Study to Help AW2 Soldiers 20 May 2009, 08:23
This is a summary of anarticle originally published in the March 2009 issue of VA Research Currents
“Come here, Jones, come here!” An officer yelled to SSG Lee Jones as Jones bolted from the burning Humvee. He started running and then dropped to the ground and rolled to try to douse the flames that engulfed his face, hands and legs. His truck had hit a roadside bomb. The three squad members in the truck with him died in the explosion.
Jones, of the 82nd Airborne, was soon evacuated to a field hospital and then to Germany. But he was in a coma-the flames had eaten away the skin from nearly half his body-and doctors didn’t give him long to live.
That was in October 2005. Today-after a week at the U.S. military hospital in Germany, four months at the Army burn center in San Antonio, 18 months in VA polytrauma care in Tampa, and now physical therapy at his local VA in North Carolina-Jones is taking life one day at a time with his wife, Maria, and three-year old daughter, Angel. He says he feels grateful for each milestone in his ongoing battle to regain function. “I can use PlayStation. I can go up stairs. I sing in the choir at church,” says Jones, his speech still slow and slightly slurred. In addition to burns, he suffered a brain injury and damage to muscles and nerves throughout his body. He had strokes, seizures and a heart attack within two weeks of the blast. His left thumb was amputated. “My hands don’t work. I can’t feel my feet,” says the 26-year-old veteran. He still uses a wheelchair, but increasingly he is able to walk.
A new study by researchers with VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) is looking at long-term outcomes for people like Lee Jones-veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered serious burn injuries. What are their health care and social-service needs months and years after their injuries? How well can they function?
The VA and DoD researchers will assess patients at discharge from the hospital and then yearly for four years. They’ll administer a wide array of questionnaires covering physical, psychological and social issues. The ultimate goal is to help people like Lee Jones. The Army veteran will likely continue improving in some areas, while other deficits caused by his injuries may be lifelong. For now, though, he’s content to savor moments like those when he’s holding his little girl-which he wasn’t able to do until recently because of the burns on his hands and arms.
“I’m trying to be happy all the time,” says Jones. “I’m glad I’m alive.”
To read the entire VA Research Currents article click here.