Fifth Anniversary Alive Day

July 25, 2012

Yes! Sam is alive!  In fact, yesterday was his fifth anniversary of that fatal day in Iraq in 2007 when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb.  Sam made the trip from Iraq to Germany where Erin and Sam’s brother Donny where waiting for him.  He then was sent to Sam singing Elvis tunes 5_23_2012the Bethesda Naval Medical Center for a few months.  After he started coming out of his coma, he was sent to the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital.  After about six months of rehab at the VA, Sam was sent to Kentfield Hospital in Marin County.  The last few years, Sam has been residing at the Care Meridian 24 hour skilled nursing facility in Granite Bay.  We have been very pleased with the care Sam has received at Care Meridian.  He receives physical, occupational and vision therapy a couple of times a week.  Most importantly, Sam is treated like a member of the family at this facility.  Sam continues to score very high on the brain related test he is given.  He still has a real hard time with short term memory issues, but long term memory is just fine. 

Sam sitting up by himself 7_23_2012I tend to get a little down about Sam’s progress and it makes it difficult for me to write blog post about him because I always want to put out really positive reports—for that, I apologize.  I will try to be more forthcoming with my updates.  I will also resist the urge to give you to much information in this single blog post because there has been a lot of very positive things going on in the life of Sam and Erin, but I will make separate updates (preview: Erin graduated from college and getting ready for graduate school, Sam’s official retirement from the Marines, Erin and Sam buying a new house!).

Sam is still making small gains in all areas of his rehabilitation and yesterday proved to be a very good day for him.  As Julie and I were walking in to see him, he was sitting up on the rehab table without the assistance of the therapist.  Here is what Erin said in her facebook updated: 

Today is Sam’s 5th Alive Day! To commemorate the day he had an awesome physical therapy session. He sat with minimal assistance for 1:13, then 1:23. He also used his hip flexors to pick up his right leg before he kicked it out. These are both firsts. I am so proud of him.

Sam and Erin at Care Meridian 3_12_2012On top of Sam’s 5th anniversary “Alive Day”, in a few days (July 27th) Sam and Erin will be celebrating their 9th anniversary of marriage!  Besides going to school and training for marathons and triathlons (another blog post!), Erin can be found at the Care Meridian facility hanging out with Sam almost every day of the week.  Thank you for your support and continued prays for Sam.  He is a live and well and still improving every day.   One final picture of the happy couple.  Happy anniversary Sam and Erin.  We love you!


Sam and Erin are Home!

May 24, 2009

National Memorial Day Concert

I received an email from one of the PBS producers of the National Memorial Day Concert requesting to use a picture of Sam and Erin  during one of their musical tributes to our wounded military.  I’m not sure at what point in the concert the picture will be shown, but here is the picture that will be used.  It was taken at the Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital on September 20th 2008.  Please check the PBS Website for the local time the concert will be shown on your local PBS station (I checked my local KVIE listing and didn’t see it in the schedule so it may not be shown in the local Sacramento area).  Regardless of whether or not you have time to view the concert, the website has a wonderful resource section titled Discover Ways to Sam and Erin_9_20_08_KentfieldHelp the Wounded and their Families.  The web site list many of the wonderful charities who have touched our family over the last 2 years.  We tend to think of our fallen hero’s on Memorial Day, but let us not forget the many wounded troops who have served our military faithfully.  It’s estimated that there are about 320,000 soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.  Many also suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.  Many soldiers who have been deployed numerous times have been exposed to multiple blast injuries.  I would also like to take a few minutes to remember Sam’s buddies who died when the Humvee Sam was riding in blew up.  You can view a short bio on each of them on this blog in the Fallen Heroes of Kilo tab.   I’m sure this is a difficult time for their families.

Peace and Love,
Tony

And Blessings are New Everyday:  God’s never ending blessings and mercies continue to lead Sam and Erin through their journey to Sam’s restoration and healing. I reported last time that the military insurance company had denied Sam’s application to the rehab hospital that is just 10-15 minutes from our home in the Sacramento area. Their Marine Corps liaison approached the challenge through battalion, Care Meridian Granite Bay Californiathe medical staff re-wrote the language used to describe the request, and all of Sam’s prayer army took it to prayer. I’m not exactly sure  which efforts God used in accomplishing his will for Sam and Erin, but am joyful to report that as of Thursday, May 21st, at approximately 1:00 pm; Sam is a resident of the CareMeridian Rehab Hospital in Granite Bay, Ca. [7150 Sierra Ponds Ln Granite Bay, CA 95746 (916 722-2990)] This is truly an answer to prayer, and we are extremely elated that so many more of Sam’s family and friends will be able to visit him and thereby thrusting his restoration onto a new level. I was going to say it was a blessing to be able to support Erin more on a daily basis, but she usually is instrumental in supporting us! The move was a smooth one, as Erin had secured an apartment approximately one week before the actual move, and took a weekend to move the large furniture there with the help of her sister Ali, and Sam’s brother, Donny and his wife, Brandi. Sam’s Mom, Kelley, and her husband Jose, painted accent walls, painted the bathroom, and set up her bed. Erin’s Mom, Julie, brought several boxes of stored incidentals to kitchen and bath, along with groceries to further prepare Erin’s new apartment.  Erin wanted to concentrate on Sam and his comfort in the move, which can be stressful.  Erin followed the ambulance that delivered Sam, in her fully loaded car; and Staff Sergeant Brian Judkins (Marine Corps Liaison) followed in a van with the remainder of Sam and Erin’s possessions. It was truly a team effort; and who wouldn’t want to be on that team????

Last weekend when all of the "work" was being done; Wendy and I had the most pleasant task of all, and that was to visit with Sam. He was amazing; impressing the speech pathologist when we arrived. This particular therapist hadn’t seen Sam in a month, but he was so excited, he was almost giddy. Erin had left a message written in erasable marker on a 2×3 foot white board. She wrote a reminder for him that she would be gone, when she would be back, and that if he missed her he could call her anytime he wanted. Sam was holding the board and reading it aloud to him in full context. This was not one word at a time, but several words to a phrase that we hold to be quite normal. It is truly a progression and another stride forward for Sergeant Sam..As the therapist finished his session with Sam, a nurse  asked if Sam was up for a visitor. Former Secretary of Defense, William Perry, under President Bill Clinton, (and his wife) was visiting our injured servicemen. They were gracious and sincere in their appreciation for Sam’s service and sacrifice.  After Wendy and I had explained the severity of Sam’s injuries, and how far God has brought him in the past 21 months, I asked Sam if Secretary Perry didn’t Formery Secretary of Defense William Perry's visit to Sam in Palo Alto 5_20_2009deserve a smart salute. Although Sam was in bed, he snapped a very smart salute to the unsuspecting former Secretary which of course is in the chain of command for any of our military personnel. As Mr. Perry returned the salute to Sam; you would have been hard pressed to find a dry eye in that room. (See picture).

Tony informs me that a producer of the nationally televised "Concert for Memorial Day" will use a picture of Sam and Erin during that show. It will air on PBS on Sunday, the 24th, at 8pm EST.  Erin has approved the picture and it is a very touching one of them hugging each other. Thank you Tony for your continued efforts on fielding all of the correspondence through Sam’s blog, and keeping us informed as to sequential events.  I also want to extend my appreciation to all of our servicemen and women around the world; but especially as Memorial Day approaches to remember in prayer, the families of all those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. We Love You…

Much love,
Eric


Visitors with Love and Affection

April 9, 2009

Since that fateful day in July of ’07, Sam and Erin have had many visitors that want to bring them love, support, and comfort. There have been entertainment celebrities, 4 Star Generals, politicians, motorcycle clubs, and a host of friends, family, and well wishers. All of these incredible people have touched the Neria and Nichols’ families very much; but the visits by Sam’s "Comrades in Arms" have moved me the most.  Specifically, his USMC buddies that were there and with him on that hot day of summer in the desert of Iraq. Thresher, Henley, and Kjenstead (Sp?-forgive me) are three of the names of 6 of his buddies that came to pay him homage this last fall. Pardon me if I fail to remember the other’s names; they were all dear to my heart. This past weekend, Erin and I had the pleasure to host the young Marine that was Sam’s driver when his Humvee was hit by a formed projectile. This handsome warrior’s  name is Jarred Reeder. (he gave me permission to use his name and record my thoughts of his visit)…He was joined by his Jarred & Bernadette_4_4_2009_Palo Alto VA Hospitalgorgeous girlfriend, Bernadette; whom he jokingly claimed was there "to help drive and to keep him awake." Ha! It was obvious to me that She accompanied Jarred for emotional support, as this turned into a very moving visit. It was very enjoyable for me to hear all over again how Sam is held in high esteem by his fellow Marines. Jarred says that Sam’s name is legendary in the 11th regiment of the 2nd battalion of Marines. He had me laughing when he told of grilling new "boots"; (new men to the unit), if they know about "Nichols"? If they don’t, then they are harangued, and then educated…don’t feel sorry for the boot; it is the way of the Marine Corps. A hazing if you will, that allows bonding, acceptance, and of course educates them as to what is appropriate and a priority. I could see the sincerity in his face when Jarred told me that Sam is one of the men that he would like to emulate. This kid wasn’t blowing smoke at me because Sam was injured. He was the real deal; I’ve seen enough to recognize it when I see and hear it. When Erin was out of earshot, (Jared’s respect for Erin) he told me many details that weren’t previously relayed to me by the Marines. I won’t elaborate here, but suffice to know that ALL of Sam’s comrades are heroes and deserve much more recognition than I feel that they have received. As Jarred and Bernadette were leaving for the day; (they arrived on Friday evening, and stayed till Sunday morning to ensure ample visitation with Sam and Erin) Jarred asked for a few private moments with Sam. I understood and it allowed me to discuss Jarred with Bernadette in the hallway. I don’t know what was said between the two men, but it brought this Bible verse to mind when Jarred emerged from Sam’s room. Jesus was speaking and He said, "Greater love has no one than this, That he lay down his life for his friends". John 15:13…I think that summarizes perfectly the bonds that are exchanged by comrades at arms in general, and certainly by Sam and his friends in Kilo Battery….

Sam & Kelly_3_19_2009 You hear from Tony and I often, but not often from the Mom’s associated with Sam’s recovery. I am speaking of Sam’s Mom, Kelley; and Erin’s Mom, Julie. These two ladies are on the forefront of prayer, visitation, and support; but are a little on Juliethe shy side when it comes to writing anything for Sam’s blog. Both write  beautifully and from the heart, but are satisfied with letting Tony and I record our observations of God’s miraculous work in Sam’s recovery. Please know that they are always there, willing to do whatever it takes for Sam and Erin, and offer Sam and Erin much love and support in all they do.

Sam’s room in Palo Alto is affectionately referred to as the "Penthouse", as it is big enough to handle 4 beds, a wheel in shower in the bathroom, and a sofa and recliner. He has no roommate at the moment, but it is a welcome relief for visiting as the rooms at Kentfield were quite small. Speaking of which, Sam had his first full shower at Palo Alto. It is amazing how clean Erin and the CNA’s kept him at Kentfield without the full showering facilities. Erin couldn’t stop stroking his soft hair after his shower. Sam is once again invigorated by the daily therapies at Palo Alto. A rigorous physical, occupational, and speech therapy is performed, along with a massage afterwards. Erin, as Sam’s spouse also gets to take advantage of the massages, and has reported improvement in her shoulder injury from them. As the meds he was getting at Kentfield are reduced and eventually eliminated, he was going through some sleepy times, as some of them were stimulants. The busy schedule seems to keep him awake and alert, and I see that as great progress.

As Easter approaches, I am focusing on the "Resurrection Spirit" that raised Jesus from the dead. It is the same Spirit that raised Sam from brain death, and continues to push and lead him forward to full recovery. As I remember to thank God for Jesus’ miracle, I’ll remember to thank him for Sam’s as well….

Much love and Happy Easter,
Eric


A Celebrity Send Off

March 25, 2009

Sam posing Kentfield parking lot_3_23_09 Sam and Erin are moved into their new homes in Palo Alto. Sam in the Polytrauma Unit at the VA hospital complex, and Erin, once again, at the Fisher House, just a stone’s throw from Sam’s room. (I’ll include their address) I was able to attend a small gathering in a conference room at the Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital where Sam and Erin have been in residence for the last year. It was a small and rather impromptu party to graduate Sam from their rehab program, and to send them off with much love and good wishes. No less than 3 doctors were in attendance (including Sam’s personal physicians), several of the nursing and technical therapies staff, and even many of the hospital administration staff came to pay their honor and respect to Sam and Erin. Their demonstration of love for Sam and Erin was moving, to the point where Wendy (my girlfriend) had to rise and leave the room to keep from blubbering. A doctor had taken many photographs of the staff and facility, and had the employees write a memento to Sam and Erin by their pictures. Sam and Erin have come a long way in the past year, and although I give all praise and glory to God for that progress; I do thank him for the wonderful people he used at Kentfield to accomplish his will for Sam and Erin.

I am still surprised by the favor that Sam and Erin enjoy wherever they go. Yes, they are an uncommon pair. Sam, a genuine war hero in every sense of the word; and Erin, an “uncommon hero” of immense magnitude for her dedication and love for Sam. This became more clear to me as I drove to work one morning. I leave for work at about 6 am every morning, and it is still very dark at that time. Many mornings I speak to Wendy over the phone, discussing our plans for the day, challenges we are facing, and of course to pray for things we are led to. This particular morning I was driving into a full Moon, and couldn’t help but comment to her of it’s silver color and intense glow of shimmering light. Remembering my 5th grade science, I commented that the Moon has no light of it’s own and is merely a reflector of the Sun’s power and light. Once I said that, this Bible verse popped into my head, which my brother had quoted to me, just a few days before. “But to you who fear my name, The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings…” Malachi 4: v 2…This is a reference to Jesus, and He, like the Sun, is the center of all life as we know it. Scripture says that we will have no need for the sun or moon in eternity, as God’s glory will provide that light and warmth. Anyway, I believe that Sam and Erin reflect the Sun’s (Son’s) light and that is why they continue to have such favor wherever they go. Sam with his dogged determination, cooperative spirit, and true desire to be restored, fuels Erin’s love and dedication, steadfast faithfulness, and humble but assertive attitude for Sam’s recovery. These are Godly traits, and you just can’t help but love the people that display them.

Mario Cart_Kentfield_3_23_09 Sam is such a stinker…where he gets that I’ll never know. (tee hee)…He loves to tease Erin and always has. When she would have to pee, he would gently press on her lower abdomen; just to annoy her. Last Friday as she was telling him that she would be right back from the restroom, that little mischievousness came forth and he raised his hand to gently press on her belly. Erin knew immediately what he was doing and burst into laughter as we all did when we were let into the joke. It is a break through when he does something from memory, even if it is something less than acceptable and nice…Ha! As I’ve reported before, Sam is doing better and better in navigating his electric wheelchair. It takes the coordination of a video gamer, and the focus and concentration of an athlete. I witnessed him drive it around the hospital, (with his co-pilot, Erin at his side) with only a few bumps and crashes. (See picture) The day was beautiful and as we sat outside and talked, I asked Sam to throw me a pose. This next shot was what he came up with.

Erin reports that She and Sam could be in Granite Bay (only about 15 minutes from us) in just a few months time, depending on his progress at the VA. They told her that Sam would only be at Kentfield for a few months and that turned into a year. The more he progresses, the longer the stay. It is a win/win scenario for Sam and for us. As he goes to Palo Alto, I wonder whose life will be touched by God using Sam and Erin this time? Have no worries, concerns, or anxieties, for Sam and Erin. They are in God’s hands, and He is calling the shots. They will be fine, PLEASE continue to remember them in your prayers…they are working!

Much love,
Eric

Before I forget, Sam’s new address is:

SGT Sam Nichols, USMC
Palo Alto Polytrama Center
3801 Miranda Ave 7D room 115
Palo Alto Ca. 94304-1290

I wanted to give a special thank you to the doctors and staff at Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital in Marin.  I will write more about Erin and Sam’s experience at Kentfield in another blog entry, but I just wanted to quickly mention that the Nichols and Neria families are so grateful for the care you have shown Sam and Erin.  Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital is a wonderful place with an outstanding group of doctors and staff.

Peace and love to all,

Tony


March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

March 10, 2009

brain injury awareness month From the brainline.org 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 info@BrainLine.org.

 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,
Eric

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,
Tony


A handshake and thank you for serving your country

February 11, 2009

the way we get by_movie

If you saw the three elderly folks in the above picture sitting in an airport, you probably would just walk by without thinking to much about them.  “They’re retired and don’t have much to do—maybe waiting for a grandson or daughter to arrive”.  But these people are very special.  They are the last people our military sons and daughters see before leaving for Iraq and Afghanistan and they are the first people to greet our troops when they first arrive back in the states from the middle east. 

Back in the early weeks of this blog after Sam was first wounded in Iraq, I wrote about the Maine Troop Greeters  in my August 16, 2007 blog entry.  The picture from that post was taken by someone in their organization.  Sam mentioned to Erin how exciting it was every time they passed through the Bangor Main International Airport knowing they would be getting a warm welcome or sendoff.  

There is now a movie documenting the lives of three of these special Americans.  They have been on-call 24/7 for the past 6 years, ready to greet our troops.  the way we get by_visit the website

“This inspirational story of three troop greeters will shatter the stereotypes of senior citizens today. Growing old will never be the same,” according to CIFF directors.

Please visit their web site for more information on the lives of these inspirational Americans who have dedicated their time to touching the lives of our troops. 

Sibling Rivalry or Brotherly Love? 
I heard a man of God that I admire recently teach a devotional on James, the reported younger brother of Jesus. In his good natured way, and with a gentle laugh he surmised how difficult it might have been for James to have been compared with his older brother. Can you hear it now? Mary or Joseph saying, "James, why can’t you be more like Jesus?" I can speak to this first hand as I had an older brother who was far more passive than I, getting into far less trouble, and in general, pretty much a parent’s dream. Until high school he was also a foot taller than I was making him a natural on the basketball court, a six inch reach on me when we boxed, and saved his money well so he always had some. Couple these facts with my Mom and Dad occasionally saying, "Eric, why can’t you be more like Ray?"; was a sure formula for resentment from a young and immature adolescent. Fortunately, as I grew up, I began to see what my parents always saw and that resentment slowly turned to love and respect for the big goof. This small example must have been magnified many times in the household of Joseph and Mary. Scriptures show us that Jesus’ brothers not only didn’t believe in his ministry, but thought him addled. I prefer to believe as they grew, they saw what we see and that is something so unique and something so special about Jesus. If they didn’t, certainly seeing him crucified, dying, rising from the dead, and eventually ascending into heaven would be evidence enough to realize that theirs wasn’t an ordinary brother. Acts 1 finds Jesus’ brothers in the church in Jerusalem and James an eventual leader in that body of believers. In his letter, (thought by some to be the very first book written in the New Testament) James speaks of very practical aspects of daily Christianity. He calls himself a teacher, but never identifies himself as the younger brother of Jesus. He obviously learned humility; I would have had it printed on my business card! Ha!

Sam has two brothers that I have kept careful observation over, the past 18 months. We have shed tears together, laughed together, and rejoiced together as we watch Sam make advances and progress. They have offered love and support, not only for me, but for Sam and Erin, many family members, and a host of friends that are patiently waiting for that day when Sam comes home to be with us. One thing I noticed recently is their refusal to treat Sam any differently than they did before the incident. They ignore the temporary disability that Sam may find himself in; opting to speak of their many mutual interests, and of what they will do when Sam is restored. Whether they realize that or not; that is faith. On a recent visit, Donny came in and dropped the cap he was wearing in Sam’s lap. A silly thing to do; kind of an off handed insult mixed with the love and attention that brought him 100 miles to visit with his brother. Sam, not to be outdone, picked up his cap, held it out, and as he looked Donny squarely in the eye, dropped it to the floor. And with one fell swoop, Sam cleverly returned the gauntlet. Donny laughed, Sam smiled, and the visit commenced. A tragic event changes the lives of brothers forever; whether that be a crucifixion or a roadside bomb, and my boys are no different. They appreciate life more, relationships are just a little sweeter, and family is paramount. Since Sam was injured, Donny has married his sweetheart, Brandi, Marty and Helen have precious little Evan, and although our relationships were good before; they have taken on new heights of love and affection.

Sam on Feb 7 2009 at Kentfield I am so excited to bring you some very special reports of good news this week. Sam had an eye test and the Ophthalmologist was very pleased about the restoration of his optical nerve. He doesn’t have to wear glasses anymore! This is actually better than where he was before the accident. Sam has been infection free for a few weeks now, save for a slight gurgle in his chest causing an intermittent cough. Erin thinks it could be allergies, as Marin County is having an early spring. The picture is of Sam as we sat on the deck at the hospital and enjoyed the sunshine in short sleeves. The strap on his head is just there to monitor his oxygen content when he is in bed. It is more accurate than the finger monitor that kept giving them some false readings. It looks like a sweatband and he is ready for the racquetball court. He looks good and feels good as well. The prayer requests for Sam’s roommate have accomplished much. His trach tube has been capped, he is moving his arms and legs, fingers, hands, and toes, and most importantly, making speech sounds. Vegetative? Pishaw, nothing is too hard for the Lord. I also saw John Murphy yesterday [John is a patient at Kentfield who fell out of a third story window and sustained traumatic brain injury]; he smiled, shook my hand, and waved good bye to me when we parted. God’s goodness continues to spill over there at Kentfield.

Much love,
Eric


Add Your Name to the Open Letter to the President

January 25, 2009

IAVA Logo

President Obama IAVA Action Alert

Over the past year and a half, my daughter Erin has spent 8 to 14 hours a day in various military hospitals at the bedside of her husband Sam, a US Marine severely injured in Iraq by a roadside bomb.  It has become Erin’s dream to go back to school to become a speech therapist so that she can help Sam and other wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars learn to speak again.  She hopes to one day work in a veterans hospital.  One of the provisions of the new GI Bill is the option to allow servicemembers to transfer their GI Bill education funding to a spouse or dependent.  But—the military has been dragging its feet on getting the regulations in place, so servicemembers are still waiting for that benefit.  The Obama Administration can and must get the bureaucracy moving and make this benefit a reality.

In the coming months, President Obama has a unique opportunity to make a series of critical decisions impacting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Sign the open letter urging him to enact these four critical policies in his first 100 days:

    · Ensure that veterans don’t have to fight for funding for hospitals and clinics.

    · Prioritize veterans in the economic stimulus package.

    · Implement GI Bill transferability.

    · Aggressively address troops’ mental health injuries.

Click here to sign an open letter, asking President Obama to ensure veterans are a top priority.

Sam’s medical status: 

Sam is Sleepy_1_19_2009Erin reports that Sam is so fun lately. His clever and often unexpected sense of humor shines through and it is just delightful. Monday afternoon when I was there, Erin was still wearing a surgical mask around Sam so their contact wouldn’t result in catching Erin’s cold. Erin was just heading to the restroom, but Sam wanted a parting kiss. Erin feels bad that all she could do was kiss his hand; so I asked if I  could kiss him instead; and he looked at me rather funny. He held up his thumb and index finger close together to signal "just a little one"…Ha! Sam has always had a dry sense of humor with the ability to say something so funny; and deliver it with barely a smile or change in expression. It doesn’t seem that foreign to me now to hear or see Sam do something hilarious and not even crack a smile. One evening as Erin was preparing to leave for the evening, she asked Sam if there was anything she could do for him before she left…He said to her, "Why don’t you sleep right here?" motioning to the side of his bed…Erin said it tore at her heart…On Saturday, when I arrived, Sam was sleepy and subdued, but at total peace. He was comfortable and had no aches or pains; and just rested there with his eyes closed. He managed a wave hello when I got there, but quickly went back to a much deserved and needed nap. (See the picture)

[I’ve changed some names in the following section to protect the privacy of the people you will read about…Tony] After praying for my boy a bit, the family of Sam’s roommate arrived to visit. I had met them briefly the Monday before and found out that he was a musician…Mike [name changed] suffered a car accident in November and has a brain injury similar to Sam’s. His Mother, sister, and his brother had come to visit and bring Mike some family love. His Aunt arrived later for additional support. After Sam returned to napping I had the opportunity to sit with [the mother] in the employee breakroom/cafeteria, and over a cup of tea was able to listen to Mike’s story, and recount Sam’s journey thus far. Here is a family full of love for their injured son and brother, with great challenges that beset them. I think they found great comfort in hearing of all the challenges that Sam endured and conquered; and fell in love with Erin for her steadfast faithfulness. I am moved by their compassionate love for their family member; and did not miss an opportunity to be a witness for the healing power of Christ, and the power of Sam’s prayer army. When [Mike’s mother] told me of the negative medical reports, something in me quickened, as I saw this as an opportunity for God to show himself strong for yet another family and group of friends by healing yet another brain injury. So, again I am asking for prayer for another even as I did a while back for Johnny Murphy, another car accident victim and TBI recipient. Will you as a group, hold Mike up to the Lord, covering him and his family with the healing and comforting power of Jesus? What a glorious day it will be when the news of Mike’s healing reverberates through the rock and music industry, and God is the only source of his healing…

When I was leaving on Saturday; the family had just returned from treating Mike to the beautiful outside weather we were having that day. I overheard Mike’s brother talking to him in the hallway. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop and hope this isn’t a violation of a brother’s private and intimate moment, but it touched me. Mike’s brother told him that he refused to accept a medical statement of any disability whatsoever. He reminded him of all the life he still has to experience and live. Regardless of anyone’s revelation in the faith healing process; Faith statements are still faith. It is something that God can work with. I shook Mike’s brother’s hand, commended him for his statement of faith, and asked him to keep it up. All the way home, I thought of Mike and his family. I called a few people to start the prayer chain I had promised for Mike’s family. It wasn’t until after worship time on Sunday that I realized, that Sam had been subdued and quiet so that I had time to focus on this roommate’s family…Isn’t God brilliant and oh so loving????

Much love,
Eric