Being a caregiver gives me the opportunity to serve my country, by advocating for my biggest hero.
What are you most excited to do as a Dole Caregiver Fellow?
I am most excited to spread awareness about the needs of caregivers and build a community support system for them to thrive.
At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?
I knew I was going to be a caregiver when my husband was diagnosed with sepsis following a surgery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
What is a quote that inspires you or keeps you motivated?
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. — Isaiah 40:31.
Stabilizing her husband Jeff’s health and moving to a new home away from friends and family brought a feeling to Melissa Swire all too common to many military caregivers—the isolation from no longer being connected to other military spouses.
Jeff suffered an injury during a mission that caused him to need surgery, which resulted in sepsis and irreversible damage to his neck and spine. Due to the initially invisible nature of his illness, Melissa had to advocate for surgeons to take Jeff's symptoms seriously. Had it not been for that determination, he would not be here today. In addition to chronic pain, Jeff also battles with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At one point, Jeff became extremely depressed and was having suicidal thoughts. Melissa had to leave her career to care for Jeff full-time, and when they had to sell their home due to the financial impact, Melissa had to do some outside-the-box thinking. She learned new skills and soon began creating unique homemade products to sell on Etsy.
As Jeff's caregiver, Melissa makes his meals, manages his medication, handles the finances, advocates at all his medical appointments, and supports him emotionally. Together, they co-founded Patriots Cove, a nonprofit organization in their community to provide an outdoor retreat for veterans and their caregivers. Melissa says that this saved Jeff's life because it has given him a new mission and purpose, and she also sees it as her mission to help veterans and caregivers find healthy outlets. Melissa now serves as Patriot Cove's director of programs and partnership.