Where are you located?
We are located in Williamsburg Virginia, about an hour from Richmond and an hour from Norfolk.
Where does your spouse receive medical treatment?
My husband receives his VA care through the Hampton VA Medical Center. He is primarily seen by his primary team through Sentara Medical Group in Williamsburg to supplement his VA care due to long wait times.
How you came to be a caregiver?
My husband returned from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009, but was not diagnosed with anything until 2011 due to a lack of medical continuity across the branches of service. It wasn’t until he had been home for a while that we began to see symptoms of TBI and PTSD along with a laundry list of other physical issues.
What branch of service are you affiliated with?
My husband served 20 plus years all together across the US Air Force, US Air Force Reserve, US Navy Reserve, US Navy, and the US Army. We also have two sons who are Marines.
What other interests do you have outside of caregiving?
When I am not caregiving I am advocating, networking, and peer mentoring other caregivers to help them find resources in their communities and across the country. Ask my husband, I am tied to my phone or IPad working to obtain better care for veterans and benefits for long term caregivers almost nonstop.
What are your personal interests?
My personal interests are my kids, horses, gardening, photography, and quilting. I love quilting because it can be an individual pursuit or a group activity and it requires my whole attention so it is a wonderful self-care avenue. I also love quilting because even when I am focused on my self-care I am able to contribute to veterans and families. There is something therapeutic about having a handmade quilt to wrap yourself in when life is out of control.
How has Quality of Life Foundation helped to improve your quality of life?
QOL has been amazing. They not only helped with some urgent financial matters right after we moved but they have allowed opportunities to network and grow as well. The icing on the cake is that our QOL family coordinator helped me get the quilting machine that I needed last month from JoAnn’s Fabric. Now I am able to make the quilts more efficiently that I donate to veterans and their families. In the next two months this will directly and individually affect one veteran and one family group of a soldier who lost his battle with PTSD to suicide. Seven quilts in all will go out. Thanks to that one machine I will double the number of quilts I am able to make a month.
Do you have a favorite inspirational or motivational quote?
I don’t really have a favorite motivational quote, other than the No Man Left Behind that most of the services adhere to. Which is why I spend my time the way I do. If I could resolve the care issues of every veteran out there I would work round the clock to make it happen.
What advice would you give a new caregiver?
Do not be afraid to be the squeaky wheel, if you don’t understand something or you are not sure that you are getting the full story, ALWAYS ask to see it in writing.
What would you like to tell the “average American”?
If you do not understand what I do that warrants being a caregiver fulltime please ask, don’t assume and pass judgement before you have a clear picture of what we go through every day. Just because you cannot “see” my husband’s disabilities does not mean they are not very real.