Supporting our troops is an action not a slogan

June 13, 2009

tweet_to_remind_300x200Back in November of 2008 I read a heartwarming story in the Sacramento Bee of the homecoming of Army Spc. Trevor Hogue who made it back home to Granite Bay California from the Middle East.  All of Trevor’s family came to the Sacramento Airport to greet him and all were very excited to be there to greet him.  The article mentioned an older gentleman who, out of the blue, came up to thank Trevor for his service to our country.  I remember the article brought tears to my eyes. 

Trevor had just come back from spending 15 months in Baghdad and part of his assignment included driving a Humvee through the most dangerous part of the city.  Although Trevor came back from Iraq uninjured, he witnessed unthinkable horror when half of his platoon was blown up before his very eyes.  On June 11th, Trevor took own his life.  He was 24 years old.  Because Trevor’s death occurred after his discharge, his death is not included in the statistics for those killed in the war in Iraq.  Our hearts and prayers are with the Hogue family.

1.65 million U.S. service members have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11. More than 35,000 service members have been physically wounded. It is estimated that more than 320,000 have sustained traumatic brain injuries and more than 300,000 have psychological wounds.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk down the street, I don’t see our injured service members.  Where is the guy with TBI or the guy with PTSD?  But you know what?…they are out there and they need our support!  Bob Woodruff of ABC’s "World News Tonight" and his wife Lee have taken on the challenge of reminding us that it is our job as American’s to take action in supporting our wounded warriors.  At their website , the banner reads “Support Our Troops”  is no longer a slogan. It’s an action.  They are trying to raise 1.65 million dollars, a goal which symbolizes 1 dollar for every soldier who has served since 9/11.  Their goal is to raise the money by July 4th Independence Day.  Won’t you TAKE ACTION in supporting our injured service members? 

From Lee Woodruff:
”Remember, no matter what you think about the war, this is about the warrior. It is about showing gratitude to the soldiers who left to serve and need help now that they are home. And it is about how we can come together as citizens, as neighbors, as a community and as a nation. The people who selflessly served are asking for our help, and helping is easier than ever.”

Returning to Normal Life: 

Before you read Eric’s (Sam’s dad) update on Sam, which he emailed to me a few days ago, I wanted to give you some up-to-the-minute news about Sam.  This morning at about 5:45AM we received a text message from Erin saying that Sam was being transported by ambulance from CareMeridian in Granite Bay to Sutter Roseville Emergency because he had a temperature of 105.  It’s about 8PM now and Sam has been admitted to the hospital for observation over the weekend.  He has a UTI that may have gone into his kidneys and possibly a mild case of pneumonia. His temperature was back down to normal about noon, and he seems to be doing well, but please pray for him.  PS:  the hospital staff at Sutter Roseville have been reminded by my wife Julie (over and over again) that they are taking care of a war hero…they have been wonderful to Sam and Julie said they are treating him like gold! 🙂

Tony (Erin’s dad)

Sam_June_2009 Sam’s journey thus far would not have been possible without God working through Erin. I’ve reported her drive and perseverance many times in my updates, and I know you can guess how we all feel about Erin. The love she shows my son is so moving, and motivational. Her desire is that Sam re-enter life, no matter what that looks like right now. Sam got to see his first movie at the local theatre this last Wednesday, accompanied by Erin of course, Donny, & Brandi. A wheel chair van was ordered at the appropriate time, delivered Sam to the theatre, and picked them up after for return to Care Meridian. No sushi bar yet, (one of Sam’s favorites) but that is coming. They saw Star Trek, and Sam seemed to enjoy himself. He didn’t remember the movie a few days later, but that is coming too…Friday he went to Supercuts to visit a friend that has cut his hair, (and the rest of us as well) for many years. See the picture taken last Saturday of his regulation haircut. He’s looking really sharp! One of his next outings will be a trip to my house with his brothers and family in lollypop_sam_june_2009 attendance. He grew up here and it should be very familiar for him. Erin continues to challenge him with conversation, questions, and trivia. She was telling him about the national spelling bee that she had watched, and he asked, "What was the championship word?" Sam has always been an outstanding speller, so Erin asked him to spell some of the words that the top 5 contestants went down spelling. To our amazement he spelled most of them with 100% accuracy. The shot of him getting to eat a dum-dum sucker in conjunction with speech therapy, is very exciting. He hasn’t been able to eat anything except by tube for the last 23 months. Erin said he loved the lollypop and I’m sure that eating will be just around the corner as well.

God Bless you all for your continued prayers on their behalf; for the notes of encouragement, the visits, and the interest in their progress. You are all an inspiration to me and the entire Nichols’ and Neria families…

Much Love,


Welcome Home a Hero

July 14, 2008

This evening I went to the Sacramento airport to pick up a friend of mine who had been visiting friends on the east coast for a week.  She was so happy to see me and I know she appreciated seeing a friendly face and getting a warm hug.

I ran across a video of a group of people who go out to the Dallas-Ft Worth airport every time our military troops come home from Iraq or Afghanistan.  Many of these volunteers are veterans of the wars in Vietnam and Korea and remember putting their life on the line for their country and then coming home feeling like no one really cared about the sacrifice they made.

Please enjoy the video of the Welcome Home a Hero Program.  There is a very similar program out of Bangor Maine called The Maine Troop Greeters.  When Sam returned from Iraq on his first deployment, I remember him telling us how touched he was by the welcome home he received in Bangor as he and his buddies got off the plan.  I know some of the Maine Troop greeters, to this day, read this blog to keep up on Sam’s progress.

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

Good Morning All!

It seems that when I spend time with Erin & Sam; we do an inordinate amount of laughing and carrying on…They each have an incredible gift of humor and what’s more they play off each other like they were professionals…Erin will set Sam up for a great delivery, knowing that he will come through with impeccable timing; and vice versa. Neither of them hog the punch lines nor are upset if the humor is lost on it’s intended audience…(meaning they don’t try to explain it; if you don’t get it, you don’t get it) It’s good natured, (no malice intended) but has been on occasion a little strange…

Sam tickling Erin That intro brings me to the picture. Sam is in his chair, me on his left and Erin is kneeling on his right. Yeah, you guessed it; we were praying. When we are done Sam begins to very sweetly and softly stroke Erin’s cheek with his fore finger. I see it and can’t help but state, “You love her don’t you Sam”…Erin looks up with adoring eyes and to break the moment, Sam sticks his finger in Erin’s nose. Funny in itself, but as she laughs, she asks him what are you going to do now? Without hesitation he mockingly wipes his finger on the yoke of her shirt. Erin and I roar…Sam does not crack a smile, not even a little one. (Donny, affectionately calls him “Deadpan Sam”) Maybe a twinkle in his eye, but you can just tell that the little stinker just let us both know that his humor is intact and he’s not afraid to use it.

You’ve heard the old adage that “laughter is the best medicine”. There have been many scientific studies done, books written, and tests
performed to try and prove that saying; and with many positive results…relieving stress, better communication, and easier to cope with everyday problems…But, did you know it is scriptural? Proverbs 15:30 (NIV) says, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.” We as a family, have always related to one another with cheerfulness and humor; so much so that it would have to be said when the conversation had to become serious. I am thinking that this has contributed greatly to how we handle the news of Sam’s progress. With God in the picture it has become even easier. I no longer say Sam WILL be restored…I say, Sam IS restored. Jesus said it, I believe it, so it is a done deal. Nothing can separate us from his love so I know that nothing can separate us from his promises either.

I’m still a little unsure of the status of Sam and the seizures. I know they are watching him closely (monitoring his vitals) and reducing the anti-convulsants they were giving him. (4 different ones at one time)…His Doctor and the consulting neurologist agreed that he was overmedicated…Wow, do ya think? His Doctor has ordered weekly comparative EEG’s to track and see, if any, the increase or decrease in the seizure level, and try to regulate his meds. I get the feeling they are a little stumped and reacting to trial and error. When God intervenes, that confusion of the wise sometimes happens. They are doing the best they can for Sam and love him very much, and we appreciate that.

Once again, I’d like to send my appreciation to all who read these updates and Sam’s blog; and to the many who so faithfully respond with comments to encourage and uplift Sam and Erin and their families…(It truly makes my day) I always feel that I can count on anyone in my address book and to the many readers of the blog around the world; for a prayer for Sam and Erin. A brief remembrance to the Most High, that we are all thankful for Sam’s healing and are patiently waiting on him to accelerate his promises. I hope that doesn’t sound too demanding of God; and my answer is simply this: He wouldn’t have said it if he didn’t mean it; so I stand on his word, not mine…

Much love,

Brain Injury Association of America Caregivers Conference

April 28, 2008

BIAA_caregivers conference logo I received a very nice email from Anna with the Wounded Warriors Project. Her organization is sponsoring a small number of caregivers to attend the Brain Injury Association of America’s Caregiver’s Conference held in Dallas Texas June 6~8. They are going to pay for Erin’s trip (registration, travel and lodging). The conference is a great opportunity for family caregivers to take part in discussions about the issues of caring and supporting someone with a brain injury and also gives them a chance to meet and network with other caregivers.

Prayers for Air Force Families: I’d like to ask for prayers for some other military families. My brother-in-law is an Air Force Reserve pilot instructor stationed at Columbus AFB Mississippi. On Wednesday one of the other flight instructors along with his trainee were both killed while taking off in a T-38 Talon trainer. The student was 25 years old and has a wife who is 28 weeks pregnant. The instructor has a wife and a two year old son and a six month old girl. Both families need lots of prayers in dealing with their loss. You can read more about the accident at this link to the Air Force Times.

From Sam’s Dad, Eric after his visit on the 25th:

What an incredible privilege it is to visit and hang out with Sam and Erin…to be in the very presence of the Holy Spirit who is working constantly on Sam’s and Erin’s behalf. You have to come away from there not wanting the cheer and great vibes that are given off by these two. This is just not measured by Sam’s progress, but also by the peace and contentment that is displayed by Erin…She is excited by his achievements and encouraged by his efforts to practice all that is becoming available to him…Please take a close look at the pictures and notice the exchange by these two…Neither let a little thing like a wheelchair nor a brain injury come between their almost electric like conductivity…they exchange more love than most healthy couples that I know…

Erin bought some walkie-talkies this week and has been challenging Sam’s coordination (using the switches) and using his words vocally at the same time…She’ll talk to him and ask for responses and “checks” on him to ensure he is using them correctly…All I can say is, “Creative and Brilliant”…She has been doing “Mad-libs” with Sam and although silly, they are quite funny…Ask the closest 7 year old if you’re unfamiliar with them…Ha! Sam has completed an entire page of them with either him vocalizing the words or spelling them out on an alphabet board of Erin’s design…Yesterday morning he spelled out to the physical therapist that he was hungry…I see that as real progress! Ha! He asked again if I would take He and Erin home as he must be getting bored as he is becoming more cognitive…Boy does that ever tug at the old heart strings…Erin is quick to inquire if he is ready to walk out of there and it reminds him that he still has work to do. He is resigned to getting better so that he will achieve that very goal…

Sam likes to pray with Erin and I, and says he prays without us as well. He also said (in answer to Erin’s questions) that he would like to travel and tell his story to other brain injured patients, (especially other Marines and Soldiers) when he is able…He included that he would like to meet and tell his story to all those that have and are continuing to pray for him…I’m not sure what wells up faster; the Father’s pride or the tears that are produced by listening to this noble young man of immense character.

I wanted to get this update in the mail this morning as I am going to be unavailable for the next 10 days, literally running from airport to airport…busy, but missing Sam and Erin…Sam has an infection of colonized bacteria that the doctors have told Erin he may have for the rest of his life…Erin and I are in agreement that it is in error…and we intend to pray that bacteria away…won’t you please join us in that accord? We say that bacteria has no chance against the healing power of God brought about by the prayers of the many…(and that is YOU!!!) Thank you and God Bless….
Much love,

P.S. Notice the “thumbs up” Sam is flashing in the pic [FLICKR Photo]…and in one Sam is “tickling” Erin’s cheek…

sam tickling erin_4_25_08_kentfieldSam’s medical status:

4/22/2008 – Erin likes to play a game with Sam’s brother Donny and his girlfriend Brandy called Mad-libs. It’s one of those games where you make up a story by each person adding words to a frame work of half sentences. I hope that makes sense. Anyway—today Erin said she was playing the game with Sam and he was adding words using the alphabet board. She said he created some pretty funny sentences (the object of the game) with worlds like “Fudruckers” the letter “O” for “something round”. He made about twenty words in the game they played today.

Sam and Erin took a field trip today back to Marin General for a CT scan. Erin thought he might be having petite-mal seizures because he occasionally goes off into a blank stare. The trip only took about 45 minutes total and then they were back at Kentfield doing Sam’s physical therapy.

4/28/2008 – Yesterday when my wife spoke with Erin, she said Sam had a fever of 103 and was being put back on antibiotics. Hopefully this won’t be as serious as the last fever he had.

An Email from Samuel Nichols: I received an email from a young man named Samuel Nichols from Ramona, CA today. He was “googling” himself and came across this blog. He took the time to write me a very nice email and wanted to share a scripture (Job 14: 7-9)

For there is hope for a tree,
If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And that its tender shoots will not cease.
Though its root may grow old in the earth,
And its stump may die in the ground,
Yet at the scent of water it will bud
And bring forth branches like a plant…

And this is what Sam “Kenneth” Nichols wanted to share with those of us who are praying for Sam:

These are the words of God to Sam as he lies in his bed. And also, these are what may comfort all who love him, to know that God is on Sam’s side, and that when he comes back, he will thrive as if like a new bud. Like I said… I don’t know Sgt. Samuel Nichols, but I do know Him, the everlasting, hope-giving, life-fulfilling God, and He will renew Sam back to his fullest. I am praying for you all… – Samuel Kenneth Nichols

Treating our Severely Injured Troops Closer to Home

April 8, 2008

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.

Marine Holding Strong at Marin General Hospital

April 3, 2008

Because of Sam’s recent trip to Marin General Hospital, I’m sort of out of sync with my weekly updates so I wanted to get everyone up to date on Sam’s status.

He is still at Marin General Hospital and will probably be there at least a few more days. When he arrived at the hospital, he was put on IV feeding because of all the issues he was having— Sepsis and pancreatitis being the major issues. Yesterday he was put back on his normal feeding tube (goes directly into his stomach).

Before Sam got so sick, he was really starting to respond to the bromocriptine which has been known to stimulate speaking in patients coming out of a coma. But because of all the drugs they have been giving him lately, he has been feeling pretty sluggish. The good news is that he has been getting stronger and stronger every day and Erin hopes he will be back to his usual self soon.

the best therapy in the world_3_28_08_Sam at Marin General Hospital with Sepsis Yesterday Sam was given a scan of his white blood cells (I’m probably not saying this correctly as I was scribbling notes as I spoke to Dr. Erin) and the “markers” will be used to determine if there is anything else going on in Sam’s body that they didn’t catch the first time. If all goes well, he should be back at Kentfield by Friday.

Hopefully I will have another update on either Sunday or Monday morning. The picture in this post was taken by Sam’s father. He titled it (in the FLICKR strip) “The best therapy in the world”.

Sam is holding strong. Thank you for your prayers!

Update on Sam at Marin General Hospital

March 27, 2008

marin general hospital I was finally able to get a complete update from Erin a few minutes ago. She said Sam is doing much better and looks really good. He has a central line and they are pumping him full of antibiotics.

Sam has Sepsis which I’ve been told can be very serious. However the doctors at the hospital say he will be fine. The infectious disease doctor said Sam has lots of microorganisms in his blood stream that are causing the fever. He said Sam is lucky to be a “strong” 23 years old so that his body can fight the infection.

They plan to keep Sam at the Marin General Hospital for about a week to make sure they take care of all the issues related to the sepsis. Erin said they have an amazing staff and a very comfortable room. The staff is very attentive and they are even ordering speech, physical and occupational therapy for him while he is at this hospital!

I asked Erin how Sam’s speaking was coming along and she said he’s continuing to improve. She said lately he has been waving his arm around and sort of mouthing lots of words. He’s been rehearsing his “I’ve got a dream” speech as Erin described it. As we were getting off the phone, we told Erin to tell Sam that we loved him and he said back to Erin, “I love them too”.

I’ve been receiving lots of emails from people saying they are praying for Sam…and I’ve been passing them on to Erin. I just set her up with an Internet broadband card so she can get Internet access from anywhere in the Marin County area and check her email or look at the comments left in the blog.

Thank you for your prayers!!!

Sam going to Marin General Hospital

March 26, 2008

I don’t know how serious this is, but Sam has had a temperature over 100 the last few days. It got up to 104.2 last night. His doctor ran some test and he has a gallbladder infection and pneumonia. They are sending him to the Marin General Hospital in an ambulance and will run some test. According to his doctor, its very possible his gallbladder will be removed. Your prayers have been so powerful over the past seven months. Please pray that all goes well.

I will send an update when I know more information.