Nine Months

A wife holds a Navy Wounded Warrior -- Safe Harbor enrollee's photos in her hands.By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timmy Wakefield

 In the span of nine months, one’s life can witness drastic change: the gestation of a pregnancy, receiving new orders, or perhaps a financial development that alters one’s life.

One Sailor has been affected by a rarer occurrence. In the span of nine months, she has experienced something a young Sailor – or anyone, for that matter – should never have to deal with: the sudden loss of a spouse.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Valerie Stevenson lost her husband, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Austin Stevenson, over a nine-month span. He was battling leukemia, a type of blood cancer.

“I’ve lost more than my husband. I’ve lost my best friend, my companion, my love,” said Stevenson, as she looked at a picture of her husband she held delicately in her hands.

The picture showed the two in a loving embrace. It was almost as if her gaze was willing him back to life. She flipped through each picture in her collection, reliving each moment she had with her husband.

Stevenson added, “Losing my husband was something I would have never imagined, especially so soon. It’s just something you never think about.”

Initially, Austin’s diagnosis was unclear. He was first diagnosed with lymphoma in July 2013.

“The doctors called us back the next day and said that it wasn’t lymphoma, it was leukemia,” Stevenson said. “They told us to get to the hospital right away because the situation is more serious than expected.”

Initial treatment left Austin with a leukemia-free diagnosis. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the cancer returned, catching the Stevensons off-guard.

When Austin was first diagnosed with cancer, the Stevensons, both stationed at Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC) in North Chicago, Ill., reached out to Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor (NWW) to establish a plan.

Stevenson said, “We were struggling financially because of his treatments. They were very expensive and the travel situation was draining us, too. It felt like we had nowhere to turn.”

The Stevensons had to regularly drive to Milwaukee for Austin’s chemotherapy. Luckily, they had a direct path to help.

Lt. Michael Chalfant, a NWW non-medical care manager, FHCC nurse Jolene Moore and Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Patricia Herring, casualty assistant calls officer at FHCC played vital roles in the care of the Stevensons.

“NWW really put things into perspective for us,” said Stevenson. “They let us know what options we could and couldn’t take.”

Chalfant said, “NWW is designed to take care of ill or injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen’s non-medical needs. With Valerie and Austin being stationed here, notification and communication worked out really well. We got the command’s personal casualty report and worked from there.”

“Austin received an unexpected prognosis of one week to live,” said Chalfant. “We had to rush to get everything taken care from his beneficiary list, to other arrangements.”

Austin’s last wish was to enjoy the beach in Daytona, Fla.

“There were some obstacles with his last wish because of certain medical liabilities,” said Chalfant. “We couldn’t do a medical evacuation because it wasn’t considered a necessity of care.”

NWW looked for a way to make Austin’s last wish come true. The staff even turned to charitable organizations. Because of Austin’s prognosis, there was a medical liability preventing charities from helping.

“TRICARE, under a provision, was able to fly Austin to Daytona Beach, Fla. because it was a transfer from one care facility to another,” said Chalfant.

Austin was transferred to a hospice. He spent his last moments the way he wished, enjoying the sun on the beach.

“Unfortunately Austin passed away only a few hours after his arrival, but he got to enjoy his last moments with his wife and family,” said Chalfant.

“Austin was just so positive the whole time,” said Stevenson. “He never faltered or showed fear.”

Austin passed away April 30, 2014.

For many, death is considered the end. For Stevenson, the death of her husband is the beginning of her journey to share his story.

“I hope Austin’s story might be able to help people in need while they’re going through some tough medical issues,” said Stevenson. “NWW can help and that’s the message I want to get out there. Austin just wanted to help people in his situation. I want the same thing, so I hope this story reaches out to people so they know they have options.”

For more information about NWW, call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997) or visit www.safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil.

Adaptive Athletics Calendar

A Navy adaptive athletics poster that features events occuring throughout the rest of 2014.Have you seen the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor adaptive athletics calendar poster? It includes all of the major adaptive sports events taking place during the remainder of 2014. Wondering if adaptive athletics is right for you? Want to follow the progress of our wounded warrior athletes? Learn more by visiting our Facebook page or reaching out to our adaptive athletics support staff. Go #TeamNavy!

The #TeamNavy Roster Is Now Available!

A photo of a Team Navy member participating in a track and field competition.Navy Wounded Warrior — Safe Harbor is pleased to announce the 2014 #TeamNavy roster! Forty seriously wounded, ill and injured Navy athletes will represent the Navy at the 2014 Warrior Games this fall.

The athletes were evaluated during the Wounded Warrior Team Navy Trials, which took place May 31-June 7 in Norfolk, Va. During the event, sixty-five Team Navy hopefuls faced off in the seven sports – archery, cycling, seated volleyball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball – that will be contested during the Warrior Games.

Visit our 2014 Warrior Games and INVICTUS Games page to view the entire roster, and check our Press Room page for news of the announcement. Go #TeamNavy!

(Above photo courtesy of Chris Roxas and FootStomp.com)

#PTSD Awareness Month

June is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month.Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur after a traumatic event, such as combat experiences, sexual assault, a serious accident and much more. Experts estimate that between 11 and 20 percent of people who served in the military on or after Sept. 11, 2001 have PTSD. Still, too little is known and understood about this condition. Below is a story that may shed some light on the PTSD experience:

Meet Frank. Frank served our country in Vietnam. Before the war, he had been a happy person, but he rarely smiled once he came home. For many years, Frank didn’t talk about Vietnam, thinking he would spare people. He started drinking more. He had a short temper, and had to have his back to the wall in restaurants because he kept thinking someone was after him. He couldn’t hold a job or have a successful relationship. He just felt that something was wrong. Frank didn’t realize it, but he was having many of the symptoms of PTSD.

“It was nice to know there was a reason for what I was doing.”

Frank went to the VA, where he was diagnosed with PTSD and given treatment and support. He’s doing much better now.

“I would definitely recommend any veteran go and get help.”

For another perspective on PTSD, read about Navy Lt. Chet Frith, a Navy Wounded Warrior — Safe Harbor non-medical care manager. Be sure to access the Mental Health Resources page on this website, and check out the National Center for PTSD.

Please join us in shedding light on this condition, and encouraging those who need help to seek it!

Photo of the Week: Super Bowl Trophy

A Navy Wounded Warrior -- Safe Harbor enrollee poses for a photo alongside the 2014 Super Bowl trophy.The Seattle Seahawks’ 2014 Super Bowl Champions trophy — the Lombardi trophy — is touring military bases throughout the Northwest region. Recently, a Navy Wounded Warrior — Safe Harbor enrollee, Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Jerry Hirtzel, got an opportunity to pose alongside it. What a great shot!

Photo of the Week: Annual Training

A photo of VADM Bill French visiting the Navy Wounded Warrior -- Safe Harbor annual training.Last week, Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) — Safe Harbor hosted its regional advisory board meeting and annual training, which brought together staff and stakeholders from across the country to discuss the most pressing issues in the field of wounded warrior care. On Thursday, Navy Vice Admiral William French, commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), addressed those at the training. He emphasized that CNIC, NWW’s command, is deeply commited to assisting seriously wounded, ill and injured service members, and he thanked attendees for their hard work on behalf of those who need it most. It was an enriching and eye-opening week!

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