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.

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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


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


A Celebrity Send Off

March 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

Much love,
Eric

Before I forget, Sam’s new address is:

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

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

Peace and love to all,

Tony


A handshake and thank you for serving your country

February 11, 2009

the way we get by_movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love,
Eric


First Annual California TBI Advisory Board Conference

January 11, 2009

TBI Advisory Board Conference

A friend of mine with the California Department of Aging sent me some information on First annual Statewide TBI Advisory Board Conference which is being held in Sacramento on February 9-10, 2009 at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza at 300 J Street.  Hopefully myself and Erin will be able to attend this conference.

The target audience for this conference is anyone interested in traumatic brain injury including family members, caretakers, case managers/service coordinators, rehabilitation specialist, neuro/psychologist, counselors, physicians, and others who service individuals with traumatic brain injuries.

One of the workshops at the conference that really caught my eye is called “Serving Returning Service members with TBI which is being moderated by Ted Puntillo, Deputy Secretary California Department of Veteran Affairs.

The purpose of the conference is four fold:

  1. Raise the visibility of traumatic brain injury among policy makers and program administrators
  2. Promote innovative and successful services and systems to meet the diverse needs of persons with traumatic brain injury
  3. Promote collaboration among stakeholders to address challenges faced by individuals with traumatic brain injury and their families
  4. Promote opportunities for coordination of resources and services, and provide information to individuals with traumatic brain injury and their families

A conference brochure is available at California Department of Mental Health Website at: http://www.dmh.ca.gov/Services_and_Programs/Adults/docs/TBI_docs/ConfBrochure_09Jan8.pdf

Registration information can be found by going to the website: http://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?eventid=676140

Sam’s medical status:

Happy New Year to All,

My Dad was the product of the dust bowl era when many of the people that lived in Oklahoma and surrounding states migrated to California for a better way of life. At 16, my Dad was thrust into the working role in order to help support his family which included 3 younger brothers. His formal education came to screeching halt and Dad never lost that "Okie" vocabulary that was his by environment. An immature teenager viewed this "ignorance" as a flaw and my relations with my Dad were strained. It wasn’t until God got a firm grip on me that I realized that my Okie Dad was brilliant. He was a self taught, Journeyman Industrial Electrician. This was a feat I could never even dream of accomplishing. When I saw this quote from Mark Twain a few years before my Dad passed away; I finally got it. "When I was 18, I found my Dad ignorant; by the time I was 21, I was surprised by how much my Dad had learned in 3 short years." My sister has explained in her writings that we sometimes view God as we view our natural fathers. That is, if our father abandons us, we see God as distant; or if our father is harsh, we see God as stern and lacking love….One unique thing about my Dad was his predictable generous nature. Dad would follow us out to our cars after a visit home, and literally empty his wallet (he called it a billfold) into our hands. He would give us all he had to give, even if it were only a few dollars or his entire cash allotment for the week; and he did it for all of his kids…(6 of us) It was so regular, we expected it…Well, to the point of my story about my Dad…last week I stated that I was expecting God to move in Sam and Erin’s lives because the medical community had kind of come to a stalemate over some of Sam’s treatment…I prayed about it with some very strong prayer support from some amazing Christians, and God just doesn’t say No…These are reports from Erin that I received by text, phone calls, and actually being able to spend time with Sam on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day….

First Erin reported that Sam became unhappy with his catheter and wanted to use the restroom. He fought his way through the door of the restroom himself using his strong right arm to maneuver his wheelchair into position. He couldn’t go but the doctors were very encouraged that he had not only the sensation to go, but the presence of mind to initiate the move to the restroom. Next as Erin gave Sam a haircut, she presented him with a mirror and asked how he thought he looked? He replied, "sexy as hell". Ha! That’s my boy….One evening Sam informed Erin that "she was in his way"; even brushing her foot off of his wheelchair. She asked where he was going, and he replied, "I’m going to bed" and then SamWrites attempted to get out of his chair and into bed. One afternoon Erin was doing a Mad-lib with Sam and asked for an adjective. He had trouble getting it out so he took the pen from her hand a wrote the word on a poster board. The word is GREAT and is shown by the first picture. It is hard to see at first, but when I blew it up on my computer screen, it was easily read…And finally, one afternoon, Sam said to Erin that "they should go home now." Erin didn’t think too much about it as she in the past has had to remind him of his injuries and explain the need to stay in the hospital for now. She did that again and she thought he was pacified. Approximately 10 minutes passed, and he thoughtfully declared "he didn’t need to be there" and again tried to get out of bed…Well, I was so happy to hear that out of his own mouth…I truly see it as a faith statement, and some more of that is just what Dr Jesus has ordered. As he progresses in his mind to see what he already holds to be true in his spirit, He will progress exponentially. The fact that he doesn’t see himself as injured, and in need of round the clock care speaks volumes to me…This week is a movement by God on Sam and Erin’s behalf and nothing under the sun will convince me otherwise…

SamnFootball_Dec_08 The picture of Sam preparing to throw a football was taken on Christmas Day. Julie, (Erin’s Mom) had wrapped about a dozen gifts for Sam and had brought them down for him to unwrap. He did a masterful job at opening the packages, using the seams of the paper, and tearing when appropriate…The tone from his injuries locks his jaw something fierce, but he was able to gargle out a Merry Christmas to Donny, Brandi, and I on Christmas Day…He was happy to have us around and had me tell him the nativity story; not once, but twice on Christmas Day….

Much love,
Eric