Enjoy and savor every moment.
What does being a military caregiver mean to you?
Dedication, incredible patience, commitment, and follow through. It also means knowing when and how to speak to people in order to receive the care the veteran needs. It means speaking up when he won’t. Veterans are so used to following orders and don’t often question what they are told. Being a military caregiver means educating our veterans on how to advocate for themselves and encouraging them to ask questions.
What is the most difficult thing about your daily routine?
Getting up and being so tired. Leaving him and knowing that if he needs pain meds or anything, he won’t take them when I’m gone in the event he loses track of when he took something.
Can you describe a milestone or a moment that made you feel empowered or inspired as a caregiver?
When a veteran from another era recognized me as a caregiver for my husband and reached out for some assistance. I was able to get him in contact with other people that were able to help solve his problem.
Mary-Ella and her husband Jerry have the deepest appreciation for each other. Having long been friends, Mary-Ella always cared for Jerry, but it was not until post-injury that she realized it was more than a friendship. Jerry was injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast while serving in Iraq as a Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Tactical Team Leader. Injuries sustained were 37 percent total body surface burns, 100 perfect face and scalp, loss of ears and nose, and most of his right hand. He also lost all fingertips except his thumb on his left hand, suffered from gunshot wounds, and multiple other injuries. He has a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress. In February of 2018, he underwent his 75th surgery.
Being the mom of children with mitochondrial disease and a former pediatric nurse, Mary-Ella loves helping others. Oftentimes when veterans return home injured, the people who are supposed to love them often take advantage of them. The veteran has to adapt to injuries, they are often times left alone, facing life-time medical care, and are unnecessarily broken.
Mary-Ella has never waivered, always fighting for Jerry's care, taking him to all of his appointments and treatments, raising their family and loving the life that has been provided to them. They remain positive even through the worst of times, and for Mary-Ella to take on that amount of care shows the kind of love she has in her heart, and that they have for each other. As a fellow, she hopes to use her passion for helping others by advocating for laws that protect veterans from financial ruin during their recovery.