A Medical Miracle and a "New Lease on Life"
In 2003, Army Specialist Bryant J. enlisted out of a desire to serve his country, and one year later was deployed to Iraq. His unit was responsible for clearing routes of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and weapon and ammunition stockpiles that could be used against U.S. troops. With a little over a month left of his year-long combat tour, Bryant’s vehicle hit an IED, ejecting him and a fellow soldier from their vehicle. The blast shattered both of Bryant’s legs, caused severe abdominal injuries and severed part of his index finger.
“I wanted to go to sleep and didn’t think I would live, so I told my buddy to tell my mom that I loved her,” Bryant said. He was loaded into the back of another vehicle to be transferred to the medevac to fly him back to base. He remembers the road to the medevac well, feeling searing pain with every bump in the asphalt along the way.
When Bryant arrived at Landstuhl, Germany his prognosis was grim. Doctors didn’t expect him to live, and his family was told to prepare their good-byes.
But after three weeks in a medically induced coma, he miraculously awoke at Walter Reed National Medical Center with his parents by his side. Over the next 22 months, Bryant underwent 47 surgeries and intense rehabilitation at Walter Reed in an attempt to save his right leg.
“The doctors wanted to amputate while I was at Walter Reed, but after almost two years, I just wanted to leave. I said no to the surgery and went home to Utah,” Bryant said.
In 2014, after nearly a decade of pain, Bryant made the brave decision to have his leg amputated above the knee to increase his quality of life. Eighteen months later, he was the second patient in the nation to undergo the newly approved osseointegration surgery – the insertion of a metal implant to the bone of a residual limb, which then attaches directly to a prosthesis. This eliminates socket-related issues.
Bryant said having the surgery was the best thing he could have ever done. Now living a pain-free life, he took up a new challenge to fix a crumbling driveway.
Bryant would often slip on the deteriorating driveway, and the resulting pain could put him in bed for days. However, such a project was costly. Bryant and his wife saved as best they could, but no amount of penny-pinching would get them the amount they needed for repairs to make the driveway safe for him. In 2019, as they prepared to take out a loan, a friend told them about Semper Fi & America’s Fund.
“One night I decided to get online and fill out the contact form for The Fund. I figured the worst that could happen would be they tell me no,” he recalled. “In less than 24 hours I got a call from and was assigned to the most amazing case manager, Karen G.” Affiliated with The Fund for more than 15 years, Karen initially served as a volunteer and, most recently, has served as a service member case manager for the last two years. Karen immediately began working Bryant’s driveway issues. "My wife is going to be the happiest of all. Phone calls from me were usually, ‘I am going to the Emergency Room because I fell on the driveway again.’ She was afraid I was going to break my neck.”
In partnership with The Home Depot Foundation, The Fund collaborated to ensure Bryant’s road to recovery was paved with love to improve his quality of life! The new driveway not only made it safe for Bryant to walk but also gave his wife peace of mind. Now, she no longer worries about getting calls at work from Bryant asking to be taken to the emergency room.
The Fund has become an integral part of Bryant’s family over the past few years. To help deal with the stress of the COVID pandemic, they have taken part in The Fund’s Zoom “Cooking with John” events. Whether installing a safer driveway or hosting family events, Bryant's family understands The Fund’s commitment to a “lifetime of needs.”
“I can’t even begin to say thank you. I haven’t slipped or fallen on my new driveway and feel connected to people that matter. My quality of life is soaring! Thank you, Semper Fi & America’s Fund, and to all the amazing supporters of The Fund, for making this project come true and connecting me to an organization and community that feels like family!”