- - Monday, May 18, 2015

“I have learned the importance of patience and understanding,” says Natalie Tarte, who has come to realize that as a caregiver she needs to acknowledge and empathize with her husband’s feelings, even those she doesn’t understand.

Natalie admits it’s still a work in progress. Three years after an IED left SGT Chris Tarte without the use of his legs and coping with PTSD, she still struggles to understand what upsets him and how best to help.

Chris lost his right leg below the knee, split his heel bone, shattered his ankle and suffered blood clots in his lungs. His left leg is a limb salvage.

Natalie must assist Chris with dressing and anything he finds difficult to reach or do from his wheelchair. Memory problems are common with PTSD and Natalie watches for the moments when memory fails him.

Although moving Chris‘ wheelchair into and out of their car is difficult for Natalie, she’s reluctant to ask for help with that or any other needs. Like many military spouses, she feels it’s her duty to care for her husband and she loves that duty. But in a tired moment she recognizes the burnout, physically and mentally.

She would be grateful if someone offered to cook a meal for them or stay with her husband for a short while so she could go out alone sometimes.

She worries about losing her identity in the role of caregiver and giving up doing things she enjoys and loves she worked with mentally ill and troubled youth before her husband’s military service. Yet anytime someone thanks her for her service to her husband, she feels inspired again. Kind words and encouragement are highly valued.

Natalie supports the collaborative work of the Foundation as an Elizabeth Dole Fellow. She hopes to play a role in affecting legislation that could aid military caregivers and veterans in their struggle to adapt to life and a renewed sense of normalcy, whatever that may be.

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