Tag Archives: recovery

Back in Commission: Padre Steve’s Long Journey Back

Padre Steve is Back in Commission

Today I know that I am back fully in commission.  I have been feeling this for a while and have seen some extraordinary progress since my “Christmas Miracle” and even since Lent began.  Like an old battleship worn out by service and damaged in battle was for the better part of two years doing my best to stay afloat and survive after my return from Iraq.  During that time if something could go wrong with me it seemed like it did, physical, psychological and spiritual…such is PTSD and all the other stuff that one can return home from war with.  For those that are new to this website or just happened to stumble by I have a lot of stuff on that ordeal posted here.

I have felt good since Christmas and with the exception of being knocked down by a kidney stone for almost a month have been doing pretty good for the most part.  I have been very careful to make sure that I am not just entering a manic period but have been really to be careful so I don’t build myself up to crash later.  Since I have crashed hard a number of times at points during the aforementioned ordeal when I thought that I was doing better I am really conservative about such comments.

USS West Virginia in the 1930s

Personally I am lucky and blessed that I have good people at work who have kind of protected me from myself over the past year as it when apparent to them that I was going down.  In a sense I was like a damaged ship pulled out of action in order not only to be patched up but fully overhauled.  I was damaged and not a lot of my systems were working right.

Now of course even a ship that has been fully overhauled and even modernized to make it equal to new ships is immune from problems, after all there is only so much you can do with an older platform.  I am living proof of that fact; there are things that while better than they were are not up to the original design specs.  At the same time despite everything I am in remarkable health and my physical, emotional and spiritual life is coming back together faster than I thought it would even after the Kidney stone ordeal.

Damage to the West Virginia

I had a yearly physical health assessment last week and all of my numbers were those of a 30 year old so I guess fifty is the new thirty. Yesterday I weighed in and was found to be within the DOD body fat maximum which combined with a high score on my Physical Readiness Test (PRT) or what common is called a PT test.  It is funny, the numbers that I have to make on this at age 50 in the Navy are not much less than then what I was required to do as 21 year old in Army ROTC or 23 year old Army Second Lieutenant then was 68 push-ups, now 65, then 69 sit ups, now 85.  Then I needed a run time of about 12 minutes and 30 seconds for a two mile run to get the maximum points.  Now at age 50 I need slightly less than 10 minutes to get the maximum score on a mile and a half run.  Today I did 90 sit-ups, 61 push-ups and my run time was about 12:15 (converted from a Life Fitness bike.)  I did the bike because of the low number of people running the “early bird” session and because I still have occasional ankle and knee problems.  I need completion to do really well on the run as it motivates me better than running alone or with a small number of people. I came one push-up short of an overall outstanding on the test so I have something to shoot for next time.

USS California 1945 after her rebuild

This will be enough to take me off of the “fat boy program” which I so ignobly entered last fall after my summer crash. Back then I was put on the “Fitness Enhancement Program” where I had weekly weigh ins and taping for body fat and a program called “Shipshape” which is about healthy living.  That was humbling and for me even humiliating because that has not happened to me in 28 years in the military and I pride myself in being in great shape, in fact the EOD techs that I was assigned with asked my assistant “what kind of steroids I was using” because of how I ran and how well that I did on the PRT.   Now I am not where I want to be on any of this yet, I think I have farther to go.  So I am working to keep my life in balance and take a lot better care of myself; especially in diet and exercise although I still have problems sleeping.  Part of what I learned over the past 5 months is that I have to be consistently consistent if I am to get the weigh off, lose body fat and both get back in shape and then keep it off.  I am not where I want to be yet but know that I am not going back to the way that I exercised self care prior to this as I never want to be in that situation ever again. My plan is to continue to lose about 2 to 3 pounds a month and take off about 4 inches from around my waist by late September or early October. I think this is totally doable doing what I am doing now and I plan on continuing to do it.

USS West Virginia 1944 after the rebuild

So anyway going back to the old battleship metaphor I have been thinking about that a lot. I wrote an article a while back titled “The Battleships of Pearl Harbor.”  Of course as almost anyone who has seen the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!” knows that the attack on Pearl Harbor was pretty bad.  If you had the misfortune of watching “Pearl Harbor” sorry it does not do the story justice.  Anyway, I digress. The point is that there were two battleships in particular that were heavily damaged and sunk, The USS California and USS West Virginia. Both were salvaged, refloated and sailed to the West coast where they were not only repaired but modernized with the latest in air and surface search radar, fire control systems, formidable anti-aircraft batteries and large anti-torpedo bulges that increased their survivability.  When rebuilt they resembled the fast modern battleships of the South Dakota class. The two ships spent a long time in the yards but the price was worth it. At the Battle of Surigo Strait the West Virginia and California led the battleships of the US 7th Fleet in annihilating the Japanese Southern Force led by Admiral Nishimura and a follow up force of heavy cruisers. In the battle the two ships sank the Japanese Battleships Fuso and Yamashiro and most of their escorts with the exception of one destroyer the Shigure.  Later they participated in every major operation leading to the defeat of Imperial Japan.

Today I feel like the West Virginia or California. I am older than most of the people that I work with by a large margin, I came back damaged from Iraq and was not able to do half the things that I was capable of doing before Iraq.  Now I am out of the yards and have passed my builders trials and in action again and this my friends really makes me happy.


Padre Steve+


Filed under faith, Military, philosophy, PTSD, US Navy

A Short Restropective on Recovery

Tonight I will Sleep and not Worry about Communists or Anyone Else…I don’t know if the Dog will accompany me

I’m going to bed.  I’m tired, but for the first time in recent memory I have has two weeks without an emotionally crash.  Since it was two years ago this week that I returned from Iraq this was sort of a surprise. It was even more of a surprise due to having oral surgery to put in an implant and a heated discussion with my mom which normally of itself would have sent me on a emotional trip down the sewage pipe of life. Even that did not end up a disaster and even to some degree allowed us to be honest and get past the emotion of the moment and actually listen to each other.  Another miracle?

It began shortly before Christmas when I was expecting to have a miserable Christmas full of full dreams. nightmares, insomnia, anxiety attack, rages and dare I say….oh dare…depression.  Instead I experienced Christmas Miracle.  We;; the Octave of  Christmas is over and not only did I experience the miracle of a noce Christmas, it continued, despite having oral surgery just days later.

Now I did have some anxiety about the implant surgery.  Being that I am just a tad knowledgeable about risks and potential complications it is a miracle that I didn’t obsess and make myself crazy.  In fact I was talking with one of my favoroite intensive care doctors in the ICU about it and and he asked me if I thought about the potential risks and complications as we discussed the infection that I experienced subsequent to the surgery.  When he found out that I did think about these things he said it was amazing what being on the “other side” was like.  I had a number of other physicians and nurses comment on my experience of being a patient and what I remembered and did not remember while sedated. So I am glad that I wrote them down and published them.

As far as the surgery, I ended up getting an infection at the site and my oral surgeon made a quick intervention with a large does on IV antibiotics on Tuesday morning.  Today he was please to tell me that it looked that the infection was gone and that I was getting better. Since the pain has lessened and I am not having any more major malfunctions I think that I believe him.

The past two weeks has been exhausting, but for the first time since I returned from Iraq it was not due to emotional or spiritual crisis, but just simply the physical recovery from surgery and physical exhaustion.  Even yesterday where I had a very busy on call which involved dealing with two deaths and 3 other patients who have a very good chance of dying today or in the next few days, one of whom I administered Last Rites to did not sent me down an emotional abyss.  Instead I can say that though very tired I felt the grace of God and despite being on the run much of the night and well into the morning was back in my element. For the first time that I can remember this kind of night did not pull the emotional stuffing out of me.

So maybe I am getting better and for that I am grateful.  Tonight I’m heading to bed way early for me.  That is alright. I need the sleep and actually think that I will sleep.  Next week will be challenging.  For part of at least two days I will be the acting department head in addition to my usual duties.  I am actually looking forward to the opportunity and planning the week in my mind even now so that I am able to do all that I need to do.  I don’t think that was possible just a few weeks back.  I looking forward to and not dreading next week despite the fact that it will be busy and challenging.  Maybe two years after the fact I am indeed getting better.

Peace and blessings



Filed under faith, PTSD