Under the Microscope

July 10, 2008

It’s funny how themes emerge.

This morning, Mariah had a visitor from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Taylor Chance.  He reminded her how anxious they are to have Mariah join their elite team of scientists.  At first Mariah felt regret, but Taylor said all she needs is one good hand and they’ll put a microscope in front of her with a bunch of slides and she can just start working her magic.  Mariah grinned at the thought.  Maybe some things aren’t so far off after all.  

Mariah Climbing in Texas

Mariah Climbing in Texas (5/08)

Shortly after noon Mariah, her family, the entire medical team at Walter Reed and an equally large medical team from the Richmond VA Medical Center participated in a video conference call.  The Washington camera zoomed in on Mariah sitting in her wheelchair so her face and her toes could be clearly seen.  The Richmond team spoke directly to Mariah, calling her “Ma’am” as they do in the military, and she responded with appropriate facial expressions and yes-no toe wiggles.  The purpose of the call was for Mariah and her family to ask questions of the team in Richmond – lots of good questions were asked, and excellent answers given.  We were told that Tuesday, July 15 is when Mariah will be moved to Richmond.

The Richmond facility is a recently renovated 20-bed polytrauma unit attached to a 450-bed medical hospital and is run by a brilliant physiatrist.  Visiting family living quarters are a few steps away.  In the unit Mariah will receive several hours a day of physical (PT), occupational (OT), speech, recreational, and kinesiologic therapies.  It is a goal-oriented program with short-term, long-term and discharge objectives spelled out on day one and modified while continuously followed.  A mental health team of two psychologists looks after the emotional state of both Mariah and her family. 

Later, during during PT and OT today Mariah showed greater strength in both arms taking delight in sweeping her right arm slowly across the table and banging into a bell that rang loudly each time; 15 reps on the left and five on the right left her pretty wrung out. 

At the end of the day I shared Mariah’s Army annual performance review with her.  Her commander’s commander had asked me earlier in the day to read it to her and get her reaction.  Needless to say the review from both her boss and her boss’ boss was glowing.  She received the highest possible rating in every category and the narrative portions cited her many achievements and outstanding successes (including managing food inspection for the 2007 Army/Navy footbal game in Baltimore) during the previous year.  Both Colonels recommended she be promoted from Captain to Major.  Mariah squeezed my hand and wept what I assumed to be tears of joy, pride, gratitude and grief.

Mariah at the Top (5/08)

Reflecting on what was, what was to be, what might have been, and what is, is a challenging, bittersweet experience.  It’s not pleasant yet, but it is rich and deep.  Like Mariah. 

– Mark


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