Q & A part 2

You mentioned his speech therapy? Why is he getting speech therapy?
The reason for speech therapy is two fold:

1) During the second surgery (to fuse the two damaged vertebrae to the undamaged ones, above and below, to secure what remains of his spinal cord in that area) there was some resulting damage to his vocal chord (on the right side, I think). The second surgery was preformed from an incision on the front of his neck, requiring that they push past the vocal chords to get to the spinal column. The surgeons warned Daniel and Andy that this might occur and planned for the possibility. It’s not expected to be permanent damage and if it persists, there are a couple of treatment options.

2) Andy was intubated in the “field” and later a feeding tube was also inserted down his throat…that’s a great deal of trauma for a very fragile area of the body. The Endotracheal Intubation (breathing tube) did not stay in very long…I got the impression that it was mostly a precautionary measure. However, the feeding tube was with him for several weeks. It takes a while to get back to breathing and speaking properly after such events. The Speech Therapists are monitoring progress in coordination with Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists.

Andy is talking but he doesn’t waste words. He speaks rather softly for now.

Can Andy have visitors?
He can but he is currently keeping a fairly rigorous therapy schedule so visits—even short ones--need to be coordinated through Daniel.

What is Andy’s designation?
Specialist James Burnett
Medic in 3rd platoon
C (Chosen) Company,
Second Battalion
503rd Parachute Infantry Regimen (Airborne)
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
United States Army
based in Vicenza, Italy at Camp Ederle.

I hope I got all that right. I just call him Andy. :)

Did you go to the beach in Tampa?
No. I wanted to go to a little spot called Johns Pass, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. It was about a 40 mile drive across the causeway from the hospital and the causeway is famous for traffic—I didn’t feel like it was right to take so much time away from being with Andy, when my time with him was already so limited. There will be other beach trips.

Don’t you think calling him “Band-Aid Boy” was disrespectful?
Yes, but as his older sister, a healthy amount of disrespect is part of my job requirement. Or it was, before things got serious. Someday it will be again.

I have always respected Andy’s choice to go into the Army and to do what he has done and he is well aware of that. As his sister and as an American, I am deeply proud of him and every other soldier who puts on a uniform. Deeply. Part of simplifying his “job” as a medic down to “Band Aid Boy” was defensive—I didn’t want to focus on the seriousness of what my little brother was doing and the risks he was taking. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. It was my nickname for his job in an effort to lighten it up…unfortunately it didn’t really work.

I have not used the term since he was wounded and probably never will again. I’m sorry if that part of my writing offended you or anyone else.

Is your family angry over this?
Anger is a useless thing to me. I can only speak for myself here…I don’t think I have been angry or experienced any hatred yet. I’m not sure if I will at some future point or not. Perhaps it would be different if I knew anything about the Taliban soldier who shot my brother. Perhaps it just hasn’t shown up in my emotional process yet.

I will say that I have experienced some physical fallout--in the form of pretty extreme sleeplessness and stomach problems.

I hate war as a concept. I think most women (especially) are programmed to be life-bearers and life-protectors on some deep creational level. I hate that mankind has not progressed to a point that we can live in peace and make the concept of war a thing of our past. However, that being said, I do believe that this war—the operations that were set into motion on September 11, 2001 by evil, vile people—is completely justified. I believe in taking it to them or eventually fighting the same war at home. I think it’s called being proactive. I believe that our way of life—our freedoms—are God-given and worth protecting at all costs.

I also believe that the horrors of those people who live under the ruthless thumb of the Taliban regime are crimes against all humanity and on some level, those of us who enjoy peace and freedom have a basic moral obligation to carry that banner to corners of the earth where peace and freedom have not yet been birthed.

There was a moment in DC when I expressed some doubts to my husband. I was alone and hurting and it was sheer weakness on my part. I was no longer so sure that America was worth the price Andy had paid. At that moment, I was just a sister who was giving in to something less than clear and noble thinking.

Part of my salvation from that moment has been watching Andy soldier on. I think I owe it to him to never again entertain that thought. It serves no one and I think that does cross the line of what is respectable and honorable in the sight of my brother.

Why do you blog?
Does Andy read your blog?
Honestly, I blog so I can process it and remember it all. Writing has always been an outlet for me…you may have noticed that my father is quite the writer of epistles as well…so I come by it honestly. The blog has allowed me to bring many many people along for this journey and to make his experiences (and ours) very personal, for people who know Andy and people who have never met him. I want people to know Andy and the price he has paid for serving our country. I can't really explain it beyond that.

I can not abide the thought of people “changing the channel” for lack of information or connection to Andy…this story is ongoing and it’s a journey that holds value to all who choose to walk it with us. It's also very long.

Finally, it was my goal as a high school senior to be a newspaper reporter. Few things bring me as much pleasure as writing. I learned in college that I wasn’t really cut out to be a newspaper reporter of the traditional sort…but give me a photo and a topic I care about…and I can generate some thoughts. So now I’m the family reporter, of sorts.

Andy does not read my blog at this time. He’s still quite medicated and it’s difficult for him to focus and read on the screen.

Will you scrapbook Andy's injury?
I have no idea.

What have you learned through this experience?
How long do you have?
That life is sweet and incredibly messy but God the Father is always good.
That brothers are not invincible, no matter what they think.
That war is hell--oh wait, I think we already knew that.
That given the right motivation, I can do things I didn't really believe I could do before.
That the hills of Virginia are calming and beautiful, even when you cry through them.
That God is faithful to his children always.
That in the scheme of life, nothing is more important than God, family and country.
That one can slip into his uniform without actually wearing it.
That strength comes from inside a man--from his heart--not necesarily his muscles.
That crying makes you stronger.
That hurting makes it easier for you to extend grace to others who are hurting.
That sometimes there are no visible answers to the hard queastions.
That medicine is still somewhat barbaric.
That Washington DC is a confusing place to drive.
That people who jump out of perfectly good airplanes are a rare breed.
That I still love to fly.
That I love what my husband does for work and the people he does it with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for quite a while now (before Andy's injury) - first through 2Peas, I think. It's now one of the first things I check for updates when I sit down at the computer now. I pray that God gives all of you strength and hope for the future, whatever it brings. It's truly been an inspiration to me to follow Andy's story and see how your family is so completely involved and behind him in this unexpected journey. Thank you (and your dad, too) for the updates.

Jan (in Nashville)