With tears in her eyes

Yesterday, we spent a lot of time waiting for things. And a few “out-of-the-ordinary” moments came about because of some of the delays.

I mentioned that the biopsy didn’t happen until two hours after it was scheduled. You expect this sort of thing, when you’ve got all kinds of busy people having to converge on a single time and space (in this case, the recovery room at West Penn). Beth had 20 or so blood tests for which to give blood. Dr Rossetti was coming in from somewhere else, and had other patients to see besides Bethany. And the “hardware” to be used for the biopsy, which needed to be signed for (and which Dr Rossetti has brought in himself in the past) was delivered by someone else this time.

Beth wants me to be with her constantly, through this whole process, and as much as I am able, I want to be there with her as she goes through this. And the hospital folks are good enough to allow me to walk down to the recovery room (where the procedure will occur), and wait with her while she’s waiting.

During that time, they hook her up to the heart monitor, blood pressure cuff, the thing on her finger that measures her pulse, and we play games with each other. We have learned that spending time kissing (the curtains are drawn, of course) lowers her heart rate and blood pressure. It relaxes her.

After Dr Rossetti arrived, somewhat late, but before the hardware arrived, the nurse anesthetist began to ready herself for the procedure. And at one point, she had given Beth some of the “twilight” or “conscious sedation” medication that is used in the procedure.

This medication functions as a kind of truth serum, and I’m sure that medical people have heard lots of ramblings from people before they actually go to sleep. And we have seen limited glimpses of how this works ourselves. For example, our son Zach, before a surgical procedure for a hernia when he was three years old, went from a hard scream and cry to a calm, peaceful smile, almost instantaneously.

Beth, once the mask went on and the white plunger was pressed, began to cry and talk, and I bent over and stroked her hair and kissed her forehead and let her know I was there. She looked me right in the eye and struggled to articulate the words, but I heard them very clearly, “I will never forget you”. “Thank you for loving me, I will love you forever,” she said to me, and to be sure, it’s a moment I’ll never forget. She mumbled something about “our daughters” but her eyes were rolling, and her eyes were still teared-up and it wasn’t long before I was getting kicked out.

It must have been awkward for her, but I’m grateful to the nurse anesthetist for not booting me out right away, for allowing me to share those moments. Of course, Beth was not merely crying because of the biopsy procedure that was about to occur, but because of the whole process of having a life-threatening illness, and the struggles she’s faced over the past few months, facing the thought that she really could die very soon.

These are incredibly hard, though incredibly human things to face. She has done it with such an exterior calm and dignity, that it’s almost possible to miss what she’s struggling with. I am tremendously grateful to those who have come into our lives – lots of people we don’t even know, her old friends from the 203rd MI BN — her army unit, the people whom I work with, those who know me from my blogging, and most of all, Pastor Matt and the members of my church, City Reformed PCA.

More about Beth’s unit, the 203rd MI BN

Last time I mentioned that I had recently found an article about the Weapons Intelligence unit that Beth had been in during the Iraq War. In her letters to me she lamented several times, that the unit had arrived by plane, but the equipment would be arriving by boat:

The main security unit left [Tallil, Iraq] yesterday. They moved up north. Now there are only seven or eight of us left here. The rest of our unit is still in Doha [Kuwait]. They’re on their way up but it’s taking them a long time to get here. All of our equipment is still in the States. And even more crazy is, not only is everything that we need still in the States, but the gear and life support needs are all coming by boat. Meaning that it will be another month or so before any of that stuff gets here. Meanwhile, we’ll have about 150 people or so here without vehicles, gear, tents, or computers and equipment. I can’t understand why we’d have everyone move to Iraq and not be able to do any work.

In my previous blog post, I had noted that the article even commented, ”B Company [Beth’s company] arrived in Kuwait without their organic equipment, which was coming by sea. C Company flew with their equipment.” The article quotes the commanding officer, documenting that this had happened, and how they dealt with it, but not why it had happened:

“I gave the group about four days to get used to the heat and the time change before moving into Iraq. Since we did not have most of our equipment, we are significantly handicapped, but one of my fellow battalion commanders is a friend from Georgia. His unit has spent the entire war at Udairi [Kuwait] and is anxious to help in any way. He agreed to loan us about 15 vehicles and trailers and a mobile kitchen until our equipment arrives. I also got the [513th MI] Brigade to agree to provide me 54 of their long-range surveillance (LRS) platoon soldiers–all excellent infantrymen–to serve as security elements during movement and missions. This is the first of many handshake deals with friends that will prove to make up the backbone of our logistical support going forward.”

I found an article about Beth’s unit from Iraq

Here’s an article about the 203rd MI BN, the weapons intelligence unit that Beth went to Iraq with. She was a medic with “B” Company. Here are some relevant selections:

A and C Companies perform the majority of the TECHINT reconnaissance portion of the 203d’s mission. The two AC and four RC mobile TECHINT collection teams collect and report on CEM (captured enemy material) from forward areas of the battlefield. These teams consist of experts in several fields, including foreign mobility (tracked and wheeled vehicles and rotary- wing airframes), weapons and munitions, communications and electronics, and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). The teams provide intelligence on enemy weapons and equipment to combatant commanders and prepare CEM for further exploitation by the Exploitation Platoon (2d) of B Company. This platoon consists of experts in the same fields As that of the collection teams, but it s their job to conduct a more thorough analysis of the materiel. This includes detailed measurements, analysis of subcomponents, and assessments of upgrades to known enemy materiel.

B Company also includes a packaging and warehousing platoon that receives, tracks, and temporarily stores all CEM. The 203d not only collects intelligence for the current battlefield, it also collects for future conflicts as well. Therefore, the platoon has the ability to package and ship various weapons, missiles, munitions, aircraft, and naval vessels to production centers back in the United States or coalition countries in order to conduct more detailed testing and evaluation to combat enemy capabilities in future conflicts.

The unit prioritizes enemy-materiel collection requirements according to a national collection requirements list submitted to and vetted by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other intelligence production centers. Using this list as a starting point, the Collection Management and Dissemination (CM&D) Platoon of B Company identifies potential targets of interest for TECHINT reconnaissance and works with the S3 in developing and coordinating TECHINT missions.

More specifically about their visit to Iraq:

HHC, B, and C Companies finally deployed to Kuwait at the end of April. The battalion consolidated at Camp Udairi in early May. At this point, perhaps the most critical decisions regarding the 203d’s deployment were made.

HHC and B Company arrived in Kuwait without their organic equipment, which was coming by sea. C Company flew with their equipment. The battalion could either wait in Udairi for the equipment to arrive, or borrow enough to move into Iraq and begin collecting. The battalion commander described his decisionmaking process at the time:

“First, the sooner we get started, the sooner we will finish. Second, the security situation is reasonable now but may deteriorate over time as the resistance elements get more organized. Third, the looting is severe and any equipment that is out there and on our collection list could well be lost two months from now. Also, Charlie Company has its equipment and since we obviously have to collect the material before we do anything else, I can see them running missions for a couple months, collecting enough equipment to give Bravo a good amount of work to do once the balance of the equipment arrives.”

More to follow.