Sam was in a coma after he was hit by the IED in the Diyala province of Iraq on July 24th 2007 while performing convoy duty. He was transported to Kuwait and then to the LRMC (Landstuhl Regional Medical Center) where he was met by Erin (Sam’s wife) and Sam’s brother Donny.
After being stabilized at the LRMC, Sam was Medevac’ed to the (NNMC) National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland for seven weeks where he remained in a coma. Erin was with him in Maryland during this time period. She stayed at the NNMC, living at the Navy Lodge.
On September 15th 2007 Sam was moved to the Polytrama Center at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Palo Alto California.
Although the neurologist at the NNMC said initially there wasn’t much hope for Sam ever recovering due to brain damage, he has been making progress day by day. On September 17th the doctors at the VA hospital in Palo Alto said he was at an 11 on the Glasgow Coma Scale (the scale goes from 3 to 15…3 being the worst). Note: When Sam arrived in Bethesda back on July 27th his GSC was a 3. At that point, the doctor’s said he was considered in an “emerging state of consciousness” which is another way of saying that he was not fully conscious but not completely in a coma—somewhere in the middle.
Sam is receiving physical, occupational and speech therapy six days a week at the VA hospital in Palo Alto. His tracheotomy tube was removed around the first part of December (2007), but he still has a feeding tube, catheter and temporary colostomy.
Over the last month (December 2007) Sam has been getting more vocal. He said his first word (sort of), “uh-huh” in late December but still uses basic sign language (one finger for yes and two fingers for no). Erin and the hospital staff ask him yes/no questions and he can be quite communicative in that regard.
Sam has limited movement with his arms but has a much harder time with the left side of his body. He received the bulk of his blast wounds on his right thigh and calf (which are healing nicely) and some more severe wounds on his buttock area. He is tracking better with his eyes and can move them from left to right and up and down. He can move his head (the neck brace he had since arriving back in the US was removed on 9/22/2007) and as of January 2008, was holding his head up without any neck support for all of his therapy sessions.
Sam’s Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) was an “11” as of 9/15/2007. Any score above an 8 is considered to be out of a coma. He was officially considered to be in a coma for 55 days.
Sam’s progress is currently being measured using the CRS-R (Coma Recovery Scale-Revised). This is a six category scale that measures various cognitive functions such as eye movement, response to sound, speaking ability, etc. The CRS-R scale runs from 0 to 23 (23 being the best). When Sam first arrived in Palo Alto, his first CRS score was a 7. His CRS score on 9/27/2007 was an 11. In late November early December of 2007, he was scoring a 20 on the CRS-R scale.
Sam has been using a wheelchair since December 2007. He is lifted into the wheelchair with a pulley/crane device. This is done two times a day. In the morning, he is taken to the therapy gym where the physical and occupational therapist work with him. In the last two weeks of 2007, Sam’s therapist started working with him in the “standing frame” which is a device that slowly lifts the patient from a sitting to a standing position, all the time being strapped in for safety. This device will get him used to being in a standing position. The next step would be getting Sam into a walking type device.
With an incredible amount of hard work from Sam, the therapist, “Dr. Erin” (Sam’s wife)…and most importantly, your prayers, Sam will continue to improve.
Medical status last updated: 01/9/2008