31 January 2015

Mission stats (3QTR)

Nine races done, three to go!

It has been an incredible journey thus far and I have so many people to thank for their support, their encouragement, their generosity and their assistance in sharing my mission and helping get out the word. A thousand thank yous.....

Where do we stand? Below are the stats.

Training: 885.96 miles
(Training miles remaining to 1200: 314.04)

Races: 270.37 miles

Remaining Races

If you've read my blog, you've seen my motto: "Non mihi, sed tibi, gloria," which means "Glory to thee, not to me."  I hope my efforts inspire, but it is the money donated that truly helps those injured Marines and sailors in their recovery, helps them find independence, and provides support as they begin their new lives.

Funds Raised (goal is $12,000):

MARSOC Foundation: $1,922.00
Semper Fi Fund: $6,205.00

How can you help?
  1. Pledge 10¢, 25¢, 50¢ or $1.00 per mile that I cover over the course of a remaining race (or 3!) or training month (February or March);
  2. Make a donation of any amount to either the MARSOC Foundation or the Semper Fi Fund; or
  3. Purchase of a 12for12for1200 t-shirt, the proceeds of which go to both funds.
Top Ten (most-read) Posts:
  1. Through the desert with a pack
  2. The road to Iwo Jima: Casualty at mile 8
  3. Taking the plunge
  4. Get your hockey on! (Raffle entry)
  5. What's the damage?
  6. The Forney Journey: Learning to walk again
  7. How the zebra got her scars, pt2
  8. The Forney Journey: Finding the new normal
  9. How the zebra got her scars, pt1
  10. The heartbreak is over: Runner down
Top Ten Blog Audience (by country):
  1. United States
  2. France
  3. New Zealand
  4. Canada
  5. Russia
  6. Mexico
  7. Japan
  8. Germany
  9. Poland
  10. Taiwan

29 January 2015

Feelin' it....

Just a few fun quotes for today.... 

I'm so motivated for the next three races and for this last push of fundraising - every dollar helps!! Thank you for all your support! 
Damn straight, although we do have morals, they're just a little different.....
Otherwise known as "get on the bar and give me another one".....

I want one of these....who's handy?

27 January 2015

A heart in Texas

There were a few things I would be remiss if I didn't mention about my visit to San Antonio - caught up as I was in the euphoria of completing the race. Post is a little long...but worth it.

On Friday, LtCol Forney brought me to SAMC and, more specifically, to the Center for the Intrepid (CFI). It is where he has been rehabbing from his injuries once he was able to move from the Burn Gym. It is a remarkable place all contained within one structure.

He showed me where he goes for straightforward physical therapy (the gym), which looks similiar to many other clinics with the exception that 1) everyone there is missing one or more limbs and, 2) the machines are adapted to allow the users to work within their capacity while they find their new 100%. There's even a climbing wall.

We then toured the FATS (if you're a Marine, it's an ISMT) where wounded personnel who are working toward returning to duty go to practice their marksmanship. There are video projections which simulate shooting at the various required distances and a variety of rifles and pistols as well as sets of full gear so the servicemember can practice as though carrying a (not quite) combat load.

After that, it was to the Occupational Therapy clinic, where LtCol Forney received some treatment on his right hand (the one on which he'll be having surgery shortly) and a tour of the Activities of Daily Living therapy area, which, contrary to initial inclination, is specifically designed NOT to accommodate those with mobility injuries. Why? Because most of the public spaces, hotels, offices, apartments they'll come across will not be adapted to their needs, so they need to be able to overcome things like narrow doorways, high beds, awkward angles around kitchens and bathrooms. It was eye-opening.

From there we went to the area where all the prosthetics are made. Wow. What a labor of love to create these and what it takes, from start to finish, the refinements, the fine tuning and the end product which allows people to stand, move and walk again. There are prosthetics for cycling, for paddling and rowing, and I even saw some blades for running. I was humbled by the craftsmanship and the obvious effort it takes to produce the limbs and IDEOs. (I was close to tears at this point).

Our last three stops were the indoor track, the gait lab, and the rehab pool. The track  (27 laps=1 mile) was where LtCol Forney had been working up to the 1/4 we ran together. We even took a lap together, as he wanted to test out his pace (he was moving, by the way). The gait lab was awe-inspiring. There were harness slides across all directions, to allow the user freedom of movement on the floor below, which consisted of multiple surfaces to ensure that the user could stabilize regardless of terrain, as well as inclines and stairs. One section of the floor had sensors built into it, so the techs could test how well the subject was balancing their weight and then the PTs could work with them to strengthen the weak areas. Again, wow. Also contained in this area was a 300-degree projection dome (think video flight simulator), into which the wounded warrior was harnessed while standing on a triple-wide treadmill which was attached to a mobile platform. When the scenario was projected on the screen, the floor moved to simulate the terrain and the treadmill would move at the requisite speed. Again, this is both for rehab as well as for working on getting guys back in the fight.

I was overwhelmed at the thoughtfulness of the entire facility, I can't imagine a better place for our injured folks to be. The personnel, the director, everyone I met had a passion for what they were doing and understood it not just as a mission, but that they had lives in their hands. I was overcome with emotion by the time we walked to the exit.

Central Market
This is anecdotal but, as I learned, an example of the kind of town San Antonio is. After grabbing lunch from the CM deli, we meandered about the store gathering the items for the Friday/Saturday dinners (I was cooking the pre-race meal: sausage & mushroom risotto with a spinach & shaved fennel salad and LtCol Forney was doing steaks for post-race.) When we got into line, he said, "I'm going to pull the car around." I chit-chatted with the cashier about the dinner plans, and as he got to the last few items, I stepped toward the card reader and put my head down to open my purse and grab my card to pay. As I looked up to ask for the total, the woman behind me reached over and swiped her card. I tried to correct her to let her know I hadn't paid yet and she said, "I know, hon, I am buying your groceries today." I was speechless, touched and again, my eyes welled with tears. I told her my mission and asked if I could give her a hug. We didn't exchange names but she said, "It's the least I can do - enjoy your time here, hon." Her impromptu generosity is seared into my memory and I won't forget it. If you ever read this, thank you, again.

The Race
They don't call it the Endurathon for nothing. I ran this race 10 years ago when I was a flight student stationed at Corpus, and I always remembered how much fun it was and how much of an ass-kicker it was. It hasn't changed. The race is just outside of SA, in Bulverde, otherwise known as hill country. It's one of those local races that is no joke - which is why it's in its 36th year. The course actually ran long - 15.89 - and but that wasn't what caused me grief - it was the net gain in elevation, which included a 4% grade climb to the finish. Below is the course and the elevation. The food and libations at the end? Frito pie and beer from Karbach Brewing Co., out of Houston - I recommend the Mother-in-Lager. Oh yeah, and we placed 3rd AG and 8th female overall. BOOM.

The lollipop handle on top? Hills, both ways. (click to enlarge)
The last hill climbed back up to the start elevation on the far left. (click to enlarge)
And in case you missed it, here's the finish video (we are at 21:03 mark on video feed, around 2:10 mark on race clock):

25 January 2015

The Forney Journey: The last hill

 The day was chilly, with a slight breeze and clear skies. Temp at the start was 28F. The day was perfect for a picture book story. 

Two of the Forney munchkins, waiting for Daddy.
Cheryl R., Meredith P., J., Lily S. at the finish - a surprise for LtCol Forney.
Cheryl is the Forneys' SFF case manager, the other two are also SFF case managers. 
 During the race, LtCol Forney met me at various spots to cheer me on. This was around mile 13 of 15.5....

And then we joined up and finished the race together. One last hill....

We were joined by two RWB members.
On the right is Scott, who also drove LtCol Forney along the course. 
Bringing it in with Old Glory.

Thank you to the San Antonio Road Runners for allowing us to be a part of your race - run local! Race director, Julie Olsen, went out of her way to help make this one of the most memorable races I've ever run. (And the course is a legit challenge, post on that coming soon!) Grateful. 

A huge thank you to the Forney family for not only sharing their story, but also sharing their home and their family with me this weekend (Banana gets her bed back, yeay!). I am blessed and fortunate to call them friends. They are full of joy and love. 

And to LtCol Forney - you have given me inspiration, guidance and reminded me what it means to truly be alive. Thank you for making me laugh til I cried and for your generosity in multiple aspects. You are a leader, a Marine through and through, and an incredible human being.

What's next for LtCol Forney? The road ahead is to continue with rehab and get through the tendon repair surgery on his right hand. Then he'll start the Med Board later this spring with a goal of retiring from the Corps 2017.  After that, it'll be a new chapter in a new book with stories they've yet to write.

To donate to the Semper Fi Fund, click here.
To donate to the MARSOC Foundation, click here.
You can follow more of the Forney Journey on their Facebook page.

23 January 2015

The Forney Journey: Finding the new normal

June 14: Family vacation! The Forneys travel to see J.’s family in CT, then over to MI to visit LtCol Forney’s family. After a quick return to San Antonio, they head to CO for the Vail Veterans’ Program Summer Trip.  LtCol Forney goes fly-fishing, whitewater rafting and rock climbing, realizing what he is still capable of doing. The family realizes they are truly working towards their new normal.

July 14:  LtCol Forney's left shoulder is finally attended to surgically. During the mishap, his left arm was fully extended (pushing the collective down); the impact broke the humerus just below the head and the shaft of his arm drove into his shoulder socket. The surgeons have not previously attempted any surgery on it, fearing that cutting into the bone would cause severe, life-threatening infections. Now, almost 18 months later, significant HO has built up, and the surgeon does his best to clean it out and give LtCol Forney mobility in that left shoulder. It is somewhat successful, and the joint operates more smoothly, but he will never have full function of his left shoulder.

Aug 14: LtCol Forney is having a tough month of rehab; his right elbow is set in a fixed position due to new skin grafts on his right arm and so he is limited to cardio work only and very limited range of motion work. He's a bit grumpy this month.

6 Sept 14:  Wheels! LtCol Forney receives his adaptive equipment vehicle, in the form of a Chevy Traverse – modified with a spinner knob on the steering wheel with a small keypad attached which allows him to control the blinker, wipers and horn without removing his hand from the wheel. The Semper Fi Fund provides a grant in conjunction with a VA vehicle grant to defray the cost. LtCol Forney’s independence skyrockets and he is immensely grateful that he can relieve J. from the obligations of having to drive everywhere.

11-14 Sept 14: LtCol Forney and his dad make a trip to San Diego, where LtCol Forney visits with his old squadron mates. He gets the opportunity to climb back inside a CH-46 for the first time since the crash.

Oct 14: With the new vehicle comes new opportunities for rehab and LtCol Forney takes part in equine therapy, a kayak fishing program (hosted by Heroes on the Water), as well as working toward the most basic of all Marine Corps training, the run (although he states, “It “doesn't much look like running”).

He starts on the AlterG treadmill, which has an inflatable bubble that supports a portion of the user’s weight.  He works his way up to one mile at 50% of his body weight. He then moves to the CFI indoor track, where he slowly works up to almost a ¼--mile.  He also starts pool therapy, as his skin is finally healed enough to allow him to get in the water. In the water, he walks for the first time without any assistance from IDEOs, a cane or a person assisting him.

Nov 14: Two fingers on LtCol Forney’s right hand were so severely burned that the extensor tendons were significantly damaged, and the fingers curl down as a result. Surgeons install Digit Widgets to help straighten the fingers and LtCol Forney’s prepares for tendon repair surgery.

Two different types of mobility gains arrive this month: the first, a recumbent bike, generously paid for by the Semper Fi Fund, which allows LtCol Forney another option for cardio workouts and participate in local Wounded Warrior bike programs; and the second, huge gains with the prosthetic on his left arm.

The skin is finally strong enough to tolerate the weight of prosthetic arm.  LtCol Forney works through a series of custom silicone liners and temporary sockets to obtain the right fit for the myoelectric socket – a socket with a battery-powered hand and wrist that is controlled by electrical signals in the muscles. With the custom fit set, the prosthetic techs at the CFI begin fabricating his final socket.

Dec 14:  LtCol Forney receives a second type of prosthetic – a body-powered socket, which is harder on his skin, but which has a mechanical hand which opens and closes in response to the flexing of his shoulders. The family celebrates a quiet, relaxing Christmas and New Year’s at home.

By the end of 2014, LtCol Forney has had 31 surgeries, with more scheduled for 2015.

Questions for LtCol Forney:
1. What were the biggest physical gains you made during this chunk of time?
  • Making the transition from walking with a cane to without one, and then to starting to run.  However, a close second has to be getting enough strength and flexibility to get down on the floor and back up.  For a long time there, I couldn't bend enough to do that, and if I fell it took a lot of help to get me up.  It’s still ugly, but now I can at least manage.  Oh, and this will sound crazy, but I was pretty happy when I figured out how to tie my own shoes.
2. How, if at all, has your life perspective changed as a result of the mishap?
  • In one sense, it was like combat in that it taught me to not get wrapped up in the little things of day-to-day life.  On the other hand, it brought into sharp focus how independent I had been, and how important that independence was to me.  Finally, I always knew I put my family, especially J., through a lot when I was deployed, but having to rely on her entirely while I was recovering, and seeing how much she had to do that I couldn’t help with was eye opening.
3. What was the most difficult mental challenge you faced during your recovery?
  • Probably, coming to terms with my loss of independence and how much of an impact that had on my family.  Everything from limiting what we could do together as a family to seeing how much of an increased workload it put on J.  My lowest moments were when I would do something boneheaded like knock a glass of juice on the floor.  I wouldn't be able to clean it up, and then I had to watch as J. had to do it for me, on top of everything else she had to do for me and the kids.  That kind of stuff is still what drags on me most, because there are still a lot of things I can’t do.
  • As for what else to say about recovery, it’s hard to understand unless you've spent 5 months in a hospital bed losing all your strength and stamina. Everything is hard, and recovery is mind numbingly slow.  Everyone tells me my recovery has been relatively fast, and I believe them, but I’m impatient. I want to be where I used to be.  Going from being the most physically active member of the household to the least is a big change for everyone, too.  All of our roles have changed as we figure out who does what now, from taking out the garbage to changing light bulbs.  
Everything changes. The smallest details of life pile up to become the most challenging.  It just takes a long, long time for everyone to figure out the new normal. It beats the alternative, though, by a long shot.

21 January 2015

The Forney Journey: Learning to walk again

27 Jul 13: Going home is a huge transition – awesome, but a lot of work, especially for J.  She is responsible for the daily wound care routine, and the amount of supplies given to them by the hospital weighs almost 100 lbs.  Maj Forney is confined to the power chair and can’t assist around the house or with the kids. J. is running the household, caring for the kids, ensuring Maj Forney gets to and from every appointment, and then tending to his wounds after the children have gone to bed.

Each night, J. transfers Maj Forney to the shower chair to get undressed, rolls him into the bathroom for a bathing, covers him in towels and then rolls him into the family room for wound dressing. They watch a movie while J. dresses his wounds, the majority of which are still open, even five months later. In the beginning, the process takes almost 4 ½ hours, and J. rarely makes it to bed before 0100 each night.

To help J. with the three kids, they hire a nanny, assisted by a Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living entitlement from the DoD. A daytime routine emerges: kids up, fed, to the nanny. Then Maj Forney up, dressed, fed and loaded into the van for medical appointments.

Aug 13: The highlight of Maj Forney’s day are his PT/OT in the Burn Gym (yup, that’s the name) – so named because burn patients have special requirements as they rehab, specifically, stretching and range-of-motion work on affected skin and joints, as well as the muscular atrophy from longer recovery times. He spends two hours every day at the Burn Gym, working on all areas of his body: fingers, hand, grip strength, upper/lower body strength, standing, walking.  And some cardio – a hand bike with one hand – his knees don’t yet have the range of motion to pedal a bike. In fact, Maj Forney isn’t actually allowed to bend his knees yet, so even in his power chair, he wheels about with his legs sticking straight out.

He progresses rapidly and at the six-month mark, can stand from the power chair unassisted, walk with only the aid of his walker and is able to walk out of the gym to meet J. in the waiting area at the end of a session.

20 Aug 13 – Maj Forney feels weak throughout his PT session and is unable to make it all the way to the waiting area. As J. retrieves him, they decide to go to the Burn Clinic just to have him checked. He has a fever of 103 degrees and is admitted immediately.

The open area on his right knee, where the patella was still exposed is infected. Not by one, but five different bacteria; this is what caused the fever. Maj Forney is back in the OR the next day, the first of four surgeries to debride the wound, remove more patella and graft over the open areas. This process takes him through mid-September. 

Sept 13: Maj Forney is finally discharged and becomes a Center for the Intrepid (CFI) patient, with a new PT and OT. He is much stronger and ready to start making significant gains. His wound care is down to 2-3 hours a day and, with the kids in school, he and J. switch wound care to the mornings.  After that, he heads down to the CFI for his daily 4-hour rehab sessions.

Oct 13: Maj Forney’s walking improves rapidly, and he has now ditched the walker in favor of a forearm crutch. The grip on his remaining hand as well as his upper body also gain significant strength.  By the end of the month, he has switched to using only a cane.

October 2013
Nov 13: The Forneys attend the Marine Corps Birthday Ball and Maj Forney makes his way out to the dance floor for one slow song with J. They receive a standing ovation and shouts of “Ooh-rah”.

USMC Birthday Ball, Nov 2013
Dec 13 – Jan 14: December starts with a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. Another series of graft surgeries slow him down a bit, but LtCol Forney sets his sights on being out of his power chair by New Year’s.  He doesn’t quite meet that timeline, but by the end of January is only using it to get to and from the hospital and in between long appointments.

Promotion to LtCol with the family, December 2013
Feb – Mar 14: Hypertrophic ossification (HO), excess bone growth triggered by trauma, especially burns, has grown across LtCol Forney’s left elbow joint, completely locking the joint.  His ortho surgeon and a reconstructive surgeon work together over three surgeries to excise the HO, put a small muscle flap across the exposed bone, and graft over the elbow to close it.  (LtCol Forney celebrates the one year anniversary of his mishap in first of those elbow surgeries.) 

After this, it is rehab, rehab, rehab.  Once he recovers from the elbow surgeries, LtCol Forney ditches the power chair and executes long movements with a one-armed drive, manual wheelchair.  This takes some getting used to, and it’s a while before he can go anywhere in a straight line.

LtCol Forney and his daughter cook "breakfast for dinner" -
this is his first time cooking again since the mishap. (February 2014)
Apr – May 14: LtCol Forney begins the driving evaluation at the CFI and the VA.  He ends up having only one evaluation with the rehab driving specialist at the VA, where they arrive and the specialist says, “Let’s go for a drive.” LtCol Forney takes the VA’s van for a spin around San Antonio; he doesn't run over a single pedestrian. Two weeks later, he takes his road test and receives his Texas driver’s license. The evaluator’s comment? “Your driving was flawless.” Duh, he's a pilot. 

During this time, LtCol Forney is also getting fitted for his first prosthetic, a temporary one, for his left arm.  The process takes a long time because of the poor condition of his skin on that arm. He initially only wears the liner without the socket and slowly works up to an hour with the socket.

With the prosthetic - best moment out of this?
"My 3-year old kept looking at me and saying, 'Daddy, you've got two hands!' It was awesome!"
30 May 14: LtCol Forney gets fitted for his custom IDEO leg braces (Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis). Below is the short list of things he used to take for granted that the IDEOs now allow him to do once more (again, another first since the mishap): 

  • Take normal length strides.
  • Walk without a cane and not feel like he's about to fall over.
  • Side step, in both directions.
  • Stand on his left foot long enough to raise his right knee to waist height.
Rockin' the black socks, white shoes combo....
The rest of the spring is spent gaining strength and independence, and LtCol Forney soon no longer needs the wheelchair.  He has had 26 surgeries up to this point.

The big news? Clearance from his doctors to take a family vacation in June.

Questions for LtCol Forney: 
1) What was your focus during this part of your recovery?
  • Just getting back my independence to take some of the load off J. and make things a little easier for her.  At this point, the goal was to get to the point where I could drive, get an adapted car, and free J. from having to devote every minute of every day to taking care of me.
2) What was the hardest aspect of your recovery at this point?
  • It just seemed slow.  Especially looking around the CFI at guys missing legs who were doing CrossFit [workouts].  I know they had been there for a long time ahead of me, but I was impatient.  Plus, because my left arm was severely burned and there were epicell grafts all over it, it took forever before I could get a socket.  Amputees with blast only injuries (no burns) who were hurt months after me got fitted for prosthetics months before me because they had no skin condition issues.  That really tested my patience.

20 January 2015

The Forney Journey: Beginning anew

(continued from July's story, Tiger Flight 45, pts 1-3)

24 Feb 13: Maj Forney is prepped and wheeled into surgery for full debridement – removal of all the dressings placed on his body in Singapore – assessment of his wounds and the start of skin grafts.  There are five surgeons involved in this process.  They also remove his left arm during this surgery.  The next day, Maj Forney jokes, “What do I have to do to get out of the hospital?” He hasn’t fully grasped the extent of his injuries, even as he is aware that they are severe.  He is wheeled to his room in the Burn ICU (BICU).

Over the next week, hallucinations and clouded concepts weave into his daily life. The time he believes the physical therapy tilt table was actually located in a storage shed behind the hospital, next to trees, even to the point of feeling the sun and recalling the woodsy smell of the shed.  The time he demands sodium-free water because he overheard that his sodium count was high and figured that was why he wasn’t being given water (turns out, his body was so damaged, the doctors didn’t want to waste giving him the empty calories of water, so were only providing protein drinks).

Infections start to hit his system and Maj Forney is no longer lucid nor communicative.  He fights pneumonia and there are infections in his lungs as a result of the smoke inhalation which result in him being placed on a ventilator. The toxins in his blood from all the burned tissue wreak havoc on his kidneys and he ends up on CRR therapy, an aggressive form of dialysis. It is four days since his arrival in Texas.

1 Mar 13: Maj Forney returns to the OR for another a series of debridement and skin graft surgery. These surgeries will extend through May.

3 Mar 13: J. explains to him that he will be in the BICU for another two months, then hopefully transferred to inpatient rehab for another three, followed by another two years of outpatient rehab. He replies, “I’m alive,”  but in truth, doesn’t recall the conversation, only realizing it once he goes back over J.’s notes from this period.  He is on amnesiac drugs in addition to the other medications so that his mind won’t remember the pain.

18 Mar 13: Maj Forney has now been through seven surgeries in three weeks, his wounds 78% covered by skin grafts and his own injured skin. The remaining 22% are open wounds and allografts (cadaver skin).  The surgeons now also remove the heads of each of his calf muscles to create “flaps” to cover his knee joints and provide tissue for the skin to attach over his knees.  As a result, he is left with no calf muscle on his left leg and 1/3 on his right.  Shortly after, Maj Forney’s  left patella, which was dead but intact, shatters while he is being moved in the OR and must be completely removed.

April 13: Graft surgeries continue. Maj Forney begins to eat and the hospital nutritionist aims for 4000 calories a day to help his body heal.

27 Apr 13: Maj Forney speaks on the phone to his three children for the first time since the crash.

May 13: Progress and breakthroughs abound for Maj Forney. The doctors say he won’t lose the fingers on his remaining hand. The tracheotomy is removed. His sarcastic sense of humor returns, so says J. The surgeries are only spot grafts to cover up the last bits of open burn wounds.

21 May 13: He is discharged from the BICU to the stepdown unit, 4 East.

22 May 13: Maj Forney sees his kids for the first time. His oldest son takes it well right off the bat. His daughter is a little freaked out by his appearance but warms up after about 30 minutes. His youngest son is completely unphased.

May-Jun 13: The focus is now on wound care and rehab so Maj Forney can be discharged. He receives his first Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO), an off-the-shelf temporary solution which enable him to stand and walk. With the removal of his calf muscles and the nerve damage in his lower legs, Maj Forney has almost no control over his ankles.  The AFOs provide stability and rigidity so he can stand and walk.  (The AFO consists of a footplate underneath the foot and a portion which goes up the leg (back, front, or both) to stabilize the ankle.)

Rehab first consists of working from sitting to standing, which he does for the first time in May, for about 20 seconds.  Once he progresses to standing on his own for a few minutes, the therapists move to walking therapy. Maj Forney uses a platform walker, which is a regular walker with a raised platform on the left side on which he can rest is left residual limb, to counter the new imbalance.

8 July 13: Maj Forney moves to the Solo-Step – a harness hanging from an overhead track- in conjunction with the walker.  He works up to about 150 feet on that and then transitions to walking around the ward with only his walker.  He is making phenomenal progress but is extremely grumpy and short with his PT staff during this time.  He also receives a power chair, which the entire staff immediately regrets giving him upon remembering that he is a helo pilot. Maj Forney finds new freedom of movement and never actually runs anyone over

J. comes in to 4 East every day for several weeks to learn the wound care procedures for Maj Forney. It is a steep learning curve but required for him to go home.  Simultaneously, the hospital staff and case managers are gathering the ramps, shower chair and other basic equipment needed at the house so he can be discharged.

26 July 13: J. rolls up to the hospital in the modified van and Maj Forney gets in to go home.

Home!! July 2013  (photo courtesy of the Forney family)
Questions for LtCol Forney:
1) When did you realized the extent of your injuries?

To be honest, I don’t know when I truly grasped the extent of my injuries, if ever, in the hospital.  I remember thinking in the cockpit waiting to get pulled out that I would lose my left hand, but I don’t know if I remembered that when she told me in the hospital that they had cut it off.  It was a long time before I could sit up and move enough to even see where my arm ended, and even longer before it was uncovered for me to see it.  I think the drugs kept me from really realizing it, which is good, because it kept me from being overwhelmed so I could focus on just getting through.  I would say I didn’t truly grasp it until I was in inpatient Burn rehab in June.  That’s when I realized how much I’d lost and that not all of it would come back.  Those were the hardest days.  I was off drugs, awake, trapped in the hospital, and physically wore out quickly.  I had plenty of time to think, and it sucked. Getting out of there was huge.

2) How many surgeries did you have those first months?

By the time I discharged in July, I was up to 17 surgeries, most of the debridement and grafts.

3) How did the Semper Fi Fund help you and your family during this time?

To the point of my discharge, SFF had:
  • given J. a check upon her arrival to cover immediate incidental expenses;
  • gift cards for chow; 
  • an iPad so she could have visual communications with our kids (who had come from Japan and were staying with relatives in NE);
  • paid for a bunch of the equipment for the house to speed up the process and get me home, and
  • provided the loaner wheelchair capable minivan at no expense to us.

Our SFF representative, Cheryl Reid, was efficient, responsive and amazingly helpful.

4) How was the Marine Corps’ assistance during this time?

The Marine Det was awesome, especially the S-1.  The 1 Chief knocked ITOs for Jennie and the kids, did all the paperwork, handled the PCS, all the pay stuff, my parents travel and lodging.  He even spent a day on the phone with United getting a refund for our plane tickets we were going to use for a summer trip home if I hadn’t gotten hurt. Amazing support.  Tons of emotional support for J.  Exactly what you’d hope your family would get from Corps!

The journey continues….

18 January 2015

Forth into the weather

Find a way - make a way if you have to - just get yourself there. 

Image: RoadMosey.com

Watching the river

I really wanted something inspirational to post today, but I came up short. My legs are sore from the upped mileage, my brain is fried from law school applications and the munchkins have been teetering on the edge of being sick for about two weeks.

That all said, I am happy and grateful. I know it sounds cliche, but honestly, it's true. In the words of Marcus Aurelius:

Sunrise in Jackson Hole, WY (September)

And in the words of Pooh, (whose creator A.A. Milne was born on this day in 1882):

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”

15 January 2015

Through the desert with a pack

The Marathon des Sables is a tough race, so tough, in fact, that it is listed amongst the toughest ultra marathons in the world. Why is that, you ask?

Well, it's 150+ miles across the Moroccan Sahara, carrying everything you need for five (or six) days of running on your back; yes, that includes food, clothes, hygiene (!) and the requisite emergency gear.  The race organizers kindly provide you with approximately 10 1/2 liters of water per day, which you ration according to your needs, and a coursebook, to ensure you make a left at the next wadi.  You bivouac at night, and by this, I mean you sleep on Berber rugs laid over the desert floor under an open tent supported by wooden poles, which you share with seven other runners.

Here are a couple of recent visuals on the course itself: 
Image: Sharmanian.com
Image: MarathondesSables.com
Here's a section of the map from the coursebook last year: 
I kid you not. 

It's also the last race in my 12for12for1200 series. 

Fear not, dear readers, for I will have a teammate - the incredible Mosi Smith, also a Marine officer and Semper Fi Fund fundraiser. In case you were wondering, he's done over 14 races of 100 miles or more (including Badwater and Western States), the JFK 50-miler four times, and last year completed a triple Ironman - that would be 7.2 miles of swimming, 336 miles of biking followed by 78.6 miles of running - all in one fell swoop. He's pretty much indestructible, so I think I'll be good if I run in trail.
Mosi in action
(Image: NaturalVitalitySports)
Lest you think I am in over my head, worry not! It is Flashback Friday, after all....
I give you the following two images from almost 15 years ago:
Gaiters? Compression? What're those things? I got mad sunscreen, I'm good!
Yes, those folks are Jay & Lisa Batchen and Mike Wardian.
I'm on the right, with a super short haircut!  
But first, I have stops in Texas, Virginia and North Carolina....always one more mile to go....

(For a great race overview and recap, check out: Outrunning MS: Marathon des Sables Diary)