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Panic Disabled Army Veteran Seeks Grant Help To Keep Her Family Together

by Gwendolyn Casteel Richie
(Guyton, GA, USA)

The happiest day of my life, my wedding day

The happiest day of my life, my wedding day

I have had many battles through my life with domestic battery and I prayed for so long that something would come my way and open the door to a new future for me.

I am the mother of two beautiful children, and at the age of 32, I had decided that I was going to step out of my comfort zone of dental assisting, which I had done for 10 years, and join the Army.


I knew in my heart that I could do this, and with the support of my two children, I signed up for active duty Army. To my surprise I passed my ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test.

I was ready. After being a punching bag for over eight years, I just knew this couldn't be any worse. I left for Ft. Jackson, in S.C., and from the moment I got off the bus, I knew I was in for it.

I was screamed at and called fat and pushed to the limit. One week into my in-processing there, I was told I was going to be transferred to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

From the moment I arrived at that unit, I wished I would go back to Ft. Jackson. Every day that I was there, I was made fun of for being fat. When I enlisted, I was 5'10", and I weighed 174 lbs.

Little did they know that just a few years back, I was a model, and weighed 118 lbs, but the abusive relationship that I was in made me lose hope and lose respect for myself.

I was strong, I pushed through the humiliation, I ran every chance I had and I never let them see me cry. I started basic in November of 2008. After my transfer to my new unit, I pushed myself, day in and day out.

I began having horrible pains in my hip and groin areas on both sides, with the left being worse. But I refused to quit.

There were two Drill Sergeants (DS) that saw the pain all over my face. One was from my company, and one was from another company.

During the final three weeks of training, I was taken to the CTMC (Consolidated Troop Medical Clinic). I was diagnosed with bilateral femoral neck hip fractures. I was devastated.

They put me on crutches the day before I was suppose to qualify my weapon, and I went to my head DS, the one who made me go get evaluated, and I told him the news.

I broke down and cried and told him that I could handle it. I begged him to let me qualify my weapon. He told me I couldn't use crutches on the range, and although I could hardly walk, I agreed.

When it came time for me to qualify, it was freezing in January in Missouri. I was in more pain than I ever imagined, and my 1st SGT looked at me and said "you sure you want to do this?"

With tears welling up in my eyes, I held my shoulders back, handed my battle buddy my crutches, and I looked at my 1st Sgt. and said yes 1st Sgt.

I had to walk to the next open spot, which was almost to the end of the range, with nothing but my weapon. My head DS was telling me I didn't have to do it.

With many tears, and in the most painful positions I could have imagined, I finished my rounds, and was told to head back.

As I got to the clearing barrel to clear my weapon, my 1st Sgt., took my weapon and cleared it for me. My battle was waiting there with my crutches.

As I rounded the corner to go wait in the holding building, my Commander called my name.

I turned around, again holding my shoulders back and completely unaware of what he was going to tell me, he said, "You did good private. You passed. Now go sit down and don't move."

I was in so much pain, but I passed and the pain didn't matter. I knew that since I had reached that point in training, if I was forced to go to rehab, I could come back at that point and not have to start over.

I kept trying to push myself to walk, and I begged the doctors at the CTMC to let me try my final PT test. With much hesitation, they agreed.

I passed my push-ups, which were horribly painful. I passed my sit-ups, and I was determined to finish my run. Every step I took, the pain got worse, I still didn't quit.

My DSs jogged and walked with me, telling me it wasn't worth it. But to me, it was. Even if I didn't pass, I would finish. As I reached the finish line, I was four minutes over my time. I collapsed.

My commander told me to get on the truck. It was at that moment that I knew I would never be a soldier. I was taken to the CTMC and then to the hospital for an MRI. I was done.

I left the CTMC in a wheelchair and was sent on con leave. I ended up spending a total of four months in a wheelchair because both hips were fractured.

For a month after I got back, I had to stay at the unit, instead of being transferred to the WTRP (Women's Trauma Recovery Program) unit.

During that month, I was humiliated daily. I was called horrible names. I was pushed out in front of new privates and their DSs would tell them that I was in that chair because I "pissed off a DS."

For a month I was made to get myself up the stairs, into my unit, and was given minimal therapy because of the damage.

The final three months, I went from the WTRP to the med board because I had lost all motivation and I was physically and mentally broken.

The DSs at the med board unit only took me to rehab when I fit into their schedule, or if there was room on the bus. They made me push myself everywhere we went, and I ended up messing up my shoulder due to the hills I had to climb in the chair.

I was treated like a criminal, always being searched, because of a previous person in a wheelchair that would bring contraband back into the unit. I had never been treated so horribly in all my life.

In September 2009, I finally came home, feeling like I had failed the world. I began my own therapy, through no help of the VA, because I wanted nothing to do with the Army anymore.

I trained and trained until I was back down to 135lbs, and I began dating a man that I knew from years ago that was and still is an active duty Army soldier, and who is about to go on his second tour to Afghanistan in December.

I began coaching my daughter's softball team in March of 2010, and in May 2010, I married my current husband, then he was off to Afghanistan.

My children and I moved from Florida to Georgia, where he is stationed at Hunter Army Airfield. I attempted college, which isn't going so well. I have had to take breaks, and I have taken a drastic fall in my physical and mental health.

The nerve in my spine, that runs down my leg into my foot, causes me so much pain that I have difficulties sitting, standing, or doing anything that consists of anything other that lying on my stomach.

I have fallen into a severe depression which has lead to me being hospitalized for almost a week due to bleeding into my stomach from ulcers.

I have attempted four jobs since my move here in December 2010.

The pain in my left leg has caused me to place more pressure on my right leg and cause more back issues because I am unable to walk correctly.

I now have severe muscle atrophy in both legs. My left hip dislocates at any given moment while attempting to walk.

The pain continues to get worse. It has now triggered panic disorder. I have panic attacks at least three or our times a week. Four weeks ago, I had a severe panic attack due to my hip giving out and the pain associated with that.

I felt like I was having a heart attack and I passed out in my garage. My husband was at work, and my children were at school.

I don't know how long I lay on the floor in my garage, but when I finally came to, there was blood on the ground from my arm and my leg, and my hip was killing me. I was really dizzy and my ankle was swollen.

I called my husband, took some pain medication, and when I woke up, my husband was wrapping up my wounds. I am unable to work because of the severe pain, and I am not allowed to drive due to the panic attacks. A week ago, I ran off the road into a ditch due to a panic attack.

As a dental assistant in GA., I was paid $18-$22 per hour, working at least 40 hours a week. Needless to say, I am the reason for the financial crisis in my family right now.

We are about to be evicted, and we can't get assistance because every avenue we look to, they look at my husband's gross income. They don't pay any attention to the fact that he has allotments coming out to pay his truck payment and medical insurance for the family.

Our rent alone is half of his monthly pay, and our electric is sky high with two teens in this house. I feel like my family blames me for barely being able to eat.

I try not to eat, so that there is food in the house for the kids. I now weigh 119 lbs and I am very weak. I am begging for someone to help us.

I never expected my life at the age of 36 to be this way. We bought my daughter a car a year ago, thinking things were going to work out.

Soon after I came home, I bought a new truck, and my husband bought a new truck because I was bringing in $1500 to $1800 bi-weekly, with monthly bonuses.

Now we have this house where our rent is $1250 a month. We have shut-off notices for just about everything, and now we are getting calls about repossessing our vehicles.

I never dreamed that wanting to fight for my country, and be someone that my family could be proud of, would cost me my life.

My husband stays away because he can't stand to see me so depressed. My daughter is embarrassed of my depression issues. And my son just wants to take care of me.

Because I have been medically taken out of work, we are about $10,000 behind in bills.

I just don't want to lose my whole family because of illnesses that I cannot control.

The nightmares, the depression and the pain make my life feel pointless.

If we could get a grant, it would allow us the time to get caught up and for my disabilities to kick into place.

I have been told it will be roughly six months for the VA and four months to find out about Social security disability.

Please help our family from complete failure. You are my last hope!

Comments for Panic Disabled Army Veteran Seeks Grant Help To Keep Her Family Together

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May 22, 2015
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Crisis Over?
by: SheilaKay Paris

Gwendolyn,

Your story is so heartbreaking, and maddening too at the way the military treated you. Ken made some great suggestions and I agree about the record keeping and getting an attorney. Usually you don't have to pay them up front. They get their fees if your case is won.

I'm just flabbergasted and overwhelmed at the crisis type problems you faced back in 2012. I hope by now things have eased up and you haven't been evicted or lost your vehicles. Hopefully you can check back in here with Don's site because I have another suggestion or two for you.

Don has a business associate he endorses, Brian, who offers a service, also for free, for folks going through problems such as yours. It's:

Disability Digest

You'll find help for:

Getting Approved For Disability
How To Maximize Your Benefits
How Much You Can Legally Make
Reliable Jobs And Income
How To Find Affordable Housing
Disabled Grants
Financial & Health Care Assistance
Connect With And Learn From Others
All About Veterans Benefits, and
More when you become a member

At the bottom of the page click join. No obligation. He gets his fee from the sponsors.

Please do let us know how you've been faring and what is going on in your life. I pray it's gotten much better.

Many blessings to you and your family.

Jun 23, 2012
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The crisis is getting worse...
by: Gwendolyn

I am still in search of someone who is willing to help save my family. My life is falling apart because we have no way to pay our bills and we are facing eviction. I have tried everywhere, but because my husband is an active duty soldier, we keep getting turned away. They look at his total amount he makes instead of what he actually brings home, which is about half of what he really brings home. If anyone out there has a heart and is willing to help out financially, so that my family is not homeless, I'm begging you for whatever help you can offer. This just isn't fair for two people who signed our lives away to defend our country to be thrown out like trash. Please help us.

Thank you in advance.

Jun 06, 2012
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Anorexia
by: Ken

Hi Gwen,

There are eating disorder clinics around. My wife just got over hers; she was 79 pounds. I started to make things she liked. I got her to write down a list of food she liked. Make sure they are high in fiber otherwise you could end up with a blockage in your digestive system, a horrible operation. A drug that helped her for anorexia was Olanzapine. There are many underlying mental issues that bring anorexia on. Yours to begin with was to make sure the kids had something to eat, but we both know something else was going on. The numbness in your leg because of sciatica can be helped with therapy. I have peripheral neuropathy and I take Gabapentin, a nerve drug that works on the nervous system in the brain. It helps calm the senses in the brain. Talk to your doctor about it. Because you walk wonky many times a heel spur appears causing discomfort when standing on it. Perhaps a orthopedic doctor could make suggestions for your sciatica. Somehow you have to work on yourself to get out of this. Positive thinking articles may help. Nothing will work if you don't try pushing yourself to get better. You are young, think young and be young. Have you tried paxil? It takes a while to get the right dose, because it works different for different people. Count on about six months to get max results. You have to start feeling good about yourself. Many people have had to go to pain management for sciatica. It can go away or stay forever. Operations or cortisone shots can fix or take the sensation away. Something for thought. By the way, my wife likes Ginger Snaps and started to eat a couple of those to get her appetite back. Good luck Gwen, you can overcome this!

Ken

Jun 06, 2012
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Thank you
by: Gwen

Ken,

Thank you for your words of wisdom and support. Nobody at the med board unit cared about me. In fact the one that was the most hateful kept telling me that I could stay there forever because he was ETSs in a few weeks and would not give me one thought while he was fishing in his boat. I am a dental assistant, and a phlebotomist; however, I cannot stand on my left leg due to the sciatic (sp) nerve. I can't put my heal down. I can't sit on that side as a dental assistant would because of the numbness. I just want to be normal. I have recently been diagnosed with anorexia because of my fear of anyone calling me such horrible names. I am on many depression meds and panic disorder meds, but I try to stay clear of meds that have narcotics, because the VA only wanted to keep me medicated so that I would forget my appointments and I wouldn't be a hassle to them. I may be young, but I feel like my life is over. Thank you so much for your advice.

Gwendolyn

Jun 06, 2012
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Something smells wrong here.
by: Ken

Hi Gwendolyn,

There were protocols that were not taken by your DS, after you were diagnosed with your injury. You should have been conservatively immobilized. Any doctor would have ordered that. Military or not, did you sign a release or waiver? Here is an article you should read:

http://www.springerlink.com

I know that you should have not been allowed any further drills, without the okay from your doctor. You are a layman, and unfortunately for you, your need for approval overcame common sense. But, because of this, you should be talking to a lawyer.

Have all the papers you can get to have a good case. Remember everything you can and create a file, before you call them. Every detail, the time you felt this coming on, when you went to the clinic, what device was use for the diagnosis, doctor's report, what was signed, what was said to the DS, how he reacted, just everything. If you do not have a copy of the doctor's report of the diagnosis, get one along with the actual pictures. If the military won't do this, the lawyer can order them, with your permission. To me it was a negligent move on both parties. It's really sad to hear your story. I personally know what can happen in a very short period of time as well. We have lost just about everything in the last three years. My wife had a severe brain injury, just as my job became redundant after 22 years. I am 55 now and things are bleak, but life must go on. I'm starting a home-based bakery. For now Gwendolyn you should talk to your family doctor about some therapy for your pain, and maybe Paxil for your anxiety and depression. You have to do something to get out of the rut you are in. There are no grants; the government is broke, at least for individuals. There is a site that will give you some good information on small businesses at:

http://www.sba.gov/

Before they take your vehicle away you may try to use it as collateral in a loan. You may come up with something small but that is needed in your area. Try to keep your spirits up. It's hard, but now is the time to think about your future, seriously! I wish you the best. You are very young and you can bounce back. You're young enough to start over. It's definitely not the end. Upward and onward! You can do it! Get back into Dental Assisting! Of course you can. Don't stop yourself. Remember the saying "If it's to be, it's up to me."

Good luck and God Bless,
Ken

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