I was hospitalized in December and before I left for the hospital I did as I always do. I removed all of my jewelry. I took off the Celtic cross I’ve worn around my neck since the day my sister gave it to me years ago. I removed my earrings and took off my Medic Alert bracelet. The only pieces of jewelry that remained were my “BELIEVE” band and my Operation Ward 57 band. They are silicone so I knew I could go into the OR with them on.
My anesthesiologist was one I know very well. She’d taken notice of my two yellow bands and as I moved from my bed to the OR table, she asked me why I hadn’t taken them off. After all, I could always put them back on in a few hours when I returned to my hospital room as I do with my watch every time. I could see the curiosity in her eyes and noticed that I’d drawn the attention and curiosity of my surgeon’s chief resident as well so I went ahead and explained the stories behind my two yellow bands.
I received the yellow “BELIEVE” band from one of my cousins. It came in a card with a message that nearly brought me to tears explaining that not only was she and her husband behind me but so were all of my friends. When I look down at that band I remember exactly what she meant for me to remember. She wanted to remind me that a lot of people believe in me and she also wanted to help me to continue to believe in myself. When things get tough I’ll find myself rubbing that band to remind me that I can do this, I can beat this, and that people I love and care about really do believe in me. The second yellow band that I wear, I wear to remind me of something else.
The mission of Operation Ward 57 is to “aid in the care and recovery of injured soldiers, their loved ones, and those that care for them in their recovery process.” Historically known as the “amputee ward” the orthopedic ward 57, which is now 4E at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, houses some of the most severely wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Many of the patients have lost more than one limb and have an incredibly hard recovery process ahead of them. A process that includes not only physically healing but mentally healing as well. They battle through it with the same determination, strength, and fighting spirit that brought them to the military where each of those things were further honed. I wear that yellow Operation Ward 57 band to remind me that while my struggle is a hard one that has gone on for 9 years, it is nothing compared to what the brave men and women of our military who have been wounded have to endure. It also reminds me quite simply... to embrace the suck.
I hadn’t noticed until I stopped speaking that the entire operating room had gone silent as everyone listened to my explanation about the two yellow bands around my wrist. I finished my explanation with the fact that I purposely wear them around my right wrist because that is my dominant arm. I was thinking about my Operation Ward 57 one and the injured veterans I know and the thousands that I don’t know and thinking about my "BELIEVE" band and the reminder to stay strong when the meds were finally pushed, the oxygen mask was put over my face and I drifted off to sleep.