Coast Guard Remembered

November 14, 2009

coast guard c-130

I believe I’ve mentioned in the past that I am the choir director at Saint Lawrence Catholic church in North Highlands California.  North Highlands is also home to the U.S. Coast Guard air station who lost 7 crew members as their C-130 Hercules collided with a Marine Corps Super Cobra helicopter.  With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan involving our Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, our Coast Guard sometimes gets forgotten when it comes time to mention the sacrifice that is being made our military.  Hopefully, one day soon, we will no longer have our military sons and daughters in harms way in the Middle East—but the U.S. Coast Guard will always be ready to risk their lives for our country whenever we need them.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Coast Guard members who died recently…and of course with the families of the two Marines who died in the mid-air collision.  When I’m driving in North Highlands and see the big red and white C-130 in the air, I will say a little pray for the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.  Thank you for your service and for putting your lives on the line for us.  

From Eric, Sam’s father:  Sam&Erin_11-13-09_CareMeridianI’m often touched by the precious exchange that goes on between Sam and Erin when I’m visiting, but every once in a while he says something or she does something for him that just tugs at the strings of my heart. Yesterday, as I sat and visited with Sam while Erin was out of the room, we talked of many things like Thanksgiving approaching, Darfur, (because he was wearing a shirt that says save it) and where he was in his faith walk for healing.  Erin returned and came up behind him to give him a great  big hug. (See the 1st picture) Since the hospital staff loves Sam and Erin so much, it is not uncommon for Sam to receive such a hug from them as well. I asked him, "do you know who is hugging you"? He looked at me squarely and said, "It’s My Wife". He often refers to Erin as "my wife", but didn’t realize until yesterday what he means when he says it. He holds their relationship so sacred and that he is so grateful for the love that she shows him, that he just can’t help but remind himself that this angelic creature is "his wife".  He is thankful for his many God given blessings of which Erin is the foremost one. I said to him recently, that God orchestrated that He and Erin be together many years ago because He (God) knew that he would need someone extraordinary to stand beside him during this season of challenge in his life. He responded, "I know Dad, I Know". Sam knows, his family (Nichols’ & Nerias’) knows, and we want you all to know as well. 

We apologize for starving you all for news and information regarding Sam and Erin. I can say that I am extra busy at work, that I am a newlywed, or that the class I’m taking is time consuming; and all would be true; but when some people ask me when my next update regarding Sam and Erin is coming, then I trust I’ve waited too long. Sam is doing tremendously! The tests show double digit percentage points of improvement in flexibility, strength, eye coordination, speech patterns and volume, and how far he can turn his head and neck. One day during physical therapy, he was in the standing frame. He was given the bicycle wheel to turn with his arm strength alone. He usually can’t generate much volume to his voice while standing because of the straps that hold him in it; but this day he was at full volume. In addition this day he seemed to be having trouble with the exercise. Carrie, (his therapist) asked him if he didn’t feel like it today as he was having trouble turning the wheel. She told him that he always does this so easily and encouraged him to try harder. In his true fashion, he lowered his head and put his whole heart and soul into the SuperSam_holloween_2009 exercise and in no time was turning the wheel as always. It wasn’t until after he was done, that they discovered that the resistance was set at 3 time his normal routine. He was a tired boy that afternoon, but got loads of accolades from everyone present. It is further evidence that he has dogged determination to achieve any goal or task set before him, and that his spirit is as strong today for his recovery as it was many months ago…A father’s pride knows no bounds.  The 2nd picture is of Sam on Halloween, where Sam was Clark Kent-Superman, and Erin was Lois Lane. This kind of fun and creative thinking is indicative of the everyday options that Erin provides for Sam. We often stop at our favorite coffee shop on the way over and will call Erin to see if she would like one too; she in turn asks Sam if he wants one also…(Sam can’t drink yet by mouth, but that doesn’t stop her from including Sam in the process) Yesterday he asked for his to be with 3 Splendas…I commit to generating an update on more of a regular basis…until then,

Much love,
Eric

ali_luis_sam_erin at biblical gardens weddingFrom Tony, Erin’s father:  I wanted to add one more photo to share with everyone.  God actually blessed me and my wife with two beautiful daughters, Erin and Allison.  This past weekend, Allison married Luis.  The photo was taken in the parking lot of the Alta Sierra Biblical Gardens near Grass Valley.  When Allison was a very young girl, my mother took her and Erin to the Biblical Gardens—and during the visit, Allison declared that when she got married, it would be at the Biblical Gardens—and so it was.  It was a beautiful day which was made even more special because both Erin and Sam could be there.  

Peace to all,
Tony

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Song for Our Soldiers

October 6, 2009

A tribute to the brave men and women that have fought for our country. By talented, young artist Noelle Garcia. Featured on her new album "Set the World On Fire" being released October 2009. Owned by World Library Publications, 800-566-6150. www.wlpmusic.com.

 From Erin’s Dad Tony:  Sam was given a cognitive evaluation last week by his speech therapist at CareMeridian and he scored a 100 out of 116.  This is significant in that three months ago he was given the same test and scored 73.  The therapist said they will probably need to give him a more advanced test next time so they can continue to document his progress.

transfer_training_Sam_Nichols_9_25_09_CareMeridian_Granite_Bay Sam and his therapist have been working on his “transfer” training (Sam helping them move him from his bed to his wheel chair or wheel chair to his therapy table).  At his last session, Sam’s therapist only had to use one hand to transfer him and Sam was able to do the rest with his right arm…which seems to be getting stronger all the time.  There is also a transfer board that he has to maneuver under himself which aids in sliding his body between bed and chair.  This is a big change from when Sam was at Kentfield Rehab Hospital because just four months ago, he was being transferred totally by a  body sling and lift. 

My daughter Allison and her fiancé Lewis came to visit Sam this past weekend—significant in that Sam max_and_sam_caremerdian_9_25_2009remembered Allison is pregnant and he remembers Lewis who came into Sam’s life after he was injured.  Allison said Sam started talking to her right when they came in the room without having to prompt him or ask him any questions.  That brings up another bright spot in Sam’s ongoing improvement—he is talking much more often and his speaking voice is marginally clearer.  Part of Sam’s therapy involves calling Erin every morning (with the aid of the therapist) before she arrives at the rehab home.  This helps him to practice initiating conversation and is also meant to reassure Sam that Erin is just a phone call away and can be by his side within 15 minutes if needed.  Sam had another special guest a few weeks ago…our dog Max.  Max is a miniature Schnauzer a very friendly and calm dog.  Sam enjoyed having Max visit as did the nurses and other patients.  

From Sam’s dad Eric:  We saw Sam and Erin yesterday[9/28/09], and they looked terrific. He had shaved himself, was very responsive, and in spite of the warmth of the day, loved being outdoors on the patio. The staff at CareMeridian is top notch and as we visited, one of Sam’s favorite nurses brought him some cold packs for his neck and CuddleBuddies_9_18_2009_caremeridian_granite_bay arms to ensure his comfort.  Another had just served several of us ice water as we interacted with Sam.  Erin had been reading to Sam, but they seemed to welcome the break for some lively conversation. Sam called her close to him for a hug, and Erin touched his warm face with the outside of her glass of ice water.  He didn’t like it, so Erin reminded him that if he didn’t like something to tell her to stop it; so he said it, "Stop it". Ha! We discovered that Sam doesn’t have a favorite car, but has loved all the vehicles he has already had, that he remembers scaring off some burglars from Erin’s car several years ago, and was unsure of what car Erin was driving at the moment.  His vision therapist has been doing some good things that have made a noticeable and immediate impact in his behaviors. He turns his head more in both directions, and seems to focus better when talking directly to you. One very exciting thing is that he initiates prayer on his own behalf, and when Wendy asked him who was healing him, he responded, "The Lord".  His doctor visits have all been positive as of late, and the dreaded infections have been kept at bay.  He is both patient and impatient; anxious but relaxed, stoic, but lighthearted.  He is loved deeply by all, and returns that love with interest….

Much love,
Eric


Barrett Battalion

September 5, 2009

I’ve read the statistic that only one percent of the population in the United States is actively involved in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan.  I’m sure that is the reason we hear or see very little news in print or on TV about our military troops and their continuing struggles in dealing with multiple deployments to the Middle East.  When I was a child in the mid 60’s and early 70’s, the nightly news was packed with information about the conflict in Vietnam—the political debate about our continued presence, the growing protest, the daily body count!  I don’t have any children in school, but I wonder what our children are being told today.  Do the teachers speak of the men and women in the military who are still willing to give their lives for their country?  Do these children realize the sacrifice our troops make everyday?  Do they even care?  I’d like to introduce you to a young lady who lives across the street from my parents.  Maybe she can answer some of those questions.

Hi, my name is Marissa Lang, and I go to John Barrett Middle School.  There is an awesome club there called Barrett Battalion.  This club “adopts” a different battalion every year.  We send care packages to them.  One of the great things about this is that it does not matter how heavy the package is (but we only send non-melt able/perishable items, such as beef jerky, Jolly Ranchers, gum, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to name a few)!  Nevertheless, you see, the question is, how do we get the money for it?  We recycle.  We recycle water/soda bottles, and soda cans.  If you are in the vicinity of the Carmichael area, please bring your plastic bottles and aluminum cans to John Barrett Middle School, 4243 Barrett Rd. Carmichael, Ca 95608.  If you have questions please call my school’s phone number (and say you are donating bottles, cans or non-perishable/melt able items to the Battalions). at (916)971-7842.  We really would appreciate your help.  Thank you,  Marissa Lang

brenda danzinger_barrett battalion_john barrett middle school To give you a little more background on the Barrett Battalion:  Brenda Danzinger is the teacher at John Barrett Middle School who started the Barrett Battalion.  Her husband is a Navy Commander who is now currently deployed in Afghanistan.  The picture to the right was taken at a little thank-you ceremony the parents had in appreciation for Mrs. Danzinger starting the Barrett Battalion. 

Marissa was able to go with my mother to visit Sam and Erin at his CareMeridian home in Granite Bay.  This is what she wrote about her experience meeting Sam for the first time:

Meeting Sam,

Meeting Sam has helped me to realize many things.  Such as not taking people or things for granted.  In fighting for our freedom, Sam has sadly lost some of his own freedom.  yet, he has never lost any of his determination or courage to live his life bravely.  I marissa lang_erin_sam_august 2009_caremeridianbelieve that part of his determination is because of Erin, his wife, encouraging him.  Sam is one of those people that you do not find to often.  After everything he has been through, he has always managed to be such an amazing, kind, and wonderful person to be around!  The time I am privileged to have with Sam and Erin will always be to short!  Sam is our hero.  His bright blue eyes are strong, like the blue of our American flag.  Thank you Sam, for what you did—you did for my family and me.

Marissa Lang

Sam’s medical status (from his father Eric):

"If you have the faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move, Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17). 

Sam and Erin for the last two years have faced a mountain that would seem as impossible to remove as it did for David to kill Goliath almost 3000 years ago. There have been many ups and downs, advancements and plateaus, victories and stalemates. God’s perfect timing is not our own. After all, David picked up 5 stones as back up ammo, and Jesus himself had to pray more than once for a blind man when he restored his sight. When the time is right, it will be our "Rock" that delivers the crippling blow to Sam’s infirmity and He will walk out of that place. Another mercy of God is that Sam doesn’t have to face this mountain alone. He has Erin who so reminds me of the friendship that Jonathan had for David. A life sacrificing kind of love that can only come from the Spirit of God. The two of them oat branstart every day with passion, enthusiasm, and an expectancy that this could be the very day for Sam’s restoration. Sam’s day begins with a telephone call to Erin, to say "Good morning; I love you, and I can’t wait to see you today." Erin loves these calls, and they sometimes quicken her step to get over there to begin their day  together. They read, talk, or enjoy the pastoral setting just outside their patio doors. The other day Erin was reading Sherlock Holmes to Sam when he stopped her to have some very choice words for the parakeets that were too noisy. Ha! His new "level of awareness" (medical terms) includes a better sense of knowing where he is and why. It can be discouraging, but he meets it everyday with a great outlook, a positive, can-do attitude, and he never forgets that it is God who is orchestrating his recovery. He is the shy, diminutive boy of the story who faced his giant, and won….
Much love,
Eric

The picture is from Erin a few days ago…I love the way She clowns with Sam, sparking his own sense of humor and laughter…[Erin asked Sam to say “something” and he came out with “Oat Bran”].


Warrior Legacy Foundation

August 16, 2009

warrior legacy foundation

The Warrior Legacy Foundation is a non-profit organization (filing for 501C3/C4 status) that is committed to the protection and promotion of the reputation and dignity of America’s Warriors.

 

Across every generation, at war and at peace, America has asked her citizens to protect liberty and defend freedom at all costs. No matter the terrain or political climate, America’s Warriors have met every challenge and made every sacrifice that was asked of them in order to defeat our enemies and protect our way of life. The Warrior Legacy Foundation is a passionate advocate for the preservation and elevation of the hallowed legacy of the American Warrior Class.

Join us and stand firm in defense of the heritage of those brave souls who have preserved and protected our sovereignty throughout our great nation’s history.

They have asked for nothing and have given us everything.

To learn more about the Warrior Legacy Foundation click here…

Sam’s medical status: 

bike therapy_caremeridian august 2009 Sam is having some difficult days. He is frustrated with his own disability, and some perceptions that can also be lauded as progress. When Erin leaves in the evenings, he would like to accompany her home and has even asked her why she is leaving him there. This tears at Erin’s heart and she tries to explain it to him. They have the van now, and Erin takes him on outings to break the monotony. One day he was rather upset that Erin didn’t inquire as to what he wanted as they went through the drive-thru to get a soda. (He is still on the feeding tube). We are excited that he recognizes many of the everyday tasks that he will again be able to do someday; but they seem such a challenge right now. I’ve heard men and women of God proclaim that the absence of faith is fear. I understand this as it is easy to see fear creep into Sam’s situation. Fear that he won’t recover any further, fear that one of these infections will result in a serious illness, or just fear that he is miserable in his present condition. These would weigh on any father or mother, but Jesus is speaking directly to us today when he simply says, "Don’t be afraid, Just believe." You may ask, Believe what? He is telling us to put our faith in him as Master of the Word of God. Jesus was willing (and able) then to heal all who were sorely oppressed and he still is today. He is just looking for someone to believe it. Wendy and I stand on his word and believe it with all our hearts. Sam is healed, his restoration is eminent, and we thank Jesus for his gentle reminder to be fearless while it is being accomplished..

Much Love,
Eric

We celebrated Sam’s 25th birthday on August 12th.  We had a party at Sam’s house on Monday and then another one at the CareMeridian facility.  The 12th was very special because it was the first time Sam has been back to the home that he grew up in.  Erin asked him if he knew why they were back at his dad’s house and he said, “for my homecoming”.  It was bitter sweet because the next day at CareMeridian, he asked Erin to take him back home.  She, of course, gently reminded Sam that he must still remain at CareMeridian so that he could continue to get special nursing care. 

bowling trip_july_2009 As Eric pointed out above, it can be painful at times seeing Sam progress and become more aware of his surroundings.  Last week, Erin took her mother, Julie, to see a San Francisco Giants game as they are both big fans.  When Sam got up in the morning, he told the nurses that he wanted to see Erin.  They told him that she was taking the day off to go see the Giant’s game and wouldn’t be in that day.  Sam, who really hasn’t had the ability to show much emotion since he was injured, began to cry.  Sad—but also good that he was able to show such strong emotion for the first time!  This morning when one of the nurses was in Sam’s room, she made a noise which woke him up abruptly (which is also something pretty new since he can be very hard to wake up).  The nurse said that when he awoke, he turned his head back and forth to survey his surroundings, then motioned the nurse to come over to him.  He held out his right arm and then gave her a big hug.  When Erin arrived, the nurses were talking about his new sense of awareness….the picture is from a bowling trip Sam and Erin took in July.   

Peace and Love to all,
Tony


Mobile Marine Van

July 28, 2009

Van provided by Injuried Marine Semper Fi Fund 7_24_09 Happy Anniversary to Sam and Erin.  Six years and going strong.  Their anniversary was actually yesterday and they celebrated by going out to see the latest Harry Potter movie.  The picture on the right is Erin and Sam getting into their wheelchair accessible van.  I stated in my previous blog post that the van is being supplied by the Wounded Warrior Project….actually it is the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund who is paying for the rental of this van.  You can’t really read the emblem on the side door but it says, “Wounded Warrior—Freedom isn’t Free”. 

Kinsley's 1st birthday party_visit by Sam and Erin_July 2009 I also forgot to mention that July 24th was the 2nd anniversary of Sam’s “Alive Day” in which we celebrate the fact that he got a second chance at life.  Although it has been two very long years, Sam is close to home at CareMeridian in Granite Bay.  Erin calls it “Sam’s place”.  It really is a home that was converted to long term care facility.  The staff at CareMeridian are wonderful people and they absolutely love Sam (and Erin).  When I first heard about Sam going to CareMeridian, I thought the therapy and improvement would be over, but Sam is still progressing very nicely with the help of the therapist on staff.  We continue to see improved movement in Sam’s left side, including his arm, fingers, foot and leg.   When I visited a few days ago Erin was having Sam move various fingers in his left hand.  She kept telling him to move his “angry finger” and he was able to extend it out about half way.  Pretty soon he’ll be showing everyone the finger—especially when he gets mad 🙂 …Once I figure out how to do it, I’ll have Erin make some video’s of Sam’s therapy and post it in the blog for all to see.

A special note of gratitude to the families of James McRae, Matthew Zindars, Robert Lynch and Daniel Noble.  Your sons died with honor serving their country.   I know the anniversary of their death must be very difficult.  We will pray for you and always remember the sacrifice your sons made for our country.

heros of kilo battery_KIA_7_24_2007


Who do we idolize?

July 23, 2009

I happen to be the same age as Michael Jackson, so I grew up listening to the Jackson 5 and to a lesser degree, Michael Jackson as a solo act.  I thought he was a very good singer and dancer, but I never bought any of his records or went to see him in concert.  I only bring him up because it frustrates me to no end seeing how people idolize celebrities as a whole.  There is still nightly news cast about all the controversy surrounding his life and death.  But where is the news about our military as they continue to fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan?  These are the men and woman who have volunteered to put their lives on the line to fight for our country.  They continue to get wounded and many still die on a daily basis.  They don’t have a fancy glove on their hand or do the moon walk.  They only pledge their lives to their country and many give the ultimate sacrifice.   There is usually a small article in the local newspaper or a 30 second blurb on the local news.  Our national and local news media are letting us down.  They spend hours filming Michael Jackson’s hearse as it makes it’s way through bumper to bumper traffic in Los Angeles, but has little to nothing about a soldier who gave his life for our country.  And to the general public– Michael Jackson is much more interesting.

 

sam at kinseys 1st birthday party

Sam’s Medical Status:   A few weeks ago Sam was able to go to the 1st birthday party for Kinsley who is the daughter of Amanda and Brian.  Amanda has been very close friends with both of my daughters for over 20 years and she has been like a daughter to me.  Sam arrived in a wheelchair accessible van and stayed at the party for about four hours.  Kinsley is so good with Sam and loves it when he tickles her feet.  As you can see, she is absolutely gorgeous.

We hope to get Sam out more often as it seems to really stimulate his brain.  When Sam officially gets discharged from the Marines (yes, he is still a Marine assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion out of Camp Pendleton) he will receive a new wheelchair accessible van from the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.  Until then, Erin is being supplied with a van from the Wounded Warrior Project.  She took Sam out for a ride this morning along with one of the therapist from CareMeridian.

Sam was released from Sutter Roseville Hospital yesterday morning after being admitted last Friday with Drug Resistant Pseudomonas in his lungs. His temperature soared to nearly 106 degrees.  He remained in the hospital for five days after being put on IV antibiotics which he will remain on for about two weeks. His temperature went down after a couple days, and he is now feeling much better.  He is happy to be back at CareMeridian where he can be out of his bed and in his wheelchair spending time with Erin and the staff and residents.


IAVA: Stronger Together

July 1, 2009

Help the IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN VETERANS of AMERICA reach 4000 views of their newest recruitment video by July 4th.  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the nation’s first and largest group dedicated to the Troops and Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civilian supporters of those Troops and Veterans.

Sam’s Medical Status: 

In our last update to the blog, I mentioned that Sam was at Sutter Roseville Emergency.  He was there for 4 days before being released back to CareMeridian in Granite Bay.  He was given a PICC line at the hospital to allow him to receive antibiotics intravenously.  By the time he left the hospital his temperature was back to normal.  He had a few more days where his temperature went up slightly, but nothing that would cause alarm.

There has been a few very nice improvements in Sam’s recovery lately.  Eric mentioned in the last blog post that Sam was sucking on a dum-bum sucker which is very cool.  Last week during therapy, Sam was asked to grab his left leg (he hasn’t had any movement with Granite Bay_6_30_2009either his left hand, arm or leg since getting injured).  Without any encouragement, Sam reached for his left leg using both his right and left arm!  It wasn’t a lot of movement with his left arm, but a significant movement for him.  Later while my wife Julie was with him, he lifted up his left arm again.  Erin told me on the phone last night that he is getting more aware of his left side.  For example, he’s been moving his left arm with his right hand to position it.  His frustration level with his left side not working seems to be increasing…a good sign that he is aware of his disability and his brain is working to get things moving again.

Another really exciting improvement has been with Sam’s short term memory.  Erin is always working on Sam’s memory skills and he is very good at remembering things from 2 years ago and beyond, but not so much with more recent events.  For example, the day after Sam and Erin went to see the new star trek Eric and Wendy_6_30_2009movie, he didn’t remember going.  But—recently Erin asked Sam what big news occurred in my younger daughter’s life and he remembered that she recently told him she was pregnant (Julie and I will be grandparents for the first time!).  He’s also been remembering other big events like his father Eric getting married a few weeks ago to Wendy.  By the way, Eric met Wendy thought this blog.  Wendy is an RN from St. Louis…she came across Sam’s blog one day and started leaving occasional notes.  Eventually Eric started noticing her beautiful faith filled comments and encouragement she was giving Sam and Erin.  They started emailing each other, eventually met, and now are married!  I’m sure there’s more interesting details to the story, so I’ll let Eric make any corrections or additions where needed.

Peace and Love to all,

Tony