Treating our Severely Injured Troops Closer to Home

ABC Newsman Bob Woodruff says U.S troops should have the same care he received, and at facilities closer to their families. Mr Woodruff has literally walked in Sam’s shoes. While reporting in Iraq two years ago, he suffered traumatic brain injury after being hit by a road side bomb. He spent a few months at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and then was transferred to a hospital closer to his home in New York.

The military currently treats our wounded warriors with traumatic brain injury in only one of four military hospitals dispersed throughout the United States. While staying at the Palo Alto VA Polytrama center, Erin met families from all over the western United States—Oregon, Washington, Colorado and even Alaska.

Bob Woodruff and his wife Lee, recently spoke at a fundraiser for the Drake Center, a rehabilitative hospital in Cincinnati. One of their main points was that our military personal with TBI need to be sent to private facilities closer to their family. It has been a long and hard struggle for both the Nichols and Neria family having to drive back and forth to Palo Alto and now Kentfield on a weekly basis. Although there have been some wonderful military charities that has helped us with travel expenses, the military doesn’t provide anything to the families of our wounded troops. The least they can do is send our wounded to facilities closer to their home.

To read the full story about the Woodruff’s visit to the Drake Center, click here…

Sam’s medical status: Yesterday Sam was transported back to the Kentfield Rehabilitation hospital from Marin General Hospital. Erin said he seemed a little apprehensive and nervous when he arrived back. After a few of the nurses came in to say hi, he started to recognize them and felt much better.

Because everything he’s gone through in the past week, Sam has taken a few steps backwards. Erin said he kept telling her he was bored at Marin General and she thinks that was making him more lethargic. He’s going to be put back on an increasing regime of bromocriptine which was stimulating his speaking before last week. Erin expects after a full week of therapy and his new drug, he’ll be back to improving. Remember, before he got sick he was really starting to hit another level of consciousness.

The doctors at Marin General did find something very interesting. Occasionally it has been thought that Sam has had pneumonia because of a mass that has been seen in the lower left lobe of his lung. The doctors at Marin General determined that this was actually a part of his spleen (it was removed in Germany due to his injuries). The actual cause of his fever this past week was mostly due to a urinary tract infection which is now under control. He still has pseudomonas which is a bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections and/or systemic infections—but it is under control.

Sam_bethesda_ICUBernadine's visit to Sam and Erin at Marin General II 4_4_08

Now for an explanation of the pictures—I didn’t share any pictures of Sam for the first 6 months that I’ve maintained this blog. I just didn’t feel comfortable because I knew the pictures were so bad. The picture above on the left was taken after Sam came out of ICU at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in August of last year. As you can see, he was pretty bad off at the time. I remember when I first came in to see him, I had to leave the room occasionally because I got so emotional seeing him with all the tubes and wires hanging from him. The picture on the right was taken on Friday by my friend Bernadine. Sam was still not feeling too good, but he was still impressive. I’ll let Bernadine (who I consider my big sister) tell the story of her visit:

Kelley and I took off for the bay area yesterday around 9 so we could stop in Marin County to see Erin & Sam…….I got there while she was in the bathroom, and I was so happy to see Sam so alert, and went in and ran up to his bed and gave him a kiss telling him who it was and he seemed visibly aware I was there for sure! Then Erin came in and she got him to say my name!! very cool!!

He cracks me up the way he does his blowing [see the FLICKR photo to the right], she said he does that to piss her off, ha……..but she also thinks it comes from all the practice of blowing to learn speech! She asked him all sorts of questions to which he signed yes or no…Dr. Erin filled me in on a lot and told me she is going back to school to study Physical Therapy………….she is truly amazing [she hopes to go to Stanford].

I know its hard on Tony, as it was on my mom and dad, to realized the life you thought your daughter would have is not quite as expected [Bernadine has TWO special needs daughters!]. But I also truly believe Erin has accepted this cross in her life with so much love and grace, she will walk along with our Lord all the way, and she will be okay. It was so great to see the progress Sam HAS made…

Yes—Bernadine made me cry when I read that. Bernadine was on her way to Redwood City with her daughter Kelley, 18, for an appointment at Kaiser. Kelley is going to be having brain surgery soon to help relieve the seizures she has been having for much of her life. Keep Bernadine and Kelley in your prayers.

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4 Responses to Treating our Severely Injured Troops Closer to Home

  1. Aunt Joy says:

    Dear Erin and Sam,

    I just wanted to let you know that everyone here at the Base Chapel are pulling for you. Every week we give them a little update on what’s happening in your life and I think it makes them feel so much more a part of what is happening everywhere. They say to tell you to keep the faith and they know God will pull you both through this.

    I am so proud of you and look forward to the day when we can all sit around and “remember” the time Sam was in the hospital.

    Much love to you,

    Aunt Joy

  2. Erin Nichols says:

    A big part of changing the way that wounded troops are treated is changing our healthcare system. i don’t know what the answer is, but today I was discussing the holes in the system with the Kentfield chaplain; most specifically the lack of nurses. Since our trip to Marin General we have experienced the differences between military, VA, county (a rich county) and private hospitals. The lack of nurses is of course a problem, but also a small private hospital like Kentfield can’t afford the nursing ratio that a government funded VA hospital can. In the case of Marin General, the nursing ratio was a bit better than at kentfield, but most nurses can’t afford to live in Marin county so they commute from up to an hour and a half away. When a nurse calls in sick all of the area hospitals are pulling from the same list of registery nurses to fill spots for the day. The bottom line is that in most cases nurses are spread too thin; consequently, good nurses can’t do good nursing, effecting patient care. Sam certainly isn’t neglected, all of his nurses at all of the hospitals have cared a great deal about their patients, but when the nursing ratio is low, I feel like I have to work harder to make sure he gets what he needs. i’m happy to do it, but not everyone has someone with them every day to make sure the details aren’t overlooked. Much needs to be changed in our healthcare system before doctors and nurses can perform their jobs in the manner that they would like and patients deserve, as they are currently handicapped by burearacracy.

  3. Kristin Abbruzzi says:

    Hey there Sam, Erin & Family,

    Stopping by to let you all know that every single day you are in my thoughts and my prayers. And that you ALWAYS will be. Sam you are looking GREAT these days I’m so thankful that you are feeling better and ready to get on with your journey to recovery. You are doing AWESOME – keep up the great work Sam & Erin!

    Erin I saw your comment above and out here we hear about nursing shortages, but unless you experience it and hang out in your shoes it’s not a reality. I hope and pray that things change in this department – you couldn’t be more on the money that if we don’t solve this problem for everyone it’s even more difficult to solve it for our heroes that need care every day.

    God bless you Sam, Erin and everyone I pray so hard that you have the massive amounts of peace, comfort and strength showered upon you each and every day. Thoughts, prayers, support and love are sent to you – in mass quantities – every day!

    PS the pics are wonderful. To see where Sam was not so long ago and to look at him now and SEE that he is getting better reinforces ones faith. Sam, you ARE a miracle. And Erin, the miracle is real because of your love for Sam and your faith in Him.

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  4. Jeannine says:

    Just wanted to write a quick note to let you know I’m thinking of all of you, and sending a big hug and hope to all. Erin you are an angel — truly. Your love reaches further and deeper than you might ever know….for that, the rest of us should be deeply grateful. Love to all, Jeannine

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