Today I received the following letter in regards to PFC Matthew Stubblefield, a nineteen year-old soldier who was injured in Afghanistan several months ago. It was written by his mother, Debbie, who I have been told has been at his side ever since he returned home from overseas.
I am sure that Matt and his family would appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and even visits throughout this difficult time.
It has been a few weeks since I have sent an email. Looking back, I think the last email was about Matt's little episode in the ICU and the move to the new Walter Reed Bethesda. We are settling in to our home away from home. The military built very nice 2 bedroom apartments for the wounded warriors and their non-medical attendants. Several people told us that after Labor Day the weather would change. It seems it has. We are having cooler temperatures and rain. I haven't noticed leaves changing colors. I will miss fall in Oregon.
Matt is still inpatient. It has been almost 6 months. Doctors continue to allow him passes out of the hospital. He often spends the days and nights in the "condo", as he calls it. We have thought several times he might be an outpatient, but something keeps coming up. Matt is doing some walking around the "condo" with canes. He went from parallel bars to using a walker to crutches to canes in record time. We aren't surprised! He has great determination. Doctors have run out of options trying to close the open wound in his ankle, so they want to try hyperbaric chamber treatments. The other treatments have not closed the deep part of the wound. Early in Sept we went to Georgetown University Hospital for an assessment with a doctor to see if Matt was a candidate for hyperbaric treatment. They have had great results in healing chronic wounds. Bethesda doesn't have hyperbaric chambers, which is why we have to go to a civilian hospital.
We are working with a new ortho doctor. We had asked you to pray for Dr. Strauss and his mom. A couple of weeks ago she passed away. We haven't heard from Dr. Strauss since he let me know his mom had gone to heaven. Dr. Gordon is our new ortho doctor. He has worked with Dr. Strauss and knows about Matt's case. It is a hard to switch doctors this far along, but everyone says Dr. Gordon is one of the best of the best. In the last two weeks there has been a lot of change and decisions made regarding Matt's treatment. Last Monday Dr. Gordon removed the pins that were in Matt's foot and ankle. This allows the ankle to move. The ankle joint has been in one position for so long, doctors were concerned about the movement he would have. Even though the range of motion isn't much, the doctors are pleased with how much he has. In physical therapy they will continue to work the ankle joint. It's pretty painful. Dr. Gordon's plan for now is a bone graph next Monday, and then, hopefully, Matt will start the hyperbaric chamber treatments on the following Monday. The doctors have been waiting on the bone graph because of the open wound and cross-contamination. Today the wound vac went back on and will stay on for awhile. Also, the wound will be covered during surgery. Matt is on antibiotics to clear up another infection around his pin sites, which needs to be heald by Monday for the surgery. The doctor at Georgetown University told us the benefits of hyperbaric treatment will be to close the wound, promote bone growth and work to clear up infections. There arealso studies showing that hyperbaric treatment works to heal brain injury, PTSD and TBI.
Matt would have started treatment already, but once he starts, they will go for 30 to 40 treatments (to start), five days a week, for about two hours a day. He will spend ninety minutes in the actual chamber for six to eight weeks for this first set of treatments. Originally, he was going to do hyperbaric before the bone graph. After thinking about it, doctors decided the bone graph would be better first, and with the hyperbaric treatment, hopefully Matt can get his exfix off sooner. He will be so glad for that. Another reason he didn't start was because we went to Florida for five days. The doctors thought it would be a good mental health break for Matt. The Warrior Beach Retreat contacted us last June and invited us to come. Dave, Katie, Matt and I were flown to Panama City Beach. We had a great time. All expenses were taken care of. Each wounded warrior family was given a brand new Toyota car to drive for the five days, a beautiful resort was donated for us to stay at, the guys went deep sea fishing (Matt caught three four-foot sharks, Dave caught one, plus lots of fish), Katie and I went to the spa, there was a 21-mile salute for the soldiers as we went to the open ceremony, escorted by the patriot guard and the Bay City Sheriff's Office, and everything we did was donated. There was so much, I don't think I can tell you everything. The opening ceremony had a great tribute to the soldiers. All of them were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. Their stories touched our hearts. This was the first homecoming these men had since coming home. After being injured, they were unable to go or weren't invited to be part of the homecoming of their units. They felt forgotten. Panama City Beach welcomed them home. Many received healing and closure throughout the weekend. It was awesome to be part of the Warrior Beach Retreat.
For the mental and physical healing of all the wounded soldiers and their families, protection for the ones that are still deployed. Pray for the healing of Matt's infection so surgery can be done, that the bone graph surgery will go well, the hyperbaric treatment will close the wound, heal and keep away infection, and take care of any other things that might need healing. At this time, the hyperbaric is the last hope for closing this wound. Six months is a long time for us to be away from home. We are starting to feel it, at home and here. Pray for physical and mental strength. Matt is tired. Pray for wisdom regarding decisions to come home and doctors and places for therapy. Thank you so much for your prayers. Again we appreciate each one of you and thank you for keeping in touch.
Praise for God's continual provision, protection, for the retreat, for doctors who care, for your support, for family time and for God's presence.
On a personal note, lately I have found myself focusing on the frustration of being here, dealing with new people, new procedures, tired of this place, hurting for Matt, and being alone. Even though I'm doing daily devotions, lately my concentration wasn't on the word. Often I use my Kindle to read the Bible, but today I was at the apartment, so I picked up my Bible and opened it to read. I don't think I can really explain the peace and happiness that filled me as I turned the familiar pages and read about the hope we have through Jesus Christ. That we are not alone no matter what we are experiencing. In the good times and in the hard times of life God is faithful. He is there in all of it. His word is true. You can struggle through life and your tears fall and you feel like no one sees or cares, or you can cry out to God and He will hold your tears and comfort you. Not one tear will fall that He will not know about. Not one will fall that He will not care about. Even when we make a mess of things, God loves us through it all, helping us to walk through it and deal with our circumstances. He sometimes takes us out of them, but most of the time He walks us through because He loves us enough to let us learn from our experiences and KNOW Him. But He won't leave your side. We may focus our eyes on the circumstances for a time--like I shared--but He is still there. I am praying your heart will turn to the one who gives Peace that surpasses our understanding. He will guard your heart and mind. I am praying for you today.
Psalms 34 says, "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise will continually be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord. Let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me, let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord and he answered me, He delivered me from all my fears..." Please read the rest today. Trust that God knows what is going on and has not forgotten you. He can bring beauty from the ashes in our lives. Things may never be the same, but He will give you a new normal.
Our new address for now is:
PFC Matthew Stubblefield
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
8901 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20889-5600
Love & Blessings,
Dave and Debbie