A phone call on October 30, 2015.
Two years ago I woke to a man on the other end of the phone at 3:12 a.m. He identified himself, I think. He said he was a nurse at a trauma center where my son, Ryan, was a patient. I’m still half asleep and clearly did not understand what this man said to me. At 3:12 a.m., who would?
I questioned him, “my son, Ryan?” The nurse said, “yes mam, your son was involved in an mva and was brought to us by Medivac. He is being treated for his injuries sustained in the accident.” Now that woke me up. I sat straight up, while I shook my head to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was all becoming clear. My dear son, 22 years old, a member of the Air Force, stationed at McGuire AFB, dreaming of becoming a fighter pilot. He was flown to a trauma center. The questions started to flow. QUICKLY!
My “Little Man.” For years, he was tiny and acted like an old gentleman, dubbed, “Little Man.” My “Little Man” was now 6’1” and 185 lbs. After pulling myself together, I managed to make the trip to get to him. I needed to see him. He surely couldn’t be that bad. They said he was ok. But he was flown? It didn’t make sense.
All levels of the Air Force greeted me at his door. I was already overwhelmed. I couldn’t have been more wrong about Ryan being ok. It was too much. One look at him and I was horrified. So much to take in as a mom. I felt dizzy. I was scared. There was so much swelling. Too much blood and so many stitches. Stitches in his forehead that made him look like Harry Potter. The watch that I had given him when he graduated from basic training had done significant damage to his arm. He couldn’t feel his legs. I didn’t want to know anymore.
Another call. This one from my manager. I was in disbelief when I was asked when I would be able to come back. There was an important regional sales meeting that needed consideration. My son was in an accident less than 12 hours ago. I am still wrapping my head around my son being unable to walk and I am being asked when I will be back? The only response that I could muster up was “I’m going to have to get back to you on that.”
The test results began to come back. A skull fracture. Facial fractures. A concussion. It just kept coming. A brain bleed. A broken back. I dreaded each time another Dr. approached us with more news.
When he was released, 24-hour care was required. He needed to be monitored, bathed, fed and the list went on. He needed to be taken to the Walter Reed to be followed by the Traumatic Brain Injury team and begin the grueling work of physical and occupational therapy. Of course he was coming home with me. Who else would take care of him like me? Talk about scared. He was much taller and bigger than I. He was my baby but how was I going to care for him? Needless to say, I had to work and taking off was not an option. I still had metrics to meet. His physical prognosis was ok. However, they weren’t quite as confident about his cognitive prognosis. Home we went and the long road of recovery began.
Could I Work From Home?
I wanted to work, but I needed to care for my son. The choice was simple. He was military, which meant I was eligible for 6 months of FMLA. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to work. I knew I could do both. A meeting took place with a VP and my manager and it was decided that I could work from home. My manager did not agree and was not happy about the decision. My manager continued to inquire about my face to face meetings, and all of the other required activity in my role, making sure I met my metrics. It was a very uncomfortable few months. I made it clear, I could not and would not leave my son. At the end of the meeting, the VP made a comment that I would never forget, “the moment we lose compassion, it’s time to close it up and go home.”
We spent a lot of time at Walter Reed. I met phenomenal people. Military members, military spouses, families and Wounded Warriors. I was inspired by all of the strength that I witnessed. I heard about the struggles and their stories. I learned more about the military then I ever could have imagined. The military members and their spouses would meet someone in the NICoE building to discuss their upcoming transition into the civilian sector. The families were guided and assisted. It is a requirement to go through a program as they transition. Many were vocal about their nervousness for the upcoming change. This was no easy task. There was so much to accomplish before the final day of “being in.” In most cases, they both needed to identify new jobs. All while relocating their families, looking for a new home and most likely new schools for their children. Equally as difficult, they were leaving their military family. The word that I heard often – overwhelmed.
An Idea Was Planted
During the months that followed, Ryan worked hard on his rehab. I was still stewing over the uncomfortable position I was in about working from home. The idea was planted. Launch a company. A recruitment company. Not just another company. One with purpose. One with a grassroots story. A company that had flexibility. Not metrics driven. A company that would understand the importance of needing to be something more than just an employee. Autonomy to be a parent, a caregiver to a family member or a student. I proved that working from home was not detrimental. I would include a division that focused on the upcoming transitions and to also work with military spouses while the other spouse was still active. After 25 years in the staffing and recruiting industry, I knew I could do this.
Time To Let Go, Again.
One year and two months after the accident, Ryan was finally medically cleared and was transferred to Charleston, SC AFB. Good news. Four months prior, I left my company or shall I say, I left my manager. I did launch that company. I was able to help my son pack and move him to his new home. I was able to take my time with him. This momma needed to take that time. I had to let my “Little Man” go again. Not an easy task after all that we went through.
I have never been so thankful or felt so blessed. My son and everyone else in that accident, survived and is doing well. Our lives changed. Significantly. Ryan will never be able to become a pilot. The Air Force will not clear him due to the brain injury. But he remains active and has plans to retire with the Air Force. He recently started school again and is now coaching a wrestling team in a local high school in Charleston.
The Hire Group launched and our team is in place. We are a national, woman owned recruitment firm. We service both the civilian and military sectors. We created a Military Partner division and I am proud to say that Veterans work on our sales and recruitment teams. Flexibility is the norm. We are not driven by metrics, we are driven by success. Work/life balance is the expectation. Our team is not defined by a specific generation. Our clients and employees know our grassroots story and most are able to relate in some way.
Two years later, life has changed significantly for both my son and I. He is happy. I am ecstatic. I have never been happier. My son is involved with The Hire Group from time to time and refuses to allow his tragedy to keep him from reaching for his goals. He only realized that he needed to make some adjustments. I learned to do the same.