Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Hidden Heroes
Caregiver Journey Map Campaign for Inclusive Care

Krista Petterson

You know your veteran better than anyone else and your support is invaluable to them.

At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?

I didn’t realize I was a military caregiver until I reviewed the application criteria for the VA Caregiver Program. At the time, my husband had been rated at 100 percent for six years. I had already been helping him in so many ways, I just had not realized the depth of the caregiving.

What are you most excited to do as a Dole Caregiver Fellow?

I am so excited to meet with, inspire, and fight for other caregivers and their veterans. Being part of a bigger family like the military again is exciting as well.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?

Stay strong in expressing your concerns for your veteran. You know your veteran better than anyone else and your support is invaluable to them. Also, no one expects you to be perfect. We are all doing the best we can and that is ok.

My Story

Krista Petterson married when she was 19-years-old, just as her husband Eric was entering the U.S. Army. She was completely naïve about what the future held for them. Eric deployed to Iraq twice, the second time for an extended 15 months, after which he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  

With the help of some wonderful nurses, Eric received excellent care for his PTSD. Time passed, and after having their three children, Krista decided to go back to school for her master's degree. Now spending more time at home for schoolwork, Krista noticed that Eric was falling asleep throughout the day. It frustrated her, thinking he was being lazy when she needed help balancing childcare, schoolwork, and her part-time job. However, they discovered the real reason for Eric’s sleepiness when he was diagnosed with narcolepsy. Soon afterwards, Krista ended her master's program to be with the family more. 

Over the next few years, Eric would experience many ups and downs. Medications were prescribed, but they were temporary fixes. Krista, with the help of Eric's wonderful counselor, probed hard with the VA about Eric possibly having a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Her nursing education told her something was not right with the lingering symptoms after so much treatment. With the help of Eric's counselor, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and caregiver nurse, they were finally able to get a diagnosis of TBI, which included an essential tremor, non-epileptic seizures, and hormonal imbalances. This allowed Eric to get the care he needed and referrals to the proper providers. 

As Eric's caregiver, Krista manages his medication, attends doctors' appointments, and reminds him of daily tasks. She also continues to work part-time as a nurse and has started graduate school again in the hopes of becoming a mental health counselor.