It has to stop

•January 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Soldiers

Just passing this one along. It’s like she is in my head. It’s exactly how I feel. And she expresses it so well.

I wish there was more that I could do to help soldiers know about HBOT and encourage them to try it now.  You know the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  The problem is the soldiers I talk with are minimizing their pain and “sucking it up” and when it all falls apart it will be so much more difficult to sort it out. They compare themselves to their buddies that died or lost limbs or have seizures and think “I am fine”, but it just isn’t the case.
What you wrote about suicide tears me up.  I know of soldiers that couldn’t take it and killed themselves during their deployment.  We at Soldiers’ Angels try to prevent them from feeling isolated or abandoned by sending letters and packages, but what if it is a brain injury?  We need to get this word out to the chaplains too.  I know that chaplains are bound and cannot reveal if a soldier has told him that he is contemplating suicide.  Your email makes me want to get the word out to these chaplains to have these soldiers tested for brain injury. Of course the difficulty there is that as with some of my military son’s friends the MRI’s don’t show any damage.  Their symptoms of headaches and memory problems and anger and impulse control again are minimized due to stress from long deployments. Even if they are sent to bases for Imaging the results are inconclusive.
In fact the soldier who lives near me was in a tank that rolled over an IED and would you believe that even tho he had been knocked unconscious he was only treated at a small Combat Outpost by a medic and went right back to work.  It was only 6 weeks later when his speech began to slur, when the aspirin couldn’ contain his pain,  that they sent him to Balad and then forward to his present rounds at the VA.  He constantly minimizes the seriousness of his injury and what it means for his future.
One can’t help but wonder about the brain injuries these soldiers may have had that later committed suicide.  Of course the military hushes these incidences up so as to keep morale high.  Soldiers are led to believe that these guys were somehow inadequate…basically they try not to think about it at all..and that is what the military encourages..just get in there and do your job….you can’t change what has happened.  But I do appreciate your point that we need to know what is happening to them and how their brains are affected and those consequences. How can they get treatment when  their injuries are hardly acknowledged.  This has always been the problem with TBI. It is the invisible injury.  Now tho the sheer number of our military with this reality is as frightening to me as the budget crisis.

-Beth Vandenburg, Soldiers Angels

H.R. 146

•January 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

A step in the right direction!

H.R. 146 is a bill in the house that supports Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for our military. The societal need is great. It is vital that we support bills like this for the health of our Veterans, Military personnel and US citizens.

Click the link to help support H.R. 146  https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/114/hr146

Cries for help

•January 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Suicide surpassed war as the military’s leading cause of death

War was the leading cause of death in the military nearly every year between 2004 and 2011 until suicides became the top means of dying for troops in 2012 and 2013, according to a bar chart published this week in a monthly Pentagon medical statistical analysis journal.

For those last two years, suicide outranked war, cancer, heart disease, homicide, transportation accidents and other causes as the leading killer, accounting for about three in 10 military deaths each of those two years.

Transportation accidents, by a small margin, was the leading cause of military deaths in 2008, slightly more than combat.

The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for anywhere from one out of three deaths in the military — in 2005 and 2010 — to more than 46 percent of deaths in 2007, during the height of the Iraq surge, according to the chart.

More than 6,800 troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 and more than 3,000 additional service members have taken their lives in that same time, according to Pentagon data. www.usatoday.com

And then there’s this………….Gunman kills doctor then turns gun on himself

Does it seem if the world is going crazy? I wonder if any of you hear what I do when I read these articles. There is no crazy about it. Our current military action is causing a multitude of problems here at home for our Veterans. In these articles I hear desperate cries for help. They are slipping through the cracks and not receiving beneficial treatment through the VA for several reasons. Things need to change. I want them to know that I hear them. I want you to hear them. I believe with all my heart that the gunman in this story was desperate for help and answers. This “craziness” will not stop until we find them all and get them treated for their war injuries, the ones you can’t see, the PTSD and TBI. If you know a veteran or civilian with a story please listen. Ask them to write it down and send it to me. I’ll make sure they are heard.

Since I’ve began advocating for HBOT for Traumatic Brain Injury I have met so many heroes, so many desperate for relief. Their stories keep me up at night. I toss and turn wondering how to find them all and make the VA  help them. But I do hear good stories and happy endings like Captain Smothermon. His story is below and is one that gives you hope. I meet people like this almost everyday. I hear their stories and I want to share them. Listen and you might hear what we need to do to help so that others can get relief. Help me find their stories so they can be heard.

My name is Captain Matthew Smothermon, a broken soldier now repaired. This is my story:

                Prior to my deployment to Afghanistan, I was a high-functioning individual. I had earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tulsa, completed two years of law school, and was moving along smoothly in my military career as an officer. However, in the summer of 2011, rather than graduating from law school and beginning my life as a new attorney, I was instead flying into Afghanistan as part of the largest deployment of the 45th Infantry Brigade since the Korean War. As a platoon leader in the Brigade’s sole Route Clearance asset, I was tasked with leading daily combat patrols throughout the Laghman Province. Our mission was simple: seek out and eliminate the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Our mission of Route Clearance is widely considered one of the most dangerous missions in Afghanistan. It consists of brave (and somewhat crazed) men traveling through the most dangerous areas ahead of everyone else in order to find and destroy IEDs, thus clearing the way for successful operations. While we found dozens of IEDs, some of them found us first. In my case, my vehicle was struck by three very large IEDs all in the span of about a month. Miraculously, I walked away from each, though I was hospitalized and ultimately taken off the front lines as a result of my injuries. While I suffered multiple back injuries including ruptured and herniated discs, spinal nerve impingement, and degenerative disc disease, perhaps the most debilitating side-effect of the blasts was my traumatic brain injury (TBI).

In the immediate aftermath, I could barely concentrate enough to read a piece of paper, could hardly sleep through the night.  It was terrible. The best way I can describe the experience is that one day, I woke up but my brain didn’t.  From then on nothing felt quite right. And while there was a natural recovery period for my TBI as my brain adapted to its newfound roadblocks and failures, the recovery process eventually plateaued. I would have spurts of normality punctuated by severe lapses in cognition. This became my new normal: everything I would do required at least twice as much mental exertion in order to deliver results which were, at best, less than what I had once been capable of; my ability to multi-task was almost completely gone; my train of thought would be consistently lost mid-sentence; I was perpetually exhausted, yet unable to sleep; I was mentally broken and emotionally numb.

It was enough to get by for the remainder of the deployment, but upon returning home, the permanence of my brain injury began to take root. Spinal injuries, with their constant pain, were a terrible nuisance, but they could never affect my identity. The brain injury, however, affected everything I did to the point that it changed who I was. My hopes and dreams were dashed as I realized that I could never become an attorney; I could barely read for more than ten minutes at a time, much less manage a law school curriculum and the rigors of the legal field. I eventually gave up on returning to law school after finding myself incapable of composing the single-page letter required for my readmission after several months of trying. My emotional numbness strained my personal relationships and my marriage. My inability to focus in the midst of distractions had rendered social outings mostly untenable. Moreover, the recognition of my newfound deficiency had me questioning whether I was fit to serve in the military, much less lead soldiers as an officer. With no further recovery taking place, the full reality of my TBI had come to light, and I began a slow spiral into depression. I was a shadow of my former self.

In October of 2012, I learned of a medical research study being conducted by Dr. Paul Rock of Oklahoma State University. The study, which employed the Harch Protocol of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), sought to explore the possibility of whether HBOT could have a healing effect on brain injuries such as mine. With a healthy dose of skepticism but nothing to lose, I volunteered to participate as a test subject. The resulting transformation I experienced was shocking, powerful, and complete. Within two weeks of beginning daily one-hour sessions, it felt as though someone had reached into my head and begun flipping the circuit breakers. Suddenly, I found myself sleeping through the night. Within twenty sessions, the static gears of my mental machinery began spinning back to life, and I suddenly found myself multi-tasking, managing complex thought processes, and even being able to effectively relate on an emotional level to my family, my friends, and my wife. By the time I had undergone 40 sessions, what had once been a dense mental fog had given way to clarity for the first time in well over a year; not only could I think clearly again, but I returned to law school. By the time I had completed the full 80 sessions of HBOT treatment, not only had I returned to full capacity as a soldier and leader, but I had taken over as the company commander of my deploying unit. Moreover, I was able to effectively serve as the officer in charge of our battalion’s ground operations during the tornado disaster relief mission in Moore, Oklahoma. Since then, there has been no looking back.

Today, I can safely say that I have recovered from the traumatic brain injury which fundamentally changed my life in the summer of 2011. Of course, I have seen the data from my cognitive test results, and I know this to be true. But nothing comes close to seeing your wife, a full year after you have returned from war, look at you with tears in her eyes and tell you, “It’s good to have you back.” The entirety of this transformative experience is one that mere words can hardly convey. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has restored me as a person, as a husband, as a soldier, and as a leader. I simply would not be where I am now but by the grace of God’s providence and the effectiveness of this medical treatment.

Hope for Veterans and Civilians struggling with TBI and PTSD

•November 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

You have all read about my struggles with my Traumatic Brain Injury and followed me in my path of recovery. Some of you know that this year has been incredible for me. I received 80 Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments that changed my life. It has been the icing on the cake of my recovery by relieving my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and greatly improving my life by relieving many of the symptoms I suffered with from my TBI. My friends and family are shocked with the changes they have seen. I’m not the person I was before the accident, I’m better. Much better. Recently my Neuropsychologist approved me to begin to search for gainful employment up to 6 hours per week! I have scheduled further testing with her and I can’t wait to see the changes I have made since I was first tested 5 years ago. Life is good and so very different from even less than a year ago!

It’s all over in the news. You don’t have to search very hard to see that HBOT needs to be available to those who need it. Today on Fox news Bill O’Riely announced his support with The Independence Fund. Oklahoma passed SB1604, an act requiring the state to pay for Veterans to receive HBOT to relieve their symptoms resulting from their TBI and or PTSD at no cost!  And this past  June, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1098, the Traumatic Brain Injury Re-authorization Act (TBIRA), legislation to reauthorize programs that will provide resources for those with traumatic brain injury while also affording an investment in education and research around traumatic brain injury prevention. These are the winds of change.

After spending 11 months around others undergoing hyperbaric treatment I personally discovered the desperate need of those around me who are also suffering with TBI and PTSD to be able to get relief. I watched as myself and others were healed and lives were changed. HBOT works. It is only a matter of time before others will be able to receive this treatment. And you can help it happen.

Currently, I am part of an incredible team that is hoping to get legislation started for HBOT in the state of Idaho in time for the January legislative session. I’m asking you to write a letter of support to your local representatives. You can find their info here. We are trying to get their attention and currently looking for a legislator to sponsor a bill. You can read my letter of support also. Help me spread the word.

Today, on Veteran’s Day as you thank a Veteran for their service, lets also give them and others with TBI and PTSD  hope for a better  future.

Faith

•June 25, 2014 • 3 Comments

I had the worst day ever.

The study through the NBIRR I’ve been participating in for relief of my TBI and PTSD symptoms has been shut down. I was driving back home from the local coffee hut when I found out. I had called the center to make some more appointments for hyperbaric oxygen treatments and was told the study was shut down and they weren’t seeing patients right now. I would receive a call if and when the study started up again.

NBIRR is a Clinical Trial with Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBOT) to treat 1,000 patients with Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD. An estimated 600,000 veterans are suffering from TBI and PTSD, the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military medicine has spent billions on therapies with drugs and other interventions that have little or no effect on healing the brains injured by modern combat, IEDs, and repeated exposure to war. NBIRR is a Clinical Trial under the strictest medical guidelines meant to prove the safety and efficacy of HBOT while treating 1,000 patients. HBOT currently is not covered by insurance. The fact is that HBOT has already healed hundreds of patients with a variety of injuries, including TBI and PTSD. The next step is to run a rigorous scientific study to prove that HBOT, in fact, improves the quality of life of brain-injured patients during and after treatment with hyperbaric oxygen. The hope is that, with this evidence and scientific validation, the VA, Congress and the public will insist that the VA, DOD and the military medical system recognize the need and the moral imperative to insure treatments with HBOT. Without the trial, the military medical community will continue to refuse to recognize that HBOT is medically sound, safe, effective and vastly less expensive and more humane than treating veterans with drugs for life. -http://www.razoo.com/story/Nbirr

I was in shock. I could barely say goodbye. Numb with disbelief I hung up the phone and began to cry.  I was devastated.  Hyperbaric Oxygen treatments have changed my life in a really big way. My PTSD is practically gone. I can understand conversations better than I have for 12 years. My mental fatigue is so much better and I have fewer headaches. My quality of life is so much better now compared to even just 6 months ago. You can see my test results and benefits here. And now its over. All gone. I’m incredibly thankful for the healing I’ve received but I really wanted to see just how much better I would get, how much different I could feel. This was just not my favorite day.

Center for Disease Control

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, contributing to about 30% of all injury deaths.1  Every day, 138 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI.  Those who survive a TBI can face effects lasting a few days to disabilities which may last the rest of their lives.  Effects of TBI can include impaired thinking or memory, movement, sensation (e.g., vision or hearing), or emotional functioning (e.g., personality changes, depression).  These issues not only affect individuals but can have lasting effects on families and communities. -http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html

I am not sure how or why the NBIRR decided to stop the study.  I’m incredibly thankful that I was one of the lucky ones able to get into the study. But what frustrates me the most is the staggering amount of veterans and civilians that receive a TBI every year. The treatment they are getting now with common medications is not working and most likely their symptoms are getting worse.  If Hyperbaric Oxygen treatments are working to relieve and possibly eliminate symptoms caused by TBI and PTSD then why isn’t it prescribed more for treatment and made more readily available to survivors? And my favorite question is why can’t it be billed and paid through our insurance companies? I have experienced relief first hand and I have seen the positive changes in the other people I received treatments with.  I hear stories of how it changed someone’s life every time I go for treatment. I can see it in their faces and I hear it in their voices when they share their stories with me. As I think of the other study participants receiving the news of the study being shut down my heart is sick.  The relief we have been getting is gone, taken away by the powers that be at the NBIRR or beyond. Just out of reach.

I finally quit crying and turned my car around to head home. Trying to tell myself to be thankful for the treatments I did get and trying not to focus on what the rest of them might have brought me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through this day.  I pulled into my garage, parked my car and grabbed my coffee cup to head inside. But stuck to my coffee cup was my punch card. You know the kind, buy 10 get one coffee free. I reached to grab it and it fell to the floor upside down. When I bent down to pick it up this is what I saw.

0520140813-1I knew then that everything was going to be ok. I wasn’t sure how or when. But I knew I could rest assured that soon things will be better and HBOT will be available for those of us that need it so desperately. It will all work out eventually. I took a deep breath and considered all the work it will take.  It seemed to me a huge endeavor to change laws and make it possible to bill insurance for treatment and to educate people about the healing benefits of HBOT. But I know that there are others out there with voices for those of us that need help. Voices to stand up for us and our needs and make things right.  Faith is a verb. You can’t have faith without action. HBOT will eventually be a common treatment for TBI and PTSD. But I’m not going to sit back and wait for it to happen. I’m going to get up and help get it done.

I have recently been called back for treatments. The study is still closed but Idaho Hyperbarics will still treat those of us that want it. Out of their own pocket. Because that is the integrity of the amazing people who work there. It kind of restores your faith in humanity doesn’t it?  So I’m headed back to get the rest of my treatments. I won’t stay home, you couldn’t make me. I want to see just how much better I can be. Can you blame me?

 

 

For more info on how Hyperbaric Oxygen treatments can help with TBI  click on http://www.hbot.com/faq

Drum roll please………………

•June 12, 2014 • 4 Comments

“I don’t think people understand how stressful it  is to explain whats going on in your head when you don’t even understand it yourself.”  Not sure who said it, but it was passed on to me by a good friend. It’s exactly how I’m feeling. I’ve tried to write this post over a million times. Only to bag it and try again.  It’s so hard to explain to you everything that is happening in my head right now. But I’m going to try.

Even though I just can’t find the words for how amazing and different I feel, I know the hyperbaric oxygen treatments are working. I’m enjoying every single day of the new me. The PTSD is almost gone completely. I’m not afraid any more. And I’m thinking so much clearer. I don’t need to “clock out” and take as many breaks either. I get to enjoy more of my days.  And I have the results on paper to prove it all. I can’t stop looking at my test results. I even slipped them into those nice little plastic sheet protectors  to keep them safe as I carry them everywhere to show anybody who will look and listen.  I showed all the staff at the HBOT clinic. I showed my physician. I showed the girls at the office where I get my allergy shots. I sent pictures to my kids. I’m showing all my friends and even some strangers. And then I look at them again. Everything I thought I was feeling is there on paper. Proof. Solid proof that I’m getting so much better. I’m still in shock a little bit over all the changes taking place.

Below are the test results that were taken in December before I began HBOT. And right next to Decembers test results I have my most recent results from May. You can see for yourself why I keep showing them off. So, hopefully this will help you understand what I’m feeling right now. It’s wonderful.

 

HBOT 001 HBOT 005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HBOT 003HBOT 008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HBOT 004

HBOT 009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fish named Bari. The Betta beta.

•May 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve fought and won an extensive battle with my injuries from a car accident 12 years ago. My traumatic brain injury was one of the most difficult impairments that I’ve ever dealt with. It took years to accept the new me and find my “happy place.” It took a lot of hard work, tears and understanding.  I am very happy maintaining my new quality of life. You have only to read a few of my previous posts to see the hell that I went through to get to where I am now. I thought I had rehabilitated myself as far as I could and so I’ve been coasting through life very happy to have what was left.  Occasionally, I wished for the old me, for things to be different. But I had accepted my lot in life and was making it the best life I could. Enjoying my new normal. Appreciating every second of my second chance. Maintaining feature complete.

Feature complete:  a version of a software in an advance version, which contains all intended functionality of the final version, but is not yet final due to bugs, performance or stability issues.

I am blessed to have this amazing friend. Her name is Heidi. We met in high school and have been inseparable since. But the strange thing about us is, we keep showing up in each other’s lives, right when the other needs it the most. It  is uncanny the way it all happens. Sometimes we go a year with no connection at all. Life gets busy, other things need our attention. Then BAM! Cosmic forces, karma or the good Lord above crashes us together right when we need it. And it is never an ordinary experience. Just ask Heidi. She will smile and wink at you and giggle. I just love her with all my heart.

So here she came again. We were meeting another good high school friend for lunch. We always have fun no matter what we do but as we ate I could not help but wonder what was going to be compelling about this particular meeting.  She told me about this study she had been accepted into that was happening at the Idaho Doctors Hospital. She was accepted into a study of the effects of HBOT onTBI and PTSD and would receive 80 hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments. It all sounded very cool to me.  I had tried every treatment out there but had only read about HBOT for possible treatment for my TBI. Along with all the other therapy I was doing and not being able to work, hyperbaric oxygen treatments were just out of reach for me. Depending on the treatment center and size of the chamber, treatments run anywhere around $150 to $1500 each.  And my insurance would not cover it.

We finished our lunch, hugged goodbye till next time and I climbed in the car and sat that brochure in the seat next to me on the drive home. I thought about it all the way.  I began to hope for some relief and wondered if I could get into the study. The very next day I filled out a questionnaire online. Now, I  am hoping again. A week later I opened an email that told me I was not a candidate. In the reply was something about my lung and diaphragm injuries.  But, a few months later two things happened almost simultaneously.  First, I received a letter in the mail from a good friend. She has no idea how much I love this little sticky note. Especially the part that says “I have no idea if this would help your situation or not.”
Hyperbarics 003

Underneath the sticky note was a newspaper article with a picture of Heidi’s beautiful face. I was instantly drawn to her face and amazed at how wonderful she looked. Something about her was different, very different. Second, I received a phone call from Heidi and all I can remember about it is “Diane!!! You have to call this Jeff guy and get into this study, today. It has been amazing for me!”  So, I called this Jeff guy. After talking for an hour about HBOT, veterans, and all the disparities of health care, I had an appointment to go for testing. I also had this big huge helping of hope show up. What if this works? How would I change? How would I feel?  Would I look and feel as good as Heidi? If I only acquired half of the relief she did I would be overjoyed. But, I know my limits now, or so I thought. And I tend to be very realistic with myself so I folded up that feeling and tucked it away and tried my hardest to ignore it.

After my appointment, permission from my Pulmonologist, some testing and peek inside the chamber I was accepted. There came that hope thing again. Numb, I left to drive home. But then on a whim (I  am a little spontaneous at times) I turned my car around and stopped at Petco. Not  knowing what I was looking for I wandered the isles. But as soon as I saw him I knew he needed to come home with me. Oh, my poor husband. I have at one time or another brought home almost any animal my heart desired.  I purchased my new little guy and headed home with a fish. A beautiful blue fighter. We had a lot in common him and me.  He was a Beta. I named him Bari after Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy. He was a symbol of my hope.  A symbol of desperation. A symbol of this chance to erase some of my bugs. Dan did not roll his eyes this time.

Software in the beta phase will generally have many more bugs in it than completed software, as well as speed/performance issues and may still cause crashes or data loss.

Hyperbarics 001Hyperbarics 002

While I was waiting for my treatments to start I could not help but wonder how HBOT would help me and my injured brain. A few of my “performance” issues were pain, fatigue, lack of organization and communication skills and a significant dose of PTSD. Just a few years ago I was having panic attacks every 5 minutes. That was the hell I was talking about earlier. One of my biggest battles was fighting those panic attacks and putting time and calmness between them. It left me totally exhausted and afraid to leave the house. I began hyperbaric oxygen therapy in January of this year. I was so terrified I could barely move. With Heidi practically holding my hand and encouraging me the whole hour, I survived my first treatment. You would think that sitting in a small chamber in comfy chair breathing oxygen would be comfortable. Well, not for me and my PTSD in tow. It goes wherever I do and rears its ugly head right when I  am trying to hide it the most. I  am not so sure I would have gone if Jeff had not promised me that Heidi could go in with me. Who the heck was this guy with a huge heart that acted like he  cared anyway? I would soon find out his staff was just as excellent. And I never feel like I  am just another name on the schedule. I  do not remember much about the first treatment other than I was so nervous I felt like I peed my pants.

So, thankful for my husband’s urgings I started a journal so I would not forget what happened in the chamber, and to record the effects I hoped I would feel.  This little journal was all about me. Soon I was enchanted by the lives around me. It became about them, not me. I was with heroes of all kinds every day at the chamber. All the heroes, strangers at first, became friends. Friends similar to me. You know the kind with brain injuries and PTSD. We are comfortable around each other.  We kind of understand each other. We have a lot in common. I hear so many stories of horrible things happening to humans and how they survived them. They were maintaining their new normal. Just like me. Every day at the chamber I heard their stories. As they talked I could sense their hope, their desperation. I was not the only one hoping for relief. We all were a little desperate for anything to help us get through our days. So I un-tucked and unfolded my hope. Brought it out just to see what would happen. And soon I began to feel different. It was subtle differences at first. But treatments exhausted me. I was tired, very tired and hungry all the time.  After treatments, I would drive home, shove some food in my face and sleep. Get up, eat some more and sleep again. Then get up and head to another treatment. Once I even left the stove on high with dinner boiling in the pot and fell fast asleep. The next thing I remembered was my son telling me something was burning. Well, we went out to eat that night. Jeff reassured my being tired was normal. It means it  is working. I remember staring at him in disbelief.  But I continued. January to April consisted of driving, treatments, eating and sleeping.   At the end of March, that little whisper of change began to get louder.  I was having a conversation with a few people and I realized quite suddenly that I understood everything they said. That was  not normal for me. This was HUGE. Years earlier I had spent hours in cognitive therapy trying to gain skills to make it through conversations and respond. It was something about me that  bothers me. So, I paid very close attention the very next time I had a chance to have a conversation and sure enough, I was handling conversations better and remembering what we talked about from the beginning of the conversation to the end. And surprisingly the next time I saw them I remembered what we had talked about previously. This was new and oh so incredible. I usually avoided people and conversations like the plague. But now, I looked for a chance to talk to a friend. I started calling people I had not talked to for a while. I have a lot to make up for. For years, I was busy taking care of me. Self-care and fatigue left me too exhausted for a conversation that would only end in confusion and a big headache. So I saved my conversation time for my husband and kids mostly. So many friendships were pushed to the side. But now, I just keep calling and texting. And they do not mind. And I love it. Connecting with friends is something I have missed.

I also noticed that I was calm. Very calm.  It took me a while to recognize it. First I noticed that my shoulders were no longer hitched to my ears. They were right where they should be, relaxed with my hands by my side. I had not had many calm moments since the accident in 2002. My PTSD would not allow me many calm moments.  This calmness came to me without me putting on a fake smile, without struggling to push aside my PTSD. It just happened without me doing anything. It just showed up as a gift wrapped in ribbon.  Just for me. No more holding myself stiff as a board trying to keep it away. No more barely holding myself together.  No struggle to achieve put togetherness, just the gift of pure calm. Every morning it was there. And at night it was there too. I was in shock. It took me a couple of days to get used to it. I became desperate for the feeling not to leave, thinking it might until I talked myself into a big deep breath and to just enjoy this moment. And I  am still enjoying it. Every damn second I  am enjoying it. The calmness is still here. It just shows up every day, just like it used to, as it should. Relief from my greatest enemy and my biggest battle is in the form of a hyperbaric chamber.  I am trying to find the words to explain to you how much this means to me. Hope fulfilled. Broken pieces stitched back together. A big dose of relief. Desperation quieted. Dreams coming true.

Friday April 11th I completed 40 treatments. I tested again. Jeff showed me my results and the testing confirmed what I was feeling. I was in shock. It  is real. It  is working, really working.  That day began my thirty-day break.  I gave Jeff a big hug and drove home in a daze.  Not wanting to leave my happy place, my new friends or my chance at healing what I hate the most about me. But my hope was huge now. My hope was bigger than the fear. A balance that I tried to achieve for 12 years happened in just a few months. During my break, I began to notice other things that were different. After the accident, my brain decided that it just wasn’t going to wake up each day. Thank God there is a pill for that. Some days I just wake up on my own now, wide awake. And I stay that way all day.  Just the other day I had a huge list of errands that I just knew I would not get all the way through. I set out to do them until my usual raging headache sends me home for a much-needed nap. But before I knew it I was done, completely done with all of my errands. Usually just a trip to the grocery store is way more than this injured brain of mine can handle. But I completed all the errands and had energy for more. I was in the parking lot at the bank about to head home. Instead, I grabbed my phone to text my family the good news. Then I just sat there in the parking lot of the bank and enjoyed the moment. I did not have the usual headache that screamed at me to go home and take a nap. My head was not fuzzy with confusion. It was clear, so very clear. I could finally do errands again like a normal person. Weird, but wonderful.

Others began to notice. My son in California mentioned that he could tell from our recent phone calls that mom is more with it. This is HUGE. Jon had the worst time of all my kids when dealing with the new mom after the accident. So this is very huge. He deserves a mom that’s with it. After his phone call, I stopped everything I was doing and just enjoyed the moment with a few, maybe a lot, of happy tears and counted my blessings. Katie just clings to me recently enjoying the new mom. A teenager that likes being around her mom. Hmmmm? Maybe because she does not need to be her own mom anymore. We traded places once. Now she gets to enjoy being a kid and I get to enjoy being able to be her happier, healthier ‘with it’ mom. Shellie, my oldest daughter, has noticed changes too. She can instantly tell when I  am just too tired to listen to her on the phone. I hate being too tired to be a mom when they need me. But now, she noticed that I  am not as tired and even when I am tired I can still hear her and really listen. I get hear my children now. Hear and understand. I  am not too tired for conversations or listening to my kids. This is significant. Very huge. I never miss a chance to stop and enjoy the small things, because they are the big things. So, recently, every day I have been stopping everything and just enjoying the new me. And exploring the new me. And I like it. I  am thankful to be whom my kids need me to be when they need me. When I  am done talking to them I pick up the phone and call an old friend. You know. The one I’ve been too tired to call. Then I pick up the phone again and call another friend that I have not talked to in a while.  Dan just rolls his eyes just like when I bring home all my animal friends because nothing is getting done at home. Then the next day I wake up and start it all again. And I remember what I did the day before and where I left off with friends and family. It  has been a long 12 years. And I have a lot to make up for. So, I call my friends again. I call my kids again. I cannot get enough of this after years of avoiding conversations. I  am having a ball, a headbangers ball to be exact.

A release candidate is a beta version with potential to be a final product, which is ready to release unless significant bugs emerge. In this stage of product stabilization, all product features have been designed, coded and tested through one or more beta cycles with no known showstopper-class bug.

On May 12th I begin my last 40 treatments. I hope it goes by very slow. I want to get all the healing I can out of this. Because, it works. But for now, I  am enjoying every single day waking up and being  awake. I  am testing out my new features and finding out who I am now. I cannot say thank you enough. The staff at the healing center are heroes in my eyes. I will never forget them or what they have done for me. Nothing can stop me now. Soon, I’ll be golden. Even though my youngest daughter told me that people over 40 are not allowed to use that word. But I did. Do me a favor and just don’t tell her. But I think she will notice that her mom shines a little brighter.

The term ” release to manufacturing”, also known as “going gold”, is a term used when a software product is ready to be delivered or provided to the public for distribution.  This build may be digitally signed, allowing the end user to verify the integrity and authenticity of the software. The term does not define the delivery mechanism or volume; it only states that the quality is sufficient.

Sometimes, as I sit and watch Bari swimming around in his bowl, I swear I see him wink at me.


Software Cycle

 
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