Going from Wife to Caregiver

Most spouses of active duty servicemembers live with the constant fear of getting that phone call or uniformed visitor at their door. For Patty Horan it became a reality when she awoke to her ringing phone, “There had been a serious accident and Pat has been shot in the head.”

Thoughts of their upcoming reunion just two short months away went through her head as she tried to come to grips with the news. Patty was flown to Washington, D.C., where Pat would be transported back to the United States, so she could join her family in assisting with her husband’s recovery.

She didn’t know it at the time, but this was her first step in what would turn out to be a long recovery process from Pat's traumatic brain injury (TBI).

When Patty first learned of her husband’s injury, she imagined a graze. That graze turned out to be more catastrophic than she could have imagined. Because the bullet had entered her husband’s skull at the left temple, the doctor informed her that Pat had very little possibility of ever walking again, would have severe language impairment with a strong possibility that he might never speak again, and would suffer from profound memory loss. In fact, the doctor told her and her father-in-law, Pat might not even recognize you.

It was Patty, though, who almost didn’t recognize her husband. After nine months of deployment, the man in the hospital bed before her was almost a stranger -- head wrapped in gauze, left eye swollen shut, totally unconscious.

Pat was in a medically induced coma under IV-sedation, though day by day the medication was reduced so that Pat became more alert. The Horans' next step, once Pat’s condition had been stabilized and excess fluid had been removed from his brain, was to leave the intensive care unit and find a rehabilitation hospital for him.

On August 23rd, Pat’s 35th birthday, Patty arrived to escort her husband to the new facility in Chicago, where he would begin the very long process of brain injury rehabilitation.

Patty went on to help the Department of Defense create the TBI Caregiver Manual, using her experience to help other families navigate the challenges of caring for a wounded warrior after sustaining a traumatic brain injury.

Read Patty’s entire story, from that fateful phone call to coping with her new role as “caregiver” to her husband who was severely wounded in Iraq in 2006.