Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Emily Emmons met her husband, John, in 2007, nine months after he returned home from his second tour in Iraq.

She fell quickly in love and married him three months later, knowing then that he’d been suffering with debilitating migraines. Emily did what she could to help John cope with his symptoms, but it would be nearly eight years before they learned the source of his migraines and other unexplained behaviors.

After John was let go from his second job in a year and with their first baby on the way, the couple moved from their West Coast home to Washington, D.C., where John had accepted a position offered by the Army Reserve.

He continued to persevere through the painful migraines, night sweats and anxiety, pretending to be okay, and leaned on Emily to provide a stable home environment for their two young daughters.

In 2013 they moved to Hawaii, and a year later John was diagnosed with severe PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.

Though deeply concerned about her husband’s symptoms, Emily felt helpless to do anything about them. She had had no preparation to serve as John’s caregiver.

They had moved to a quiet part of the Big Island and resources for caregivers were hard to find. For more than a year they tried different medications, treatments and therapies, some with unbearable side effects.

Fortunately, John’s natural instinct led him to their backyard, where he discovered that the time he spent in the fresh air nurturing newly planted trees helped him reconnect with the earth and himself.

The family found that working together in this environment helped them all cope with John’s conditions. Emily is grateful that they stumbled upon a way to begin to cope, although many questions remain about how they’ll prepare themselves for the months and years ahead.

She views her role as a Dole Fellow Caregiver as an opportunity to use her experiences to help other caregivers and their children find a little more peace each day.

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