You never know when a news story is going to change your life.
I certainly could never have anticipated what would happen after I went to Fort Gordon to do a story on the Fisher House. The Fisher House is a home away from home for families of wounded warriors. There are Fisher Houses all across America at military installations and some VA facilities. Our Fort Gordon Fisher House can hold up to seven families, while the wounded warrior heals at Eisenhower or either of our two VA medical centers.
It was at our Fort Gordon Fisher House that I interviewed Specialist Crystal Davis of Camden, S.C. The 22-year-old had been injured in an IED blast in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005, and had lost her leg. She considers it her "alive day," because it was the day she didn't die. Davis calmly told me about her whole ordeal, the loss of her leg, the dozens of surgeries that followed, and the possibility that she might lose her remaining leg someday because of the injuries to it.
Then she said something unexpected: She said it was the best thing that had ever happened to her, because it had given her a reason to live. She said she felt her life now had a purpose - to help people just like her. She told me she wanted to become a physical therapy technician in order to show other wounded warriors who'd also lost limbs that if she could do it, they can, too.
In the course of our interview, she also talked about being at Walter Reed, her first stop after arriving from Germany. She felt she'd received good medical care at Walter Reed, but had to wait for physical therapy. She said she felt she needed more therapy to help her to walk, something that wasn't happening with one appointment a day. She noticed she'd get better when she came home to visit her family in South Carolina, but would get worse when she returned to Walter Reed.
She eventually was transferred to Augusta to the Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit at the Uptown VA. She needed a walker when she arrived, but within three weeks was on her prosthetic leg full time. Davis received two physical therapy appointments a day - and got the push to walk she wanted.
No story I've ever covered has touched me the way Davis' did. Ever since our interview, I've been working with community leaders (Former U.S. Rep. Doug Barnard, Jim Hull, Clay Boardman, and Boone Knox, among others) to see if Augusta might take on a broader mission with wounded warrior care. I hope the answer is yes.
We have a lot working for us: 70 percent of returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan come from the Southeastern United States, and wounded warriors get better when they're close to family and loved ones. Augusta's current medical and educational facilities are a perfect match with the reforms that Congress and the president's commission are considering for wounded warrior care.
I hope we might help more people like Crystal Davis, and I hope we might also help them find their callings in life, just as she's finding hers, and now as she's helped me find mine.
Laurie Ott, a Columbia County resident, is a former news anchor for WRDW-TV 12 and incoming executive director of the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project.
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