Commentary

May 30, 2014

What I learned from amputees: it wasn’t what I expected

Chaplain (Maj.) Jeff Granger
65th Air Base Wing Chapel

LAJES FIELD, Azores — A number of years ago, I had the privilege to serve as a chaplain in a training program at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, formerly known as Brooke General Hospital.

The program included rotations through a number of different sections on the medical campus.

I served two rotations at the Center for the Intrepid, a world-class rehabilitation center. Due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I met a number of amputees and burn survivors who were adjusting to life after their injuries.

I was new to the hospital ministry and had a lot to learn. As their chaplain, I assumed that my role with these men and women would be to help them through the grief experienced from their loss. My first week there, I felt like I was a visitor at a funeral parlor – you know the awkward feeling you get there? You realize it’s important to be there but you don’t really know what to say. I was uncomfortable. But, I soon learned my preconceptions were actually misconceptions.

These men and women at the Center for the Intrepid were determined to go on with life and had similar concerns to others I have met and counseled. Their concerns included navigating the military medical system, planning for life after the military, waiting for medical evaluation board determinations and relationship issues that began growing even before the deployment that was cut short.

Some were celebrating life events; one had recently become engaged, and one man was home to see his child who was born while he was deployed. These service members all faced the normal challenges that are common in our military communities.

At the Center for the Intrepid, adjusting to life’s newest challenges was a shared experience.

I remember a particular conversation with a group of amputees who were sharing what it was like getting used to the new normal. One mentioned that he had gotten out of bed at night and forgotten he was missing a leg and fell down. As others chuckled, many confessed they had done the same. It seems it’s a rite of passage for those who lose a leg. I wouldn’t have expected to hear them laughing together, but the conversations flowed very naturally between these wounded warriors. The conversation illustrated for me the attitude they shared – these men and women were facing a challenge, not dealing with defeat.

I read a text on positive psychology that year and it referenced a study to understand how cancer patients dealt with grief. Interestingly, the researchers encountered a problem: in their cancer treatment center, they were unable to find a large enough sample of patients struggling with grief. Just the opposite was true of their population: these patients became stronger as they focused their energies and rearranged their lives to battle cancer. Extraneous activities that may amuse but ultimately distract from meaningful life were abandoned. Significant relationships too often neglected when life is smooth quickly become a high priority and these relationships become closer and more meaningful.

Just like the cancer patient study, my experience with wounded warriors at the Center for the Intrepid proved uniquely instructive.

I learned that, oddly enough, life’s challenges can actually make life richer and more fulfilling.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle

LRS fuels Nellis’ mission success

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle Staff Sgt. Mike Radcliff, U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron crew chief, and Airman 1st Class Patrick Fields, 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels mobile distribu...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Adarius Petty

Creech heats up

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Adarius Petty The Nellis-Creech Fire Emergency Services Flight’s Fire Station 6 personnel applaud the speaker during the Fire Station 6 ribbon cutting ceremony at Creech Air Force Base, N...
 
 

Aviation pioneer in Las Vegas

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — During World War II, aviation opportunities literally exploded as the military trained hundreds of thousands of individuals to fly, opening the door to many who might never have had the chance before. Among this group were women pilots, many of whom trained and flew as civil service pilots with...
 

 

Rosie the Riveter and me

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. — As we recognize Women’s History Month this March, I am struck by the thought that heroes and role models do not have to be one single person but, in fact, can be several people. For me, this truth is especially relevant. During World War II, many women opted to...
 
 
DT1-(10)

Ground broken for new solar array at Nellis Air Force Base

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler Col. Richard Boutwell, 99th Air Base Wing commander, speaks at a ground breaking ceremony for a new solar array at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., March 24. The new array will ...
 
 
Photo courtesy of retired Master Sgt. Phillip Sisneros

Darkest before dawn: Retired master sergeant, active duty wife share struggle of overcoming TBI

Photo courtesy of retired Master Sgt. Phillip Sisneros Then Master Sgt. Phillip Sisneros, 99th Communications Squadron comm focal point chief, lays in a coma following a motorcycle accident in Las Vegas on Aug. 13, 2011. Sisner...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin