I cannot believe the holidays are approaching. As this is the time of year to express appreciation for the ones that matter most in your life, I want to begin by thanking each of you. Thank you for making me a better person.
During the last eleven months, my life has dramatically changed. My husband and I moved, my book was published, my health continued to bewilder me at times, and I dealt with the heartbreak of loss and the joy of new life. Yet despite certain obstacles, I recognize how far I have come on my quest for wellness.
It has been a journey … a journey that has led me to new friends and new inspirations. I am overwhelmed by your light, strength and desire to move forward in spite of pain. As I believe each of us holds the power to make this world a happier, more positive place, I thank you for adding more joy and healing energy to the planet. I am so thankful that I have met you. Thank you for showing me that it is possible to live an empowered, fulfilled life with or without pain.
Remember that you matter. Continue to hold onto hope and believe in the unimaginable. I am thinking of each of you and wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving season. Gobble, gobble!
Believing in Miracles,
INVISIBLE PROJECT: Heriberto Vidro
With the first two exhibitions of the INvisible Project behind us, I wanted to share one INvisible participant’s story with you. Please take the time to read Vidro’s story and pass on to others! He truly is courageous. Continue to check Healing Times Newsletter and the INvisible Project website as each month a different INvisible story will be featured.
Heriberto Vidro is a father, husband and United States hero. Enlisting in the Army Reserves in 1980, Vidro, as his friends and family call him, served our country for twenty-four years.
In 2003, Vidro went to Iraq. A member of the 773rd Transportation Company, his unit was transporting fuel to the 3rd Infantry Division on the front lines when they were ambushed. As he ran to help his fellow soldiers, an explosion threw him into the air. Landing on his back caused Vidro pain and discomfort, but because he showed no outward signs of distress, his case did not seem urgent. In fact, the Army was unaware of the severity of his injuries until the end of his tour in the fall of 2003.
Once home, Vidro began visiting specialists for nerve problems and muscle spasms. He soon discovered his kidneys were affected by the fall, and he had two herniated discs in his neck and two in his lower back. Because the lower herniated discs rubbed against a nerve, Vidro’s left leg became numb and he could not walk. He also began experiencing neurological issues with his left hand. Additionally, Vidro was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Doctors prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) to control PTSD. He has tried morphine, spinal nerve blocks, and various other pain management procedures, all without success. He had hand surgery, but it did not improve his damaged nerves, so he is unable to hold anything in his left hand. Ultimately, Vidro underwent back surgery in 2008. While he cannot stand or sit for long periods, the back surgery has brought some relief. He can walk further now before his back begins to ache and knot up.
Although they weren’t appreciated at the time, Vidro had also sustained head injuries. He frequently suffers from migraines, dizzy spells and blurred vision. He has tinnitus, a condition impairing his ability to hear out of his right ear. He uses a cane to keep his balance. Sometimes he cannot differentiate between hot and cold temperatures. His injuries affected his ability to speak correctly, and have caused short-term memory loss, confusion and rapid mood changes.
Doctors’ appointments now mainly consist of prioritizing his symptoms to make the most of his life. Like the warrior he is, Vidro will not give up. He has learned his own strength in tolerating such pain. In fact, he stopped taking morphine this January because he did not like the way the medication made him feel.
Vidro manages his pain with occupational therapy three times a week and chiropractic visits. While he feels better for a few days following a chiropractic session, the best form of relief comes from constant distractions. Staying busy allows Vidro to block out some of the pain. His favorite new activities include cooking and adapted hunting, skiing and biking.
The Wounded Warriors Project, an organization providing medical and psychological support for the severely wounded, has been an instrumental part of his recovery. For Vidro, connecting with other veterans has been therapeutic. “We have a unique bond. We know and understand what one another are going through, and together we help each other heal.”
Wounded Warrior Projects that have most affected Vidro are the peer mentor program, Soldier Rides, and Challenge Aspen, also referred to as C.A.M.O. or Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities. Riding his recumbent bike, Vidro has already participated in two Soldier Rides, which are three- or four-day cycling events. He also raced in the New England Disabled Sports’ White Mountain Cycling Classic.
Challenge Aspen provides recreational and cultural experiences for wounded warriors with cognitive or physical disabilities. Collaborating with the Wounded Warrior Project, Challenge Aspen helps wounded veterans rediscover their life potential. While in Colorado, Vidro tested the limits of his body through fishing, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting. He felt normal and liked the camaraderie. Being able to joke and laugh with fellow soldiers while learning to support one another was important to him.
A recent and happy addition to Vidro’s life has been Houdini, his service dog from NEADS (Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans). Family, friends and doctors all believe Houdini has helped Vidro reduce his medications from forty pills a day to eleven, and has made him softer, calmer and more engaged in life.
Vidro takes pride in brushing, feeding and walking Houdini. Houdini senses Vidro’s pain. He keeps Vidro stable when standing and helps him around the house by opening doors, answering the phone and picking up fallen objects. To Vidro, his wife and three children, Houdini is part of the family. “He is not a dog; he is my baby, my buddy.”
While amazed by the kindness and graciousness of his community, Vidro often regrets returning from war as a “burden” to his beloved family. He moves forward by appreciating the little things in life, like watching a Mets game and enjoying photography, fishing and music. His new mission is to help others and be with his family.
“I want returning soldiers to know there is still life after a catastrophic injury. My dream is to ride cross-country from New York to California to bring awareness about Veterans’ issues. If I can use my life as an example, then I would know I have made a difference.”
To learn more about the organizations who have made a difference in Vidro's life, please visit:
Wounded Warrior Project
NEADS (Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans)
RSD Awareness Quilt Project
Spearheaded by Florida resident Troy Walker, the RSD Awareness Quilt Project is a campaign designed to create awareness and change to the RSD community. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is a neurological and chronic pain condition, which the medical community also refers to as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
For the past two months, hundreds of people living with this debilitating condition have joined forces to make visible the challenges associated with living with RSD by sending in a 12x12 square displaying personal RSD journeys. The RSD Awareness Quilt Project is a way for us to express our frustration, solitude, hope, resilience, struggle and triumph.
With November being National RSD Awareness Month, the RSD Awareness Quilt Project is committed to starting a new dialogue about this incurable disease that affects 1.2 to 7 million Americans. For more information regarding RSD Awareness Quilt Project, please visit their Facebook page.
Heartfelt Gratitude and Thanks
Even though the first two INvisible Project exhibitions are over, I am still struggling to put into words what this experience means to me. Meeting such inspiring individuals has had a profound affect on my life. I am currently working on my INvisible Project blog, which I will include in December’s e-Newsletter. Thank you to everyone involved in this advocacy effort campaign.
To our sponsors –PriCara, Purdue, PainPathways Magazine and RSDA— and the organizations and groups who came to show support and share much-needed information about resources available to help those with pain, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It truly is by coming together that our voices become louder, and we can accomplish anything.
I also want to recognize our ten brave participants: Karin Boyce, Stephen Brilliant, Denise Coleman, Wendy Foster, Bianca Henriquez, Edania Maldonado, Kelly Rouba, Ellen Smith, Marsha Tyszler and Heriberto Vidro. I truly admire your honesty, candidness and willingness to help others. Thank you for being such incredible people…you are my heroes.
Heroes of Healing
I want to thank our incredible members and friends for posting new discussions and blogs. Continue to look for more updates from me (and others) this month!– www.heroesofhealing.com
Nicoles Recipe of the Month
Rick's Butternut Squash Soup
This is one of my favorite fall soups, and so simple to make! Before my husband made this, I really did not think I was a fan of butternut squash…but this is delicious. Enjoy and bon appétit!
- 1 Butternut squash – peeled
- 2 cloves garlic – minced
- 1 yellow onion – chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cups chicken stock (or Vegetable broth
- Nutmeg – just a pinch
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. In large pot, add oil, onion and garlic. Cook until translucent or about five minutes. Add squash and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender. Remove squash chunks with slotted spoon and puree in blender or use an emulsion blender in the pot. If using a blender, return pureed squash to pot and stir. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.