There was a recent article in the New York Times about families of disabled veterans seeking compensation for there roles as caregivers. Because of better medical technology, many more soldiers have survived serious wounds they received in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Dole-Shalala Commission, in 2007, there were over 3000 recently disabled veterans who required full-time clinical and care-management services.
As the father of a daughter who has spent the last 16 months at the bedside of her severely wounded Marine, I worry about Erin and Sam’s future. Will Erin need to get a job in order to pay their bills? Eventually Sam will be retired from the Marines and I’m sure will be considered 100 percent disabled. Will Erin become his full-time caregiver? During Sam’s stay at the Palo Alto VA hospital, Erin met many wives and mothers of wounded soldiers who had to quit their jobs to be with their wounded veteran.
During the last session of Congress, veterans groups and families asked lawmakers to introduce legislation that would allow families of wounded soldiers with traumatic brain injury who complete training and certification with the VA to be paid for the caregiver services they provide. The bill has not come up for vote yet, but because President-elect Barack Obama has endorsed many other bills that support veterans’ issues, it is possible the bill will have a greater change for passage in the next congressional session. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
Sam’s medical status:
When Sam was a small boy, much like his brothers, he had an unusually adventurous spirit and very little fear. Naturally when you have a kids that embrace life and aggressively approach sporting and play activity; there are resulting injuries. I remember once, while on vacation and immediately following lunch at a Taco Bell, Sam (maybe 6 or 7 years old) was jumping off a bench…sure enough he cracked his head and we spent the next 4 hours in the emergency room while he received a half dozen stitches. Another time (at about 5 years old) he was playing with a wooden dowel that we used as additional security for a sliding glass door; and as he jumped over it, he landed on the end of it. Although he missed all of the vital areas, again we saw the inside of the emergency room with the addition of more stitches to a nasty gash. He was more embarrassed than he was hurt, as his brothers were relentless with names like “Sam-on-a-Stick” or “Sam-cicle”…Ha! I believe that it is this same adventurous spirit that led him to enlist in the Marines, after successfully finishing one year of college. He was bound and determined to return after his tour and return to college and He and Erin had already enrolled and been accepted to the University of Nevada at Reno. At the time, Erin was interested in teaching, (now that interest has turned to speech therapy) and Sam was interested in business. This was solely to prepare himself, as his interest was to open a restaurant/bar with exotic sandwiches (He and Erin had already developed several great sandwiches by experimenting in their kitchen) and super advanced video games dealing with virtual reality. It is this kind of desire for an out of the ordinary life that make them fabulously interesting people. Although their lives may have been steered in another direction; I firmly believe that they will have many adventures ahead of them and WILL fulfill them in God’s good timing. In fact, I would state that this experience will heighten their lives as they apply lesson after lesson, and for the benefit of others. Thank you Lord; for the lessons you’ve taught us all in Sam and Erin’s lives…
This update finds Sam once again in Marin General Hospital, in a medical unit after being admitted through an emergency procedure. His “Port” had become infected. This a line inserted in his shoulder a few months ago, that goes to the big arteries in his chest. It is for easily administering medications and from which to draw blood. Sam is what is referred to as a “hard stick”, meaning he has underground veins. We’ve seen him get stuck up to 10 times before they call for the best (most experienced) person to come and get the blood they need. More antibiotics; Ugh! In addition, he was prescribed a new anti-convulsant after being weaned off of the 4 others he was receiving. It made him temporarily groggy, but Erin reports he is becoming accustomed to it and back to his old self. I saw him twice this week and both days he seemed alert as to all that was going on around him, but chose to relax by keeping his eyes closed. One thing I’m very excited about is their determination to get to the bottom of his recurring UTI’s. He is not going back to Kentfield until that is accomplished. His next stop is the Urology department at the University of San Francisco for a consultation on a surgery to explore (by scope) to try and locate the shrapnel they believe the culprit of his recurring infections. I say it is high time, and am positive it is God’s leading that sends them there. This too will soon be past them and back on the road to recovery. As I spoke to Erin on the phone yesterday to receive the very latest news; Sam wanted to know to whom she was talking. When he found it was me, he wanted to take the phone and talk to me. He said he felt good when asked, and then gave me a resounding Oohh-Rah! He also told me something that we couldn’t make out, but it was just good to hear him use his voice and try to speak out loud. Of course he said, “I Love You, Dad” and for some reason I never have trouble making that one out. Erin said it was the most he had said out loud all day…Donny and Sam had always agreed that they would be each other’s best man at their weddings, so I was testing his memory to find out if he remembered that was approaching, and asked him who was the best man? He pointed at me…don’t ya just love this kid?