Amputee on Active Duty Inspires Others
September 28, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 2, 2007) - As an Army nurse, my job is taking care of patients. Throughout my career I have done that in a variety of settings, from inpatient medical-surgical nursing to emergency room nursing, even in outpatient clinics.
While I always wondered, I never knew what happened to patients after they left my emergency room. I assume some returned to duty after their recovery, some decided to leave the Army after their commitments and some were medically retired.
I never took care of Maj. David Rozelle, and frankly, never knew he existed until recently. Spending six hours with a true American hero, listening to his story, made me realize how important my job is as an Army nurse and a health-care recruiter.
I met Maj. Rozelle at Boston Logan Airport. He was easy to pick out amongst the group of weary travelers that were coming out of the terminal - he had a missing right foot and lower leg.
Maj. Rozelle was injured in Iraq in June 2003. He returned to combat duty in Iraq as an amputee in 2005.
We had quite a walk back to where I parked the vehicle. I almost felt bad about him having to walk that far, but I remembered that Maj. Rozelle had completed the Ironman Triathlon 70.3 at Walt Disney World. I haven't done that and I have both legs, so I figured he would be fine.
On the drive to his hotel, I didn't ask about his leg because I read his bio and knew what happened to it and I figured that he gets that question all the time.
The next morning, I met him in the lobby and we walked across the street to Tufts-New England Medical Center. He wasn't there to receive care. He was there to talk during grand rounds about the amputee care center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. There were approximately 30 surgeons and medical students there just to listen to him speak.
I learned that about 650 amputees from the war theater have been treated in Army medical facilities. Maj. Rozelle spoke about the intensive physical therapy that begins right after surgery, the physiological and psychological aspects of care, and the developments made in prosthetic care as a result.
I also learned that the goal is not to medically retire a Soldier who still wants to serve and is able to serve. Great strides are being made in helping Soldiers with amputations return to full functional ability. Not just eating a meal or brushing their teeth, but to do the jobs they could do before - such as a medic starting an IV with his prosthesis or a mechanic repairing a vehicle.
I also learned that Soldiers with amputations are getting the best medical and prosthetic care, even prostheses that regular insurance can't buy. Our nation's dedication to our wounded warriors is costly, including building the Center For The Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and the new amputee care center at Walter Reed. Both facilities have state-of-the-art technology-the future of prosthetic care today. Our wounded warriors not only deserve that, they earned it.
Maj. Rozelle's job at Walter Reed is to help design the new amputee care center. His goal is to help Soldiers return to "normal," then help them go beyond that.
After his presentation, he spent 30 minutes with surgeons and students approaching him with questions and offers of praise and thanks. We left the medical center and headed toward WGBH, a national public radio station.
We arrived early and met with Lisa and Chris at the station. I listened to the interview in the technician's booth and heard Rozelle tell his Army Story.
His vehicle ran over a land mine in June 2003 and he was the most severely injured of those in his vehicle. Doctors at a military hospital in Baghdad had told him two things that day. The first thing he was told was he was losing his foot. He signed a consent that allowed the doctors to remove what was left of his right foot.
The next thing they told him was worse. He would have to leave Iraq. I listened to Maj. Rozelle tell how leaving was worse than losing his foot. He had Soldiers that depended on him and families he had promised he would take care of their Soldiers. Now they would finish the tour without him.
He talked about the care he received and how military hospitals weren't prepared for the number of amputees as a result of this war. He made up his mind then to do what he needed to do to stay in the Army on full duty, even returning to Iraq as an amputee. During his second tour in 2005, he had 10 different prostheses that he was testing in the field to further advance amputee care. He did everything his Soldiers did and without assistance. He led by example.
I learned much about Maj. David Rozelle in just six short hours. He is an example of the Army Medical Department's motto, "To Conserve Fighting Strength."
My job as an Army nurse and a health-care recruiter has always been important, but after meeting a real American hero, it has added value.
<i>(From the September 2007 Mercury, an Army Medical Department publication.)</i>