In Praise of VA Health Care

The Palo Alto Polytrauma Center Wing 7D: During the past six months Sam has been a patient in wing 7D of the Veterans Administration Polytrauma Center in Palo Alto California. This facility is a part of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS). Since Sam was first wounded in Iraq, I’ve been on the Internet researching subjects related to Sam’s injuries. I’ve also read many stories about the VA Health Care system—most of them being negative.

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a different VA Health Care story. This is the story of Sam—a wounded Marine slowly coming out of a coma. He was at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda Maryland for two months after his initial injuries and then flown to Palo Alto to continue his recovery. All the while, his loving wife (my daughter has been by his side).

When Sam and Erin first arrived at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, Erin was so upset. She had become so comfortable at the NNMC…she had her cozy room at the Navy Lodge just down the street from the hospital. She had a host of Marines assigned to the hospital who were willing and ready to help her and Sam in any way possible. She was comfortable with the doctors, the nurses and therapist who were all caring and professional.

SamUpright_Palo Alto VA_2_20_08_taken by EricBut an interesting thing happened after a few days in Palo Alto—as Erin got more comfortable with her surroundings she noticed something. The doctors and nurse and therapist at the VA hospital, although not all military, were also caring and professional.

There has been so many horror stories about military and VA hospitals and their lack of cleanliness, old equipment, facilities in disrepair and a lack of motivation by the staff. That was not Erin and Sam’s experience. And I can say from many visits to the VA hospital over the past six months, that has not been my experience either.

The Palo Alto VA hospital is spacious and clean. The staff is friendly and attentive not only to Sam but also to Erin and their visitors. From the doctors assigned to Sam, to the nurses and therapist, the social workers, even the people who clean Sam’s room—they have all been wonderful. Erin feels like these people have become part of her family.

During a time of tragedy and trial for Sam and Erin, the good people of the VA Polytrauma Center wing 7D in Palo Alto have been a source of strength and hope. As Erin’s father, I want to publicly thank them for the work they do for all our wounded warriors. I have been able to sleep soundly at night knowing Sam was so well cared for and Erin was so happy with the treatment he was receiving.


The week before Sam was transferred to Kentfield (I’ll speak more of that below), the hospital staff in wing 7D got together and took a picture with Sam (while Erin was out to lunch). They then framed the picture and all of them wrote a note to Sam and Erin. The framed picture was presented to Erin the day before her and Sam left for Kentfield. It was a very tearful goodbye…

To give you an example of the loving and nurturing environment Sam and Erin were in, I’d like to share with you what one of the staff wrote…This gentleman was one of Sam’s nurses:

Sam and Erin,
My favorite two people—You won my heart. I pray daily for Sam’s recovery and it has been a great pleasure and honor to be able to take care of Sam. I love you both and only pray for my boy to keep improving daily. God has his plan…never lose faith. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll miss you both…with love—

The Next Chapter: On Wednesday March 6th, 2008 Sam was moved to the Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital which is about 20 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This is a private hospital and has a very different feel to it compared to the VA hospital in Palo Alto.

The rooms at Kentfield are very small and there are two people to a room, so it is pretty cramped for visitors. This will take some getting used to since Sam had a single “large” room in Palo Alto.

Sam’s new doctor took a look at a brain scan that was taken at the VA hospital in Palo Alto in February and she was very happy with what she saw. She feels they can really make some positive progress with Sam.

Please pray for Sam and Erin. We Sam_Erin_Kentfield_3_8_08believe God has put them in Kentfield for a reason and there will be some wonderful progress made at this hospital…but as with the move from Bethesda to Palo Alto, change is difficult. Erin has said that Sam is comfortable being in Kentfield but it is a little more difficult of a transition for Erin. She had a pretty rough weekend, but had lots of support from Sam’s father who visited on Saturday morning. Myself and my wife were there on Saturday afternoon and Erin’s sister, Allison, spent the whole weekend with her.

The picture above of Sam and Erin was taken by Sam’s father, Eric on Saturday. I received it in an email with an explanatory note from Eric:

Erin had been sitting next to him and talking to us all when
she scooted up beside him and laid her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her and hugged her tightly. Without a prompt, he lowered his head to kiss the top of her head. It was precious…


9 Responses to In Praise of VA Health Care

  1. Denny in Antelope says:

    Dear Sam and Erin,

    It is so good to learn of your fantastic progress, Sam. Erin, you have been a huge, important part of that healing through your devoted, committed love, your faith and prayers, and great optimism. Thanks, Tony, for highlighting the good people who serve in the VA Health System. They don’t get enough recognition for their labor and sacrifice.

    In John’s 5th chapter, he writes, “After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [[a]waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.” (Jn. 5:1-9a)

    I point this passage out because it reflects that with healing, and a desire to be healed, there comes change. Imagine the change this paralytic man must have experienced when he was finally able to walk after 38 years. Change can be good.

    Erin, when you both left “the pool” at Bethesda, MD that was the beginning of a journey. And along the way, to Palo Alto, and now to Kentfield, you and Sam can pile up “standing stones” to reflect how our loving God has blessed not only Sam, you and your family, but how so blessed we who peek in are because of your journey.

    May He continue to richly bless you as a reward to your great faith and trust in Him.

  2. Danalee says:

    We are an Easter People, and Alleluia is our song!
    St. Augustine

    We live in a “Good Friday” world, a world of suffering, unfairness, mistakes, losses and grief–witnessing Christ in the conflict of life. Yet, we are also “Easter People,” looking forward, not back, a hopeful people. A gift of Easter is the reminder that we are a people who believe in possibility. Out of the ashes of our mistakes, our defeats, our despair, we rise again in better lives. For, as Easter People we have come this far by faith, and we trust our God for the next step of the journey. Easter People share. We share sorrow as well as joy; good times as well as bad; mountaintop highs and wilderness woes. We cannot deny the cross, but we press on, looking for the empty tomb. We are Easter People, and our faith tell us us that a new chapter and a new song ar part and parcel of who and what we are. We close a chapter by writing “Amen”–“so be it.” Our new song is an old song–“Alleluia”–sung not in triumph, but sung in praise to the God who has brought us this far by faith, inviting us ever and always to write a new chapter as we strive to be who He would have us be.

    Erin and Sam are sharing their journey. They are Easter People. We are Easter People. A new Chapter, a new song, is about to begin. We will walk in faith and trust in God as the journey of Erin and Sam continues.


  3. Lori Peoria says:

    Hang in there Erin! YOU are an awesome wife. Yes, the Marines are strong, but the women behind them are as strong! Sam, you are doing so well! Keep kissing your girl! Praying with you all the way!

  4. Lois Brauer says:

    Praise God for blessing you and for your willingness to share your experiences and faith with so many people. Not only are your lives touching countless people at the hospitals and treatment centers; but througout cyberspace to many others. I know you are giving much encouragement to others who may not know you and yet God has provided you as examples of faith to them.

    Love and pray for you. God’s richest blessings always be with you. He has been with you this far and will continue to uphold you and strenghten you.

  5. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    Hey there Sam, Erin & Family!

    Just stopping by to let you all know that you are in my thoughts and my prayers each and every day. Great news that the move to Kentfield went smoothly – another leg of the journey is beginning. Great things will happen here, I can feel it! Erin it must be so scary to be in a new place, new people, a whole new set of caregivers taking care of your hero. But it will be OK, and it’s OK to lean on others, you know! You are a woman of superhuman strength and faith, and it’s gonna be OK. And never forget that thoughts, prayers, support and love come your way every day.

    By the way the pictures are so AWESOME!! Can’t thank you enough for sharing them with us! The change in Sam is so obvious, just scrolling back to the ones taken in December the change is remarkable. Can’t pick out my favorite cuz they’re all so great but I think the one where Sam is kissing Erin’s head this past weekend is my new fave! :0) And to see you STANDING, Sam – WOOHOO!! You’re getting there brave hero, you’re getting there.

    Love, hugs and prayers to you all. I look forward to seeing more great updates. God bless you Sam, Erin and your families.

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  6. Lance says:

    You sound so positive and incouraging, I will pray for you both, for my wife left me because of it(TBI), but I am much happier now. And I really hope you get better, for you have an Angel on your shoulder and they will guige you through life, For mine is not as bad, but it is really hard everyday. So God is on your side, my Brother in Arms. God Bless!!! God Speed!!! Peace Out!!!

  7. Diana, RN says:

    Dear Erin,

    I am so sorry I wasn’t there to say good bye to you and Sam. I know that this step is one more “Manly little step” in Sam’s recovery. Best wishes to you and Sam for his continuous recovery. I hope for the best to you two. Diana

  8. createmo says:

    Thank you for your site 🙂
    I made with photoshop backgrounds for myspace or youtube and even more
    my backgrounds:
    take care and thank you again!

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