By Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsMarch 25, 2008
Aca,!A"When he got to Kuwait, I said, Aca,!EoeYouAca,!a,,cre OK. I donAca,!a,,ct have to worry, youAca,!a,,cre safe; youAca,!a,,cre coming home and we have our future together,Aca,!a,,cAca,!A? Laura Lewis said recently about the end of her husband, Sgt. Troy LewisAca,!a,,c, 15-month tour in Iraq in January.
Like most couples, the long deployment posed several challenges to the newlyweds. However, both Troy and Laura said they came away from the experience as stronger people with a renewed commitment to their future.
Unknown to them, the LewisAca,!a,,c would soon endure a much bigger challenge than anything either of them faced while Troy served as a self-propelled artillery mechanic and a truck commander on convoy escort missions with Company G, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad.
Troy came into the active duty Army at a time in his life when most Soldiers are finishing their careers. He was 44 and transitioned from the Navy where he worked as a construction mechanic with the Seabees. Prior to joining the Navy in 2001, Troy had also spent three years in the Army Reserve and 14 years in the Marine Corps.
While serving with the Marines, Troy took part in Desert Storm/Desert Shield as an aviation mechanic with Marine Air Group 39.
Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cve just loved serving my country during that whole time,Aca,!A? Troy said, adding that his family has had a long history of military service.
On Feb. 22, around 3 oAca,!a,,cclock in the afternoon that service could have come to a screeching halt. Troy was returning to his apartment to pick up Laura so the two of them could sign their tax paperwork at the Fort Hood Tax Center. About three blocks from his home, Troy said he began experiencing a pressure in his chest.
Aca,!A"It was like someone was standing on my chest,Aca,!A? he explained. Aca,!A"I hadnAca,!a,,ct eaten anything at all that day, and I had a little bag of crackers I was eating, and at first I thought it was some type of severe indigestion.Aca,!A?
Despite the pain, Troy was able to get back to his apartment and park the car, but as soon as he got out of the car, he immediately fell to his knees.
Aca,!A"It was then that I knew something serious was going on,Aca,!A? Troy said.
He made his way into the apartment, and Laura said he stumbled into their bedroom, falling over the dresser.
Aca,!A"He just said, Aca,!EoeI feel weird; I just need to take a napAca,!a,,c, but I knew,Aca,!A? Laura recalled. Aca,!A"My dad had a heart attack, and he had all the signs Aca,!" the sweating, the color of his skin and his breathing.Aca,!A?
Troy continued stumbling around the apartment, making his way back outside, where he finally slumped over and laid down beside his car.
When Laura saw her husband collapse outside, she immediately called 911.
After the paramedics arrived, Troy was first taken to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center where he was given an electrocardiogram or EKG, which confirmed the blockage in his arteries and from there was airlifted to Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas.
Aca,!A"The doctors said that he had a build up of plaque on his heart and two aneurisms Aca,!" one on each side, and thatAca,!a,,cs what did it,Aca,!A? Laura said. Aca,!A"They said that it was the most severe heart attack they had seen in a while.Aca,!A?
It was later determined that the majority of the problems were probably hereditary due to the fact that both TroyAca,!a,,cs father and grandfather suffered heart attacks, and Troy would undergo triple bypass surgery that night, a procedure that would take nearly six hours.
Throughout the entire surgery, members of TroyAca,!a,,cs unit continued to show up at the hospital and never left LauraAca,!a,,cs side.
Aca,!A"Everybody just showed up at Scott & White,Aca,!A? Laura recalled. Aca,!A"The first sergeant and Sgt. 1st Class Kopetsky Aca,!" they both stayed with me the whole time.Aca,!A?
Sgt. 1st Class Brent Kopetsky, TroyAca,!a,,cs supervisor, said he just felt helpless throughout the entire night not knowing what was going to happen but wanted to be there to support Laura.
Aca,!A"We were just sitting there, hoping that heAca,!a,,cd be all right,Aca,!A? Kopetsky said. Aca,!A"I was surprised and kind of hurt. It hits home when someone in the military -- someone you work with is in the hospital because of a heart attack.Aca,!A?
The surgery ended at 1:00 a.m., and Laura finally got to see her husband.
Aca,!A"My first view of him, I just started bawling,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"It was just rough. He had wires coming out of here. HeAca,!a,,cs had a tube down his throat. HeAca,!a,,cs had wires coming out of his chest.Aca,!A?
She said that Troy finally woke up around 4 oAca,!a,,cclock that morning and had no recollection of the surgery.
Aca,!A"The doctor told me he wouldnAca,!a,,ct remember any of it, and when he woke up he wrote me a note and it said Aca,!Eoewhen is my surgery'Aca,!a,,cAca,!A? she said.
It was the next day before Troy was conscious enough to speak, and he would spend the next six days recovering at Scott & White.
While he was recovering, TroyAca,!a,,cs unit made arrangements for his parents to be flown in to visit with their son.
Aca,!A"They went way beyond the call of duty for me,Aca,!A? Laura said. Aca,!A"The Army did very well because they brought his mom and dad here. His mom, sheAca,!a,,cs not wealthy, and we needed help getting her here. So they brought her here and put her up in a hotel.Aca,!A?
TroyAca,!a,,cs company also made arrangements to take Laura, who doesnAca,!a,,ct have a driverAca,!a,,cs license, to and from the hospital everyday.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"I donAca,!a,,ct know how I would have gotten through this by myself. They gave me all the support that I needed,Aca,!A? she said.
Since being released from the hospital, Troy has spent his time at home recovering from the ordeal and adjusting to the changes in his life.
The most immediate change came with his diet, which is now made up primarily of chicken, fish, vegetables and rice. He also tries to walk a little bit everyday but has to spend most of his time just resting, which has allowed him to reflect on his life.
Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs definitely been an eye-opener and youAca,!a,,cve got to change your lifestyle,Aca,!A? Troy said. Aca,!A"It just reminds me of the importance of family, and it helped me focus on the things that are important in my life.Aca,!A?
Laura said that since coming back from the hospital, she has also noticed a difference in her husband.
Aca,!A"He said to me yesterday, Aca,!Eoedo you realize that IAca,!a,,cve never said IAca,!a,,cm sorry for anything that I might have done in my lifetime that was wrong. I just didnAca,!a,,ct think about it,Aca,!a,,cAca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"Something like this really makes you think just how fast life can go away.Aca,!A?
Troy said although there are days where he already feels up to returning to work, that it will be at least two months before he does so and at least a year before he has fully recovered.
Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs just a matter now of getting my strength back,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"I want to stay in the Army and serve out my time, and thereAca,!a,,cs no reason why I canAca,!a,,ct once I get back to the Soldiering level that I was at before.Aca,!A?
Kopetsky, who has stayed in constant contact with Troy and Laura, said that TroyAca,!a,,cs recovery and attitude have been pretty remarkable.
Aca,!A"To go through a major life-altering event like that, and then say, Aca,!EoeOK, when can I get back to work,Aca,!a,,c thatAca,!a,,cs impressive,Aca,!A? Kopetsky said. Aca,!A"The guys are pulling for him. TheyAca,!a,,cre ready for him to get back and know that heAca,!a,,cs OK and back up to where he was before.Aca,!A?
As Troy and Laura continue to take his recovery one day at a time, she said that this experience has shown her just how special each day that they have together really is.
Aca,!A"You just donAca,!a,,ct know how short life can be,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"One minute youAca,!a,,cre just so happy that your husband came home and he didnAca,!a,,ct get shot and he didnAca,!a,,ct get killed. You think youAca,!a,,cve got this wonderful time together and then boom, something happens and it can be over in a minute.Aca,!A?