Paradise Lost and Found
May 1, 2008
GARMISCH, Germany - It started out as a ski vacation in the Alpines, a break from life in Tunisia for a naval attachAfA and his family. It became the U.S. Army Garrison Garmisch community reaching out to guests in urgent need.
Lt. Cmdr. Matt Lane and his family - wife Joy and sons Jaymeson, Jordan and Joseph - were enjoying themselves April 10 when Joy suffered an accident while skiing on the Zugspitze. Joy, a nurse, made it back to the lodge, where a ski patrol provided a wheelchair for the cable car ride off the mountain.
The first thing Lane did was contact the USAG Garmisch Tricare office.
"We met (Tricare representative) Laura Bertuzzi," said Lane. "Without a doubt she was the hero throughout this adventure."
Joy was taken to the Garmisch Krankenhaus, as it became clear that the severity of her injury and additional complications meant surgery and a nine-day stay in the hospital - along with a delay in returning to Tunisia.
Bertuzzi guided the Lanes through admission processes for treatment, and continued helping the family settle in for the duration.
"More than once she came to the hospital to check on Joy, which meant a lot as the hospital (staff) spoke limited English," said Lane.
Plus she supported the children
"She realized the challenges associated with occupying our three boys during this ordeal, made a few calls and arranged for my sons to join the after-school programs already in place," said Lane.
Bertuzzi contacted Child Youth Services director Ellen Harris, who said she would be happy to help, as the boys were quickly signed into the Teen Center and after-school hourly care.
"Both the Teen Center for my two older boys and the School Age Services for my youngest son were incredible," said Lane. "My boys felt immediately at home; we felt very confident in the programs.
"The ladies supporting my youngest son at the SAS were elated to see my wife for the first time two days before (we left) Garmisch, making it clear they had been thinking about her all along. This made a huge impact on Joy."
The accident and extended stay in an expensive resort town also meant the Lane family was facing huge, unplanned expenses. Bertuzzi contacted the Navy's medical evacuation authorities in Europe, arranging for the family's return to Tunisia, saving what Lane termed "a tremendous amount of money."
Bertuzzi understood their worries.
"The family had big concerns about their out-of-pocket costs," said Bertuzzi. "They had to stay longer than planned, and (there were) expenses for food, transportation, local and return flights, and three boys."
Extending their accommodations during the ski season was another problem. The popular Armed Forces Recreation Center Edelweiss Lodge, where the Lanes were staying, was booked to capacity, but a family-sized cabin was available at the nearby Vacation Village on Artillery Kaserne.
Lane complimented the reception desk staff for their efforts, saying: "They immediately realized our situation and gave us the personal attention we needed."
While the Lanes stayed 11 days at the campground, the boys made new friends at the Garmisch Teen Center and SAS. They were provided with food and activities, and enjoyed using the adjacent post library.
"It was a big relief to parents, it allowed them to concentrate on Mom getting well rather than 'Oh no, what can we do with the kids''" said Bertuzzi.
Lane kept busy at the Expresso Coffee Bistro, using free internet service to research flight schedules, and made use of other facilities on the close-knit installation.
The support provided by people in and around USAG Garmisch was invaluable during the challenging time, said Lane.
"However, it was the personal attention we received by folks, who went out of their way, that made the difference, enabling us to pull through," said Lane. "Due to the efforts of many, with Laura Bertuzzi leading the way, we already look back on our experience in Garmisch with the fondest of memories and are making plans to return next winter."
Almost three weeks following Joy's accident, the family returned to Tunisia.