Thursday, July 4, 2013

'Tis the Life of a Military Wife – Tim Returns Safely from Iraq" by Guest Blogger, Landra Jenkins

Guest blogger, Landra Jenkins

I have not given any time to my little story of " 'Tis the Life of a Military Wife" in a while. I am up EARLY this morning baking and I just love the smells it puts throughout the house. I guess it triggered some memories, and as I was walking down this memory lane, I remembered I had left quite a cliff hanger; I hope everyone is okay, and still able to hold on.

So, I believe I left off with Tim returning safely from Iraq.

(My mom has been quick to point out that I leave out some details. Honestly, there is no way I can get it all. These are just the parts that stand out as I thank God for the journey!)

Tim was still having trouble with his back and leg. The military puts a rather large hurdle in front of you when you have a medical issue. There is the initial doctor visit, then you wait for a referral from a tiny list of authorized doctors, then there is physical therapy, two or more visits back to the specialist... you get the point. Anyway, Tim was in the middle of some serious issues. He was having a burning , tingling down his leg and pain in his lower back. 

We knew what was happening and there was nothing we could do to stop this roller coaster!
OUCH!! We've done this before
Tim's family has a history with this back injury and surgery.
Tim's dad had four or more back surgeries with a very painful fusion, then oldest brother  Dave followed in his footsteps, then middle brother Mark  had his back surgeries ,and now we were looking down this path as well. 

Unfortunately, during the middle of all this therapy and doctor visits, Tim was deployed to Iraq. When he returned I noticed how he got off the plane. It looked VERY painful. We got him into the neurosurgeon pretty quickly. I was shocked how quick, like within the week. He did several tests and reviewed Tim's MRI. Tim was losing feeling in his leg and it took several minutes before he could apply any pressure on it when standing.

 That doctor looked at us and said, “I can operate tomorrow." I was like...WHAT? I just got him back! Are you serious? We still had Uncle Dave with us. He was actually at the house watching our kiddos, I think. Anyway, in true Jenkins fashion, Tim put off the surgery for a couple days just so he could go hunt with his brother. His exact words to me were, “When am I going to get this opportunity again to do this with my brother?" I stored up a little bitterness at that moment and was mad that he had been gone to Iraq and finally home, yet wants to go hunting with his brother???

It wasn't about wanting to go on a date with me. It was the fact that I was tired of being the parent 24 /7. I wanted to hand him these kids and run away!! I loved my kiddos, don't get me wrong! I was exhausted!!
USMC Tim Jenkins' family upon return from Iraq

Realizing I would not win this fight, I gave in. But, I did not let go of that anger. (NOT RECOMMENDED) I knew after listening to the surgeon that Tim would not be any help with the kids for another 6-8 weeks. He couldn't even lift Jacob! It was not my best moments. Here is Tim trying to spend some quality time with his brother ,who has given his life to winning the hearts and souls of the lost in Africa. I mean seriously people, Dave had been in Africa for like 11 years at this point. He was bringing people to Jesus, and I am having a selfish meltdown about Tim wanting to spend some quality time with him. Honestly the next few years were not my best. It was draining, exhausting, and I was in need of a Debbie Cook!!

So, Tim goes hunting with Dave and they had a blast. I still remember Tim's glow on his face as he returned and kissed me saying, "Thank you!"

Now it was time to start getting ready for them to remove his ruptured disk. I slowly let go of
Spine surgery #4 made me go Episcopalian
that anger and replaced it with fear. Why do we let the enemy get that foothold? Thankfully, I had Dave there right by my side. I mean honestly, looking back...why in the world did Dave end up with us right at that moment? Yes, it was a God thing!! Dave had been through this, and he offered Jenkins humor to the situation. I don't know how they all do it, but they all make very heavy situations feel light and manageable! 

Anyway, there were details that still needed to get worked through. I needed someone to watch the kids and I still didn't really know many people yet, and this happened pretty quickly (within a week of his return), so I was nervous about that too. When I dropped my kids off at the church nursery I asked a lady there if she would be willing to watch the boys while I was with Tim for surgery. She was very gracious and stayed with them the entire day. I didn't worry about them...I was really thankful for the break. Dave and I drove Tim to the hospital. Dave was just sticking around until the surgery was over. He needed to catch a cab as soon as we got the "all is well." I will never forget how Dave stayed with me! 

We took Tim back and he got all snookered up. We said goodnight and went down to the waiting area. It wasn't long before there was someone needing to speak with me in billing. No, I am not kidding! Tim is back in surgery and they have pulled me aside to talk about $$$. Dave went with me. It was just very typical of TRICARE, but I didn't know this at the time. See, the way military insurance works is, you have a very limited supply of doctors that they will approve "PAY" for services. There were only two neurosurgeons that were approved in all of DFW. We got word to stay clear of one, so what other choice did we have but this last guy! So, as I am sitting in front of this lady with lots of papers and really no sympathy for the fact that my hubby is currently under the knife and maybe this conversation is best suited for another time, she unfolds the following:  “Mam, you are on Tricare...correct?”


“Well, Tricare will cover the surgeon that your husband is seeing today. However, this hospital is not an authorized user for Tricare, so you will be billed the amount shown here.”

No words...speechless...sinking in my chair!

Dave perks up beside me with this , "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! I let him continue on with his statements. It started out with , "Now I have been in Africa a while, but I can't believe that this is the way we treat our guys returning from war zones!  He just got back from Iraq!”

I was still trying to get over the amount of zeroes I had just seen. I was secretly wondering if I had time to run upstairs and yell, "Stop!" Put down that scapula!!"

I don't remember how that was settled at that moment. I don't remember what else was said. I just
Tim, the boys, and a half eaten jelly doughnut
remember getting back in the elevator and heading up to see if Tim was out of surgery and what drama was next! We didn't sit there much longer and Tim's surgeon came out with a huge grin. He was older, and prior military. He provided this service at a much discounted rate for military. This is why you can only use certain doctors. Only so many are willing to take on the Tricare bear! 

He said, “We got him all fixed up! He had a nasty ruptured disk that was sticking out and he will be much more comfortable now. Man, that thing was like a half-eaten Jelly doughnut, with all the filling running out on important nerves!"

I was caught up with emotion at that point. Plus I was still so worried about the money. I started crying and the surgeon hugged me and said, "Hey, he's going to be fine."

 I told him I was so thankful for his gift and that we could be seen by him. I told him that during the surgery I was called down to billing and they wanted me to pay the balance for the hospitals part. I truthfully cried and explained I didn't know how in the world we will pay that enormous amount. He turned furious! 

He said, “Don’t even think about that. I only operate here. This is a Tricare nightmare. I have this. You don't need to worry about any of that right now."

Commissioning of USMC Lietenant Colonel Tim Jenkins
 He was very compassionate and he could see that the burden was great!! I let it go, and we got ready to go in and see Tim. Dave laughed so hard at his drug induced brother. Tim kept checking to make sure he had all his man parts. It was really funny! Then Tim sat up and was determined to go to the bathroom! There was no stopping him!! He had just got out of surgery and wanted to walk to the bathroom. Oh my word! The nurse was not happy with him (Yes, I called her...I had a cray-cray I couldn't control!) Anyway, everything was still there and the plumbing was working ,so he settled down, and I think the nurse gave him an extra dose of Knock You Out Sucker. He needed it!

Dave had stepped in and played his part in our lives, but it was time for him to go. He got a cab and was off. I stayed with Tim until after dinner, then had to head over to the house and relieve the sitter.

 I cried in the parking lot as I drove away. I don't think people understand the chaos that military
Marine Corp Ball 2008
families go through.  It is constant. The entire family is serving in different ways. I cried because I was so thankful we made it through all that craziness. I cried because I missed Debbie!! I cried because I knew it was going to be a very stressful 6-8 more weeks, and I was already so tired of doing it all.
I got home, paid the sitter and fell into bed.

 Early the next morning I loaded the kids up in the double stroller and we went to retrieve the dad. He was up making jokes and happy to see us. Tim did well in his recovery. He wanted to help, in fact it drove him crazy to watch me juggle the kids, mow the yard, and manage our life. He was ready to throw Jacob in the air and wrestle Josiah again. The boys were ready for all that fun too. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again, these were not my best years. I didn't always have the attitude of Christ during the next couple of years. Tim loved to poke fun at me and call me Mrs. Bates (you know from that awful movie, “MISERY") during the 6-8 week time period. It was due to my bad attitude and him being in bed. I never took a baseball bat to his legs like the movie. 

However, that bitterness that I allowed in my heart took its own journey into other parts of my life. I couldn't maintain friendships and actually lost some due to my issues. God does not want us to hold onto those feelings because they are not given to us through HIM. God's language is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These other feelings are handed over from...yep, the one who shall not be named. I must confess I let that snake govern my heart in these times. Don't make those mistakes. God continually provided for us. God blessed us throughout the process. My heart could not even see the blessings for all the bitterness I was holding. 

So, in conclusion...The VEGGIETALES said it best when Larry Boy was given this wisdom: “Do not hold on to your anger, or your anger will hold onto you!"

Now if you will excuse me, I got some delicious banana-pumpkin muffins I need to devour! LOVE ONE ANOTHER!!

Preach!Feeling blessed.

No comments:

Post a Comment