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

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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 remind.org , 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,
Eric


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


Stigma Free Post Deployment Mental Health Site

October 20, 2008

afterdeployment.org There are so many issues that can crop up after a military service member has returned from deployment in a war zone—stress, relationship issues, depression, anger, substance abuse and PTSD.  Many service members, especially those who are still in the military, may not seek help due to the stigma related to mental health treatment.  There is a web site sponsored by the Department of Defense Military Health System (MHS) called afterdeployment.org who’s mission it is to assist military members, veterans and families with mental health issues in an on-line environment.

Site developers project new content in the coming year to include information and interactive exercises addressing relationship issues, children and deployments, traumatic brain injury, warrior and family resilience, veterans’ concerns, women’s issues, partner difficulties, and domestic problems.

To view a an overview video of the afterdeployment site, click here.

Sam’s medical status:

Good Evening All,

When our kids are small, it is very easy to tell them whatever we’d like them to know. I remember when I was managing a Taco Bell in the 80’s, I told the boys that there were Little Sam in SuspendersMexican Dragons living in the dumpster enclosure behind my store. We had an early rendition of the commercial trash compactor, so I could hit the button and it would noisily cycle through it’s process and that is when we’d run out and say, “They’re waking up”! The boys would be wide eyed and would have sworn to all that there were truly dragons in there. They simply believed it because I told them it was so…That is child like faith…Total trust, total confidence in it’s source, and total commitment to it’s validity. Jesus said; “I tell you the truth, Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child, will never enter it”… Jesus wasn’t referring to their chronological ages; he was referring to that total belief without reservation or agenda, the acceptance of Jesus into their hearts as Savior and Healer…Well, I get to witness that kind of faith weekly Little Erin when I visit Sam and Erin…It is not an automatic assumption that an injury such as Sam’s results in finding God….there are several examples that I can recount, of injuries similar to Sam’s that the families are not standing in faith for their loved ones. And, the stand is not easy…Sam and Erin are bombarded daily with well meaning scientific facts, numbers, and theories of why he is progressing or why he is not. I’m happy to say that this information is carefully weighed and measured and that decisions are then based on how this info is lined up with the Word of God….We know that God uses the medical profession just as he uses his supernatural power of healing depending on what pleases him to do at the moment…after all he is sovereign…I thought you would like to see them as they were when they were accepting things taught by their parents with the wide eyed wonderment…They are darling…and then now when they are again accepting things on faith; believing on the evidence of things they have not yet seen…Erin was trying to make him look at the camera she was holding, but he only wanted to look at her that day…notice his half smile…Both are precious…

Erin reports that Sam is getting back to the point in his rehabilitation before the seizure scare of a few months ago…She said one day this past week he reacted like someone had flipped a switch. He became chatty once again, and his conversation was very astute and accurate. At about 5pm one day, Erin asked him if he Sam trying to look at Erin_10_16_08_Kentfieldknew what time it was; he answered, “early evening”…bingo! She calls it his “optimum” performance in the speech areas…Friday I listened to him recite the alphabet, the days of the week, and even a run through of Happy Birthday…While watching a playoff game the Red Sox scored and Erin said, “what do you think of that”? He responded, “those S.O.B’s”…so unexpected, but so funny…Some words are crystal clear and some are garbled, but unmistakable in context. He was told his brother is getting married soon and he covered his heart with his hand…When his Mom visited him he took her hand and kissed it twice…and of course he just melts my heart when he says, I love you, Dad…Erin wrote me an email today saying he has an elevated temperature and possibly another urinary tract infection…Ugh! Truly a step forward and then maybe one sideways…never backwards though…Let’s cover them in prayer this week and ask God to obliterate that UTI that continues to hamper his recovery…

Much love,

Eric


America’s Heroes at Work

August 25, 2008

image The U.S. Labor Department just recently launched a web site called America’s Heroes at Work to help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The web site is a collaborative effort with the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.  These three government agencies are working together in this effort to help veterans with TBI or PTSD transition back into the civilian workforce and local communities.

America’s Heroes at Work provides various resources, including fact sheets, reference guides and training tools to help employers integrate veterans with TBI and PTSD into the workplace.  To read more about this new service click here.

Sam’s medical status:
Courage, Honor, and Commitment are the buzz words belonging to the credo of The United States Marines. They are not idly adhered to; but taken very seriously as a way of life, standards by which they comport themselves, and to be a shining example to the nation. The Marines that practice and live by these words command our respect, our admiration, and even our love. And why not? These words are, and when implemented in the correct fashion, represent gifts from God to men. Scriptures are full of stories of courageous and honorable men and women. I don’t believe any thinking person would disagree that Sam and Erin display an incredible amount of courage and do it very honorably. Today I’d like to give you some observations about commitment that I’ve witnessed over the past year, few months, and just this last Saturday…

sam and frodo_lord of the rings I recently watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy and especially “The Return of the King”. As you may remember, Frodo showed an amazing amount of courage and undaunting and incorruptible character in his quest to save the world from the impending evil. BUT, I’m afraid Frodo would have never made it without the love and commitment of his good friend Sam; (Yeah, the name cinched it for me) even evidenced by Sam carrying Frodo up the mountain in his last stretch of the quest. What powerful dedication to his friend and neighbor. What love exhibited on his many months long journey to his companion…Well, I submit to you a real life Lord of the Rings story and that is Sam and Erin.

Sam’s injuries were and are severe. So severe in fact that other people in similar circumstances gave up hope and retreated from the battles that lay ahead. Sam does fight the battles daily. It is an uphill climb, no an up-mountain climb everyday of his recovery. His current challenge is a series of focal seizures that plague and interfere with his rehab time, thereby slowing his progress. The doctors don’t seem overly concerned by this, although any seizure of the brain is serious and must be researched to it’s fullest extent. This finds Sam in the neurology department at the University of San Francisco Medical Center. An excellent hospital with a great reputation for it’s specialty departments. He is monitored with a 24 hour EEG, and is under constant observation by video. The picture is of Sam with several Sam in USF med center for EEG_8_23_08 electrodes literally glued to his head and face. Erin said the epoxy that they use burns a little when applied. He is also under the standard protocol of oxygen while he is there. Erin was reading him some of the questions on the hospital admission forms and one of them went like this. “Have you been hurt physically, emotionally, sexually, or financially by anyone in the past 6 months? Sam replied, Yeah! When Erin asked by whom, he replied, “By that guy!”, referring to the tech that was applying the electrodes. Ha! This is how Sam faces his challenges. With courage, dignity, and a little humor thrown in for good measure. I believe strongly that God has him in San Francisco for a great reason and it can only be a good one. Nothing can separate Sam from God’s love so this hurdle will be like all the others.

Even though Sam confronts all tasks with all the boldness of being a Marine; now he must rely on another (just as Frodo did) and that’s Erin. She is the one who pushes him to excel in his physical therapy, encourages him and reminds him when his memory fails him, and even carries him when he just can’t make the last few steps to a goal. Erin was trying to get Sam to exclaim some faith and asked him who was healing him…He said “You are”…and although she was trying to get Sam to give God the credit, she just didn’t realize how accurate he was. There is no doubt in my mind that Erin’s steadfastness to Sam is a direct pipeline, and tapped into the Lord most High. I’m not even sure a person is capable of that kind of commitment without the strength and power coming for God himself. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. My boys have already pointed out my similarity to Gandolph, The Gray in those movies. For those of you that know me, I’ve been gray for many years. Ha!

Donny visited last week right before Sam went to SF…he had been drinking a Dr Pepper in a plastic bottle and had a little bit left when he got there. He gave Sam the bottle to play with and Sam wanted to drink the remainder of the soda. Donny removed the cap and Sam downed the last few drops. He wanted it all and squeezed the plastic of the bottle to move those last few drops around and get them. The RN on duty was very excited and calculated at least 7 different cognitive moves. She hadn’t seen him in a while and ran to record her observation.

Erin’s commitment to Sam is and will be legendary; and Sam’s commitment to her is also apparent. Erin asked him recently why he works so hard in physical therapy, even when he didn’t feel well? His answer is priceless…”Because I love you so much”!

Much love,
Eric

“I’ll get there, if I leave everything but my bones behind, and I’ll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and heart.”

Sam Gamgee – The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings)


Pentagon to spend $300M for study of TBI and PTSD

August 6, 2008

erin beaver creek wounded warrior project spa weekend_edited-1

Wounded Warrior Project:  The above picture was taken at The Charter Hotel at  Beaver Creek, Colorado.  Erin and 18 other wives of wounded Marines and Soldiers were invited to this weekend get-away by the Wounded Warrior Project.  As with the recent trip Erin took to the Brain Injury Association of American Caregivers Conference in Dallas/Ft Worth, all expenses for this trip were paid by the Wounded Warrior Project.  The picture above is a little small, so if you’re having trouble finding Erin, she is kneeling in the front row, third from the left.

Erin had a wonderful time in Beaver Creek.  She said she was really able to connect with all these girls and wishes she had more time to get to know more of them.  The girls were given facials, massages and participated in group therapy sessions.  When we texted Erin on Friday night, she said she was having a great time at the “pajama bunko” party.  One of the girls is going to start a MySpace page so that all of them can continue to stay connected.

If you are not already contributing to a charity that supports veterans and their families, the Wounded Warrior Project is a worthy cause.  They, along with the Marine Corps Semper Fi Foundation and Soldier’s Angeles were there waiting for Erin when she and Sam first arrived in Bethesda NNMC and they continue to be there for Sam and Erin and our whole family today.

DoD Research Funds for TBI and PTSD:  Wonderful news in the TBI research world.  The Pentagon is spending $300 million dollars for research related to TBI and PTSD.  This includes research on 20 different medications related to TBI.  When Erin was at the Brain Injury Association of America Caregivers Conference last week, she mentioned that many caregivers of non-military TBI patients we so thankful that the military TBI issues were giving all TBI research much needed publicity.  It’s estimated that 1.4 million Americans suffer from TBI each year—235,000 of those cases are serious enough to require hospital care (based on findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  To read more on this topic, see this article from USA Today.

Sam’s medical status:

Good Evening All,

Erin lent her expertise to the “Wounded Warrior Battalion’s” workshop in Denver this past weekend; so it was Kelley’s and my distinct pleasure to sit and visit with Sam. On Saturday, Kelley took some friends with her that were so excited to be there and pray for Sam. I got the impression they were from a Spanish speaking church and were elated to hear Sam use his voice to talk to Erin by phone. They were blessed, but were a blessing to Sam as well. If we could ask for another prayer this evening; Sam’s Uncle, Rick Hendricks, collapsed at work today and was unresponsive for several hours…We immediately had dozens and dozens of spirit filled believers praying for him and he regained consciousness this evening. Sam in his own voice, “gargled” out this prayer: “Heavenly Father, In Jesus name, we call Rick the healed of God.” They are doing tests tonight to determine the cause of the incident but we are believing the same power that moves Sam along will restore Rick as well.

Sam had a fantastic week full of therapy sessions and tests. He has 3 successive EEG’s and no sign of any seizure activity…He is off of the stronger anti-convulsants and just takes one mild one for now…He doesn’t seem to be displaying severe symptoms of any iSam in PT_Kentfield_08_03_08infections either so it is full steam ahead for progress again. The therapists are jazzed to see him back in the “work mode” as he breaks his own record daily for sitting up unassisted. The first picture is of Sam sitting to rebuild the muscles in his core…After a few minutes, he began to tip sideways and he said, “Oh S_ _t! Ha! Erin and the therapists roared…Can’t get all the Marine out of the boy…Ha! The other picture during Physical Therapy is Erin giving him ample reason to work hard. A kiss for motivation…If you look hard you can see the Anniversary ring that Sam gave Erin for their 5th wedding anniversary. Erin was the envy of the nursing staff and they all wanted to know from Sam where their ring was…Sam was hilarious playing to their requests…The last picture is of Erin throwing some jabs at Sam with Sam & Erin Kissing_Kentfield_8_4_08his night time mitten. It is used to keep him from pulling out essential tubes and such…He is getting very fast with his response time in blocking her…

The last two days he didn’t want the T.V. on at all…he wanted some  reading done for him; and seemed quite content to hear some stories…he listened intently and interacted on several occasions…at one point I looked at him and he seemed to be deep in thought so I asked him what he was thinking about? He threw up his hand as if to say nothing or I don’t know…To be funny, I said while you’re sitting there why don’t you solve world hSam & Erin Boxing_kentfield_8_4_2008unger? Without missing a beat he slowly raised his hand to his chin  and began to stroke it in a very thoughtful way…What a character…Yesterday when I arrived I mentioned that maybe we could call Donny later. In about 30 minutes he initiated a phone call by making glasses with his fingers to indicate “Donny” and then did the phone thing to his ear…Erin says that is big for him to initiate that by himself…today he tried to reach behind himself for the pull chain for the overhead light…I doubt if I could have come any closer…

In a two or three week period here we have many celebrations to enjoy with Sam and Erin. His “alive day” (July 24th); Their 5th wedding anniversary (July 27th); and now Sam’s 24th birthday on August 12th…Last year he turned 23 in a coma in Bethesda Naval Hospital’s intensive care unit. Look where God has led him in just one year…Can you see in your mind where he will be on his 25th b’day? I am stating unequivocally that he will be walking and talking perfectly by then…Let me just say a word about their anniversary…My sister said that if you think you are in touch with your emotions, just try and tell someone how you feel about them with out thinking about it in advance…you stumble, stammer, and usually crash and burn…I talked to Erin about their anniversary and tried to delicately find out how her feelings had either been changed or does she do what she does because their love was so perfect before the accident? She did not stutter or hesitate; she said they were best friends, had become closer before the events of last year, and they both had always put each other needs before their own…As I choked down the lump in my throat; I could see it…just as she described it…100% accurate; borne out by actions and not just words…That is how God works; and He is working through Erin…

Much Love,
Eric


News Coverage Wanes as Iraq War Goes into 5th Year

March 24, 2008

news coverage_IAVA Yesterday there was a significant amount of coverage in the news about war casualties in Iraq reaching the 4,000 mark. But after five years of war, Americans are getting weary with Iraq. There is only a very small percentage of Americans who are truly affected by the war. With the elections coming up, the mortgage melt down, the latest on Lindsay and Brittany—there isn’t a lot of time to cover things like war casualties, PTSD and TBI. It’s so depressing, isn’t it?

According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), only 3% of the news in February was dedicated to the war. An even more troubling statistic; only one in three Americans know how many American troops have died in Iraq! According to the Pew Research Center, press coverage of the war is at its lowest point since the war began. I’ll bet more people know who got voted off American idol last week!

Please take a minute now to sign an open letter to the media (sponsored by the IAVA) and demand that major networks increase their coverage of the Iraq war. Our troops are still in danger every hour of the day in Iraq. They are still fighting for their country. We must continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers. We must not let our news media and our government allow the American public to detach themselves from the men and women who are dying for our country. We must also not allow the American public to forget that, yes, 4000 troops have now died in Iraq—-but many more wounded troops are returning with devastating injuries. It is our responsibility as voters and Americans to ensure these men and women who have served their country so bravely, will be given the best medical care possible.

Sam_physical therapy_3_22_08_kentfield Sam’s medical status: This picture to the right is of Sam during physical therapy at Kentfield. His right arm continues to get stronger. You can see in this “action shot” that he is punching up to meet Erin’s hand.

Last weekend Sam was put on the drug bromocriptine. According to Sam’s doctor, this drug has had success in stimulating the speech recovery of brain injury patients. They are starting him on a very small dosage and moving him up to around 12 milligrams per day depending on Sam’s reaction. On Tuesday Erin called and said that Sam was starting to mouth words much better and she was able to read his lips more easily. After his speech therapy on Tuesday Erin asked him how his therapy went and without any prompting, he spelled out for her (via the alphabet board) board “all right”.

The news kept getting better and better as the week went by: On Friday (Good Friday) Erin called her mother and asked her if she wanted to say hi to Sam. She put the phone up to Sam’s ear and said hi to him, and the most exciting thing happened—he said “hello” back to her! Yes—clear and fairly strong! Erin was just giggling with excitement!

Yesterday Erin came up to have Easter dinner with us here in Citrus Heights (Sacramento area) and right before we started to eat our dinner, Sam’s mother called (she was with Sam at Kentfield). She said he was doing great and very active. As she was leaving the room to go back home, she sneezed and again very clearly, heard Sam say “bless you”.

It was a truly “blessed” Easter for the Nichol’s and Neria families. Thank you for your prayers.