Just Keep Swimming


Where are you located?
We live in Bluff City TN

Where did your veteran receive the majority of their medical treatment?
Mountain Home VA in Tennessee

Which branch of service is your family affiliated with?

Please share how you came to be a caregiver
My husband joined the Army in 2001 when he returned from Iraq in 2005 he was a broken man. He struggled through many rough months but was turned away from the VA and sent home by his unit. He pushed through and did well until the fall of 2010 when serious physical symptoms began to emerge later the symptoms were listed as unknown…. Gulf War Syndrome…. By spring 2011 he had entered a frightening stage of Psychosis. My Tommy deals with SEVERE PTSD and several secondary issues that accompany PTSD. My caregiving became real in the fall of 2010. We found bone islands in some of his joints and an enlarged heart, his body has uranium in it and for added joy his spine developed a 5% curve. In Spring of 2011 I watched the strongest person I know become someone I didn’t know at all, literally, he wasn’t even speaking English anymore. The first time I left him at the hospital will always be my darkest moment. I have been home with our children since our oldest was born in 2000. We brought twins home in 2002 so with 3 small children I just wanted to work from home. I was a Nanny for a special little boy for 5 years. He left me in the fall of 2012. Now I am the simply the full time caregiver for my husband and our 6 children.

How has caregiving impacted your day to day routine and your personal life?
Caregiving has impacted my life immensely. I find joy in the smallest things now. I appreciate small things others take for granted. I have learned so much about compassion and patience. I have also learned even I have my limits. We have to be very organized around here we have a huge task board that is detailed out daily.

Besides caring for your veteran, what other interests/jobs/passions do you pursue now? What are your personal interests?
My children are everything and I invest all that I possibly can in them. As a release button I power walk even if the street is lined with my kiddos on bikes and there is a stroller in front of me. Walking is essential to my mental stability. I enjoy working in my flower gardens. The plants that I have are cuts from loves ones. Each leaf means something to me and I feel I have pieces of loved ones who have already gone. Fishkeeping is my hobby I have a large reef tank, a small salt tank, a large cichlid tank and a 500-gallon koi water garden. I love to control things so it is satisfying to take a creature and help it thrive. Most of the equipment and stock in use I have obtained from friends who share my passion. So each fish has a special meaning to me.

How has QoLF helped you to renew your passion in your interests or to change something to improve your quality of life?
When I first spoke with the Quality of Life Foundation they asked me how I was. I honestly do not believe anyone at the VA has ever asked me how I am. Just the question had me in shock. So right off I felt loved and like I mattered because they cared about me. Sharon and Sarah have been angels for me. Sharon’s first priority was to make sure I had someone available to talk to. Little did I know how needed that therapist actually was. There have been many days where Sharon’s call or email changed my whole day. They have taken more burdens off of my heart and shoulders than I could ever have asked for and have made my daily communications a breeze. Sharon was able to perform miracles to help me to have the one thing I wanted most in the world. This miracle will improve my life in countless ways. I can never say thank you enough!

Do you have a favorite inspirational or motivational quote? My favorite quote is so simple.
Just Keep Swimming~~~ Dory

What advice would you give a new caregiver?
My advice to a new caregiver is to be smart, keep a journal of symptoms and keep yourself safe. I also recommend keeping a journal of whom you speak with in regards to your Veteran. If your person struggles with PTSD and you have children I suggest you create a safe place for them to stay out of hostility and enjoy their time. Be prepared, have an emergency plan in place in this life things can change very quickly.

What would you like to tell the average American?
22 Veterans die of suicide everyday. They need companionship, someone to sit and talk and listen. They need love and purpose. Just because they are difficult does not mean they do not matter. What can you do today to help?