One Year Alive Day Anniversary for Sam Nichols

July 22, 2008

We are approaching a very significant date…July 24th is Sam’s “Alive Day”. This is the day he cheated death—the anniversary of his second birthday so to speak.  Because of the incredible job our corpsmen, nurses and doctors are doing, many service men and women are experiencing their “Alive Day” instead of dying in the battlefield.

Sam has come a long way in his fight for survival.  There have been many close calls over the past year…mostly in Bethesda, but even some at the VA hospital in Palo Alto and even some seizure activity recently at Kentfield.  But—Sam is a fighter…he is a Marine…and he has Erin and his family cheering him on.  And this is something very important to all of us in the immediate family–we have YOU praying for Sam and offering your encouragement.  The neighbors, church families, buddies from ROTC at Casa Robles, brother Marines, Semper Fi Foundation, Veterans Administration employees, Wounded Warriors Project, Soldier’s Angels, Doctors and Nurses and Kentfield…and so many more who offer prayers, support and good wishes.

On the anniversary of Sam’s “Alive Day” I just wanted to say thank you to all who have been reading this blog for the past year.  It humbles me so much that you take the time to keep up with Sam and Erin’s love story.  Sometimes I get so frustrated that Sam is still on a feeding tube and still has so far to go…but then I realize that he is with us…he IS getting stronger every day…and God has chosen to use Sam in a very special way to teach us what is really important in life.  I thank you for your prayers and the encouraging comments you leave when we post updates.  Your prayers and good wishes keep us going and keep us strong.

heros of kilo battery_KIA_7_24_2007
I would also like you to please click on the “Heroes of Kilo” tab at the top of the blog.  These are the young men who died in the IED attack that wounded Sam.  For the families of Corporal James McRae, Corporal Matthew Zindars, Lance Corporal Robert Lunch, Corpsman Daniel Noble, we continue to pray for your strength as I know this must be a very difficult time for you.  Your son’s names are on the “Hero Bracelet” that I and most of my family and many friends wear on our wrist every day.

Sam’s medical status from his father Eric:

Sam is feeling much better as he “detoxes” from nearly toxic levels of anti-convulsant drugs given him during his recent episode with seizures. The problem, I believe, exists with more than one Doctor prescribing medications to immediately resolve Sam’s symptoms in order to literally save him from a perceived life threatening situation. Am I holding them up to blame? Absolutely not! Instead, I bless them and pray for more of God’s wisdom to be upon them and their decisions. Sam’s primary care rehabilitative Doctor is Deborah Daugherty. A dynamic woman with over 25 years experience in treating traumatic brain injuries who is most recently completing a chapter on Neuropharmacology for a medical textbook. She is nationally known and Sam couldn’t be in better hands. She is attractive, (think Tina Fey from 30 Rock) has a tremendous bedside manner, (Erin relates that she delivers much hope) and I didn’t know this until Friday: that her husband’s name is Sam and her daughter’s name is Erin…no wonder my Sam and Erin are so special to her…She and Erin have a great relationship as I witnessed them betting on a Starbucks “Mocha” recently for something that related to Sam’s care. Erin related another spill-over miracle to me on Friday that happened to the man in the room next to Sam…Erin said that Dr Daughterty had to tell a family that there was little hope for a man who looked to be about 60 or so, that was just unresponsive to many medical attempts. Erin said that the Doc is so full of positive hope that he must have been in very bad shape. Within a few days of her talking to the family, his brain wave monitor began to show life, he woke from his coma; and as Erin and I went to lunch, we observed this gentleman watching T.V…. Wow! Thank you Lord…your mercies know no limits…Can you imagine the sheer joy Dr Daughterty had when she was able to call his family with the news?

Sam and Erin 7_18_2008_Kentfield One of the worst resulting symptoms from a TBI is muscle tone…No, it doesn’t mean the same as to a healthy person. When you hear it, it sounds positive; something that all would aspire to have, like being in shape. This tone is the tightening of his muscles to where he can’t control or move them. This is why his right side is weak, his left side immobile up until recently, and he has trouble speaking…Erin and Dr Daugherty theorize that the valium related drugs are relaxing him (and the tone) enough to overcome some of this challenge. This includes his jaw, tongue, and facial muscles. We believe this is why he becomes so chatty when he takes these drugs. The picture is of Erin massaging his jaw muscles in an effort to relieve some of that tension and encourage the use of his speech centers.

Erin continues to impress me with the different things she comes up  Sam_on_Harmonica_7_18_2008with to stimulate and encourage Sam’s recovery. The second picture is her assisting Sam with exercises on the harmonica. This simple, but yet complex task of blowing the instrument benefits his muscles, tongue control, strengthening of his airway, and audio coordination. He’ll be banging out the blues in no time at all…She also regularly has him fill in Mad-libs as I’ve reported in past updates. This last week, by use of his alphabet board, he spelled out the words “ghastly” and “papoose” in response to one of Erin’s mad-lib challenges. Not exactly common words that one might think of when playing a game, but then again; Sam is far from ordinary.

Thursday is the one year anniversary of the event that changed so many lives; in my family, friends, and people I’ve never even had the pleasure to meet. Erin’s Aunt Joy said it best; She will celebrate “Sam’s Life” on that day as will I; and I ask that all of you do the same. Remember God’s incredible goodness to Him and Erin over this past year; meeting every challenge with grace and mercy…And as we celebrate Sam’s life, let us remember to ask God to be with the families and friends of Sam’s “Brothers in Arms” that perished that day, giving them peace and comfort that can only come from him…

Sam IS restored…

Much love,
Eric


What to do on Veterans Day

November 3, 2007

How about thanking a veteran for their service to our country? Or better yet, check your local paper and find out what type of Veterans Day events are happening in your local area.  Is there a parade down main street or a ceremony at the local cemetery?  Maybe you could go down to your local veterans memorial and spend some time thinking about the sacrifice our troops have made for our country. 

veterans day parade Both of my daughters were in high school ROTC so they were always involved in some sort of honor guard activity on Veteran’s Day at a local cemetery.  I attended some very beautiful and heartwarming ceremonies that were put on by the local VFW post, but I’ve never seen very much participation from the local community.  Wouldn’t it be great if people were standing shoulder to shoulder at these events?

About five years ago I had the honor of having dinner with a veteran of World War II.  I believe he was around 85 at the time (he has since died).  I remember he was so proud that he served his country and could recall vivid details of his duties as a Seaman in the Navy.  The conversation eventually got around to the battles he was in while fighting the Japanese in the pacific.  He started to tell me about the buddies he lost but before saying much, he paused, put his face into his hands, and quietly wept for a few minutes.  The memories were so raw, even after 52 years! 

My father was in the Air Force for 20 years.  He sacrificed so much— spent two tours of duty in South Korea and two in Vietnam.  He also was TDY more times than I could count.  I want to thank him for his duty to our country.  My father has always been my hero and the man I look up to the most in this world.  I’m so proud to call him my father.  

Sam’s medical status:

Saturday November 3rd, 2007:  Today four of Sam’s Marine buddies came to visit.  They’ve just recently returned from a seven month deployment in Iraq.  I can’t even imagine the hell they have been through. 

Sam was having a pretty hard day today and took a lot of naps, but he did tell Erin (through his yes/no finger signing) that he did recognize the guys from Kilo Battery and he was glad that they came to visit.

Thursday November 1st, 2007:  There is a massage therapist that comes in once a week to work on the boys.  Erin got a massage too, so I’m sure that felt really good with her raging cold.  She’s wearing mask, gloves and a gown so that she won’t give Sam her cold.  We are still required to wear gowns and gloves around Sam. 

The therapist were working hard to get Sam’s left arm straightened out.  He was in lots of pain while they were working on him.  They’ll be giving him some anti-inflammatory medicine to help with the soreness he is feeling in his arm.


Fallen Heroes of Kilo Battery Part IV

October 11, 2007

This is the fourth and final in a series of tributes to the four young men who died in the same IED explosion that caused Sam’s injuries.  Sam’s medical status will follow each tribute.  Please continue to pray for the family and friends of these brave warriors.  We must never forget the ultimate sacrifice they made for their country.

robertlynch

Lance Cpl. Robert A. Lynch, USMC:  Lance Cpl. Robert A. Lynch, USMC, 20, is from Louisville Kentucky.  He died on July 24 while performing convoy duty in the Diyala province of Iraq. 

Robert graduated from Seneca High School in 2005 and school officials spoke highly of him.  “He was a hero for us,” Michael McWilliams, a counselor at Seneca, told The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.  He did a lot of things for us and a lot for our ROTC program.

“He’d tell me all the time, ‘Mom, I’m going over there to fight for you,,’ ” his mother, Angela Robinson, told WLKY-TV. 

Lynch’s brother, Michael, also fought in Iraq.  “I would be honored to go the same way my brother went,”  Michael Lynch said.  “I’m so proud of him.”

“Robbie was a little bit of a jokester. He put a smile on your face, but when it came time to get something done, he was the first to jump in and stand shoulder to shoulder with you,” said retired Marine Col. Richard Maloney, who taught Lynch in ROTC courses at the school.

Mike Smith, pastor at Eastside Praise Ministry Center, said he baptized Lynch about a year and a half ago.  “He was so charming and kind,” Smith said. “There was a side of him that truly believed in what he was doing. He was convinced his life in this capacity was really going to make a difference.”

Gov. Ernie Fletcher has ordered that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset on the day of Lynch’s funeral. Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson issued a similar order through July 30.

“My Brother was the biggest Hero this REAL world has seen. He wanted to fight for our freedom, he asked to go on the mission he was on when he died. My bro always did what he had to do no matter the danger. I just want to tell everyone that the word ‘HERO’ is not used enough for the ones that don’t come home.”

He was our HERO on earth Now He’s God’s Hero.
Randall C. Lynch (brother)

Sam’s medical status: 

Tuesday – Sam had a hard day today.  He was sleepy most of the day and just wasn’t into the physical and occupational therapy.  He did have a shower and also was elevated to 70 degrees today which is pretty close to upright.  Tomorrow the therapist will try to get Sam into a wheelchair.

The therapist capped Sam’s tracheotomy tube for about 15 minutes.  During this time he was breathing through his noise and throat.  He seemed to do fine and wasn’t struggling.  They will continue this routine in preparation for removing his tracheotomy tube later this week or possibly next week.

Wednesday – Sam had his tracheotomy tube capped for an hour today without any problems.  His oxygen saturation level remained high which is good.  Tomorrow they will “cap” him for two hours.

During therapy Sam sat all the way up (in preparation for using a wheelchair) and he was also moved into a totally upright position on his special bed/board that can angle him up in varying degrees. 

Sam was moving around quite a bit when Erin arrived around 9:00 AM.  He seems to remain in a pretty good mood when Erin is around but is less hospitable when it’s just the nurses or therapist.  When Erin left for a few minutes the nurse noticed his pulse rate went up to 130 but when she came back in the room it when back down to normal (around 90). 

Lots of visitors today including Sam’s buddies Jake and Paul from high school ROTC.  Erin said when they came in, Sam held his hand out to greet both of them.  It looks like he is recognizing long time friends from the past, so that is very reassuring.

Sources: 
Military City.COM
http://www.militarycity.com/valor/2926917.html
Iraq-nam http://iraqnam.blogspot.com/2007/07/robert-lynch-dies-while-conducting.html
The Courier-Journal.com (Louisville, Kentucky) http://www.courier-journal.com
Wave3.com http://www.wave3.com/Global/story.asp?S=6846603&nav=0RZF
Brotherhood in Arms http://www.brotherhoodinarms.org/casualties/lance-cpl-robert-a-lynch/

Graphics Acknowledgements:
The picture collage from this post is courtesy of Michelle at Chelle’s Designs. Used with permission. Michelle can be contacted at: 
http://www.myspace.com/chellesmildesigns


Sam’s Troops Back Home

August 22, 2007

Sam’s medical status:  Erin said Sam had a nice quite day with no major complications.  I have to add some more corrections about Sam’s breathing.  I said a couple of days ago that the trach tube was removed.  That is not exactly correct.  Sam was taken off the ventilator, so he is breathing on his own—but they are still giving him oxygen through the trach tube.  Erin also said today that he is starting to swallow on his own—so she was very excited to tell us about that. 

ROTC Buddies:  My wife and I were high school sweethearts and were both in “the band”.  We had a wonderful time and had a built-in group of friends to hang out with.  Of course we were hoping both our daughters would follow in our footsteps and we would get to relive our childhood by being “band parents”.  But—to our chagrin, both girls decided high school ROTC was going to be their thing.  So, we became ROTC parents instead.  In fact, my wife was known as “the ROTC mom” and most of the ROTC kids (around 120 in all) called her “Mom”. 

Sam and Erin ROTC picture Now when I was in high school, the only kids that got teased and picked on more than the band nerds, was the ROTC nerds (more on that later).   Both Sam and Erin went to Casa Robles high school in Orangevale California.  By the time Erin was a junior and Sam was a sophomore, they were an item and have been ever since.  They even got their “ROTC” pictures taken together.

If you’ve been checking out the comments section for each one of these blogs you may have noticed a thread of former ROTC buddies leaving messages of encouragement for Sam and Erin.  When we first received word that Sam was injured in Iraq, it wasn’t long before Sam and Erin’s high school ROTC buddies started calling, texting, emailing and “mySpace’ing” each other to spread the word to pray for his recovery.  Even though they are all out of high school (many have joined the military) they are still a close knit group and consider themselves “family”. 

I received a wonderful email today from Kalista, a former ROTC buddy of Erin and Sam and I wanted to relate to everyone her memories of Sam and how he affected her and others in ROTC.  The email speaks so eloquently of Sam’s character and good nature. (note:  Both Sam and Erin were the commanders of their high school ROTC when they were seniors)

“In ROTC we were a family.  We still ARE a family.  I wanted you to know and please pass this on to Erin if possible, she needs to know just how much we are all thinking of her and Sam… 

…There are many of us who did not want to be in ROTC at first—who didn’t feel welcomed or anything like that.  SAM lead us into the family that we know today.  He was the first to greet us, the one who stood up for us around campus when everyone else made fun of us.  He introduced us to everything, and made us want to stay in ROTC!…

…When we all found out what happened to Sam, it was like we all took a blow because he is like the brother that
everyone wants.  Someone to look up to, someone who you could depend on— a true HERO!”

Thank you Kalista for you heartfelt email.  You made the ROTC mom cry with your beautiful words! smile_wink Thank you to all the other former ROTC buddies of Sam and Erin for spreading the word that Sam needs your prayers.  And lastly, thank you all for taking the time to leave comments in the blog post.  Erin does occasionally get time to read them and I know they warm her heart and give her hope.  Erin, I hope you are also reading the comments to Sam!  

ROTC Nerds of yesterday…American Hero’s of Today!


A role model for how to treat others

August 8, 2007

There are so many people leaving notes of support in the comments section of each post on this web blog.  Yesterday Erin had a chance to actually look at this web blog for the first time.  I’ll paste in her comments for everyone to read (not everyone knows you can add “comments” to each post).  I also wanted to share with you the comments left by Ed Ritter who was in Air Force ROTC with Sam when Sam was a Senior in high school and Ed was a frightened little freshman.  Ed’s comments were so touching and really capture the true nature of Sam’s personality:

Ed’s Comments:  Sam is a Hero. There is no other way to describe him. I remember my first experiences at Casa Roble.  Sam was among the only upperclassmen to ask my name, and he was the only one who remembered it.  His straightforward and genuine kindness and concern did wonders for me in my first semester of high school and beyond.  I’ll never forget those few nights I spent on the Neria’s couch talking with him, or playing on the JROTC basketball team that he coached.  These are all treasured memories.  This tragedy could not have fallen on a man or family less deserving of its burden.

I will continue to send my prayers daily. To the Nichols’ and the Neria’s, you have my greatest respect and my deepest condolences.  Sam, Erin, Ali, and Mrs. Neria, you have touched my life in so many ways and always for the better.  You are all role models and heroes to me. Thank you so much Mr. Neria for bringing this blog to us. 

Sam and Erin hugging 187Here is what Erin said after reading this web blog yesterday for the first time:  Thank you all for your love and prayers and support.  I’m truly overwhelmed by the scores of people who are praying with us for Sam’s recovery.  I just came from seeing him and he looks so good.  His beautiful face was untouched by the blast, so he looks as great as always.  More importantly, his vital signs have been stable for days, and he is receiving the top medical care in the country.  I firmly believe that Sam will wake up soon, whole and healed.  Our mantra around here is “faith overrules fact.”  I love Sam with all my heart, and I will never be able to express in words my gratitude for your prayers. Please keep the faith and pass the word.

Note from Erin on flowers, gifts, etc. being sent to her in Bethesda:  Erin mentioned she is occasionally receiving flowers and other gifts and she is very touched by these acts of kindness.  But—she is unable to have flowers in Sam’s room and there are various charitable organizations who are providing for all of her needs.  She asked that if you would like to contribute anything, to please see the charities listed in the “blogroll” on the right side of this screen.   The three organizations that are paying for Erin’s hotel, monthly bills and airfare for family visits are:

The web sites for these three organizations will allow you to make a one time contribution or set up a monthly donation.


Meeting Sam for the first time

August 1, 2007

My wife first met Sam at Casa Robles high school in Orangevale California (suburb of Sacramento).  She walked into a room full of about 80 Air Force ROTC students.  At that point in time, my daughter Erin only knew Sam in passing.  Out of those 80 or so students in the room, only one of them came

up to my wife and introduced himself.  Yes—that was Sam.  She knew right from the beginning that he was a very special young man.

Sam and Erin kissing at their wedding at Folsom LakeEventually Sam and Erin connected and have been soul-mates ever since.  It’s interesting to note that both Sam and Erin were the leaders (commanders) of their ROTC unit when they were seniors in high school (Erin was one year ahead of Sam).

Sam and Erin were married on a hot summer day at Folsom Lake by my dear friend Morey.  I was so proud that my daughter was marrying such a wonderful young man.  Although I cried like a baby all through the father-daughter dance, I knew that I was leaving her in good hands.  I knew that my daughter was marrying the man of her dreams—what more can a father ask for?