By Francis X. Clines The New York Times
The two soldiers lolled speechless in wheelchairs, severely brain damaged by war, staring out at the home front from a diagnosis of “minimal consciousness.” Their young brides fed them through gastric tubes, one of the frequent tasks in the women’s brave new careers as veterans’ family caretakers.
It is a sweet and bitter fact of modern battlefield medicine that more warriors can survive devastating brain wounds that would have killed them in previous wars.
There are about 2,000 suffering the most severe brain trauma from Iraq and Afghanistan, with perhaps 200 more a year to come, according to an estimate by the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity that helps damaged military families.
Rather than store away these young men and women in nursing homes, more family members — their own lives forever upended — are opting to be trained to nurse and rehabilitate their loved ones at home. These gritty families insist that a home setting is essential to any recovery and hope of a worthwhile lifetime.
“I chose to stay with my man,” explained RyAnne Noss, ministering to her husband Scot, a once powerful Army Ranger who was dragged from a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. RyAnne put aside her Ph.D. in chemistry to become Scot’s round-the-clock helpmate rather than leave him for visits across years in a convalescent home.
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