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.
But 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 believe 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…