Join me and stand with our veterans

November 29, 2007

IAVA_Action Alert_Stand With Our Veterans

Some of our injured troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are facing a ridiculous and unnecessary obstacle. Because they have been discharged early, they are not receiving their full enlistment bonuses. Some are even be asked to return payments they have already received.

A new bill that would ensure this does not continue is gaining momentum in Congress, and lawmakers need to hear from civilians who support it. We can help our nations’ veterans on this critical issue.

Please take a minute to send a message to your representatives, and tell them you support this bill. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has made it easy – just visit www.iava.org 

The department of defense has known about this issue for many months and continues to do nothing.  Please go to the link above and send a letter to your representatives.  The link pretty much does all the work for you.  You only need to add your address and an email will be sent automatically to the correct local congressional representatives in your area.   The link also allows you to pass this information on to other friends in your address book if you wish.

Directions to the VA Hospital in Palo Alto:  I received a request from a couple of Marines in Sam’s battery asking for directions to the VA hospital in Palo Alto from Camp Pendelton in Oceanside.  That lead me to update the page titled “Palo Alto VA” that you can find as a tab menu at the top of this blog.  If you click on that tab, there will be a new section titles “Directions from Camp Pendelton / Oceanside”.  If you scroll down further, there will be “Directions from the Sacramento Area”.  I’ve also added links to Google Maps which will give you more detailed directions and maps from both locations.

Special Visit from Doc Hansen:  In my August 12th post, I wrote about the Navy Corpsman Doc Hansen who was the first person to give medical treatment to Sam and who probably saved his life.  Yesterday Doc Hanson came up from Camp Pendelton to visit Sam and Erin.  As always, we are so honored that the Doc and other members of Kilo Battery have taken the time to come up and visit.

Christmas Gift Idea for Erin and Sam:  A couple of people have asked me about Christmas gift ideas for Sam and Erin, so I wanted to share a couple of ideas with you.  Luckily Erin doesn’t have a lot of expenses, but she is starting to drive up to Sacramento, so I thought a gas gift card might be very handy for her.  If you are Chevron Gift Card looking for a gift for Sam and Erin’s family as a whole (to help with ever increasing transportation and lodging expenses), a gas card sent to Erin would also be very helpful.  Many of us drive down once a week from Sacramento to Palo Alto which means about $50.00 in gas per trip.  Erin could even use the gift cards as Christmas presents for her family so she doesn’t have to dip into her savings.  If you are interested, here is a link to the Chevron Gift Card web site, or I’m sure you could pick up their gift card at a Chevron station.  Why did I pick Chevron?  They are involved in the Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” program, so I thought it was a nice way to thank them for their participation in this worthy cause.

Sam’s medical status: 

Thursday November 29th, 2007:  Speech therapy went well today; although Sam still is only able to make a few grunts here and there.  He is still doing very well at answering the questions of the therapist with his finger signing.

Sam got weighed today and is at 163.8 lbs.  He’s gained back the two pounds he lost in the last few weeks when he was having stomach flu type symptoms.  His urinary tract infection test also came back negative.

Tuesday November 27th, 2007:  Doc Hanson bought Sam a whistle to help him with his speech therapy.  Erin said Sam did get a couple of sounds out of it.  There were also lots of other visitors today—Aunt Dean, Uncle Charles and Julie’s cousin Terri from Northern Idaho.  Also Sam’s brother and girlfriend were in town visiting.  It’s so nice to be surrounded by love!

Happy birthday Erin (she’s 24 today)…we ALL love you!

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Survive, Thrive and Alive – Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury

October 31, 2007

For today’s blog entry, I’ve linked to a video called Survive Thrive and Alive!  Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury.  This is a 29 minute video, that in plain english, explains TBI (traumatic brain injury).  The video also tracks the ongoing recovery of several military personal and their families.

survive, thrive and alive! I can’t directly link to the TBI video, so if you have problems opening the link, try clicking on the graphic.  It should take you to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center web site where you will be able to click on their video to Survive, Thrive and Alive, Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury!

The Signature Wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars:  TBI (traumatic brain injury) and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) are now common among war veterans and military personal returning from the middle east.  Because of the improvement in body armor, vehicle armor and battlefield medicine, many more troops are surviving injuries that would have been fatal in previous wars.  A medical evacuation that took 15 days to accomplish during the Vietnam era now takes 13 hours.

TBI affects thousands of troops returning from the middle east.  Sixty percent of our military wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom have incurred some type of blast injury, and about two-thirds of those troops have some form of TBI according to the Department of Defense.  I’ll discuss TBI as it relates to our troops in greater detail in later blogs.

Sam’s medical status:

Wednesday October 31st, 2007: Erin has a cold, so she has been trying to stay away from Sam the past few days, and when she has been in this room, she’s been using a mask.  Sam’s brother and girlfriend have been in Palo Alto the past couples of days to keep Sam company while Erin tries to get better. 

Sam’s Ritalin (not actually Ritalin, but something like it) was increased today to hopefully pep him up further for all his therapy sessions. 

Being big fans of Harry Potter, Sam’s brother brought wands for Halloween.  Erin said Sam was enjoying waving it around today. 

Tuesday October 30th, 2007:  Not a lot has been happening in the last few days.  Sam is continuing to work with his hand gestures and also using his rubber band training on his right arm. Sam’s grandma brought him a little red Weiner dog when she visited this past weekend.  Erin told me they when through a long process of naming him (1 finger for yes, 2 fingers for no) and they finally came up with the name “Jack”.  

Monday October 29th, 2007:  Erin said may be at a plateau right now, but that is a normal part of the process of recovery.  She has an incredible amount of faith that God is working on Sam.


Medal of Honor Ceremony – 1LT Michael Murphy

October 26, 2007

metal of honor When Erin and Sam were in Bethesda at the National Naval Medical Center, they received a visit from Barney Barnum who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Reserve Affairs).  Mr Barnum was the fourth Marine to be awarded the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, for valor in Vietnam.  During his visit, Mr. Barnum gave Sam and Erin the Medal of Honor book that documents all of the recipients of this award.  When I was visiting them in Bethesda, I remember looking through the book and getting goose bumps as I read through the pages of stories about these brave soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. 

1LT Michael Murphy_Navy Seal_Medal of Honor burial On October 22, 2007 there was a ceremony posthumously awarding 1LT Michael P. Murphy the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005.  1LT Murphy was the first Navy officer awarded the Medal of Honor while serving in a combat zone in Afghanistan or Iraq and is the third recipient of the award since these two conflicts started.  After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, 1LT Murphy passed up law school after graduating with honors from Penn State to become a Navy Seal. 

LT Murphy and three other Navy Seals were on a reconnaissance mission in the Afghanistan mountains when they happened upon a few goat herders.  The Seals took the humane risk of letting the goat herders go on their way, thus jeopardizing the secrecy of their mission.  A few hours later, the team was confronted by around 100 Taliban fighters who they now believe were tipped off by the goat herders.   The Seals were pinned down and unable to contact reinforcements so LT Murphy crawled out into the open where he was susceptible to enemy fire, but could get a good signal on this radio to call for help.  After calling in their location and receiving two gunshot wounds, LT Murphy died. 

On the day 1LT Murphy was buried with full honors, his mother received an email from him that was written three months before and somehow got stuck on an email server.  It said “Momma, I’m home safe and sound”.  Mrs. Murphy said she felt it was her son saying to her, “It’s OK Mom, I’m OK”.  

The video below is the ceremony awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to the mother and father of 1LT Michael Murphy.  Considering the time we waste watching mostly mindless TV and movies, this nine minute video is well worth the time spent.  This man gave his life for his men and his country. 

Sam’s medical status: 

Tuesday October 23rd, 2007: Sam had a CatScan today to determine why he has had a low grade fever.  His liver enzymes are off which is an indication his gallbladder is infected.  The fever usually only occurs at night.

Sam continues to get more vocal.  The doctors should be removing his trach tube tomorrow.

I’ve mentioned quite a bit about Sam’s right arm and how well he is using it.  His left arm seems to be tightening up quite a bit and he has trouble relaxing it.  Today he received Botox treatments to help relax those muscles.  Erin said now his arm looks five years younger!

Wednesday October 24th, 2007: Today Sam’s trach tube was removed.  It came out easily with no complications.  He’s not exactly talking but he is experimenting with making new sounds. 

The CatScan on his abdomen was done yesterday and his lungs are clear.  The test on his gallbladder was also clean.  They believe the fever is just from the TBI or from his right elbow (the one he had surgery on). 

Thursday October 25th, 2007: Sam scored a 17 on the CRS (coma recovery scale) today.  Last week he was a 15 and his first week at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, he was an 11—so he just keeps getting better and better.

Sam has a pretty bad wound on his right heal that has old dead scar tissue (another one of the minor wounds that I’ve probably never mentioned before)—the dead tissue needs to be removed to make way for new tissue.  That procedure should be performed today.

The stage two burns on Sam’s backside are doing well.  The more serious wounds are not healing like they should be so the hospital is getting him a different type of bed—more similar to the one he had in Bethesda.  The bed has air chambers that inflate and deflate which helps minimize bed sores.  The will also be rotating his hips every two hours to alleviate the pressure.


The Real Stars

October 19, 2007

Welcome back Kilo Battery (America’s true heroes):  I am very happy to announce that Sam’s battery (Kilo 3/12) has completed their seven month deployment in Iraq and arrived today back at Camp Pendelton. 

In honor of these men and the service they have performed for our country, I’d like to offer to you the following video.  I’m not a great fan of Fox News, but this interview with Ben Stein should be seen and heard by all Americans.

Sometimes people who read this blog don’t realize they can leave comments related to a post or a page on the blog, so I wanted to make sure everyone saw the comments left by a friend of Sam’s mother who commented on my previous post:

My grandson is only 3 years old, and his daddy has just recently returned from Iraq, so I understand that knot in your stomach that wants to make you sick when the heroes are not there for you to give a hug to daily.

My Grandson has a “thing” he does EVERY time he sees the flag—he yells to anybody around “there is our flag, puts his tiny hand on his forehead above his eyebrow and yells, SAAALUUUUTE!” and he looks around to make sure everybody around him, looks at the flag.

I dedicate this salute to you Sam.  Thank you for making my 3 year old Grandson recognize the flag that you and all the other heroes like you help keep us respecting our flag and what it stands for;  that is so often forgotten.

It is an honor and a blessing to have men and women like you both on my side.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My husband is a retired Marine—he said, “Semper Fi Buddy…Semper Fi!.”

Sam’s medical status: 

Wednesday October 17th, 2007:  Sam scored a 15 on the CRS (coma recovery scale).  His previous rating was an 11 a few weeks ago.  Sam’s trach tube was capped 6 hours today.  

Thursday October 18th, 2007:  Sam was capped (trach tube) for 10 hours today.  Sunday they’ll cap him for 24 hours.  Next week they will probably pull the trach tube for good.  His coughing has really subsided the last three days which means they have not had stick that suction device down his trach tube which really is uncomfortable for Sam. 

Erin and the therapist are working on more signing for Sam.  Specifically, hold up one finger for yes and two fingers for no.  He’s getting real good and manipulating his right hand and arm.  Sam’s brother Donny was also working with Sam on the one finger/two finger thing, except with a little different meaning.  Donny says something like, “what number are you Sam?” and Sam holds up one finger.  Then Donny ask, “what number am I?” and Sam holds up two fingers. 

Friday October 19th, 2007:  Sam is still on a daily dosage of Ritalin at 5mg, but he will be getting twice that much starting next week.

The one finger for yes and two fingers for no signing is working out really well for Sam.  It’s easy for him to do as opposed to the thumbs up and thumbs down method.  It’s also more reliable and Erin gets a quicker response from Sam when she asked him questions.  The signing allows her and Sam to communicate much better than they ever have. 

Sam still can’t drink anything, but Erin has been giving him “taste” of various beverages.  Today she gave him a taste of coffee (using her finger, I believe).  She asked him if he wanted more and he gave the “one-finger-yes” sign a few more times.  After a while, Sam just started raising the one finger—meaning;  keep bringing on the coffee!  She later had a “monster energy drink” and asked Sam if he wanted a taste, and he grabbed the can from her!  Sam still can’t swallow because of the trach tube but the taste of various drinks helps to stimulate his senses. 

Erin had a talk with Sam’s doctor and she mentioned that she didn’t think Sam’s speech therapy was being very productive, so they are making some changes to his routine.  The doctor brought in 30 canisters of various smells and they went through the routine, “do you like this smell?” —and Sam would give them either one finger or two.  He was much more attentive through the therapy.  Erin also made a suggestion that they use construction paper to cut out pictures of the various smells in the canisters.  They will be using them to provide not only an olfactory but a visual stimulation during Sam’s therapy.   Dr. Erin is so smart! 🙂

Bible Quote from our friend Larry Wiseman:

Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh:  is there any thing too hard for me?

Jeremiah 26-27


Alive Day Memories

September 29, 2007

Sam’s medical status: Friday morning the therapist team did a CRS-R (Coma Recovery Scale-Revised) evaluation on Sam. When he first arrived at Palo Alto, they did a CRS scan on him and he was a “2”. Today he was a “9” on the scale. I believe the scale runs from 0 to 23 and there are six sub-scales that are scored—auditory, visual, motor, oromotor, communication and arousal processes. The scale is used to check or monitor the more subtle improvements that occur with a patient that is coming out of a coma. That was all very good news for Erin because she said that all the therapist and doctors involved were very upbeat and excited about Sam’s recent progress since he has been in Palo Alto.

Although Sam still has a long way to go, he’s starting to move around a lot more on his own—just regular fidgeting like moving his left arm or leg just to change positions in the bed. He’s still behind on his right side, but that stands to reason because that is the side of his body that received the bigger wounds in his arm, thigh and calf. Remember, he came very close to having his right leg amputated in his early days in at the Bethesda NNMC.

Next week the therapist want to try to get Sam in a more upright sitting position. Once that is accomplished, they want to get him into a wheelchair and a little more mobile. They will be using some sort of sling device to raise him up and down safely out of the bed.

I’ll be visiting Sam and Erin today, so I’ll be able to give you my personal observation in my next post which should be on Monday.

Sacramento Bee Update: Anita Creamer will be writing an update on Sam in the Scene section of the Bee sometime next week, so keep a look out for that article. I’m not sure the exact date the article will appear but she wanted to get it in early next week.

HBO Alive Day Crystal Davis Spc., U.S. Army Our responsibility: One of the realities of the war in Iraq is the tens of thousands of U.S. troops that have been wounded. The web site GlobalSecurity.org puts the total US wounded at 27,004 as of September 27th 2007. Please click on their REFERENCES link to determine how those numbers are estimated as there are many variables involved in the count. In the Vietnam war about 65 percent of the wounded troops were saved. In our current conflict, 90 percent of the troops survive their injuries. Many of these are severe injuries like amputations (which almost happened to Sam’s right leg), traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has been said that brain injuries are quickly becoming the “signature injury of the Iraq war”. More than 4,000 U.S. veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan war have been diagnosed with some type of brain injury, with most coming from either gunshot wounds or IED’s.

July 24th was Sam’s “Alive Day”. This is the day he cheated death—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.

When we send our young men and women off to war, we need to realize two basic facts: many will never come back and many will come back wounded—and sometimes severely wounded. In the case of PTSD and TBI, the wounded troops may look very normal, but they will have hidden injuries that will last a lifetime.

I’ve made it my policy to maintain a non-political blog, and I want to continue that policy because my focus is on Sam and Erin. But, I also want to continue to publicize all the wonderful organizations that help our military in this time of great need and all the wonderful people we meet a long this journey. I also feel a responsibility to educate people on our wounded troops since that reality is now so much a party of my families life. The press lets us know how many have died (3,727 as of 9/27/2007) due to combat related injuries, but we don’t hear much about the the wounded.

HBO Alive Day John Jones Marine Staff Sgt. We have a new generation of veterans who are filling our VA hospitals at an alarming rate. It is our responsibility to get to know these brave men and women who’s lives will be forever changed. We have a responsibility to honor these men and women who volunteered to be in the military, knowing full well they would be sent to a combat zone. We have a responsibility to give these wounded hero’s the best possible medical care.

There is an HBO documentary that looks at the lives of ten of these wounded soldiers and marines. The documentary is called Alive Day Memories – Home from Iraq. The soldiers and marines talk about their “alive day” in a very frank, heartfelt manner and how their lives have been permanently changed. I’ll have to be honest with you—the documentary was very difficult for me to watch! The documentary is non-political and allows you to draw your own conclusions about what you see. I think every American should watch this documentary. It is our responsibility to know and to understand in the deepest part of our gut, what these brave men and women are going through for our country. If you look at the bar chart at the GlobalSecurity.org web site, you’ll see that every month about 500-600 wounded are added to the list. Pray for our military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pray for all these wounded soldiers, marines, sailors and airman—and please, let’s not forget them.


Tribute to our Nation

September 21, 2007

Sam’s medical status: When I called Erin on Wednesday, Sam was in the middle of his physical therapy session.  He’s doing a really good job responding to the request of the physical therapist.  When requested, he lifted his right arm up (by himself) about eight inches.  Thursday Julie said he was lifting his arm up more by himself.  To tell you how much of an improvement that is, when I was there on Sunday, he was just starting to move his arm a little.  This was all done with his right arm.  His left arm and fingers seem to be healing at a slower pace.  He’s also starting to really get animated with his mouth—he keeps opening his mouth like he really wants to say something.  I’m sure once the tracheotomy tube is removed, he’s going to have quite a bit to say.  I can’t wait to hear his first words!

It’s so incredible the progress Sam has made in recent weeks.  I get so many emails from people in my church, Eric’s church, Greg, family, friends, Soldier’s Angels, and many others.  The miracle continues!

And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Matthew 8:13

Meeting the neighbors:  On Tuesday Erin and Julie met Derrick and Nichol.  Derrick is a Marine recovering at the VA hospital after an IED exploded near him while serving in Iraq in April of this year.  He was in a coma for 58 days.  Erin met them while walking down the hall.  Derrick was another one of the guys the doctor said wasn’t going to live…he still has a long road ahead, but he’s walking down the hall and doing really well for himself.  

I don’t think there is an official word on how long Sam was in a coma—as I said, there really wasn’t a moment when he just “woke up” from the coma.  But—if you count from July 24th until the doctors in Palo Alto said he was no longer considered in a coma (September 15th) that would be 55 days.  

More Blog changes:  A couple of people have asked me for Sam and Erin’s new address in Palo Alto.  I did update their address and you can get to it by clicking on the “About Sam and Erin” menu tab at the top of the blog—but, since it’s a little hidden, I’ve also included it as a “widget” on the right hand column of this site under “Sam and Erin’s address:” where it’s much easier to find.  I’ve also added a “search” widget to the site so you can search on a particular word and all the blog post with that word will appear.

One more reminder on changes to the blog—If you click on the “Palo Alto VA Hospital” menu tab next to the “About Sam & Erin” tab, you’ll be directed to a page that gives you directions and a couple of maps to the VA hospital in Palo Alto.  I talked to a couple of the people that work at the hospital and they say the directions I’ve given are the best, even though when you look at it on a map, it doesn’t seem like the most direct route.  But—I’ve been told it is the best route to miss most of the bay area traffic.  With moderate traffic, the I-80 to 680 to 280 route takes about 2 1/2 hours from Citrus Heights. 

Kilo Battery Homecoming:  The boys in Kilo Battery (Sam’s battery) are coming home in October.  Let’s continue to pray for their safe return.  I’d like to dedicate the video in at the end of this post to the guys in Kilo.  You are the keepers of the flame that stand for liberty and freedom and for everything that makes this nation great!

A video is worth a thousand words:  I’ve been meaning to share this with you closer to 9/11, but so many important events in Sam and Erin’s lives has been happening.  But—it’s time to take a few minutes to reflect on our great nation:  This is a one minute video that was aired one time only during the superbowl after the 9/11 attack.  Budweiser aired it only once because they didn’t want to make any profit from it.  I’ve never seen it until now.  I’ve watched it about ten times now and it always brings tears to my eyes.  Erin told me once before that Budweiser is a huge supporter of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. 


Angels watching over Sam

August 25, 2007

Sam’s medical status:  Erin said the bronchoscopy went well today (Saturday).  They checked the fluid coming from Sam’s lungs and there is no infection.  His skin graphs also look good after removing the wound vacuums.  Other than that, he had a really good day.

Erin has a docking station for her iPod (another gift from a local charity) and she plays music for Sam all the time.  She said she was “drumming” on him today to the beat of the music (to stimulate his mind…not to irritate him!) and he was responding again with lip, eye and eyebrow movement.  The movement all seems to be coming from the right side of his face.  Erin said he keeps giving her the “Elvis look” when he’s responding to the music. 

Callie’s Video of Sam and Erin:  My niece, “Callie” is 14 and lives in Orangevale California about  fifteen minutes from us.  Both my daughters have baby-sat Callie and her brother Joey all their lives.  There is a special bond because of that and also because Callie’s brother Joey is a special needs child with Angleman Syndrome—Joey adores both Erin and Sam. 

I just gave you a REAL short version of the cousin story, but as I said, there is a very special bond between all of them.  Callie sent me a video of some pictures of Sam and Erin with the music to “Angels Among Us”…and being a computer savvy kid, has posted it on YouTube.  Some are pictures from this blog and some, I’ve never seen before.  So—-here is the embedded version with love from Callie.  Just click on the “play” control to view the video (I always have to hit it twice for some reason).  Callie—Thank you for the video…we love you!:

I’m on my way to Bethesda to be with Erin and Sam for a week so I’m going to publish the blog entry for Sunday a little early.  I’ll be there from August 26th through September 2nd.  I’m assuming I will be able to continue the web blog entries from there.  If you don’t hear from me on Monday, then I’m having problems accessing the Internet from the hospital.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get on line without any problems. 

Continue to pray for a Miracle for Sam!