I am ultimately my daughter’s only voice, and I must use all the available resources to help me help her.
How do you find strength in the difficulty of the day-to-day?
I am a fervent optimist. I have always and will always hunt for a way around that brick wall.
What does being a caregiver mean to you?
It means commitment, responsibility, worrying, sharing, caring and countless other emotions… It changed my life in ways that I never would have imagined. There are hard days, and there are harder days… I wouldn’t change my life for one moment since my daughter’s traumatic brain injury (TBI), because this accident brought me to a greater spiritual awareness, and an appreciation for so many little things in life that I was previously missing.
What’s one source that has helped you as a caregiver and how?
Our Facebook group called, “Pray for Kimmy (Fix)” has given me dialogue with thousands of caring friends, family, and concerned acquaintances. We’ve shared our journey with all from the start of Kimmy’s injury, and we have inadvertently received thoughtful and heartfelt direction and answers in return. Narrating Kimmy’s progress has gradually led her to be seen as an overcomer, a role model of never giving up, to countless individuals.
Nearly four years ago, Karee's daughter, Kimmy, a 25-year- old Army Captain, suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in an auto accident following combat deployment to Afghanistan. Karee spent the next year by her side, advocating for and supporting her as she remained in a coma. She expected Kimmy to remain vegetative the rest of her life. Karee brought Kimmy home as she refused to put her daughter in a nursing home. Karee is a Cold War and Gulf War-era veteran herself, and Kimmy is her oldest of nine children. Her five oldest children are serving in the military. Kimmy has her own daughter, just 11 months younger than Karee's youngest. Keeping Kimmy home was and is Karee's top priority. When she and her husband Jim lost their full-time nursing coverage, they hired private individuals. Kimmy has defied medical statistics and now smiles, says a few words, and is beginning to walk.
Being home has allowed Kimmy to live a better and more dignified life. Yet, without her caregiver’s voice, she wouldn’t be alive today. As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Karee wants to advocate for greater awareness and presence of the military caregiver within the VA Medical Center (VAMC). Awareness begins by solidifying a visible presence of ombudsmen who represent the military caregiver community within each VAMC. In theory, these volunteer representatives will help bring the caregiver voice within the walls of each VAMC. Karee published an article in TBI Hope Magazine (August) on page 28 that explains a program which supports the privatization of longterm care needs of veterans, called Veteran Directed Home Care Based Services (VD-HCBS). Just as she represents her daughter’s voice, Karee wants to extend that voice to other caregivers, carving a role in each VAMC that redirects the role of the caregiver and their veteran from being recipients of provider service-based care, to being participants, given a budget, and to choose how they will manage their longterm care needs.