March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

brain injury awareness month From the website:  It’s March. That means it’s Brain Injury Awareness Month — a yearly effort to raise awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. To help you make the most of the events this month, BrainLine has created a comprehensive list of what’s happening across the country. On it you will find everything from the goings on at the Congressional Brain Injury Awareness Fair on Capitol Hill to the Walk and Roll-a-thon in North Carolina.

Also, take a look at our Calendar, where you can always find monthly listings of events, conferences, and other goings-on in the TBI community. You can also submit your calendar items to us at

 Sam’s medical status: 

Sam and Erin have had a tremendous few weeks since Tony and I last updated you all. One afternoon as Erin was clipping Sam’s toenails, which she always finishes with a nice lotion rub; Sam was trying to follow her movement, but the telescoping television kept getting in his line of sight. He pushed it one way, then the other. He said and I quote to get it right, "I love, how you show me how much you love me". On the day I was there, Erin washed his hair in his chair and I was impressed how good a job she did with very little excess water. When she finished, she draped the towel over Sam’s head with the Sam dries his hair_3_4_09_Kentfield instruction to dry his hair. I thought he would quickly pull the towel free from his head; but he just started drying it with a lot of rubbing action. (see pic) Sam was moving his fingers up Erin’s torso and she asked him what he was doing, and he answered, "I’m taking my fingers for a walk". This last week he gave Erin a "wet willie"; a junior high school trick just meant to annoy. Their social worker is a girl named Debbie, and Erin had Sam make a card for her for her birthday. When they saw her in the hall, without prompting, Sam gave her the card and said, "Happy Birthday". With tears in her eyes, she asked Sam’s permission to put it on her wall, to which he responded, "Frame it". In (2) 1/2 hour sessions of speech therapy, Sam said 195 words and phrases. (Yeah, they count them) This is the most he has done, beating his former record by 70+ words. These included open ended questions (other than yes or no answers), multiple choice, and phrase answers. One of the most darling memory exercises that Erin has him do is to number her kisses to him. She’ll say what number is this?; get a kiss and then he’ll retort 8 or 9 or 14. It’s working. Sam is also getting good at propelling himself with his very strong right arm. He knows how to reach back far on the wheel and give himself a long stroke to move himself forward, which he does if Erin stops to chat with others and he wants to go. He tried it one day while Erin was pushing, so She had to pull over and give him some instruction in wheelchair safety. She asked him, "How many fingers do you have"? He shows her 5, and then She asks, "How many would you like to keep"? which he also answers 5. Ha!

The most exciting things this past week involve Sam walking on a  treadmill. It’s called a "lite gate" and uses a harness, much like the standing frame. It enables him to walk, but he must use his own power to get his legs moving. His drop foot has impeded this so far but SmoochTime_3_4_2009_Kentfieldthe physical therapist is enthused as Erin and I are. They will continue to work on it with a boot to keep his feet straight thereby allowing him to walk under his own power. This IS exciting. Erin also told me tonight that Sam motorized his chair from the cafeteria to the gym without assistance. This involves several turns and much control, so again another first. Mike was impressed, Erin was so proud she was moved to tears, and I am as always in awe of the way that God continues to push him forward. There is a distinct possibility that Sam and Erin will return to the VA in Palo Alto soon. This is also good news as he isn’t going to have to go to San Francisco to get his infections ironed out.

Much love,

More Sam Updates as of March 11thEric’s update was from the 4th of March.  I wanted to give you a little more information on Sam’s move back to the Palo Alto VA Hospital.  On Monday of this week,  representatives from the Palo Alto VA Hospital came and did an evaluation on Sam.  They put him through a series of test to ensure he would benefit from additional speech, physical and occupational therapy at their location.  They were very impressed with how quickly he responded to their questions and his ability to speak in complex sentences.  As Eric said, Sam has been doing very well with his speech therapy and seems to be going to the next level of awareness just at the right time.  After the evaluation, Sam was accepted back into the program at the Palo Alto VA.  Erin called her mother this morning and said their move date will be March 23rd.  Sam is scheduled to have surgery on his left calf muscle to lengthen it (due to the drop foot).  He will also have his esophagus dilated which will help him to begin drinking and eating again…I’m assuming it will also help with his speech.  Erin put Sam on the phone to talk to Julie (Erin’s mother) and they had a nice little conversation.  When Erin got back on the phone she said to Julie, “that was awesome, he was carrying on a conversation with you!”…Things are looking up.  Thank you for your prayers! 

Peace to all,


12 Responses to March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

  1. Bernadine says:

    I was just thinking yesterday that I hadn’t seen any news of Sam&Erin online in awhile. So I was soooo happy to see an update today and as I read it I was near tears. Dealing with the frustrating special needs of my girls I know how progress can be slow but when I see the love in their eyes I know I’m doing okay. So as I read the latest news on Sam I am sooo impressed with his progress and I know that the Sam we all know and love is pushing his way out……with the help of so many who love him. BUT it is Erin’s devotion, faith and love that is truly the key to stimulating Sam’s brain and helping him heal and bringing Sam home to us all!

  2. julie says:

    I’m so thrilled for all the progress Sam is making! Great news about Palo Alto VA! i love Sam’s determination and sense of humor and admire Erin’s strength, and creativity so much. Eric and Tony…..thank you for sharing……as always I’m inspired by your tremendous faith and love. I’m a little cheering section here…with you all the way with love and prayers!

    Soldiers’ Angels

  3. Dana Williams says:

    God be praised!! This is an amazing and wonderful account, Eric. Sam seems to be a “leaper” — he plateaus for awhile and then makes a giant leap. I am so proud to know Sam and his natural-born rehabilitative genius of a wife, Erin. I foresee many books and media appearances by her in the future. Erin, you are awesome, and Sam, you are the living expression of not only your own grit and courage, but also of the tremendous love and faith of your family and friends. Onward!!

  4. Stephanie Kerr-Chase says:

    Way to go, Sammy! Keep up the great work. WE are pulling and praying for you and keeping up with your progress. Love from, Dan and Stephanie Chase and Bobby Kerr

  5. Wendy says:

    Oh my goodness! You are doing fantastic! I am thrilled and in awe as I see all of this progress packaged together. I see more and more evidence of how Sam has beat all of the medical odds (coming from an RN’s perception). To God be the Glory: with God’s intervention and Sam & Erin’s determination, Sam continues to progress to total healing and restoration. This latest evidence is overwhelming. I am praising God for how well Sam is doing, and how well he did the day of his evaluation by the Palo Alto staff.
    Are you ready for this next exciting chapter of your lives?
    I love you guys so much! I am excited for our next visit!

  6. Great news on Sam’s progress, and all the best to Sam and Erin for their continued strength.

    Visit for military resources and information on TBI.

  7. Great news on Sam’s progress, and all the best to Sam and Erin for their continued strength.

    Visit the Military Health System’s web site (\braininjury) for additional resources and information on TBI.

  8. Lori Peoria says:

    Love getting the updates and hearing about the kisses! Keep counting higher with more kisses!


  9. Laurie Riddle says:

    Your continued faith is an inspiration to me. I look forward to the updates, however the day to day victories and set backs that Sam and Erin experience are the true testimony of love. God’s blessings to you all.

  10. Carol Calloway says:

    God truly is answering all of our many prayers for Sam and Erin. It is great to hear about his progress and we look forward to even more. We’ll keep praying and Sam and Erin will keep working. This will work!! With God’s power and our prayers. Faith is a beautiful gift!

  11. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    You guys never fail to make my eyes sweat! Incredible progress – just incredible! Praise the Lord!!! You’re continuing to kick some serious butt. SERIOUS BUTT. You are amazing, Sam & Erin, you truly are. You guys and your families inspire me and so many others every single day. You truly do. God bless you all and continue to bestow all of the strength, peace and comfort that you all need each day. And may He continue Sam’s Complete Restoration.

    Love to all of you. And extra special Angel Hugs too!!

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  12. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    Hi everyone, you’ve been on my mind this week (more than usual! :0)) – I wonder if the move to Palo Alto went as planned, and without incident. And that you have a nice room too… Onward and upward Sam & Erin – I’m beside myself with excitement to be able to watch Sam’s restoration continue with full force. God is good!!!

    God bless you Sam, Erin, the Nichols and Neria families. You all inspire me each and every day in such incredible ways. You are all my heroes!

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

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