SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- President Barack Obama proclaimed November 2010 as National Family Caregivers Month.
"During National Family Caregivers Month, we honor the millions of Americans who give endlessly of themselves to provide for the health and well-being of a beloved family member. Through their countless hours of service to their families and communities, they are a shining example of our Nation's great capacity to care for each other," said Obama in a Presidential Proclamation released Oct. 29.
Ashley Torres is one such example.
When her high school sweet-heart, Marine Sgt. Julian Torres deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010, Ashley and their newborn son J.J. moved back to their hometown, Modesto, Calif., to be near family until Julian returned. Less than a month into the deployment, she received a call notifying her that her husband had been badly injured.
"I talked to him just a few hours after he was injured," Ashley recalled. "He could barely talk because of the medications, but I talked to doctors who told me about his injuries."
Julian had lost both of his legs.
Ashley recalled how overwhelmed she was by the news, and her focus shifted to what mattered most.
"I thought, 'When can I see him? When is he coming back to the States? How am I going to get a plane ticket for me and J.J.?'" she said. "I didn't know about the process, I just wanted to get to him."
As Julian was medically evacuated from theater to Camp Bastion and then to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, local Marines coordinated Ashley and J.J.'s flight to National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda, Md. Four days after he was injured, the family reunited. After a couple of weeks of surgeries and initial recovery, doctors approached Julian and Ashley and asked where they would like to receive long-term care, NNMC or Naval Medical Center San Diego (sometimes referred to as "Balboa").
"Right away we said Balboa," Ashley said. "We wanted to be closer to family."
Mary BakerDove, a Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care (C5) facility case manager, contacted Ashley before the trip. The role of C5 case managers is to assist patients and their families through the medical system as well as ensuring their needs outside of the hospital are met. The Torres family left the east coast Sept. 4, 2010 and flew to San Diego.
"She [BakerDove] did pretty much everything for us," Julian said. "She got my appointments situated, helped us into housing, getting any kind of equipment I needed. She has been like a counselor, too, telling us what kind of help we're entitled to, what our resources are."
NMCSD provides numerous resources for patients and their families, to include counseling, pastoral services, housing and financial assistance. Case managers also coordinate with local volunteer agencies such as the Armed Services YMCA, Fisher House and other organizations to further support patients and their families.
"I realize they're going through a traumatic time. My job is to get them any kind of help they need," said BakerDove. "Ashley is very strong - quiet by nature, but asks a lot of questions. I'm here to ensure those questions get answered."
Involving families in the patient's rehabilitation and recovery is encouraged at NMCSD's C5.
"She [Ashley] supports him every step of the way, and she and J.J. became more than just familiar faces in C5. They are part of the extended C5 family and active participants in his therapy," said Kristin Valent, NMCSD C5 physical therapist.
As Julian progresses through rehabilitation, Valent includes Ashley in the patient education by explaining the purpose and outcomes of each exercise. This helps both Ashley and Julian feel comfortable with the therapy.
"I'm very happy they let us go to his appointments and be a part of his therapy," said Ashley. "Everything I learn here is new and it helps me to care for him at home."
Ashley's life changed dramatically when her husband was injured July 15, 2010, but according to those closest to her, her spirit and love for her husband did not. After months of emotional ups and down, physical challenges and devoting most of her time and energy to her husband and their son, she asked Julian for one thing.
"October 21 was Julian's first time up standing up on prosthetics," said Valent. "He had walked down the parallel bars and back, but before he sat down, Ashley asked him for a hug. She said she had not had a standing up hug since he left on deployment."
Julian happily obliged.
For more information about NMCSD's WII care, visit http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd/Patients/Pages/ComprehensiveCombatandComplexCasualtyCare.aspx.
For more news from Naval Medical Center San Diego, visit www.navy.mil/local/sd/.