few hours, the baby’s parents came and claimed the baby’s body. It was the third time they had come to see her.

All around us were baby’s that were very sick. Caitlin had her share of problems, but it was obvious that God had specially chosen her for something. I watched those babies on their respirators, knowing that they have to have the oxygen, but the oxygen causes severe problems in their eyes. Many of those kids have to wear glasses from birth.

Everyday we would come to the nursery hoping that Caitlin was having a good day, but there were many days we would see her back on a respirator, or back on certain medications. These things happened while we were not there, usually at night.

That October, Sarah’s grandparents came to visit us from Texas. They cried a lot and held the baby a lot; overall, we had a great time with them. Once, Sarah’s grandfather took off his wedding ring and slipped it over Caitlin’s arm, she wore it like a bracelet.

Thanksgiving was hard on us. We were still at the Ronald McDonald House, and we were missing our families. Sarah and I ate our Thanksgiving meal by ourselves, a meal donated by some kind soul. We had so much to be thankful for, but this ordeal was starting to take its toll. We were so tired all of the time, and we were living in a house that was not ours. We shared our home with many people, all of them having as many problems as we did. That very week, a family was staying at the McDonald house because their son had accidentally shot himself while hunting. He was around twelve years old, and was alone. He shot himself through the lower abdomen and the bullet shattered his leg. He had to drag himself almost a half mile through mud and wild rose bushes in near freezing weather to help. He was a great inspiration because he had so much courage. His family was thankful that he was alive.

After Thanksgiving, we started counting down to Caitlin's discharge day. It was only around 10 days away. She was nearly four pounds, and was having good days. The doctors were very optimistic that she was almost ready. When there was only three days left before Caitlin’s discharge, we received a phone call around 3:00 in the morning. It was one of the night doctors, and there was a problem with Caitlin. We rushed over to see her, her abdomen was swelling again, and it was very painful. Her heart rate had started falling, and she was back on a respirator. The doctor called us because she thought Caitlin was dying. Sarah looked down at her baby, who was unconscious and she began to cry. She cried long and hard. They wouldn’t even let us hold her because her existence was so fragile.

Only two things could have happened. One, her intestines had started dying again, or two, she had developed a blood infection that would most likely kill her. They wouldn’t know for sure until they did a culture test, which takes three days. In the mean time she could die. They did X rays on her, but couldn’t find anything wrong with her intestines. It was a very grim time for us. What few times she awoke, she was hungry, but they wouldn’t let her eat anything, so they had to sedate her. Otherwise, her thrashing around would have pulled out her IV and other tubes. Sarah and I prayed, but God gave us no direction. There was no gift of faith this time, we could only pray. For three days, we sat by her bed, waiting for the test results. On the third day, she improved, just before her results came back. There was no infection. They had no clue what had happened, in fact, they never did find out. One day she just improved and never had a sick day again.

Remember the twin boy I told you about when I first visited the nursery? Well, he developed a blood infection and died about a week before Caitlin left the hospital. The little deaf and blind boy was transferred to Atlanta for special care. The baby with the colostomy bags was still in the nursery, and weighed five pounds! I understand that after a series of surgeries he went home healthy. We saw many people come and go and we will never forget any of them.

We ended up spending Christmas in the McDonald house. It was sad and lonely, but my parents came and spent the next few days with us. The nurses cried when Caitlin left to go home with us. They each took turns holding her before we left. We had become good friends with the staff, and it was hard to say goodbye to such special friends.

Things were great, but her discharge was a problem within itself. We had no place to stay, and the Ronald McDonald House will only let you stay as long as you have a family member in the hospital. I was within a few weeks of my discharge, but not long enough to sign a lease to rent a house. We couldn’t stay in the barracks, because Sarah was not authorized. We found ourselves homeless.
God works things out, for we had found a great church just before this, and a family from that church opened up their home to us. Sarah and I decided that it would be better for Caitlin if they went home. I stayed behind and waited on my discharge paperwork to process. I swore to Sarah as I put her on the plane that I would be home for the Super Bowl, later that January. My paperwork dragged on, the Army didn’t know that Sarah had gone home, and they sure didn’t know that I was staying in Alabama with our friends, and driving back and forth to Columbus, Georgia. It took an hour to commute. Things worked out well with my discharge; I was given a disability, but not much of one, and sent home to my wife and daughter.

When Sarah and I reunited, John Elway was about to win his second of back-to-back Super Bowl victories. We returned to Cloudcroft, where I picked up a new and better job of selling Real Estate. A few years later, we moved to El Paso, Texas where I took a job with the Federal Government. Occasionally, Caitlin will have periods where she has complications and requires occasional hospitalizations, but her condition will clear up after prayer. Caitie now has a little brother named Seth, who was also born premature, but didn’t suffer any medical setbacks. Through it all, God was faithful; we only had to trust him and walk where He told us. It was not easy, not by a long shot, but it was the best hard time we ever had!

In the course of events, Caitlin had a total of four blood transfusions, and around a half million dollars worth of hospital care. When things seem challenging for you, think back to the people that are in a life and death struggle, and don’t have a relationship with God to help them. Your problems will seem less threatening.

Thanks for your patience. I hope ya’ll enjoyed my rambling along at a slow pace, and I hope this story was a blessing to you.

Caitlin (8) and Seth (5)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part XII

Sorry about taking so long, but as Gandolf told Frodo, "Sorry, but I was delayed."

Earlier that day, we had walked into the nursery and noticed that one of the beds was missing. I asked what had happened to the baby, but the nurse whipped a tear from her eyes and told me that one baby died. “It was hard,” she said, “but he had been dying for a week and it was expected.” The baby was born deaf and never heard his mother’s voice. (Is there a better charity to give to than the Children’s Miracle Network?) Every since that day, I never asked where a baby was or what happened to his bed.

On day three, Caitlin’s stomach started swelling; it was obvious that she was in trouble. We called and activated the prayer chain, between all our churches, and the Walk to Emmaus, we estimate that upwards of 2,000 people were praying. It was now lunchtime, so we went down to the cafeteria to eat. After lunch, all of us grandparents and parents went back to the nursery. I was shocked to see that Caitlin’s bed was gone!

The nurse saw the look on my face and rushed to our side. Everything was okay; they had only moved her to another room. It seems that they did a culture test and Caitlin showed positive for staph bacteria to be present. She didn’t have an infection, but rather, the possibility existed.

We gathered and held her little hands as the nurse wheeled her off to the X ray department, to see if they could find her stomach problem. It didn’t take long; it appeared that a portion of her small intestine was dying and it would have to be removed. Later that afternoon they started prepping our baby for surgery. We gathered and prayed for our baby again. While we were praying, one nurse got my attention and asked me, “Would you like to hold the baby?”

They wrapped Caitlin in swaddling clothes and handed her to me. I was so scared to hold her, but when they turned off the lights in the nursery, Caitlin opened her eyes and looked at me for the first time. I looked into her eyes and told her “goodbye” as they laid her back into the incubator and wheeled her off to surgery. I can’t shake that horrible feeling I experienced that day, wondering if I would ever see her again, but trying not to cloud my mind with doubt. We gathered in the surgery waiting room and waited. We could not pray, or sit, or stand. We could not eat or drink.

Okay, we ate Chik-fil-a sandwiches and drank Cokes, but we were useless to the rest of the world. The hours slowly walked by, the hours got to their knees and crawled, the hours got on the floor and slowly rolled past. The surgery was only to last for two hours, but the surgeon advised us not to get nervous if it took longer, even up to four hours. After three hours, we turned on the TV and watch Touched by an Angel.

After four and a half hours, the doctors came and visited with us. “She lost six inches of her bowels, but she has oodles left,” the surgeon said. (He was the first doctor that could speak good old American English.) She was doing fine, in fact they said she would recover nicely. We stopped and praised God that things weren’t as bad as they first seemed.

She settled into recovering, but the storm was not over. After five days, her bowels still hadn’t moved, or shown any sign of recovery. The doctors were incredibly concerned. Everything was supposed to be working right, but nothing was working. We had a conference with the doctor. He started out with, “I hope that things aren’t as bad as they seem…” Well, when has that ever been a great opening line? “But it appears that cystic fibrosis could be the reason that her intestines aren’t working.”

Sarah and I looked at each other and at the same moment, God gave us a gift of faith and spoke to us that this was not the case. We told the doctors that we believed that God was in charge and they smiled and hoped with us. Cystic fibrosis is a devastating disease that usually shortens life expectancy to around 15 to 20 years. It is a very hard disease on parents.
After day 10, she messed her first diaper! We were all so excited! At last, things were starting to move—forward that is. Just a few days later, the doctor placed a hand on my shoulder and whispered, “The cystic fibrosis test came back negative.” I smiled and thanked God in my heart.

Sarah and I were now alone in Georgia. Our parents had long ago driven home and left us to defend the fort. Things were working out okay; in fact, God gave us grace and mercy in the middle of our storm. There were some really hard days, but the Lord held our hands through all of it.

Probably one of the hardest parts of Caitlin’s surgery was that she didn’t get to eat anything for about 10 days. She was hungry, how could she not be? When a baby is born, they start looking for Mama, but Caitlin never got that opportunity. Now after 10 days, the nurse gave her 1cc of milk, which she greedily consumed. It was a big teaser, it almost seemed too cruel to just give her a taste and then take it away. I was confident that the staff knew what they were doing, but it was very frustrating. She lost down to one and a half pounds during the time that she was in recovery and wasn’t eating. She was so small, but she was incredibly cute. The nurses got to where they started fighting over who would attend our baby in the nursery! Gee, what a feeling of relief to know that she was receiving top care. Once, we had gone for a few hours and one nurse had purchased a doll dress at Wal-Mart and put it on Caitlin! She was so cute….

Things began to progress after her surgery, she did develop an infection in her incision, but it cleared up after a week. Things were okay enough that the Army demanded that I return to work; they also wanted me to return to the barracks without my wife, but there was little chance of that happening. I told my First Sergeant that I was more than eager to carry my workload, but my responsibility was to my wife and baby. Many things could yet go wrong for Caitlin, and within a few days, they did. Somehow, God gave me favor and the Army let me stay off post at the Ronald McDonald House, at least 25 miles from Ft. Benning. This was a staggering accomplishment, for I was not even an official graduate of boot camp. I was still under direct orders of my Drill Sergeants (talk about stress…) but the fact that I was injured and only useful for desk duty was a great help.

I learned many things while I worked at the personnel office, one of which was that the Army approved my request for transfer, I was on my way to California to undergo 1 year of training. The best part was, they weren’t even going to tell me, I was just going to receive orders to be in California by the end of the week.
There was tightness in my chest. How could I possibly go to California with Sarah and the baby in Georgia, and the baby couldn’t move for another two months? The Army suggested that I just take Sarah with me and come back for the baby, when I hesitated at that idea, they made it an order. The warmth of that suggestion overwhelmed me, but there was no way Sarah or I could leave a sick baby in the hospital for months, not even certain if the baby would live. I began to consider the option to go AWOL—a decision that could haunt me for the rest of my life.

Caitlin's Story The Finale

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part XI

After we prayed, the Army doctors turned us over to the neonatal hospital unit in Columbus, Georgia, which was a miracle in itself! Once there, the tests were underway, and the results were not desirable. The specialist there came in a sat down beside the bed. Things were grim, the womb had developed a very rare condition where the blood flow to the baby had reversed, and was flowing into the mother from the baby. He told us that if they couldn’t fix the problem, then we would have to do an emergency cesarean, which was not good. On Thursday, I called home, told all of our families that we were about to have a baby and they all jumped into cars, and started driving. To make matters worse, Hurricane Georges was spinning in the gulf around Mississippi, directly in their path of travel. I settled in to watch the television, thinking that it might be a pleasant distraction, but the only thing on the news was Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton.

On Friday morning the baby’s condition grew worse, she was in bad trouble. Our baby's introduction to the world was coming that very afternoon, 11 weeks early. The Lord overwhelmed us with peace. A gift of faith sustained us. In fact, the staff often asked what was going on in our minds, but we had faith that God was in control.

The doctor from the neonatal unit visited us. He was concerned. He had treated hundreds of babies, and he said that there was an 80% chance that she (the baby) would live. He also said that there was a strong possibility that she would be deformed, or damaged in some way. He said that we had some hard decisions to make. I looked at him and said, “Sir, it doesn’t matter if the baby is born without a head, we will not abandon her, and we most definitely won’t abort her. God gave her to us, and we will be grateful for His gift.” The doctor smiled and patted me on the back. He then suggested that I walk through the nursery and see what babies that small look like. He said that it would be too shocking to see this baby for the first time in the delivery room without some prior knowledge. At that moment I became concerned. What would she look like? Would she be a monster?

Well, I walked down and a nurse escorted me through the nursery. As I walked into the room, the first thing I heard was alarms going off, breathing machines humming, IV pumps buzzing, and a mother crying. I tried not to appear disturbed, but there were babies struggling to live underneath those incubators, little tiny babies, not even big enough to live.

We were expecting our baby to be about 760 grams, around 1 pound, 11 ounces. The nurse took me to a baby that was one and a half pounds, so I could get an idea what my child would look like. I gasped when she pulled back the blanket covering that little boy. He was so small and fragile that his skin was transparent. I could see his heart beating inside his chest. I could see his muscles flexing as he involuntarily jerked against the IV needle buried inside his leg. A respirator covered his face. The nurse had a tear in her eye when she told me that he was a twin that was born at 25 weeks, and that he and his sister were fighting hard to live. I left that nursery with a heavy heart, but I was ready to see God work on our behalf.

That afternoon, they prepped Sarah for surgery and wheeled her into the operating room. I was suited up like a doctor and joined her shortly. They gave me a special chair next to her bed, and I held her hand as they started the incision. I prayed and chatted, trying to keep Sarah from being too concerned. Three doctors from two different hospitals told us that our now 29-week-old baby had only developed to 22 weeks, and only weighed 760 grams. We didn’t know what the Lord was going to lead us into, but we prepared our hearts for anything.
I will never forget the environment around us. There were 30 people in the surgery room, six were doctors, and the rest were nurses. There was an incubator to the left of us, and a completely separate team for the moment the baby was born. There were crash carts and emergency equipment readily available.

I can still hear her little squeak as the surgeon pulled her out of her mother’s womb and she laid upon a cold metal table. Sarah was dying to look at her, but I could see. Sarah kept asking whether or not she was okay, but I had no answers. What I saw was way too small to be my daughter.

Little Caitlin Elizabeth Inman was born on September 25, 1998, at Columbus Regional Medical Center, in Columbus, Georgia at 5:03 in the afternoon. She weighed 940 grams, about two pounds, one ounce, almost 200 grams bigger than they thought! Somehow, between the sonogram and the surgery Caitlin had put on six ounces! Truly, God was working in our behalf! We immediately gave God the glory for answering our prayers to take care of our baby.

The doctors said that Caitlin was doing well considering she was born under such circumstances. I left Sarah and walked over to the incubator, and saw my baby lying under the bright lights. She had an IV in her head, but she was breathing on her own, something they didn’t expect to be possible. I stared at her, but I cannot tell you what was in my heart. A part of me was lying on that table, and a part of me was lying on that gurney having her womb sown back together. But, all of me was looking down at the gift God had given us, a beautiful little girl. No matter how long she lived, she was my special baby, and my life would never be the same. They let me hold her tiny hand when I stood over her. My heart leaped out of my chest. When they wheeled the incubator out of the room, I felt my first loyalty split. Should I stay with my wife, or should I go with my daughter?
My daughter? Does that mean that I am now a father? Wow, things can sure change fast in your life.

I walked into the nursery where they were working on Caitlin. I went and looked at her lying helplessly in that incubator… I have to admit, my fragile heart was not ready to see my daughter seemingly tangled up in wires and tubes, IVs, and respirators. She was by far the prettiest girl ever born, even though I couldn’t really see her.

Forty minutes after she was born, a very tired and disheveled entourage of grandparents stumbled into the door. They didn’t stop once on their 18 hour journey, and were dead tired, but full of excitement. We gooed and gawed over our miracle baby, content for the moment. Sarah settled in to recovering from her surgery after visiting the nursery in a wheel chair. We sat and stared at our little girl and beamed with joy.

Suddenly, we realized that we didn’t have anywhere to stay. I didn’t have a home to go to, and times were tough. No one could really afford this trip on such short notice. The incredibly competent staff of nurses arranged for our accommodations at the Ronald McDonald House, just a block from the hospital. The resident manager, Melanie, was so gracious to us as we checked in and directed us to the first hot meal we had in three days. I spent the night with Sarah in her hospital room. It was the first night I slept in days, and Sarah was so happy that she cried until she fell asleep. It was so nice to know that our daughter was safe for the time being. Imagine this, you’ve just had surgery and the baby you have never seen is lying in an incubator down the hall and to the right. I rolled Sarah down the hall in a wheel chair and wheeled her as close as I could to the incubator. Sarah cried as she saw her baby and kept saying, “She’s perfect, thank you, Father…” I would wake up in the night and walk down to the nursery, one of the nurses tried to give me a lesson on breast feeding, so I went back to Sarah’s room for the night.

The next morning, we got Sarah out of her bed and wheeled her down to the nursery. Caitlin had done well through the night; in fact, everything looked fine. The doctors said that she was doing so well that all she needed was to put on some weight and she could go home. They said that if she would put on another three pounds then she would be released, until then, she would remain under their care. I was fine with that idea until I asked them how long it would be before she put on three pounds.

Three months? That is impossible! Maybe two and a half, if everything goes okay. Well, I was devastated. We were a long ways from home, the Army didn’t want my wife to be in Georgia, we didn’t have a place to live, how could we afford three months of intensive hospital care? Well, the only thing I knew was that God would make a way.

That day passed and there were no problems looming over us. Caitlin was doing fine, in fact, she was doing so well that everyone was amazed. What really hurt my heart was the fact that we had a brand new baby, but couldn't hold her. We could sit and stare at her all day long and we could hold her hand, but her existence was too fragile to be held. In a rare way, this was a mixed blessing, after all, how do you hold something that small, with all the wires and tubes? I was scared to pick her up, what if something went wrong? What if I pulled something out? What if I looked into her ear and an elephant crawled out? Okay, I can see that I was being a little ridiculous, but I was carrying a heavy stress load, and everything seemed amplified.

We went to bed that night and were grateful that everything was going great. The only problem of the day was that Caitlin had dropped down below two pounds, but the doctors assured me that it was normal for babies to lose weight after birth.

The next morning, the doctors were a little more concerned. It seemed as though Caitlin was having some problems with her stomach. As of yet, she had not eaten as a precaution, but now it seemed as though there really might be a problem. Her abdomen was slowly swelling, and it was painful to touch.

This seems like a good place to take a pause, don’t you think?

This is Caitlin on her first day. Its blurry because the photo was taken through 2 windows. She was 2 pounds and 14 inches.

Caitlin's Story Part XII

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.

Caitlin's Story Part XI

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…

Caitlin's Story Part X

Friday, September 21, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part VIII

A little recap…
On the last weekend of January, we arose early, 02:00 AM, to be specific, and went on a 10-mile road march. We carry a lot of weight in our packs and gear, not to mention our weapons. It was a dark night, and it was cold. Snowflakes were falling, and it was getting colder. In fact, I found out that it was one of the coldest weekends we had endured. The temperature was dropping into the 20’s and it was COLD! There was no moonlight to guide us; I could only see the guy’s helmet in front of me. I was marching along thinking of how cold I was when the course of my life drastically changed, and things would never be the same again. I had one of those moments I would live over and over again, but there was no way I could change it….

As I mentioned earlier, it was dark, so I never saw the pothole. The next thing I knew, I was falling. I landed very hard, and lay on the cold asphalt for what seemed like forever, at least until the soldier behind me found me and picked me up. He asked if I was hurt, but I wasn’t sure. It was cold, and I couldn’t feel much at all, but I shook the incident off and kept marching, ignoring the pain. When we reached our destination, I started to feel the pain increase. A deep, burning sensation grew in my legs and hips, and a dull ache started that wouldn’t stop. Despite the pain, I continued the training and went to bed that night, miserable. I knew that I was injured, but I refused to accept the idea. Anyone injured during training will have to start all over, and I didn’t want to go through all eight weeks of basic again. I ignored the pain. The next day, we had a five-mile run and a five-mile march. My Drill Sergeant was watching me and I could tell he was concerned.

The next day was Sunday; I didn’t even go to church. I ate, did my Bible studies, and went to bed. On Monday morning we had another Physical Test. I ignored the pain and started attacking each category with fury. We had pushups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run. On the push-ups and sit-ups, I obtained the maximum scores possible! I was excited! This was the best I had ever done; all I had left was the two-mile run. It was the last two miles I would run.

As I stood on the starting line, I prayed that God would remove the pain from my legs, and that His strength would cause me to mount up with wings as eagles. I ran 100 yards and the pain overwhelmed me. However, I could not fail this PT test. If I failed, I would get recycled backwards to another starting point, something I could not consider. Failure was not an option. It hurt, I was in tremendous pain. In fact, as my feet hit the ground, my whole body would lurch in protest. One guy said that I was running sideways, with a horrible stagger, like I was running with bullets ripping through my body. I couldn’t stop. I was one week from graduating basic, only a few days away! As I ran, I thought to myself, only four more days… It normally took me 12 minutes to run two miles; I limped across the finish line at 24 minutes. My Company Commander, Captain Howell, walked up and demanded to know what was wrong with me, why I had run so slowly. My Drill Sergeant, SSG Canady, looked at him and said, “Sir, that is Private Inman, and he just showed more character than I have ever seen.”

My Drill Sergeant pulled me aside and asked me what was wrong, but I didn’t know. “Probably pulled a muscle,” I said, but I knew that there was more. Not only that, I failed the test. My Drill Sergeant arranged for me to retest later that week.

Early the next morning, Sergeant Canady put me on a detail that allowed me to miss the morning exercise, but we had a five-mile road march within hours. We saddled up and stepped out. I can only imagine what willpower caused my legs to pick up and advance with each step, but there came a point when the pain stopped and numbness took over. Our company XO called me Private Penguin, because I had a limp so pronounced. My legs would no longer hold my weight, as if my hips would rotate out of their sockets when I walked.

That evening when we returned, my Drill Sergeant came to me and said, “I am proud of the effort you are putting in. The Army needs more men like you. However, the Army needs them in good shape. You are to report to sick call in the morning.”

I politely told him “No way!” and left him standing there. (Of course, I didn’t use the words “No Way” with a Drill Sergeant, but it sounds impressive to say it.) The next morning, we marched out to do our exercises. As we ran in place, the Sergeant yells out and we drop to the ground. It took me almost two minutes to get back up, but my sergeant watched me rejoin the group. He told me to quit, but I just couldn’t accept failure. I swallowed the pain and we ran five miles, our Eagle run, the one that graduates us from boot camp.

When we returned from the run, my buddy, Guy, practically carried me back to the barracks. I shuffled to the showers and allowed the hottest water possible to pour over me. When I returned to my bunk, there was a sick call slip on my bed, and a note that I would pull KP if I didn’t go to the doctor. I argued with him, but he told me that anyone with my courage to continue in my obvious condition would graduate, no matter what.

With that promise, I went to the clinic. The doctor examined me and sent me to the main hospital for tests. He also told me that I would have to ask for some crutches at the hospital, as he had given away the last set. (Can you believe those instructions? “By the way, ask for some crutches when you get there…” Remarkable!) I walked, well, hobbled to the bus station and to my appointment. The doctor there did X-rays and prodded me, but decided that I had bruised some tendons. He sent me to Physical Therapy to get some crutches. Hey! I should be back in training in no time at all! At the Physical Therapy department, I asked for my crutches and they looked at me funny. No one had ever been sent to them asking for crutches before, and they looked even funnier when I told them that everyone else had run out of equipment. The Captain there asked me what was wrong and where it hurt. He could see me wince with each step. He did a quick examination on me and grabbed a wheel chair as quickly as he could. He told me to go down to nuclear medicine and have a bone scan done, and not to ever get out of my wheel chair again, no matter what. I went down the hall and waited while they scheduled an appointment for me, but by 5:00, I was back in the barracks on my crutches. They wouldn’t let me take the chair home!

They took me out of almost all training and told me to take it easy while my test results were returning. So for three days I shot machine guns, threw grenades, read maps, and a whole lot of other things. Then on the 5th day, I told my Drill Sergeant that my test result should have been back two days ago. He and I drove down to the clinic and asked if they had heard anything. The doctor said, “Yes they came back yesterday, I was going to call you. Have a seat in my office.”
This doctor treated 200 soldiers every day by himself, and he wanted to consult me privately? I was concerned. He took out my x-rays and test results, and pointed out how I had fractured both of my hips, in the femoral neck. He said, “Soldier, I am sad to say, you are going home, your military career is finished.” He then sent me to the hospital to consult with an orthopedic surgeon to see if he could repair my legs enough to walk again. He told me on the way out, “By the way, ask for a wheel chair when you get there. You really shouldn’t be on your feet.”

The fact is, without the crutches I was unable to walk. My hips would swing back and forth without any stability and I couldn’t stand without support. Well, I crutched my way into the Orthopedic Surgeons suite and one of the student nurses gave me a once over. She had a grim look on her face and spoke quietly with the doctor, just out of earshot. The doctor performed the same exam and sat down beside my chair. “What I have to say you won’t like, but you have to listen to me. You have severely broken your hips. You have developed a fracture that runs along the femoral neck in your femur. Your whole weight is supported by these femoral necks, without them you can’t stand or support weight.” She stopped and looked at me as if telling me that my wife was in a car accident and died on the operating table. “Unfortunately,” she continued, “You will never be able to walk again. Maybe, with the help of surgery and some pins, you can walk with supports. I am very sorry.”

Caitlin's Story Part IX

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part VII

Meanwhile, back at 30th AG Battalion, I was still waiting for my slot down range…

17 November 97
Ft. Benning processing station, 30th AG Battalion
Hi Sweetheart,
News has changed. I'm not going down range on Tuesday, I'm going on Friday. Officially, my MOS is now 11 Mike, which is mechanized infantry. We will be training on the Bradley fighting vehicles, which is a tank that holds nine people. It has a cannon and it shoots missiles, and has a machine gun mounted on it. I'm not particularly excited about this, but I will do it, as I know God has everything under control.
I am glad however, that I'm in the group of guys I am with because we are becoming good friends. There's a Korean/Bolivian immigrant in our group named Kim The Gook. That's how his name appears on the roster. Actually, his name is Tae Gook Kim, but his recruiter messed up his name and it will probably be impossible to fix. Then there is Josh McMurrey, who is on dental hold for root canal, but was miraculously removed so we can ship out on Friday. Guy LeMay, is another miracle, because he failed his PT test and they are shipping him on Friday also. These three guys are the only ones here I care to spend time with. Also, I talked them into going with me to church last Sunday. Then they all got interested in the Bible and I had to steal a Gideon Bible from the chapel so they could read one. Every time they have a free moment, they open the Bible and start reading! That is why I think we're shipping together, because God wants it that way. These are some major heathens and I'm praying for them all the time, now y'all can too.
Here's the bad news: 11 Mike MOS is three weeks longer than everyone else. Now I have 16 weeks instead of 13. I guess that no one wants us to drive a $23 million tank without lessons. Anyway...
I hope this letter reaches you before you go to Albuquerque. If so, make Cindy take you to Papa Felipe's, it's really good. Tell everyone I said hello and hurry up and get a job, because it isn't fair than I'm the only one in the family that's making money! I love you and I'll see you in a few days; I am ready to come home today!

17 November 97,
30th AG Battalion, Ft. Benning,
Hello Baby Doll,
I was just thinking about you and decided to set down to write you, even though I wrote you earlier. Today, a made an appointment with the chaplain. I really like him, he is a very sincere Baptist preacher. He asked why I wanted to see him and I really didn't know why, except that the Lord told me to go see him. I had been wondering about the best way to integrate Army and religion, so we talked about that and we talked about you. He tells stories about when he was in the field and the things he did to stay close to his wife when away. He was really impressed that I was ordained, and he mentioned how refreshing it was for him not to have to deal with the bad problem or to try to fix someone's life. He looks exactly like Rick Moranis, except serious and sincere. I will miss having him around. Then he made me salute him and I left. Then on my way to formation with my 11 Mike friends, we went too close to Alpha Co. formation and the drill sergeant smoked us. BAD! We counted more than 100 push-ups and jumping jacks, not to mention the "hold your legs six inches off the floor," which we did forever. In all, I was hurting bad. I am almost completely over the cold I had, save some occasional coughs. I feel fine now. Well, I will pick this up later. Goodnight, I love you!
18 November 97, 0650 hours,
Good Morning! I surely do miss you. They are shipping people out of here left and right. Groups are going out every day now, but we will be one of the last to go. Groups that came in here after us have shipped out due to their MOS. 11 Bravo's are all gone, so are 11 Charlie's (mortars). 11 Mike's have to stay until Friday, oh well... I’m really looking forward to coming home. We should stay in Dallas that night and eat out, go see some stuff and then go home. I think we're released on Dec. 21st or 22nd, I'm not sure. But, I will be home in about four weeks, so start counting down! Well Sweetie, I will talk to later.
I love you and I miss you a lot.

When boot camp finally came, it was a different story. I started counting down the days to when I would see Sarah. Originally, it was 13 weeks, then 15 weeks. Then we lost three weeks at the reception station, creating a total of 18 weeks. I was entering training week five before I had an opportunity to talk to Sarah on the phone. Our First Sergeant gave us five minutes to talk, our only opportunity for two more weeks. This was life down range, and I just had to get used to it. I was now part of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry, Charley Company--to be specific.

Thanksgiving came, and I ate in the mess hall. The food we ate is another four paragraphs of misery that I will spare you, but suffice it to say, I had a lousy Thanksgiving. We were totally cut off from the world; I had no idea how the Dallas Cowboys were doing, or if the Gulf War had restarted. (We were having problems again in Iraq.) The only bright spot in my life was the idea that at Christmas I was going to go home for two weeks!

I had lost about 15 pounds, and was dearly looking forward to eating some real food. The Army rescheduled our graduation date because the holidays interrupted our schedule. Our new date to graduate from basic training and AIT became March 5, 1998. That was a long stretch from 13 weeks starting October 17, 1997. Oh well, I had a plan and a purpose. I can do anything as long as God is with me. I just didn’t realize how hard things were going to become…

Christmas came and I went home to recover from the four actual weeks of basic training I had endured. Sarah cried when she saw me wearing my dress uniform, and I cried because I was so happy to be home. We had a great Christmas, the only thing hanging over our heads was that I was about to return to Georgia, and wouldn’t see Sarah again until February 1, 1998, the day scheduled for family visitations. I returned to Ft. Benning with a renewed fire to see this trial through to the end.

One thing I was painfully aware of was that I was no longer a teenager. In fact, it had been 10 years since I had done any organized sports. My body was rejecting the physical punishment I was enduring. Never the less, I lowered my head and marched forward. I started out in the lower 10% of my platoon physically, but I quickly rose to the top 10%. I was feeling good, despite the pain in my muscles, back, shoulder, head, hands, feet, and legs. When we would do our Physical Fitness Test, my scores would grow stronger weekly. It became evident to my Drill Sergeants that I was putting extra effort into my performance, and it was paying off. I knew that they respected me, which helped tremendously.

The two weeks I had off for Christmas allowed my body a badly needed rest, and I was recharged and moving forward upon my return. In the second week of January, things started to change for me. When we would run three or five miles in the morning, my feet would swell so badly that I could hardly walk, much less put on my boots. I ignored the pain and proceeded to continue my training.

On the last weekend of January, we arose early, 02:00 AM, to be specific, and went on a 10-mile road march. We carry a lot of weight in our packs and gear, not to mention our weapons. It was a dark night, and it was cold. Snowflakes were falling, and it was getting colder. In fact, I found out that it was one of the coldest weekends we had endured. The temperature was dropping into the 20’s and it was COLD! There was no moonlight to guide us; I could only see the guy’s helmet in front of me. I was marching along thinking of how cold I was when the course of my life drastically changed, and things would never be the same again. I had one of those moments I would live over and over again, but there was no way I could change it….

Caitlin's Story Part VIII

Monday, September 17, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part VI

The processing station was three weeks behind schedule. We would be stuck in this hell for another three weeks? After you complete the in-processing, there is nothing to do. You don’t have a job assignment to help occupy your day. You don’t have a place to be, and you are wrong for whatever you do. You can’t lie on your bunk, but you certainly can’t stand up all day. You can’t clean, because the guy right behind you will totally violate all you just accomplished. Not only that, during our first weekend, an epidemic started that swept through all our barracks. In only a few days, our entire group of 2,000 became very ill with the flu. I saw many of those boys taken to the hospital with pneumonia. I absolutely hated my existence and began to wonder if I had heard God after all. I have nothing but admiration for the Apostle Paul as he wrote about joy and contentment from a prison far worse than mine.

We were allowed to have no books other than the Bible. I would spend my time reading my Bible as I sat on my footlocker. Before long, I had a small Bible study group going. Most of them were just bored, but I took advantage of the situation. I went and saw the Chaplain and asked him for some Bibles to help with my studies. He told me that I wasn’t authorized to do any studies, and that any inquires I received to refer to him. Honestly, I appreciated his concern. All he needed was to have some hotshot in the barracks quoting scriptures and confusing people. I respected his position, but stole about four Bibles from the chapel. Actually, in the Army, you appropriate, you relocate, or you obtain, you never steal. (Don’t worry, after it was all said and done, I returned the Bibles to the Chapel.)

We had a good thing going. I had an atheist, a backsliden youth pastor, and two people that had never heard of Jesus outside of swear words. I hammered these guys with basic doctrine and exposed them to simple truth, such as God loves you, Jesus died for you, there is a Heaven and Hell, Satan is real, God is good, man is bad, the only way to God and eternal life is through the blood of Jesus… I told the story of the Bible to them as if I was introducing it to a tribe of natives in the farthest reaches of the jungle, never before seen or approached.

It worked marvelously. They refused to go to chapel services with me, but couldn’t wait until we had enough free time to do a story. They loved Daniel and the lions, Joshua and the conquest of Israel, Elijah and the fire, Noah and the flood, and the resurrection of Jesus. Night after night, I read them stories. We talked about everything possible; stale religion hadn't tainted them and they were eager to learn. They didn’t know that you were supposed to end a sermon with “Just as I am” sung quietly in the background as the pastor pleaded for one more soul. They didn’t encounter organized religion, but they encountered God! Slowly, I saw their lives starting to change. Even after we moved on into boot camp, we still met for our studies. On days that were important, such as rifle qualification days, we would circle into a platoon of 52 men and pray for God to be with us. Our Drill Sergeants would watch us and shake their heads, but God was working, despite the Army. I was humbled when one of the guys came to me and asked when we could schedule his baptism. God and I had gotten over our fights from the past issues between us, and it felt good!


Wait, let me back up a little, as I’m too far ahead in chronological order. I was still stuck at the Processing Station and had yet to receive orders to the boot camp, or “down range” as they called it. I hope my letters home aren’t boring any of you too much.

11 November 97
Ft. Benning, 30th AG Battalion
Dear Sarah,
Hello Sweetheart, how are you doing? This is Veteran's Day, and we are supposed to have a slow day. Our drill sergeants said that we would get to watch TV and have some true personal time. I'm not holding my breath. Even if it happens, we have 2,000 men and very few TV’s. Actually, I haven’t seen the TV’s to know if they exist. On Friday, about half of my platoon will be shipping down range to boot camp, but they haven’t identified which one of us will go. The wait is maddening. How long must we wait to go to boot camp? I have observed, from the people I know that have already left, all have Airborne in their contract. So I expect to be here another few days. A lot of the guys in our platoon have been placed on dental hold. I only hope that I have no cavities. Shoot, by the time you read this, I’ll either be on dental hold or down range, at least I hope so. We received our BDU's yesterday and our ID cards. However, they won’t let us wear them until Wednesday or Thursday. Oh well, I guess I will wear my sweats a few more days. Nothing else is happening except that I have something of a sore throat, but I think most of it is sinus drainage. The biocillon shot they gave us should take care of that. There seems to be some kind of epidemic running through the barracks. I hope I haven’t gotten whatever is circulating.

Well, now I am ready to get the show on the road. Is certainly miss you very much. I wish that I could see you again, and I will soon, but not soon enough. If I get placed on dental hold, then I won't be home until January. Oh well, what comes will come. I do have some good news! After all of my B.A.Q. and allowances, I will take home $1059 as an E-1. When I get E-3 I'll take home (after taxes, of course) $1350 or so. We will be all right as far as money. I'm so ready to get this over so we can live together on a fort somewhere. They asked where in the world wanted to be stationed, and out of all the places they gave us a choice between Texas, California, New York, Washington, Nebraska, and one other state. For some reason, I chose Colorado. I don't know why, but I did. Then they made us choose three overseas locations: they where: Alaska, Germany, Panama, and Korea. I picked Hawaii, Alaska, Germany, in that order. So did everyone else. I'm not going to hold my breath over any of it. Well, I'd better close his letter off. I'll see later.
I love you,

13 November 97, Ft. Benning Processing Station, 30th AG
Hi Baby!
Things are moving fast around here. We finally finished processing today, squeezing four days into a period of seven days. Our drill sergeant told us tonight that we were shipping out down range tomorrow. I'm ready to get started, but my back, neck, and shoulders hurt like crazy. It will be hard, but I will make it, as I have nowhere else to go.
Today, we received our class A uniforms, except for our suit coat. They look really sharp and are tailored to our size. We looked very good. Tonight we will be up all night because we have to repack all of our equipment, it will be fun to get started. We saw a video of boot camp today, and it looks like a great challenge.
I think everyone here has had a bad reaction to the flu shot. One day hardly anyone had a cold, now after the shot, everyone has it. I'm coughing all day long. My throat is really hurting, and it has been raining for the last two days. There's no doubt that I have a cold. I'm hurting so bad, and the have to be up all night and then ship out early. Well, that's final; our drill sergeant just told us that I'm on list. Gotta go.

14 November 97, 14:00
Well, it's been an interesting night. We packed up a ton of stuff and hauled it down to the bottom level (we are on the third) and get it all organized and spread out. Then, our drill sergeant told us that we weren't going. So, we had to repack all of it and haul it back upstairs. I was real disappointed to realize that I had guard duty until 11:00 PM. I was sick and very tired, but that was last night. Now I'm glad that I didn't ship. I was so sick I would not have made it. Now I have a few days to recuperate.
Today you're moving from Cloudcroft to Snyder, and actually, you have already moved by the time you receive this letter. I hope all went well. I haven't missed helping you move, but I do miss being there.

Things are looking up for me. A little earlier our drill sergeant caught lots of people sleeping in their bunks and smoked as hard. He dumped out our 50 gallon trash can a kick the trash all over the entire barracks. Our barracks is huge; it has over 110 bunks in it. And he made us do about 50 push-ups, plus he kicked over about 15 bunks and made us cleanup everything again. It took us about three hours to get everything squared away. Then he told us to go and standard in formation, but forgot that we were there. It was 1/2 hours before another drill sergeant, Jamison, came back, but we were already filing out on our own. One of the orderlies came and asked for volunteers to clean headquarters. This meant that we would set in an easy chair and watch TV for three hours! I can hardly wait! They have a Coke machine, and I have a handful of quarters! It will be fun. From the way our drill sergeant talks, we will probably be assigned to a tank unit called Bradley tanks. It's part of the infantry MOS, but I can't figure out how. They will teach us how to drive them and fire them. Plus, we could be assigned to a TO&E missile group that operates out of the back of a Humvee. Whatever happens...
I'll bet you are having a good time at home, with a new roommate and all. You probably don't have a job yet, do you? Probably going to the movies every night while your husband suffers in the Army. Anyway... well, not too much is happening, except an entire platoon failed to show up for count. The drill sergeant was pissed off and sent a guy to find them. He said, "If anyone happens upon my Army, would you asked them if I can borrow them for awhile?" He found them later and we walked past them while they were doing push-ups in the rain. The poor guys were brand-new also, they had been told to report. ….I'm going to get this letter off. I wish I could see you again soon, I guess will be only a few more weeks and then we will be together again. Well, I'll talk you again later.
I love you,
Tell everyone I said hello!

Caitlin's Story Part VII

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part V

Let’s back track just a little. Here’s an historical account of the time spent waiting at the 30th AG, which was the processing station for new recruits. At this station, we were given all of our shots, issued uniforms, filled out the proper induction paperwork, and so have you. Normally, a soldier only spends a few days processing. Here’s a first hand account taken from some of the letters home. Let me know if you’d rather I skip this part and continue with the narrative, or if you enjoy “watching these old home videos.” These old letters aren’t edited, so bear with me.

07 November 97, 6:45 PM, Fort Benning, Georgia, 30th AG Battalion
Things have changed dramatically. We arrived at Ft. Benning at 12 A.M. I was expecting them to just send us to the barracks for the night, but it didn't happen. They started processing us immediately after a delay of one hour. We finally reported to our bunks at 0330 AM, and we woke up at 0430 AM. We were all so exhausted but too tired to care. I am so tired right now that I can hardly remember how anything happened today. They made me throw away my camera and lots of other things. And then they allocated to us our P.T. (physical training) workout suit, which we will wear until Monday. We also were inoculated...

…we received four shots today, polio, flu, and something described to us, but I have no idea what it was it made me feel bad. (It was a combination of antibiotics.) They gave it to us in the rear. It was a 4cc shot! I have knot in my rear as big as a walnut, and so does everyone else. The other shots were administered by high pressured guns. It was so powerful that you never feel the shot, but there were no needles involved. After the shots, we went and got our hair cuts which cost me $3.15. They didn't use a guard; we have no hair! Then we went and spent another $80 at the P. X. buying more stuff. (Which they won't let us use.) This is very army! :-) The food here has been really good. We did not receive toilet paper, but I finally found a roll this evening, which I stole from the barber shop. I personally haven't been yelled at by anyone except one drill sergeant that I accidentally walked too close to. There are plenty of Gomer Pile's here for him to pay attention to, which occupies his time. I simply stand there while he yells at them. I am so exhausted. I think that I will put this down until later.

0 8 November 97, 05 15 AM
Good morning! I woke up feeling great. As usual, I woke up around 0430, and our formation is at 0520, so I had plenty of time. I slept hard and I really needed it. It took me quite awhile to make my bed, and it still doesn't look right, but I have a feeling that the correct method will find me soon. My muscles are a little sore from the shots, but not as bad as I imagined. Well, I have a formation, I better go...

1825 Hours
This is the longest day. Saturdays are dead except for the five formations we have to do. We did have to clean our barracks for inspection; however, the sergeants never came by and inspected our work, for which I'm very glad. There are a lot of idiots in our group, but the other companies across the sidewalk are constantly in trouble. Those companies have to stay here another ten days. Tentatively, we are supposed to ship out the middle to the end of next week. I also found out today that the infantry boot camp is the hardest of all and is comparable to the Marines boot camp. I know that I can handle it. If these kids can do it, I can also. The food is really good here, but it is different at the main chow hall, as ours is localized. One of our drill sergeants informed us that he intends on letting us have phone privileges on Sunday. However, I fully expect it to be taken away from us before we receive it. There are a lot of idiots around here. They are constantly whining about everything and are too stupid not to get into trouble. I do not look forward to our first week of boot camp. However, things aren't as bad here as they could be. In fact, this place is just boring. I don't mind the rest. We stand in formation a lot and that really kills my feet because I'm not used to my tennis shoes.

We haven't received our BDU's, that is, battle dress uniform, which is our camouflage. We will get that issue on Monday as well as to more shots and our ID cards. Only the gullible people believe a big rumor here. They think that they will get a shot in their (XXXXXX censored for your protection…). These people are idiots... I am bored with my present company.
I really miss sitting down in a real chair. The only thing is that we are allowed to sit on is our footlocker. Our drill sergeant doesn't want us to sit on the bed until 8:00 PM.
….The only people doing well here are the ones with a good attitude. For example, just the other day, the MPs came and arrested three boys for fighting with their drill sergeant. I am sure that they have learned their lessons, but it is too late. Well, it's time for lights out, so I'll talk to you tomorrow and mail this letter. As yet, I have no address and won't until I get to boot camp. Goodnight, I will talk to later.

Sunday, 9 November 1997, 19:00
Today I went to the chapel and I really enjoyed it. It was very good service and about 25 to 30 men asked for salvation afterwards... After that, we got in trouble for talking in formation and had to do push-ups while our drill sergeants sang songs at random. This lasted for 30 to 40 minutes. Well, it's getting close to lights out, so I will close this letter and start anew tomorrow.
I love you and wish to see you again. Until later, (specifically, December the 20th)

Okay, let me know if these old letters aren’t interesting, and I won’t post anymore of them. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt my feelings. After all, I’ve had Drill Sergeants talk to me in a very personal fashion. I can assure you that nothing you say will be remotely similar!

Caitlin's Story Part IV

Monday, September 10, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part IV

Okay, I know you are asking me a question, so what does this have to do with a little girl named Caitlin? Would you just hold on to your hat? I am getting there… (Ever so slowly)

One other motive that caused me to join the Army was due to a medical reason that plagued us—there is a lot more to this story I haven’t told you. We had been married for five years and weren’t able to have children. We tried to have children by every means we could afford; it just wasn’t going to happen. In fact, back in December, when we were following up on Sarah’s gall bladder problem, we ended up seeing a gynecologist. This doctor did some tests on Sarah and sent us home. There was an hour’s drive from the hospital to our home, and half way through the trip, the doctor’s office called and said, “We need to talk to you concerning your test results, please call us as soon as possible.”

Okay, I don’t know what part of the country you are from, but when a doctor in Texas tells you that the test results will take three days to return, but calls you within an hour with an urgent bulletin, it can’t be good news. We braced ourselves for the worst news possible and called the doctor. She herself answered the phone and told us that there were some concerns that arose out of the tests, and would like us to return within three days. Heck, it takes three months just to get an appointment with this doctor, and now she wants to see us in three days? She wouldn’t tell us more, and I guess that we weren’t too interested in forcing her to tell us. I had rather have three more days of wondering, than three days of total panic.

We went to our next appointment and she told us that there were some things in Sarah’s ovaries and that she needed to do some further tests. We waited while she poked and prodded and bit her lip. Then we did a sonogram. Then an x-ray, and finally she told us what she found. I would quote her verbatim, but I don’t speak medical technobable. The jest of it was, she thought she had found a growth, or something funny in her ovaries.

In all of my life, that was probably the longest sentence I had ever heard. A ten-ton boulder had just stuck me in the gut and I couldn’t breathe. In fact, I didn’t even hear what she had to say after that. I suppose I tuned her out and focused on what God was going to accomplish in this situation. After all, I had been mad at God over some issues up to this point. It didn’t change my trust in Him, or my love for Him, but I had been mad over some previous ministry issues. Suddenly, all of that seemed to fade away because it was so petty and so unimportant. For a brief nanosecond, I saw myself standing over a coffin at a funeral. Then the Lord bathed me in light and comfort. “Everything will work out.” Just that simple. It wasn’t words that I heard, or an impression I received, but it was a gift of faith. I knew that I knew, deep within my heart, just as sure as I know I am saved, that everything would be okay.

It turned out that Sarah had severe polycystic ovaries, and that her womb was deformed. Conceiving a child would be impossible. Part of the problem was correctable by surgery, but not enough. There was never a more solemn look on Sarah’s face than when she realized that she would never bear her own baby. It was a blow to us, for we really wanted children. It’s a feeling similar to being in an airplane that is in a nosedive into the ocean, accelerating faster and faster, but the crash never occurs, you just keep falling, never hitting. The anticipation of such a crash is impossible to describe, you don’t think, you feel. Then you grab onto whatever part of God you can latch onto and hold on for dear life.

Well, grab onto God we did. I suppose it would be tempting to be angry with God, or blame Him for our problems, but He was all we had. We just let Him hold us in His arms and sing over us a song of love. This was no surprise to Him, He knew it was coming, and He was in charge the whole time. I know this much, you will never convince me that there is no God, because I have leaned into His chest and cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion.

That may be the biggest reason I joined the Army. We wanted children, and I knew that an Army lawyer could help us with an adoption, which was the only way we could afford the legal fees.

In June of 1997, on Sarah’s birthday, we did have the surgery to help fix part of her womb. For the most part, the surgery was successful, but it never really changed anything. I suppose it was just preventive measures, but the fact remained that we wouldn’t ever have children.

I joined the Army on October 17, 1997, at 10:20 AM, in the third floor of the Federal Building in El Paso, Texas. It was a solemn moment in my life. I had many reasons for joining the Army, and all of them were painful, but I had a purpose. On November 4, I left on a Southwest Airlines flight and flew to DFW. There I connected on a flight to Atlanta. I was excited, and I was scared. My mind was a spaghetti bowl of emotions. I had kissed my wife goodbye as she cried a river of tears, and we had stepped out on the biggest faith venture we had ever seen.

I stepped out of the plane and onto a bus, and into the warm friendly smile of my Drill Sergeant. I tell you, I will forever hate almost every memory of Ft. Benning, Georgia. I can't find many things to smile about as I remember processing into the Army at the reception station. We were to be there three days while we got shots and uniforms and did enough paper work to choke a horse. I absolutely hated the reception station. They treated us like idiots, and most of us were. I had never really been a teenager; I was always older than that. Growing up on the ranch, I never learned how to be with kids my own age. As a natural result, I didn’t like most teens. However, I found myself surrounded by 2,000 of them, and all of them have some kind of problem.

They were all tougher than each other. They all had something to say about everyone’s mother. They weren’t going to let anyone tell them what to do, and they "weren’t going to take it anymore." I had never consistently been in that much trouble since the time I floated my brother down the creek in a wheelbarrow in the direction of a waterfall. The Drill Sergeants yelled at us, made fun of us, verbally abused us, and physically tortured us. Every night, as we crawled into our bunks, I could hear my fellow recruits cussing at the Army, talking about going AWOL. They were going to run away, from the ARMY! I rolled over in my bunk and yelled out, “What is your problem? Didn’t you ever see any boot camp movies? Haven’t you ever heard the stories? You knew this was going to be hard, so quit crying. I am tired and I want to rest. I don’t want to hear anymore of you babies whining about how hard the world is treating you. Just act like the men you aren’t and suck it up and drive on!” After that, I never really talked to any of them, at lest for the three days we were to be there.

Then things got bad...

Caitlin's Story Part V

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part III

One day as we were watching TV, a commercial came on telling of how great an opportunity it was to join the Army National Guard. Serve one weekend a month, and two weeks in the summer. The rest of the time is yours to use as you wish.

Well, it sounded good, or at least an option that I could look into, so I loaded up and walked into my local recruiter’s office. He greeted me with a smile, a firm handshake, and offered me a chair. We talked about golf, the mountains, the Gulf War, and finally, the Army Reserves. He quickly pointed out that with my skills and background that I could make a great living in the Regular Army, and have incredible education benefits. Then he showed me a list of the bonus money that comes with certain jobs.

I went home to talk about it with Sarah. For two weeks, we hem hawed around trying to make heads or tails out of all this. We sat on our deck one cold evening drinking coffee and decided to join the Army, together. That’s right! Both of us! She would be a nurse; I would be a chaplain, or… a satellite guru, a weatherman, an MP, a foot soldier, heck, whatever paid the best bonus! Well, the military quickly rejected Sarah because of her asthma, and I was having trouble finding a job I liked. My recruiter wanted me to be a chaplain, but I had been burned pretty hard on the last few ministry jobs I had taken and really didn’t want to try that again so quickly. (Youth ministry has that effect on people.) “Well,” he said, “Why don’t you go take the test (ASVAB) to see what your scores are. Then we will have a better idea where you might fit in.” Seemed like a marvelous idea, so they escorted me down to El Paso, Texas, where I received last minute instructions and took the test. The plan was that if I did well enough, then I would stay over for the night and endure the entrance physical screening exam.

My results came back very strong on the test. In fact, I scored one of the highest scores they’d seen in a while. That meant that I could get a real high tech job, something that would set me up for a great future in the real world when my military service was complete. I sat down with my recruiter and we talked about jobs. He had openings for communications, intelligence, and a whole lot of other great options with great skills and useful knowledge. Therefore, I picked the Infantry. After all, it had a bonus of 12,000 dollars and a lot of time in the outdoors. My wife nearly clobbered me when I told her what I choose. She said hopefully, “Well, you still have to pass the physical.”

For a test I never had to study for, it was a tough exam. For some reason, my blood pressure was high, and every time they took it, it went higher. I told them that I was awfully nervous, and that I needed to relax. Therefore, they sent me down to the blood lab so they could poke me with needles. Now, I have never been good with needles. In fact, I am not good with giving up blood. Now if I am in a fight and loose blood it’s no big deal. Or if a herd of stampeding cattle runs over me and I loose blood, hey, it will be a great story, but no big deal. Or if I get in a knife fight and loose a finger, well… okay, that would be a big deal, but the blood wouldn’t bother me. However, if you deliberately take blood out of my arm for any purpose what so ever, it is a BIG deal. You can even inject liquid Drano into my arms, but don’t take blood out of my veins. Okay, there aren’t many more ways to beat this dead horse so I will get to the point. I passed out when they jammed that garden hose into my arm. They ruptured a vein, I had a huge bruise, and a lump on my head where it slammed into the wall when I had the seizure. Other than that, everything was okay once I woke up on a gurney. In any event, they took my blood pressure shortly thereafter. I guess the rest I received while passed out did me good, ‘cause my pressure was way down and I passed the physical.

The doctor asked me why I was joining up. After all, I had been out of high school for 10 years, I had some 90 hours of college behind me, I had traveled all over North and South America, I had lived in Mexico for a year doing mission work, and I had been in a partnership for a business. Heck, I had done more stuff than most people ever do in their entire lives. I told him, “I need the money.” To which he responded, “I have never seen anyone join the Army for the money.”

Well, I held up my right hand, swore an oath, and went home. The next step was to tell everyone that I would be leaving for a while, specifically, four years. My parents had a difficult time with it.
“What about Sarah?”
“I will be gone to Ft. Benning, Georgia for 13 weeks of boot camp, and then she will join me at Fort Lewis, Washington.”

Well, they didn’t like it, but I had already sworn in, and we were committed. Sarah would stay in Cloudcroft for the 13 weeks, and then I would send for her to join me in Seattle. After only a few weeks by herself, she called home and had her parents come and get her. I liked that idea; after all, the mountains can be tough in the winter.

I began counting down the 13 weeks. There would be eight weeks of basic training, then five weeks of AIT (advanced training). After I arrived in Georgia, they told me that I would be there an additional two weeks for specialized training in mortars. Okay, that’s not what my recruiter told me, but I had no choice, and besides, what is another two weeks? Fifteen total? Okay, I guess I can handle that, but I never told Sarah. Even though we both prayed and believed that this was the right move, it was the hardest thing we ever attempted. We had never been apart for more than a few days at a time, much less 13 weeks. Oh well, it was only a few months, and I was assured that I would get to make a few phone calls periodically.

The day I left for basic training was the toughest day of my life. Sarah and I drove around in the mountains for almost two hours, talking. There was a knot in my stomach the size of Austin, and I was not excited. I dearly loved my wife and didn’t want to say goodbye. I believed in my heart that I was doing the right thing; I knew we had to walk down the path that the Lord laid in front of us. We could only trust Him. Whoever has said, “As long as I have the Lord it will be easy” has never stepped out in faith. Is this journey possible? Of course. Is it easy? Not by a long shot.

So, that afternoon, we drove out of the cool mountains and into the heat of the desert, anxious for our future. I turned on the radio and heard the Glenn Miller classic, Moonlight Serenade, which left me feeling wanton and troubled. The journey was about to begin…

Taken from a portion of my boot camp letters, which I wrote to my wife:
Thursday, 6 November, 1997, 5:50 PM, American Airlines flight 1166
Hello! I haven't been gone for long, but I already miss you and everyone else. As usual, I woke up around 4:00, at least 30 minutes early. I had breakfast around 5:00 AM, but that was the last mail I have eaten. It’s around 6:00 Eastern Time, but I have had two packs of pretzels and two Cokes. But, I do have meal tickets worth $16 at Atlanta waiting for me at the USO. At DFW, I had 35 minutes to make the connection, I made it just as they were boarding. There were three or four guys already waiting. They were headed for Ft. Benning. They referred to me as Sir! :-) Anyway, I will pick up this letter once I get to Ft. Benning. I do admit though, I am not as nervous as I should be. I am not sure about whether or not to be concerned about my condition.

Caitlin's Story Part IV

Monday, September 3, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part II

This story line is expected to be 10 parts long. As we left the story last time, Sarah's surgeon was telling me that her problem wasn't the gallstones...

Okay, so her problem wasn’t gallstones, what WAS her problem? They sent her gall bladder off to the lab for analysis, and sent me in to see my wife in recovery. They told me, “She won’t remember that you came to see her while she is coming out of anesthesia, so you can say what you like to her, and she will never know.” Let me tell you, that is a trap of Satan...

Not only did she remember me coming in, she also remembered every word I spoke! Fortunately, I only spoke words of encouragement and a prayer.

Within a few minutes, results came back from the lab; it was indeed her gall bladder, only it wasn’t stones. Her gall bladder was genetically malformed, and was destined to go bad; it was only a question of when. We thanked God for delivering her from this problem and set our sites on moving forward.

Sarah’s recovery time was painful but quick, and within no time, she was back at work. I was having trouble finding a job. There was no work in West Texas in the winter of 1996. So I sat down and had a brain storm... I would write books and sell them. How hard could it be? Therefore, I sat down at my computer and began hammering out story lines, articles, and sermons. I put the finishing touches on such great stories as Hudson Hanner and the Cross of the Crusades, and Justice, and I got halfway through The Attack, before I realized that this plan was not working. I sent all of my manuscripts for publishing and waited by the phone for publishers to call, begging to publish my works. I started working on a book of poetry, and even a musical. Next, I started on a children’s story, but the calls never came and more bill collectors called, threatening to turn us over to collection. Before long, February, in fact, desperation had overwhelmed us and we started searching else where for employment. That is how we came to be in New Mexico.

Have you ever heard of Cloudcroft? It is the most beautiful and charming village in the whole southwest. Nestled on a ridge of the Sacramento Mountains, overlooking the Tularosa Basin, and White Sands National Park, it’s one of the most amazing places in the world. Tall pines are snuggled among the aspens in an area rich with culture and history. Cool mountain breezes keep the temperature well within comfortable levels, as soft rain showers gently remind us of a promise of Heaven.

Despite its charm and beauty, there is only one problem: it’s nearly impossible to find work in Cloudcroft! Oh, it’s feasible, but living in the mountains isn’t easy. To live within the tourist industry you have to fit into one of four slots: shop keeping, real estate, government service, or construction. The only other choice is to drive down the mountain and work in the desert, where jobs are readily available.

Well, one day when Sarah came home from work at the hospital (she was an RN), she and I discussed our financial crisis. We could starve to death on the ranch in West Texas, or we could move to Cloudcroft and starve. The biggest advantage to the latter was that it was so much more of a pleasant place to die than West Texas. Unless, of course, you are the main character in a western novel, but that didn’t apply to either of us. Therefore, one weekend in February, we loaded up and drove to Cloudcroft to see about finding a job.

The first place we stopped was a real estate office to check on rental house availability. I really felt foolish when our Realtor asked me where I worked. I couldn’t tell her that I was an aspiring author, as there was lack of credibility in that profession. I told her I was now searching for employment. She told me of a great opportunity within her office to be a real estate salesman, and that I could have a job—I only needed a license. I took the job offer and went back to Texas with a goal. Heck, if I really could make fifty to sixty thousand a year selling houses, then we would be in pretty good shape financially, and even be able to pay off all our bad debts.

For the next two weeks, we prayed hard and felt the Lord tugging at our hearts to move to New Mexico, so move we did! In April of 1997, we settled into a new house and I began studying to become a salesman. After passing the state exams, on my second try, which were designed for unusually intelligent people, I went to work ready to make my first big sell. By July, I was still waiting for my first big sell. While Sarah had a great job in a doctor’s office down in the desert, we were still not making a living. In fact, things where even worse for us financially than they had been at home.

By the time September rolled around, I had two sells behind me, and a long, cold winter ahead of me. In a tourist town, you make a living during the summer months, and hoard up for the slow season, which started around the end of September. Daily, bill collectors were calling us, but they could take nothing from us, as we had nothing. A good friend of mine tried to get me to declare bankruptcy, but there seemed to be no honor in that for me, or at least not a solution that I could exercise without great conviction. My friend, Gary, also told me that if I could hold on just a few more months then things would improve. “In fact,” he would say, “I am going to open my own business, and you can work for me. We will make a great team and a lot better living than we are now…”

Somehow, despite all the problems, Sarah and I had never been happier. We were flat broke, and hadn’t any reason to smile, but God had His hand on us. He gave us the grace we needed to make it. Then He made a provision that I couldn’t say no too, no matter how hard I tried….

Caitlin's Story Part III

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part I

I'm going to launch a series of stories that ultimately explain how Caitlin came to be. It's a great story, so enjoy!

...Every man goes through a time of testing, a time of trying. A time when his back is against the wall and there is nowhere else to go. It is a time of deep soul searching, a time of reflection. It is a time of harsh reality, when purification of the heart is the only real solution, but the one that seems furthest away.

This is Caitlin's story, a little girl born with a miracle and a story that must be told. She is a girl whose smile has captured everyone’s heart. Truly, she has found favor in the eyes of God and of man, and when you meet her, you will see what I mean.

In order to tell her story, I must tell mine, and I must start well before her birth, even before her conception. Any great story begins in Texas, so does this one...

We had been struggling for years. My wife, Sarah, and I never held jobs at the same time, so we were surviving on one salary, but spending two in bills. We had just emerged from a business called JF Profit Marketing, a whole sale marketing company for small time manufacturers. We represented homemade gift products, and managed sales for several small mom and pop manufactures. It was a great business idea—one that would work as long as you didn’t start it in the middle of an economic recession, but hey, who’s pointing fingers?

Certainly not us. For it was a job that my in-laws, Mike and George Anne Brown, and I believed in enough to quit our jobs and take the bull by the horns. Things started with a bang; the Lord sent plenty of business our way and we began moving forward with our best efforts. Ours was a marvelous job! We traveled to gift markets all over the world. Well, all over the US. Okay, all over the continental US. We saw things and ate at places we will never forget. Sometimes we slept in luxury, and sometimes in places where a twenty-dollar bill would be too much compensation. We had great food, and great company, but not great money.

We were suffering an economic collapse in the nineties which left a devastating blow that effected everyone. I would like to place the blame on some politician, but truth be known, it was just the way things were, and we had to live with it. JF Profit managed to stay alive for several years, but few of our clients were able to pay their bills, and our marketing firm suffered. When we closed shop, there were thousands of dollars owed to us, but it was money we would never receive.

It is probably too late to make a long story short, but my wife and I left our portion of the business to Mike and George Anne, and sought a new life. Well, that’s enough background; let’s start the story, shall we?

Sarah became sick. One day, she began experiencing terrific pain in her abdomen that would come and go. She thought she probably had bad indigestion, but time would prove otherwise. We ignored her condition for as long as we could.

Frankly, we couldn’t afford for her to be sick. In fact, we were being hounded by a collection agency for medical bills I incurred in Seattle when I decided to experience kidney stones, so we couldn’t afford any more bills than we already had. I was working as a waiter in a local restaurant, and you can imagine how hard it is to make a living on tips, especially with my good looks! In short, Sarah did not have the option of being sick.

Never the less, sick she became. She would call her work, take time off, and lie in her bed crying from the pain. I felt totally useless as a provider and spiritual covering. The more we prayed about her condition, the worse it became, and it seemed that even praying wasn’t working. Without her working, we were so far behind on our bills that we ended up leaving Snyder and moved to Colorado City to my parent’s ranch, where we lived with them. This was in November 1996.

By December, we were running tests on Sarah’s worsening condition. Our local physician, Dr. Roach, kept saying, “Hey, it’s her gall bladder acting up,” but there was no evidence. So we scheduled a test that would conclusively eliminate her gall bladder, and the results came back indicating she was suffering another ailment, one yet to be discovered. I began to grow furious with desperation, as Dr. Roach would insist that it was her gall bladder, but tests would repeatedly indicate otherwise. Slowly, the evidence began to point to her pancreas. I remember praying that if God didn’t choose to heal her out right, then He would allow her to have gall bladder problems, as the other solutions were grim. In the mean time, Sarah’s medical bills were growing, and our work time was waning.

Finally, we found a specialist in Lubbock that charged us $150.00 to tell us without doubt that her problem was a defective gall bladder, most likely stones. We geared up for surgery. I was proud of Dr. Roach for having called the problem long before the specialist did, and we had full confidence that he could solve the problem. In just a few days, we were wheeling Sarah into surgery for gall bladder removal. Within a few hours, the surgeons came to me and said, “Well, the problem wasn’t gall stones.” I nearly fell apart. What more could be happening to us? Why had God chosen to leave us stranded in the desert without so much as a drink of water?

Caitlin's Story Part II