USNR ALUNNI

Updates on Jim's deployment status. We hope you will share your thoughts and comments.

Friday, August 26, 2005

In closing . . . .

Hello again. I've just returned from a week at the New Jersey shore. When I found out Jim was to return the day I was leaving, I was extremely disappointed I would not be there as he got off the plane. What came to be, was a tremendous sense of calm knowing he was home and back amongst friends and family. Many thanks to those of you who showed up at the airport to welcome him home.

Last night I had the chance to get together with Jim, Todd and Amy Dietzel. After dinner, Jim checked his e-mails and read through the comments posted on this blog. I don't know if Jim will ever know the impact he has made on so many of us - some who know him and some who just know "of him".

I ask myself, if not for Jim, would I be thinking of the many men and women serving and sacrificing their lives for this country? When the media covers more on the split between Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt or the trial of Michael Jackson . . . it trivializes what these men and women are doing. Although Jim is home, what we cannot forget those still serving. These "people" are the reason we sit and enjoy a lunch, go to the movies, spend a relaxing vacation away. They are serving our country in a way most will never have to. Our freedoms have come at a heavy cost throughout history. Agree with the war or not - these men and women have seen and lived through moments that will forever change them. For this, I am eternally grateful.

With Jim home and direct communication open (alunniusnr@hotmail.com) , I feel it's time to wind down this blog. If there is some kind of "community celebration" planned, I will be sure to post it. You may want to check back occasionally for that, otherwise I will close simply by saying thank you. Thank you all for your kindness, words of encouragement and prayers. Take care and Semper Fidelis.

cynthia

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The final disconnect

Hello again from Bethesda.

Jim and I were posted on the hospitals "most wanted" list this morning. I arrived at 8:15am and by 8:30am I was wheeling Jim outside . . . no permission . . . just a strong desire for Jim to get fresh air. We were like Bonnie and Clyde as I pushed the wheelchair quickly around corners and onto the elevator before anyone could stop us! Unbeknownst to us, the entire nursing staff had been paging and looking for us! The doctors were upset, as they arrived shortly after our "getaway", to remove the trach. As of today, Jim is tube free. Chest tubes, feeding tubes and trach are gone.

Before the trach was removed Jim was talking quite a bit this morning. By mid-afternoon, he hit a wall. I don't know how to convey the discomfort and fatigue he was feeling but he just was too tired to talk, so we watched a movie and relaxed. Jim is experiencing many emotions. Every time and officer comes in to thank him and check on his status - he reminds them of the many men and women still serving, especially his comrads of the 3/25. There is no way to truly understand the impact of that statement until you roam the hallways of the hospital floor. So many young men with injuries - life altering injuries. It is a powerful experience, one that resonates within you. There are now faces I carry home with the headlines. I can only speak from my heart when I say, Jim will need to be afforded some time to spend alone. A walk, a drive on his Vespa, playing with Madison. He has not had "alone" time in 8 months. I've explained this may not be possible for some time because of the mass amount of people hoping and wanting to see him. He understands he is the "talk of Chagrin"- which he quickly dismisses with a comment about the others still serving or wounded. There is a distinct possibility that Jim could be home by Friday.

Tomorrow this trip comes to a close. I will visit one more time before driving back in the morning. I will leave confident in Jim's recovery and return home. I'm glad I was here through several major hurdles and to have witnessed his strength and courage. It's hard going home and leaving Jim behind . . . but it's also hard to leave knowing there are so many less fortunate then him. For them, I pray for their continued healing and for their families . . a calm heart.

Good night.

cynthia

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Word from Bethesda

Today, I'm actually making this post from Bethesda, Maryland. I received a phone call from Madelon and she told me to schedule time to come to see Jim. Without delay, I was here within 24 hours.

I'm not sure I can communicate the emotions of today . . . it was only when I could see and touch Jim that I could find comfort and believe he was truly coming home. He looks really good. Okay, a little tattered . . . but really good. Madelon and Jerry were at a dinner function which gave Jim and I a chance to catch up alone. I spent the first hour sharing with Jim the love, thoughts and prayers extended to him from all of you. You all have been amazing in your kindness not only to the Alunni's but to me as well.

Today was filled with signs of improving . . . they removed the tube connected to the trach and capped it. The trach is still there but plans are to remove it tomorrow! His breathing is good, muddled with some heavy coughing, which is painful. Yes, Jim ate some Jello and drank a couple of small bottles of juice! This is such a good sign as he is passing food and drink through the asophogus. As far as pain management, he did not take anything for pain throughout the day but did request the Morphine drip for the overnight. He is able to talk, although speaking lightly. The loss of hearing still plagues him but the doctors told him it could take up to 6 weeks to return. Hearing loss in this kind of blast is common place. He's up and moving around his floor. All good news, wouldn't you agree?!

Vic Lewis has been enormously comforting to Jim. He stops by daily to sit and chat. I'm hoping to get Jim outdoors tomorrow, even if just for a few minutes. As you can imagine, he is dreadfully tired of being in the hospital, let alone a hospital bed. We are going to ask tomorrow if it's possible but it may be unrealistic. We'll see.

I'm so happy to be able to update you directly. I will try to post again tomorrow with his progress. Although Jim has opted to spend his recovery time here, at this pace, HE still feels he should be home within a week. With this said, anyone who would want to visit him here in Bethesda is able. The Alunnis would need to know in advance to add your name to the security list, since this is a base - and- because they only allow five visitors at a time. I'm not sure exactly how to handle this but I guess you could let me know and I could advise Madelon.

I'll apologize now for any typos! It's been a long day.

cynthia

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Continuing to Improve

Hello again. I appreciate your patience with the postings. I speak with Madelon sometimes up to 4 or 5 times a day - with constant updates . . . but getting them posted between returning e-mails, phone calls, visits and WORK, has proven to be a challenge!

So many good things to update you on. Hard to believe the progress Jim has made in one week. With a week under our belt, I recount the first call from Madelon on Tuesday morning. From where we stared to where we are now, I can say how truly fortunate we are to have Jim with us.

Yesterday was a good day. Jim sat in a chair for the first time. Additionally, he walked a few steps! They removed the remaining two chest tubes, which was a source of great discomfort. No word on the ENT doctor, regarding the hearing in his right ear. While I was on the phone with Madelon, I could hear the doctor talking, advising them that they will probably start "downsizing" the trach in the next few days. Jim is still unable to talk at this time but is using a dry erase board to communicate. News keeps changing about how long Jim will be in Bethesda. It sounds as if he will spend more recovery time there than I last posted. I will keep you informed. If you want to send cards, mail, flowers, etc. . . you can use the address listed in the previous post.

More details regarding the condition of his comrads from the humvee and the events from the day of the explosion, some from Jim and some from the other two survivors. Both Cordova and Turner are also in the Naval hospital. Mrs. Alunni had a chance to visit both men and their families. Tuner shared this story with Madelon:

When the humvee exploded, he and Jim were ejected in the same area. As he looked over and saw "the doc", his faced covered in blood, he dragged himself towards Jim. He thought Jim was dead or dying. He said he laid next to Jim because if he was going to die, he wanted to be with him in those last moments. Let me tell you what courage it took for him to crawl towards Jim. Tuner lost an eye, has extremely serious injuries to his arm and severe shrapnel wounds to his legs. Turner was overwhelmed with relief to know Jim was alive. What does it say about the courage, strength and friendship these men share? (Turner was riding in the front of the humvee with Grahm, the soldier that was killed)

The guys have not seen each other yet, all to unstable to move around at this point. I know they are anxious to meet again face to face. Jim had an unexpected visitor yesterday. In to his room hobbled Vic Lewis, another corpsman from Cleveland. Vic was injured a few weeks ago with a leg injury and has been recovering in Bethesda. Madelon said it was a special moment . . . she stepped out of the room allowing them to talk and catch up on their own. I know Jim found great comfort in seeing Vic. There is no way we can understand what these guys have been through and are going through, as they can with each other. I think being with each other is an important part of their recovery.

Madelon called me this morning. She had just arrived at the hospital but hadn't even gotten to the room yet. She told me she would call me later with more updates from today. I'll keep you posted.

cynthia

Monday, August 08, 2005

THE LATEST . . .

Jim was moved from the Intensive Care unit last night and now is in a "regular" room. This is good news in that he is getting a little better each day. Pain is still an issue. Jim still has no hearing in his right ear and was due to see an Ears, nose and throat doctor today. Additionally, the Alunni's were to meet with his surgeon but had seen neither as of this morning. They are going to remove the feeding tube (from his nose) and place something straight to his stomach to help increase nutrition.

What we have learned regarding the explosion was, Jim and another soldier were in the back of the humvee when the bomb went off. One of the two guys up front was killed. The guy riding in back with Jim was also EVAC to Germany and is also in Bethesda now. Madelon stopped in to visit him and his family. He was very happy to meet her and told her how much everyone loved the food she sent and they enjoyed Jim's Birthday cake, which Madelon had made and sent with a can of icing! Jim was very relieved to hear he was doing well and is anxious to see him. Jim said had it not been for the kevlar (?) vest he purchased on his own (to the tune of $1000) he would be in far worse shape. What can I say? Our guys are having to buy their own vests . . . it's ridiculous.

Great news . . . Jim may be back home in a week and a half! He would still have the trach - but would spend his recovery time at home with his mom and dad. Follow up medical treatment would be back in Bethesda. With that said, the Alunni's have requested that everyone wait for Jim to come home to see him. So many people have expressed a desire to visit but they feel it would be too emotional, overwhelming and difficult since Jim in unable to communicate. I know many people are disappointed, including myself but we need to honor their wishes.

Here is his mailing address:

HM3 James Alunni
C/O National Naval Medical Center
8901 Wisconsion Ave.
Room 5 East Room 3
Bethesda, MD 20889

I think that's it for the moment. Thank you all for your kind messages. I don't think Jim knows how many people are pulling for him.

cynthia

Sunday, August 07, 2005

BETHESDA UPDATE

I spoke with Madelon about 5 times last night. . . lots of updates.

Jim is doing well. He is still in alot of pain, mainly from the tubes and trach. What she learned was that the injury was more to his trach than his asophogus. He had two surgeries . . . one while at the medical base in Iraq and one in Germany. They are going to do more testing while in Bethesda, as they have more advanced equipment available there. When he was injured, alot of "bad air" got in him, so they had to put 4 chest tubes to relieve the air. They have since removed 2 of the 4. They are constantly cleaning the trach, which is painful. They still anticpate him being moved out of Intensive Care to a regular floor within the next few days. The burns on his body are pretty insignifcant, mostly on his chest. She said he was concious throughout the entire ordeal. I believe there were four guys in the humvee Jim was riding in. One was killed and Jim and the other two were injured. The other two guys were also in Germany, but I have no news on their condition. Jim did not see them while he was there. Jim is aware of the number of comrads that have been killed from the 3/25. The loss of so many of the guys from Brookpark I'm sure weighs heavily on him and no doubt he realizes how lucky he is. They will assign a counselor to Jim, which sounds as if it's routine.

Speaking of the guys from Brookpark . . . my thoughts and prayers go out to to their families. I know what we've been through this past week and I can only imagine what heartache they're feeling this week.

I'm certain I will hear from Madelon today and I will post again when I do.

cynthia

Saturday, August 06, 2005

ON U.S. SOIL

He's HOME . . . back on U.S. soil.

Jim arrived in Bethesda last night at about 9:00pm. They told us he's doing really well. His spirits were good and it's no surprise . . . who wouldn't be knowing you're back home. He is in the Intensive Care Unit but they think they may be able to move him to a regular floor in a couple of days. The epidural is still in to manage pain.

Madelon, Jerry, Julie and Patrick left this morning at 11:15am. They will arrive in Maryland around 3:00pm. I asked Madelon if they would go straight to the hospital from the airport but she said they would drop off their luggage first and then head over. I will try to post another entry when she calls me later today. I can only imagine their anticipation.

I'm making this short but will try to let you know any other news later.

Don't stop praying . . . Jim has a long road ahead of him.

cynthia

Friday, August 05, 2005

THE TREK HOME


Good morning . . . and indeed it is. Jim has left Germany and is making the 12 hour trek back to the safety of the United States. United States indeed. Many thanks to those from the BLACKFIVE whom have visited this blog and posted comments (www.blackfive.net) expressing their well wishes, prayers and words of support, from every corner of this country.

Madelon called Germany this morning and the nurses told her he had already left and was doing "very, very well". They are maintaining the epidural for pain management for the long flight home. We are so appreciative for the kindness and excellent treatment Jim received while in Germany. They told Madelon they treated Jim as if he were their own son. Kudos to the medical staff.

Jim's mother, father, sister and brother are scheduled to depart tomorrow for Bethesda. Arrangements have been made for their transportation and housing. Friends, co-workers and family dropped off cards, letters and gifts for them to bring to Jim. The day Jim left for his deployment, I sat at the airport with Madelon & Jerry (Jim's parents) sending Jim off to an uncertain conclusion. It was heart wrenching. I can only imagine what it will be like for them to embrace him again, knowing he is alive and safe.

I spoke with Madelon about so many whom have expressed interest in visiting Jim. She has asked for everyone to wait before making any plans. The family would like to spend time with him and evaluate his condition. Additionally, we are getting mixed information about visitors and clearance, since it is a secured hospital. We have no idea how long he will be there but again, will keep you posted as we find out.

Many of you have already found my e-mail address listed on this site. Feel free to contact me if you would like to be added to a list of those I will e-mail when I have posted an update. My address is: cynphelps@aol.com

In closing, I want to personal thank all of you who have extended words of support and prayers. My family, friends, co-workers have been amazing. For every hug I receive, I know how blessed I am.

cynthia

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

INJURY UPDATE FOR JIM

I'm sorry for the delay in getting this blog posted . . . the past few days I have been barraged with e-mails and phone calls from everyone anxious to hear what has happened to Jim. Let me start by saying thank you to all the family, friends, co-workers, churches and ministries for their constant prayers over these past two days. The Alunni family and I are eternally grateful for the support from each of you.

While I assume everyone is aware that Jim has been injured, I will start from the beginning to give a bit of clarity as to what transpired. On Monday evening, August 1, Mr. & Mrs. Alunni received a phone call from the Marines advising them that something had happened to Jim. No specifics were given, even as to if Jim were alive. You can only imagine what the Alunnis went through over the course of the night without any real news. Tuesday, word of Jim's condition and injuries ran rampant, with the focus made mostly on "severe leg injuries". Rather than spend a page writing about the false information that was given to Mr. & Mrs. Alunni regarding Jim - I want to let you all know he is doing well.

This information is the most current and accurate information we have received thus far. Any other information circulating may stem from information that was incorrectly given to us and then communicated to friends and family

Jim suffered from a shrapnel injury to his neck. The shrapnel passed through one side of his neck and exited through the other, causing injury to his esophagus. Because of this injury, it required Jim to have a tracheotomy. There is also a piece of shrapnel by his thyroid, which they have chosen to leave alone at this time. Jim also suffered some burns (my apologies - I don't know where on his body) The most serious of his injuries was his esophagus. As of 8:30am yesterday (Wednesday) Jim was taken off the ventilator and breathing on his own. He is alert and conscious. The tracheotomy will remain for 2-6 weeks. They are feeding Jim through his nose since he can not eat due to the injury to the esophagus. He is communicating by writing. Today (Thursday morning) Jim was in a lot of pain so they gave him and epidural to help ease the pain. He is scheduled to be transported tomorrow morning to Bethesda, Maryland where he will spend the necessary time recovering. We have NO idea how long he will be there. Mr. & Mrs. Alunni are planning on traveling to Bethesda Saturday morning to be by Jim's side.

We are relieved only in that Jim will be stateside by tomorrow. I know many of you are wanting to see or communicate with Jim. As soon as we find out more specifics about visitors, mail, etc. we will let you know. Please be patient! We are a little overwhelmed and are doing our best to get information and updates out. Remember . . . the information is constantly changing.

If you didn't believe in the power of prayer, I hope this will serve as a testament. When a community of people pull together to offer prayer, no matter what faith . . . you can see the hand of God at work. I encourage you all to look at Psalms 31, starting at verse 13.

Cynthia