So I am going to share a story about an aspect of the military that is seldom talked about - injuries. We all know it is a fact of the job when we enroll but very few people know what it entails. At the beginning of my injury, I found this to be especially true as it was only then that I realised how rampant the rumor mill was WRT injuries. By sharing this I hope to enlighten new troops or hopeful troops as to what this area of the CF world is like and I hope to encourage others to talk about their experience b/c as much as it may feel to be true, there are others out there who are going through or have gone through the same or similar situation. For others, I hope you gain an insight into our world which few know about. I am leaving out names and certain details for OpSec puposes. You can google a lot of this though if you know how to look for it.
So I joined the Forces in Sept 03. 6ft tall and a buck-thirty in weight, I was one of those sterotypical skinny guys trying to head into the infantry. I would say that I did very well on my course but I'll attibute it to being stubborn. Were there times I thought about quitting? Yeah, but who doesn't? Made some great friends going through and my course went to 3PPCLI. In the third, I have wholeheartedly embraced the light infantry doctrine. It may suck a lot of the time as 1VP or 2VP pass us with their LAVs on an Ex, but I can't imagine ever being in one. I love my unit and everything that comes with it - the good and bad.
July 05 I went to Afghanistan as part of Op Archer Roto 0 with B Coy. KAF changed quite a bit in the subsequent years from there as did the general perception of the locals. At that time, Canadians were something new down there as we bombed around in our G-Wagons everywhere. The whole tour was pretty quiet and not a lot happened. By Christmas time, my company only had 2 attacks on us, the latter sending the driver and crew commander back home but in one piece. I don't remember many details on my tour leading up to my HLTA, but it was pretty much the same as Xmas block leave for the guys back home. I got back to theatre on 4 Jan 06 and carried on my tasks like nothing was different. On 15 Jan 06, I awoke like any other day and had to carry out a mission like a mjority of our other missions. On our way back to the PRT (called CNS by then), we stopped at KAF for scoby snacks and lunch on the boardwalk. We had another vehicle added to our convoy for the trip back for they were at KAF all morning for other tasks. Another person was added to my vehicle, bringing the occupancy up to 4 (presumably. I am still foggy on that detail). On our way out to CNS, we passed a billboard for what I assume was for Afghani cellphones. I remember that b/c for 5mon, my car always made jokes about how it advertised that you could call from the cities up to the caves where the Taliban were. This was the last thing that I can clearly piece together as memory.
At that time, and the route we were taking, it would have been a 30min drive home. Pretty standard, nothing crazy. (Now I am retelling based on others' accounts) We were getting in to the city shortly after the noon rushhour so numerous taxis were just inside the golden arches. Again, pretty standard. Amongst the taxis was a vehicle laden with explosives waiting though. My vehicle was the second in the order of march so the first vehicle drove by, indicating that more were soon to follow. As my vehicle passed, he drove out and rammed into the back quarter of my truck before detonating himself. This sent my jeep '2 stories into the air' and across the road. By the end of it, the driver, crew commander, and other passenger were outside the vehicle on the ground and I was still inside. Our TCCC section member checked on us all, and when he got to me, although my breathing was shallow and raspy, there was a prezel'd M72 on me and in the infantry, we don't play around with ammunition that is damaged. One of our vehicles took to driver immediately to the PRT which was only 700m away as he had severe bleeding from lower limbs. The crew commander and I were evacuated when the QRF arrived and the additional passenger sadly was deceased, becoming the first diplomat killed in a wartime situation since Korea (or something to that effect). Shortly thereafter we were evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre and stay there for a week.
Our families were flown out at that time and met us there. In total, my injuries were a decompressed left lunch, fracture to the C7 vertebrae (which resulted in a cyst forming at the C6 level), shattered right radius and ulna (forearm), broken distal radius (thumb bone near wrist), and my most critical injury, 'diffused axional micro-hemmoraging with a concentrated bleed in my vestibular apparatus and a bleed in my right temporal area'. In english, it means lots of little bleeds all around my brain with a concentrated bleed at my right temple and where my brain and spinal cord meet. This was a result from my head putting a 1" dent into the 2" plexiglass. Due to all my injuries, the put me into an induced coma.
After spending a week in Germany, we were sent to Edmonton and the University of Alberta hospital. I spent a week of being unconscious in the ICU before being moved to the recovery ward and weened off of the drugs. You've probably heard a lot about what people perceive while in a coma or whether they do at all. I will tell you that I had a 2wk-long dream that wasn't one solid dream, but many back to back. This really messed with my perception of reality when I woke up. When you dream, you experience something and then you wake. You assure yourself that what you just experienced was an illusion and you carry on your day. I would dream, and then 'wake up' into another dream, and so on and so on. Also, things that happened to me in real life were transmitted to my dream state. When I really woke up, I had no idea what was real anymore. I honestly thought that yes, my arm was broken, but a vetrinary doctor fixed it for me. I thought I moved to another side of town due to a zombie infestation, that Canada had ceased to exist leaving me and a handful of others to rebuild our nation, and that I helped Air Canada assist with the defection of Russian SU-22 (or SU-27) pilots to Canada. I knew who people were, knew I was in an accident (but didn't understand the scope of it), and apologized profusely to my assisting officer for aiding with a defection like it was some sort of mortal sin.
It was now that certain lingering traits were being observed by my caretakers. Anytime someone visited me, I would tell them the same story of my crazy dreams, even if I told them before b/c I didn't have even the slightest indication that I told this person yet. I could not use utensils so foodtime was interesting as I just pulled my peas to the side of my plate with my lips, but this was due to a very freshly broken hand/arm. My right side was slower than my left so walking around the hospital was a challenge due to a natural rightward curve that would rive me into wall or doorframes. My depth perception was messed up due to a swollen optic nerve which would end up taking 3mon to come down. My balance was virtually not there as it felt a strong breeze could blow me down. My short term memory was shot for quite a few years in a way where I would stop mid sentence b/c I forgot what I literally was just talking about. Finally, I noticed that my speech was slurred and it was hard for me to formulate sentences due to forgetting a word mid-sentence (I knew what I was intending but couldn't figure out the word for the life of me).
Initially, the doctors said that my recovery would be about 2yrs. This was a vast improvement from 'he could be a vegitable for life' as was told to my mother while in Germany. Being that I did not firmly grasp the extent of my injuries, I assured everyone that I would be good to go in 6mon. Every day brought a perceived increase in the rate of my recovery. I would pace in my room just to work on walking. I attempted to use utensils but when no one was looking, I would just shovel it into my mouth with my fingers. Many people came to visit me, some who I had to ask myself 'why the heck they were even there aside from a PR thing' and other close friends even volunteered at the hospital just so they could come visit me more (and be told the same story of how I helped Russian pilots defect every time they were there). I was discharged from the hospital in the last week of February to be an out-petient at Glenrose Rehabilitation Centre. Being that they were full, I got to do physio at the base every morning.
That's how my life went for a month and my doctor allowed me to return to work on half days in about 3wks. That meant a lot to me as I was back with my unit, my family. I didn't recall who most people were except for those who went overseas with me. Sadly, some of my friends went to CSOR without me as I was aiming to go there after tour. I never would attain the physical ability to ever apply for CSOR after that. As the days at work continued, I was (understandably) babied at work. Various MCpls ensured that I didn't lift anything and actually tasked other busy people to assist me in lifting anything more than a few ounces. I ended up taking the sport of 'sitting on the stairs' very seriously much to my dismay. Eventually, I had a talk to the RSM about being useless and being down because of that. He asked where I would like to go and I told him up to the Int shop. I really liked what the IntOps did overseas and slightly considered OTing to the if I didn't get to CSOR. So off I went to the Int shop and worked there for two years.
During that time, I finished with physio therapy as there was nothing left to fix and I was back on full days by mid March. I was promoted that Xmas dinner (which shouldn't have happened while on catagory I was continually told). I really took to the Cbt Int job well and by winter 2007 I was on the first TIOC (Tactical Intelligence Operator's Course) course ran by the Bde. Returning to the unit, my fellow Int section mates were gearing up to go overseas on the fitst OMLT. This made me, a new Cpl, A/IntO. Though the title sounded cool and I got a very convenient parking spot, my duties didn't change. Through giving Int briefs every week and impromptu briefs to the CO/OpsO/DCO/RSM, my speech slur disappear (though others say it was never there) and I really gained a super-memory (like an autistic-memory but I want to stay PC) for facts and correlating things together.
However, home life wasn't great. I developed a sort of insta-rage where I was unable to keep things bottled if they annoyed me and I would fly off the handle in an instant. I used to become enraged at the large families of tourists who walked abreast in the mall at a slow pace - I would rage on them for being slow. My girlfriend had many perceived annoying traits that I couldn't keep quiet about anymore and we frequently got into fights over what I thought was acceptable behavior to friends but she believed wasn't. Even though I proposed to her in a personal attempt to normalise things, in the back of my head I had no intention of carrying through with it. Some may call me a pig for this not, but when everything in your life suddenly gets jostled around and made irregular, all you want to do is start setting it back to a normal way, and to me, becoming engaged was a 'normal' thing to do. We would break up by summer '07 after 3yrs of dating.
This all happened about the same time that my chain of command outright told me that the intelligence function was not in his priorities and essentially took away all sense of purpose from me. That 'normal' life I was trying to have was beginning to be uprooted. I went to work and then went home every day. I met a girl who lived 1000km away from me and I would fly out to be with her every weekend. Most weekends, I would tell my supervisors that I have a neuro-psych test to goto all Thursday and Friday and artbitrarily have an extended weekend. When I found that no one seemed to care whether or not I was at work, that feeling of hopelessness grew. I went into a state of depression where I just wouldn't eat. I would get home and maybe get hungry at 11:30pm. Deciding that was too late, I would push it off until the next morning. Waking up, I would head to work quickly and the cycle would continue. I would essentially eat of the weekends with my girlfriend and then binge eat on Wednesdays to a family meal from TacoBell with 10 tacos and 4 poutines. This lack of nutrition inadvertantly affected my cognitive abilities and healing as well. With my girlfriend, I would throw money at her b/c in my head, I thought it was 'normal' for a boyfriend to dote on his woman, to look out for her, and put up with her no matter what. In the six months of dating her, I ended up $15k in debt but likely spent $20k on just her.
However, towards the end of dating her, she conviced me to leave the army and I believed her. The army didn't care about me (or so I thought) and it was leaving me to my own devices (even though it was I who was excluding me, not the army). I kept in touch with the other survivors from my 'incident' as I called it, and I sent him a *****-email which he sent up higher. Know how, at work, someone leaves their computer unlocked and you email the CDS on their behalf and it is all funny? Well, he knowingly did that b/c Gen. Hillier told us three that if we needed anything, to give him a call and my driver did just that. Now the CDS' office was directly involved with me and that s***storm filtered down to my immediate supervisors who jacked me up. I went to my MO and told him that I breached every point of the UoS and he put my paperwork up for PCAT and a 3B release. I was posted to the Okanagan to be closer to family and more personalised care due to the CMP having a hand in it and I was well on my way to a retirement in BC.
People here on the boards always tell recruits not to quit b/c their boyfriend or girlfriend of a few months threatens to leave b/c he or she can't handle the distance. I was doing the exact same thing but with now 3yrs under my belt. Funny thing was, the week after moving down to be with her, we broke up and I was shaken out of my stupidity. 'What the f*** was I doin?!' I loved the army. Why was I leaving it? Why did I screw up my carreer so badly all for a girl? In the back of my mind, I knew I was also there to get better cognitively so rather than sink into an uber-state of depression from screwing up the best thing in my life (the army), I focussed on my rehab.