From Surviving to Thriving: The Rogers Family's Story

After a severe TBI, Airman First Class David Rogers continues to work with the VA rehab staff. They set no limits for him — he even goes rock climbing. "The day I went to the gym to see him climb, he was grinning from ear to ear, and just having a blast at it," says his father. "This is good! This is not a shot, or medicine, or drugs and stuff. This is therapy to the mind, straight to the heart, and the will of the body and everything."

My life has not gradually changed. It has changed instantaneously and permanently. [♫Music♫] [Lauri Rogers - Mother of David Rogers, USAF] David was a Crew Chief and Maintainer at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Spangdahlem, Germany. David was in a car accident in which there was a light rain on the road and it had bubbled up some oil from the surface and he lost control and an oncoming car broadsided the car. My husband came to me and said that he had received a phone call from Dave's Commander that he had a head injury and that we were leaving for Germany very quickly. We were at ICU talking to the doctors going through the translator because it was all German, and asked about the other injuries because we could see he was in pain from those, and they said don't even worry about those. Everything that we're doing is to really deal with the brain right now and to save the brain, and try and protect him from any further damage. They weren't very hopeful at the time that he would survive at all, and then secondarily that he would ever come off life support. They really didn't think that was going to happen, and I just wanted to bundle him up in my arms and hold him, and I didn't know how to do that, where to touch him, or anything like that. Very hard. After 4 1/2 months in the hospital in Germany, we went on a video conference with the VA, and Dr. McNamee was involved in that, and a number of the staff that's at Polytrauma right now, and it was kind of nice for me to be able to see. This is the first time I saw faces of the people that he was going to be treated by before we got there. They were the first team that said to me, "It's up to Dave and his response to the therapies that we provide for him." We don't know what he's going to do or not going to do. Let's just do what we do and see what happens. It's very, very good for me in particular having been there for 5 months now bedside, to have a team that I knew wasn't setting any limits. Our decision to move here had to do with David's care. We wanted to continue it with staff in a VA that was fully equipped for his severity of brain injury. David will be coming home permanently, but he comes home on the weekends. He stays for the day and then we take him back in the evening. We love David, and of course we know we're dealing with a situation here, and as his parents, we're going to do the right thing for David and all that. But the thing I think, honey, you and I are always trying to figure out and balance out and stuff like that--this isn't all about David. >>No. We are the parents of 6 children. Erica and David are adults, and our school age children whom we've adopted are Andrew, Aaron, Zoey, and Victoria. They can be involved in helping to care for Dave or to play games with David or whatever we're going to be doing. And really encourage their desires to love their brother in a practical way, and not stop them because I think they might drop a little food in his lap. They've been growing as people also. [Shane McNamee, MD] One of the concepts that we try to get people to understand is that things are going to be normal again someday. But it's going to be a new normal. Slowly. Little, little drinks. Whatever is happened to them and the current struggles their having are not going to define their lives. They're going to be people again. They're going to walk. They're going to talk. They're going to move. There's going to be joy. There's going to be pain in their lives. But if we can kind of help reawaken the person inside of them, I think we've done a tremendous job. David was asking me, where am I in my life now is basically what he was asking. The recreation therapist says, what did he do? I said, "Well, he was a rock climber." "Well, then let's see if we can get that done." My reaction was, they're going to do what? [♫Music♫] They were going to let David go rock climbing. I was thinking--like--this isn't safe. He might get hurt, but part of the healing was let the kid go on a rope and hang from it. That's what he loves to do. When he was emerging, and he was asking what happened and I said, "You are still an active-duty Airman, and you are still serving your country through your cooperation and your hard work through therapy because the men and women who are coming off the desert with TBIs will benefit from what they learned from you." And he gave me a thumbs up. [Applause] He could have given up. He could have just stopped. He could have gotten angry. He didn't. [♫Music♫] The day that I went to the gym and saw him do that, he was grinning from ear to ear and just having a blast at it and stuff. This is good. This is not a shot in medicine and drugs and stuff. This is therapy through the mind, straight to the heart, and will of the body and everything. [David Citu, MD] That's what we do in rehabilitation is give people lots of motivation. We're really good cheerleaders, but we also give them the tools, the skill sets, the knowledge, the equipment, the resources, the access, whatever they need to open those doors and to get through them.
Posted on BrainLine November 22, 2011.

Excerpted from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Used with permission.