Deployed Army Nursing: Finally, Double Digits!

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    I have been deployed to Afghanistan with a Forward Surgical Unit (FST) since June 2013. It has been both challenging and rewarding in ways that I never anticipated or expected. While I don't necessarily relish being here, it's been a great experience! As I watch a friend go home early, it makes me think about how I'd feel if I left right now.

    I have a countdown app on my Android phone that includes a home page widget you can set to display however many days until a date of your choosing. My widget has a picture of me with my significant other, David, and it is finally down to double digits for days remaining here in our little corner of Afghanistan! I can recall when I first put it on my phone, and it was well over 240 days. My original orders for deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) were “not to exceed 284.” Ugh.

    Every day when I wake up (or after midnight when my widget changes digits, haha), I divide the total by seven to calculate how many weeks I have left here. We’re at less than 14 weeks currently (double digits in days!), so my brain automatically rounds down to 13-ish (conveniently for me). I think of it in terms of 13-ish more “civvy Sundays” (days we get to wear civilian clothes), 13-ish more days off (Saturdays for me, once I come off of night shift — there are no days off for night-shifters), 26-ish more Tuesday/Thursday classes taught by my unit peeps, 13-ish more weeks to work out in our amazingly dusty but much beloved gym. Leaving this place has become a looming reality, and I feel a little bit sad at the prospect. I love what I do here, and I adore my unit (most of them, anyway; you can’t love everyone!). One of the sad parts about being PROFIS (i.e., temporarily assigned to the unit only for the deployment) is that once we leave here, I won't see these peeps at home.

    I used to think that I would give my eyeteeth to go home early. We used to hope for news that we’d get to leave early; I remember summertime musings of maybe being home before 2014 arrived. Ha! Those were just the idle speculations of people who were trying to get used to an unfamiliar place, who were acutely missing our families and loved ones stateside. We accepted our reality and embraced our role. As odd as this place is, it’s become our “home” for now. How strange.

    I recently had a very good friend (truly my “sister from another mister,” haha) who was inadvertently and unfortunately injured here in country, and she’s going home early. Thankfully she’s fine, and will heal without a problem. She and I came into country at the same time, so I know just where she is in her deployment. She is understandably upset about leaving her team. I can completely grasp the complex emotions: the excitement of being back stateside, of seeing our loved ones again, of doing all those things we miss (brushing teeth with tap water, showering barefoot, ordering pizza, etc.), coupled with the longing for the team with which we’ve endured so much. I’m sure her team has grown and bonded, as has ours, and it’s going to be tough to leave the comfort of our brothers and sisters who get it, and get us.

    We hear so much about PTSD and what happens when we go home. I wonder if I’ll startle easily at loud noises, or if crowded places will overwhelm me, or if the colors and textures of home will just be too much for me at first. I think of the adjustment of getting back to my life, and I crave it and I dread it. I envision it will be similar to adjusting to daylight after being in the dark for so long, and I eagerly anticipate having to squint and shield my eyes against the brightness.
    Last edit by Pixie.RN on Nov 24, '13
    BabyRN2Be, Esme12, MauraRN, and 7 others like this.

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    About Pixie.RN, BSN, RN, EMT-P

    LunahRN: a short green-eyed redhead, very tattooed, Army ER/Trauma Nurse, 1LT(P)/66HM5. Avid reader, addicted to good shoes, allnurses, and her Android smartphone.

    Pixie.RN has 'NREMT-P: 11, RN: 6' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ED/Trauma, 66HM5 (Army)'. From 'everywhere and nowhere - global nomad'; 42 Years Old; Joined Aug '05; Posts: 12,642; Likes: 7,236.

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    23 Comments so far...

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    Wow, I had no idea you were deployed. You stay fairly active on this site, thanks for taking time out to contribute your thoughts to the site.

    I can only imagine the sadness you all must feel, knowing you all will go your seperate ways in a few days. The other soldiers you've worked side by side with, the horrible things you've seen and experienced together, as well as the fun times you've all had. I hope you all keep in touch and visit each other once i awhile.

    Thanks Lunah, thanks for being a soldier and a nurse. I know it sounds so lame and you hear it all that time, but just know that some of us truly admire you and appreciate what you thank you
    Pb&j711773, Bortaz, RN, and Pixie.RN like this.
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    I pay for overpriced wifi every month and most of the time I use the allnurses app on my phone. It's slow but it works! Allnurses keeps me sane.

    Thanks for your words, I appreciate them!
  5. 3
    Thank you for your service. You're all American heroes, whether you know it or not. Even if it's no longer "cool" to say so.
  6. 3
    Quote from Bortaz, RN
    Even if it's no longer "cool" to say so.
    I know, right? Honestly I don't mind being thanked, I just don't always know what to say in response! "Thank you for your thank you?" Haha! "You're welcome" seems weird, but I think that's my usual response.
  7. 1
    Your stories are fascinating and you write with incredible skill. I can't imagine doing what you're doing and I am so awed by not just your ability to do the job, but your apparent love for it! Thank you for your service.

    I have a stupid question, sorry if it was clarified elsewhere and I missed it---you say in your second paragraph that once you come off of night shift, you will have one day off per week, but on night shift there are no days off??? How is such a grueling schedule possible? Are you working 12s?
    Pixie.RN likes this.
  8. 0
    Quote from LilyRoseCNM
    I have a stupid question, sorry if it was clarified elsewhere and I missed it---you say in your second paragraph that once you come off of night shift, you will have one day off per week, but on night shift there are no days off??? How is such a grueling schedule possible? Are you working 12s?
    It's not a stupid question. Yes, we work 12s. There are a smaller number on staff at night (unless we're holding patients), so we can't take any days off. On dayshift there are more people around per section (ER, OR, ICU), so we alternate some weekend days off (though we all come in for casualties if needed). We didn't even have days off at all for the first few months, so I'll take that one day each week. I usually just lie around in my room and watch movies or read -- total sloth. We do about a month of nights at a time, so for those weeks we just suck it up and deal. I live in a room that's connected to the hospital facility, so it's not like I'm ever far away anyway. It's not as bad as it sounds, really. But I am looking forward to some real days off when I get home! lol
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    Wow that is impressive!!! Your dedication is inspiring.
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    Quote from LilyRoseCNM
    Wow that is impressive!!! Your dedication is inspiring.
    I don't believe people typically get days off while deployed ... it's kind of a 24x7 thing with some sleep/food/gym time thrown in there. So yeah, forget the trend and thank your vets, especially the trigger-pullers who are out there getting things done.
  11. 1
    Random thoughts:

    I like "it's what we do" when thanked.

    I use your excelsior threads as resources often and appreciate them.

    When you come home and have to do your own laundry and have ten million choices as to what to have for dinner, your mind is blown. God forbid someone close a door on the other side of the house, it'll sound like a bomb and have you running for bunkers.

    13 weeks will go by fast. Good luck and God speed.
    Pixie.RN likes this.

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