By Mr. Chuck D Roberts (Army Medicine)August 9, 2012
LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Germany -- Landstuhl Regional Medical Center was one of many stops on the long road to recovery for Brian Kolfage, but one he does not remember.
That changed Aug. 1 when Kolfage visited the hospital where he was treated eight years ago when he lost an arm and both legs from a 107 mm mortar blast that landed about 5 feet away from the former Air Force Security Forces specialist on Sept. 11, 2004, at Balad Air Base in Iraq.
Kolfage is now completing his degree in architecture at the University of Arizona, but was able to make the return journey to LRMC with his wife, Nikki, at the invitation of the Wounded Warrior Project that has allowed other former patients to retrace their road to recovery.
Kolfage said he has no memory of being a patient at LRMC, and said it was strange feeling visiting areas such as the entrance to the Emergency Department where he arrived on a stretcher in an ambulance bus. During his visit, Kolfage shared his long and successful healing process with staff and patients.
Two patients in one of the rooms he visited were amputees who had just arrived from Afghanistan. Kolfage offered reassurance during their discussion that included questions such as whether he is able to drive a car. Hearing that driving, walking and other normal activities are all possible has added credibility when it comes from a fellow amputee, said Kolfage.
"They can see I've been to Hell and back and know they can trust me. You can see the hope and trust in their eyes because they know they can trust me," Kolfage said afterward at the LRMC Fisher House where he was able to reunite with Vivian Wilson, current manager of the two LRMC Fisher Houses and manager of the Fisher Houses at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2004 where Kolfage and his wife resided for several months during his recovery.
"It was incredibly heartwarming to see Brian after so many years, looking healthy and happy with his beautiful wife at his side and pursuing his dreams," said Wilson.
Although not on staff when Kolfage was treated at LRMC, Capt. Kathleen Casper has treated numerous seriously injured Wounded Warriors during her seven years as an Army nurse. Casper said the staff is always grateful for the opportunity to meet former patients such as Kolfage, the patient who "wasn't supposed to live."
"It was very meaningful to see Brian who has done so well," said Casper, an ICU nurse. "He's just like a normal, everyday guy now."
Casper said Kolfage reflects the same selfless service she sees in so many of her patients. "These guys give everything. Their injuries are something they didn't ask for … they tug on my heartstrings."
LRMC is the largest American hospital outside of the United States and the only Level I Trauma Center overseas, as verified by the American College of Surgeons. LRMC provides medical care for more than 245,000 U.S. military personnel and their families within U.S. European Command. LRMC has served as an evacuation and treatment center for more than 68,000 U.S. servicemembers and civilians injured in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as servicemembers from 51 coalition forces.
Brian Kolfage (seated) talks with Col. (Dr.) Michael Murray during his Aug. 1, 2012, visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. Kolfage returned to visit staff and patients at LRMC where he was treated eight years ago for injuries sustained during a mortar attack at Balad Air Base in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force Photo/MSgt. Wayne Clark)