Monday, November 29, 2010

David Feherty's Improvised Explosive Day of Hunting

David Feherty, former PGA Tour golfer and current CBS Sports analyst hosts an annual Improvised Explosive Day of Pheasant Hunting at Southfork Ranch in Dallas, South Dakota.  Sean returned this October to catch up with friends and meet some new veterans.  Although he did not hunt this year, he plans to have a designated shooter next year making it possible for him to hunt despite his poor vision.

Sean thinks this program is awesome because he gets to be "just one of the guys" along with other veterans who bear the scars of war. . . . mulitple amputations, burns, prosthetics, wheel chairs.  Celebrities such as David Feherty, Kent Hrbek, Tim Laudner, and Tom Watson spent the weekend with the veterans hunting, sharing stories, and having fun.  Governor Rounds came to hunt this year as well.

250 American flags line the entrance to Southfork Hunting Lodge Dallas, SD

After the hunt

Kent Hrbek (MN Twins), Tom Watson (PGA), Sean, and Tim Laudner (Twins)

Tom Watson and Sean

David Feherty and Rick Kell have created several programs and specialized events designed for Wounded Warriors.  Visit their website Troops First Foundation.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pack Your Bags

We have been invited to return to Washington, D.C. to attend a health forum at the Canadian Embassy entitled Partners in Defence:  Battlefield and Long-Term Casualty Care on December 1st.

Wow!  We were notified by both the BVA and Jeff Tracey, whose wife works for the Canadian Embassy. 

If I understand it correctly, we will participate in the day's activities and also give some feedback from the perspective of a family dealing with war-related injury.

How cool is that?


Sean has made some wonderful friends through his wounded warriors trips.  We are excited to announce that several of these friends and supporters have decided to sponsor his cycling endeavors!!  The money donated will cover the costs of a stationary bike for training at home, including a stand and wheel hub that will measure his speed, power, etc., clothing, gear, and monthly cost of an Olympic coach.  This coach lives in California, so he and Sean will correspond via email which is where the information gathered by the stationary bike comes in handy. 

Sean is still working with the VA prosthetics to obtain his road and track tandem bikes.  The USABA will help him find local cyclists willing to ride with him and help him train for the 2012 Paralympics in London.

What incredible opportunities are opening up for Sean!!!

Wounded Warrior and Triathlon

Jeffrey Tracey and Sean Johnson would like to train for Dr. Gupta's triathlon challenge.  Jeff was Sean's tandem cycling pilot in Colorado this summer.  He is outgoing, positive, and upbeat--a perfect motivator for Sean!  He has proposed to Sean that they toss their names into the hat for six available slots to train alongside CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the 2011 Nautica New York City Triathlon!! 

See Jeff's application video here:  Wounded Warrior and Triathlon
The challenge:  Tri iReport challenge

What an awesome opportunity this would be for both of them!  Sean has been hesitant, but gradually has come around to the idea.  It takes him a long time to process information and make decisions, and this one was huge.  It is definitely not something he would have considered before meeting Jeff. 

Good luck Sean and Jeff!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finding a New Normal

The following article was written by Melissa's Great-Aunt Ruth Anne Moller.

As published in The Miller Press November 10, 2010.
R.A.M.ifications: Finding a new normal

How easy it is to take things for granted. Maybe it's our health, or water from the tap, or knowing when we flick the switch, the light will come on.

I--at least--am also guilty of too often taking for granted all that we have in this "land of the free." Voting, religious freedom, a free press, and so much more we accept as our due. Those freedoms have always been there for me; I never had to do anything to earn them, except be born in the U.S.A. And gripe all you wish about the state of the nation, we still have so much to be grateful for (including the freedom to gripe).
I sailed through my early years without much thought about how we arrived at being "free." The "war to end all wars" didn't end a thing. World War II was over. I barely remember anything about the Korean War.

But Vietnam caught my attention. A boy I taught when I was 22 (and he was 18) went off to war...and lost the use of his legs. My husband's nephew served in the Marines, and though he was not wounded, he still bore scars. I got to know several Vietnam vets, and I realized many would never be quite the same again.

The husband of my great-niece was a healthy guy who was employed with the Aberdeen fire department and was a paramedic. He voluntarily went to Desert Storm, then Bosnia with the Reserves. He then voluntarily went to Iraq.

There, he sustained traumatic brain injury in an explosion, and also suffered from waste-pit fumes. He has chronic PTSD and depression. He is legally blind. He has constant stomach pain. He is forgetful. And there are several other conditions directly related to service. His wife-a first-grade teacher-has taken a year off from teaching to help Sean try to make adjustments.

They have been going around and around in circles since Sean was injured, trying to somehow get answers, get aid, get relief from pain.

Melissa has a lengthy blog on the Internet. It is tragic to read, but it is also a testimony to strength. After she viewed, "When the War Comes Home," Melissa quoted from it: "There ought to be more songs about those soldiers whose war is never over, who made it home but never quite came back...oughta be more songs 'bout that."

It is easier to relate to a person or a situation you know, so as I read Melissa's blog ( it brings things closer to home, and also magnifies the fact that Sean and Melissa are part of the much bigger picture of what veterans sometimes face.
She sums up their life today: "In many cases when soldiers return home, life does not get back to normal. Instead, we must learn to live with, and adapt to, a new normal."

Despite all the turmoil, Melissa states, "Sean LOVED being a soldier. He used to say they would have to kick him out of the Army at age 60. He would have gladly deployed 10 more times and done his duty to his country."
So, this Veterans' Day, people will again fly the flag, make speeches, perhaps play patriotic music. But it is also a perfect time to truly, truly think about what we have, what we enjoy, and what we take for granted. Thank a soldier; thank all the soldiers, and not just on special days. Then take a deep breath and breathe in the air that is "freedom." Never take it for granted.

"None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free." ~Pearl S. Buck

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day to all veterans and their families.  Thank you for your dedicated service and sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Onward and Upward

During his marathon week of VA appointments Sean had upper and lower GI scopes which fortunately did not show any problems. He had a CT scan of his sinuses and a follow up ENT exam and will have sinus surgery in January for recurrent sinus infections/fluid build up. He has also been evaluated by pulmonary for shortness of breath and found to have reduced lung capacity (but clear xrays) and sleep apnea. He will do a sleep study in December.

Prior to his service in Iraq his biggest health concerns were seasonal allergies and an occasional cold. It illustrates the continued need to research and provide top-notch care to our Veterans. He has all his limbs, and everything in it's place, but it's the collection of persistent health issues that wears him down. It is true in so many of the Veterans that we have met. It's the little things that daily take their toll in addition to the primary conditions.

Sean was extremely frustrated that every doctor he sees and test he has leads to another test or procedure. Indeed, it has been this way for four years. 

We are both frustrated with waiting. . . waiting for resolution. . . waiting for our lives to get back on track.  But, as the psychologist pointed out last week, what if this is it?  What if this is our life?  We are trying to find the "new normal" yet this might be it.  Hmmm. . . that is an interesting scenario. 

Sean will not go back to the fire department, or deploy again with the Army.  He might never feel 100% or be pain free or not need medications.  His vision won't improve.  There will likely be many appointments in his future.  I may or may not go back to work.  I will need to be his driver.  Our kids are growing and moving on and moving out (and moving in and moving out).  There will be improvements over the years, of that I remain optimistic, but in the last five years we have learned how painfully slow change can be. 

I'm not working now, I was trying to volunteer as a tutor in the afternoons, but even that is overwhelming.  Driving exhausts me, and we have put on so many miles this year.  I worry about my ability to go back into a classroom full time, take time off for the appointments I need to attend, balance the evening work from school with quality home life, and somewhere find time for me.

Sean is happy working in the Kindergarten classes.  Perhaps there are more volunteer opportunities he will explore.  He wants to stay active in the sporting camps.  He is getting involved with service groups in town and attending meetings for the VFW, American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans.  He attends a weekly men's group at church.  Sean has applied with Guide Dogs for the Blind for a service dog.

Sometimes it feels like his world is expanding while mine is collapsing.  It feels like everyone in the family wants something from me and there is little in return.  I guess moms aren't supposed to need help or support.  I don't have the same connection to my coworkers as I am not there daily.  I have lost my military FRG friends as they have deployed soldiers and a different focus.  I have felt those relationships dying for a long time.  I spend all my time with Sean.  Sometimes I want to say, "This is not the man I married."  He is different now in a lot of ways.  I have to remind him that I need his support.  I need him to be there for me in return. 

We are working with his psychologist to build independence.  Maybe that will mean taking the shuttle to and from activities (but at $8 round trip it gets expensive).  I would love to see him manage his own daily schedule and do some work around the house.  Someday he may be able to take the DAV van to Sioux Falls for his appointments if he no longer needs me there. 

As the kids spend more time in the real world they will need less from me and will learn to stand on their own (I hope!!).  In less than two years our youngest will be out there, too. 

What if this is it?  Life passing us by while we get bogged down by the day to day and forget that each day is our life?  I have given this much thought this week and realized that if this is it, we better get on board and make more of it.  There needs to be some peace in our daily lives.  We need to stop waiting and start living.  How do we do that?  Attitude.  I'm not good at changing my doom and gloom attitude, so this might take a while. 

On another note, Sean's MEB packet is finally moving forward to the PEB!!  By tomorrow it will be on it's way to Ft. Lewis, WA where the PEB will take over the process.  It would be wonderful if things could move along quickly now and get this resolved before the end of the year. 

As for me, well, I'll be up and on the road at 5:30 AM tomorrow for Sean's appointment in Sioux Falls.  It will be dark and early and I will most assuredly be crabby.  So, I had better go out and enjoy today:  groceries, dropping off lunch money at school, driving Sean to his church meeting, Sean's doctor appointment, driving Sean to DAV meeting.  I can see it's going to be a challenge to change my attitude when that's all I can see!

Monday, November 1, 2010

November is National Family Caregivers Month

"During National Family Caregivers Month, we honor the millions of Americans who give endlessly of themselves to provide for the health and well-being of a beloved family member. Through their countless hours of service to their families and communities, they are a shining example of our Nation's great capacity to care for each other."

~Barack Obama in his  Presidential Proclamation--National Family Caregivers Month 

There are only four kinds of people in this world,” former first lady Rosalynn Carter once wrote. “Those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, those who will need caregivers.”