I didn’t want to lose who I was because I knew I would regret it later on.
What was one of your first major challenges as a caregiver?
Grieving my relationship is an evolving process. I kept remembering my husband prior to his accident. I kept having to ask myself, “How do I fall in love again?” I almost had to develop a new friendship — a new marriage — with this person who was already in my life.
How did you address that challenge?
We both needed to make adjustments for our marriage to work. When he first returned home, my husband wasn’t ready to be a husband. I had to shift my focus from being his wife to becoming his best friend. My expectations shifted. He started to mention, “I notice you don’t look at me in the same way.” He then realized he had to make the effort to make me fall in love with him again — flowers, cooking, little things to show that he noticed and appreciated me.
What is an unexpected way you found support?
I was in the middle of my PhD program when my husband was injured. I received out-of-the-ordinary treatment from my program because I asked for help. For example, in one of my classes, the professor had a policy that students could not miss a class. The school allowed me to join classes over Skype when I had to be with my husband at Walter Reed. I did not expect to receive any accommodations from my school program, but I found great support and was able to complete my doctorate.
In 2009, my husband Victor’s vehicle was hit by an explosive formed projectile. He sustained a moderate TBI along with other injuries. During his two and a half year rehabilitation, we identified gaps in the healthcare system surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of TBIs. With my research background in health sciences, we worked to shape new military healthcare policies.
As a Dole Fellow, I am committed to expanding medical research in the military community.