A different outlook on a critical injury


A couple of days ago I had an email conversation with a very nice and smart fellow blogger. She said that if there was a way for me to show a different point of view to this injury that it may shed a little more light to a complicated time in someone’s life. I am going to take that conversation to heart and I am going to try to do that in this post. I am going to attempt to explain what I saw as my families reaction, as well as actual reactions that my family had.  Everything that I have written in this blog to this point has been shoot from the hip style of writing. I sat down with the lap top and I went after it. This post is going to be a little different. It may take me a day or two to tell this point of view in an effort to be as clear and concise as possible. Please be patient. Hopefully it will not be too long and still hit all the points I want to hit.

The first part of this is the obvious. A families reaction to this type of injury or life changing event as I say sometimes will be the same for everyone. You will be afraid, confused, worried, tearful, mad, and sad. You will ask “why has this happened to our family?” Of course there is no answer that you will hear that you will make you as a family feel better or understand such a quick and unexpected tragedy. You will do everything within your power to make it go away. The only thing that will make it go away is time, compassion, understanding, and the ability to accept what has happened and look forward to better days. Sometimes I suppose that won’t even work, but remember I am only speaking from my families experience.

The second part of this is a little more complicated to understand unless you are the one who has had the injury. There are going to be alot of emotions running through your head, and as much as you the family are trying to help an injured adult, they may think that you are holding them back or treating them like a little child. I had alot of these emotions going through my head for sure once I was able to use my brain again for something productive. What a family or spouse needs to understand is everything that you are doing for the best of reasons may be beating the injured one down in their mind. I am not saying that is the truth, I am just saying that when I was injured I had those feelings. I was full of guilt thinking that this was my fault, also for my children to have to watch me when my wife was at work. I had to be followed around the house when I stood up. I had to have my food brought to me, I had to be bathed, and actually dried off and dressed because I could not bend over to put my own socks on without excruciating pain. This causes alot of guilt for a man that is used to going to work everyday  providing for his family. I was the rock that all of my family depended on. Now I am literally a rock that can’t get off the couch by himself.  I was full of grief for seeing my family in so much emotional pain. I tried to make it all go away for them.  Actually I was making it worse by trying to do too much which scared them and made them work harder.

As a family caregiver, you may get yelled at alot. “I can do it myself” or “just leave me alone” were common for me. Leaving me alone was nothing more than just stop talking to me for a few minutes. When this kind of injury hits your family remember that the only thing the injured may have control of their opinion. Do not take their opinion away from them. You don’t have to agree with it, just acknowledge it. The injured may want to speak for an hour at a time about things that have no relevance or may not want to talk all day. I wanted to talk so badly about what I was feeling but I felt that it would cause more grief to my family. I stayed to myself about it which made me withdraw completely some days. Its ok if they decide not to say much today. Its ok if they get a little angered, or frustrated, or sad, you most likely have done nothing wrong. It is a cycle that I went through that had no rhyme or reason.

I did do things that I was not proud of of. Most of it I have no recollection of because of the nature of my injury but it did happen.One that stands in my mind is a story that my wife has told me on a couple of occasions and I do have vague memory of. She had taken my medication and hid them because I was messing them up and taking the wrong ones at the wrong times. She would get the proper pills out and give them to me when needed. When I first went to get my pills and they weren’t there and she told me what she had done, I picked up a large down throw pillow from the couch raised it above my head and slammed it to the floor. I have been married for 23 years and my wife has never been afraid of me. She told me that she was afraid of me on that day. She had put those pills in a safe place for a very good reason but I could not see it that way at that time.

Be ready for a mix of emotions that you have not seen before. You will see plenty of tears, anger, sadness, guilt, some happiness and gratitude as well. There are plenty more and I could name them all day. Just be ready for the unexpected.

Just remember that you do not know what they are feeling or what they are going through. Also remember and make them remember that you are going through it as well, just in a different way. Do not allow them to continue to pity themselves. Encourage them that it will get better and try to help them keep their held held high. You cannot make it better, but you can make it worse. Be very understanding while at the same time standing your ground. You do do not deserve to be talked to in an angry fashion. It is not your fault and let that be known. “I am sorry you feel that way but  its not my fault. I do not deserve for you to talk to me like that.” That is how it sunk in to me. I was actually causing a bad situation to get worse. Once I realized that,   things started to get better.

You can and will get through this and hopefully the outcome will be great. If there is anything that I missed or  did not say clearly, please do not hesitate to send me a message or post a comment. I will try to clear anything up as well as I can.

Lisa thanks for the idea to try to get this point of view across.

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A job and a lifestyle


A picture of American firefighters in the 1770s

A picture of American firefighters in the 1770s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I Am Your Firefighter

Friday, May 03, 2013 CDT

Dear citizen,

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am your firefighter. I’m the one who shows up at the firehouse for my shift, and I’m the one who shows up when the pager goes off. If we passed each other on the street, you most likely wouldn’t recognize me. My face may not be familiar. But rest assured, I am your firefighter. I am a brother; a sister; a mom and a dad; a son and a daughter; and, yes, a grandfather and grandmother.

I am writing to you in an effort to clear up some misinformation. You may have heard lately that firefighters make too much money or don’t want to respond when the rooftop siren on the firehouse wails, that they don’t care and have lost their grip on the true meaning of being a firefighter. Rest assured, they haven’t. They still very much do care and do more to stand that post than ever before. We train in the skills of firefighting; emergency medical services; hazardous materials; specialized rescue; and, yes, in weapons of mass destruction. The list is long and can range from the basic to extremely technical. We do not sit around the firehouse and play checkers like you may have read in a children’s book. We stand ready to respond to your emergency no matter what it is. You see, I am your firefighter.

We sleep in a firehouse or with a pager next to our bed at home, ready at any moment to respond to someone in need. Our response to those who need us is done so without prejudice. We don’t perform a credit check or make you submit an application. We respond to your needs immediately without regard as to who you are or what status you carry in the community. We take care of the wealthy and the homeless, and we will treat your children, your grandmother, and your home or business as if they were our own. This is not a practiced or trained skill but a way of life for your firefighter. To us, it’s not a job or even a profession; it’s a calling–one that involves the thrill of helping others in their time of need. You see, I am your firefighter.

It’s not a new job. We’ve been there for you since Benjamin Franklin decided to create the first volunteer fire department. The position has gone from that of prominence to that which people look down on; we have gone from being perceived as heroes after our country was attacked to, once again, those who have too much. Let us be clear in this area as well when it comes to having too much. Most of us work two jobs in an attempt to put food on the table or into a college fund. We miss a lot of our kid’s soccer games, recitals, birthday parties, and so many special moments that are gone forever to either work that shift or make that call. We work on Christmas and a long list of other holidays and run out the door when our children are opening their presents from Santa. When you wouldn’t think of giving up one of those special moments, we do. We stand ready for you. Yes, it is a choice we made, that of serving others, but it was a choice made without promise of wealth or personal gains–just that of taking care of others. You see, I am your firefighter.

And can we address that issue of being a hero? You see, those of us who serve or have served as firefighters do not consider the position that of a hero. We will admit the task does require acts and deeds of bravery at times; it comes with the work we love to do. Again, we’re just moms and dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, who just want to make a difference in the communities we serve. We have never met a firefighter who said, “I can’t wait to be a hero today.” All they want to do is serve others, take care of people, and have a belief in “family” that is paralleled by few. They are values driven, not money driven, so please do not read this wrong. Firefighters are some of the bravest people we know, but there is a difference between an “act” and a belief in something special. To them it’s not about being a hero; it’s more about being guardians, those which support family. You see, I am your firefighter.

We paint, clean, maintain, and mow the grass at our firehouse not as much because it saves our taxpayers money but because it is our home. We realize that a firehouse has stood within a neighborhood as a place of safety for decades, a place where a senior citizen who is lost and can’t find the way home can go and find help, and those helping her will treat her like she was their own grandmother. A place where a child who is scared, lost, or being followed by a bad person can go and find protection. Please understand to a firefighter their firehouse isn’t just another building; it’s their home and a symbol of what is right within a community. It’s a building where we train together, prepare to respond to your call for help together, and for some where we eat, sleep, and spend a third of our lives together. It is where we stand ready for you. You see, I am your firefighter.

We realize that each time the economy takes a downward turn, the first thing they say at city hall is, “What can we cut in the fire department?” and we once again will do more with less. We will always try to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollar and save money wherever we can, but there is only so much you can do with less. You can line the street with as many fire engines and ladder trucks as you want, keep in mind that fire trucks don’t fight fires, firefighters do, and we need them to be successful at serving you.

We’ll change your smoke detector battery free of charge, make sure that there is no carbon monoxide in your home waiting to harm you or your loved ones, and we’ll walk with you through your home, helping you identify areas that need to be addressed for your family’s safety. We stop along that dark roadside and help you change a flat tire because you are family and we would never leave a loved one stranded along the road. We read to children hoping to promote literacy and to help them understand that reading is just not important but can be fun, too, and those that can read do well in life. We conduct fundraisers to help those in need and give little children fighting cancer a ride on our fire engine because we know that 30 seconds of your life can change another’s forever. And if you’re ever wondering just how important a firefighter is in the life of a child, the next time you’re in your local bookstore, go to the children’s section and count how many firefighters, fire engines, hook and ladder trucks, and ambulances you see in the books there. To a child they are a hero, but more importantly a mentor and role model, again, a person who values family. You see, I am your firefighter.

It may seem that I am a bit partial when it comes to firefighters, but please don’t look for an apology. I am that way because I have seen firefighters risk it all for those they do not know and in some cases for those who could care less about them. I have seen the biggest of them kneel down next to and help an 85-year-old grandmother who has fallen for the fifth time this month with such care and compassion that you find yourself choking back tears. I have watched them bring life into this world, save lives, and many times do everything in their power, to the point of exhaustion, to save another’s life, only to not be able to do so, and I have heard them cry. Yes, firefighters have feelings and yes, they cry. You’ll never see it, because they’ll do it when they are alone or in the bunk room sitting on the side of their bed. It’s after they’ve done everything to breathe life back into that baby or to cut someone’s daughter out of their wrecked car or after they have lost a fellow firefighter in the line of duty. It’s not normal to see what a firefighter has to see or do what a firefighter has to do, but they do it. They do it because they want to serve you. They want to stand that post for you and your family, to be there for you all day long and for you long after you go to bed. You see, I am your firefighter.

In closing again, firefighters don’t do “it” for the recognition. Yes they are proud of what they do, but don’t try to give them medals or accolades. They’ll just tell you they were doing their job. They have a passion for serving others and are not looking for rewards. Maybe just decent tools, equipment, and protective clothing to do their jobs. The training that keeps them prepared to take care of you and your family and the staffing they need in order to make that happen, and once in a while the secure feeling of knowing that they’ll be able to continue volunteering in your community or working in that firehouse, without the fear of cuts or closings. They won’t ask for laser beams, fancy titles, or for a “room with a view.” To be honest they already have the best view in the house. It’s from the firehouse down the block from your home. The one that allows them the privilege and honor of serving you and your family. You see, I am your firefighter and we will always be there for you!

Written by Rick Lasky