Friday, May 21, 2010

Climb the Mountain: From a Dusty Road in Afghanistan to the Snowy Summit of Mt. Rainier (A True Story)

Climb the Mountain: From a Dusty Road in Afghanistan to the Snowy Summit of Mt. Rainier
Publisher: Greybeard Publishing
Published: 2010
ISBN-13: 9780977364695
228 pages

Prologue, Page 1: On Friday, October 12, 2007 at 10:00 AM, I received a phone call from a Captain Anderson from the US Army. Our son, Sergeant First Class David Michael Beshears, had been severely injured in Afghanistan.


I first found out about Climb the Mountain by David R. Beshears after reading the news article at The Olympian and decided to buy it. Proceeds from the book go to building a community center for people with disabilities. It is good to be able to help the author and understand traumatic brain injury (TBI) at the same time. I contacted him to find out about the cost of shipping and received a prompt reply. I started reading the book the moment I received it in the mail. Throughout this post, I will be addressing David R. Beshears as "the author" and his son as David to avoid confusion because they both have the same names.

Climb the Mountain is the story of his son, also named David, who was severely injured in Afghanistan after an IED (improvised explosive device) blast. He suffered multiple injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI). For the next two years, he was moved from Bagram to Germany to Walter Reed to Palo Alto and finally home to Washington State. The book includes unedited emails of daily updates to family and friends of his son's condition from the very first day, October 12, 2007 through October 31, 2009. “When writing those emails, I was talking to David's grandma and grandpa (Sylvia's parents). They were very close to him when he was growing up. We're a pretty close family.” The author added details about the emails when I communicated with him through Facebook to find out about how readers can buy the book. Sylvia is his wife.

This book provides us with details of what it is like for a person to be in the ICU after a terrible injury at war and the process of recovery from TBI. Here, the author shares the story of his soldier son, a wounded warrior and veteran who is also a husband and father of two children. I would like to share a glimpse of it with you.

In reading this book, I learned about the Rancho Scale, which is a medical scale intended to assess the level of recovery of brain injury patients and those recovering from coma. It is named after the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. There are eight cognitive levels from Level I: No Response to Level VIII: Purposeful and Appropriate. You can view the complete description of the scale here.

In David’s situation, when he first fell into unconsciousness following the IED blast, he went into full coma (level one on the Rancho scale). At Walter Reed, David was in level one and two, “vegetative state”. For the four weeks at Palo Alto, he was mostly in level two with a minor indicator of moving to level three, “minimally conscious”. He was in “vegetative state” for four months.

There is a particularly touching moment when David was trying to understand why he was there at the hospital and Sem, his wife, trying her best to explain. It is common for patients of TBI to experience memory loss.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 (Palo Alto): […] Medical staff periodically explain to David where he is, why he is there, and how he came by his injuries. When they asked David if he remembers what happened to him in Afghanistan, he emphatically shakes his head no. I’ve seen him sternly deny what they are saying as they tell him of the IED blast and what happened afterward.

Today, Sem sat with him and told him what had happened. As with the medical staff, he shook his head no. He didn’t remember it. It didn’t happen. She firmly explained that it did happen, and she detailed what happened and how he came to be where he is.

It took some time, but then David began to cry. Then of course, Sem began to cry. I guess she held onto him for a long time.

I particularly liked the email that was sent on Wednesday, April 9, 2008, when David was still at Palo Alto. In one of the therapy sessions, David was very happy with the ten minutes he spent with the recreational therapist and the dog, a black Labrador, that she brought in to see him. The author shares his observation of the interaction between David and the dog. Animals do have a way of making people happy.

It is really heartening to read milestones upon milestones achieved in David’s progress to recovery. In his recovery and rehabilitation, he had undergone Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT) and Speech Therapy (ST). Progress was painfully slow but improvements can be seen. Every little action such as wiping the nose and flexing the toe; for example, are important and significant for patients like David. The author says, “Little things like that keep us going. It gives me the strength to fight back against placing limits on where this will end up.” p.126

The author is a courageous father with a never-give-up attitude. Something that he said below touched me deeply:

I know that some think that I’m in denial about David’s condition, but that’s not true. I just refuse to put limits on the possibilities while David continues to improve. I want David back and I’m going to do whatever it takes to give him the best possible opportunity to return to 100% as he can get. No, I won’t put limits on expectations. If I do everything possible to create the opportunities, then he’ll come back as far as he is physically and mentally capable of coming back, whatever those levels might be. I’ll take what I can get, but I won’t take any less. I’ll do what I have to do so that he can do what he has to do. p.119

Readers would see that David’s parents and his wife are very strong and give their all by doing everything they could for him in his battle towards recovery. The support given by friends, colleagues, and total strangers touched the Beshears.

Two years ago, the author has set a goal to climb Mt. Rainier together with his son. Today, the son is still not ready, but he hopes that one day, both of them—father and son—will make it to the summit of the mountain. In the meantime, he would make the climb alone, on behalf of David. And he is training very hard for the climb scheduled at the end of this year.

On a lighter note, one thing I do have in common with the author is this: I like email. I don’t really like the phone. I do not know how to explain why but I just dislike talking over the phone.

I hope that many more people will buy this book and read it. It is story that is full of love and sacrifices, hope and courage. Please visit http://www.greybeardpublishing.com/ for more information. The author is only selling the book directly so that the entire $20 goes to the fund, which will be used to building a community center for people with disabilities.

Special Note: David R. Beshears will be making a guest appearance here next week. May is Mental Health Month and I am honored to have him on my blog just in time before it comes to a close. Thank you, David, for agreeing to do this!

Related Post: Teaser Tuesdays