Christopher and Angela Ryan
We are honored to introduce to you, our son, Marine Sgt. Eddie Ryan. He was proud, very proud to serve our country as a United States Marine. His first combat tour of duty in Iraq was during the first invasion, when Eddie served a machine-gunner. According to his fellow Marines, Eddie was highly motivated, fulfilled his job at an excellent level and was very brave and courageous in tough combat situations.
Eddie then trained hard to become an elite Marine sniper. Out of 16 of the best Marines picked from his battalion Eddie came in first place during the sniper endoc, a Marine skills test. Fourteen out of the sixteen never made the cut. Eddie never told us this out of his humbleness, his other Marines did. During Eddie's second combat tour of duty in Iraq, he was up for meritorious sergeant promotion after less than two and a half years of active duty. According to Major General Huck and the other Marines in his Scout Sniper platoon, our son was a "highly regarded Marine" in his battalion.
Eddie was severely wounded on his second combat tour of duty in Iraq, April 13, 2005.
After being in Landstuhl, Germany for five days we went to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. For five and a half weeks we stayed in Bethesda. Eddie came out of his coma and the doctors recommended he be sent for intensive rehabilitation. We were warned by the families of other wounded soldiers that our jobs as caregivers would increase extensively under the VA. Eddie's care from the VA started at the Hunter McGuire VA in Richmond, Virginia, and we found out that this was true. But our question was why had our jobs had increased? Why, when our brave young men and women stand between us and our nation's enemies, would wounded soldiers be welcomed home by a VA system that gives them substandard care?
As parents of this wounded Marine with a severe traumatic brain injury, we wanted to do our best to give him the care that he so desperately needed and deserved; however, the staff not only wouldn't allow us to but refused to do it themselves. Eddie was fed by a belly tube and was totally dependent on the care of others. He missed several meals and when we brought this to light and held the staff accountable, we faced opposition.
Eddie's condition deteriorated. His six-foot, one-inch tall body of solid muscle at 200 pounds went down to 166 pounds. He had no control of his bowels so he was in a diaper. He would sit in his own feces for hours because of the laziness of some of the staff who would just stand around and talk together at times when young Marines and soldiers needed immediate care. At times there would only be two nurses on a night shift responsible for the care for many so severely wounded.
We had visiting hours from 11am to 8pm. We knew Eddie was not receiving the care he desperately needed but when we would come early or stay late to check on and assist our son, the staff would call security on us.
The lack of care for Eddie became evident when his skin broke down under his tailbone and turned into a terrible bedsore, an area mom still fights with everyday to keep clean. The sore became infected and Eddie needed to be placed on an antibiotic I.V. drip for six weeks. Because of this we needed to wheel this tower around, holding up his therapies and slowing down progress when time was crucial.
Our stay at the Hunter McGuire VA was not good. It was a horrible experience not only for us but for all the other parents and spouses that were in the TBI ward as well. There are other parents we still have contact with and share bad memories of the past with. The rooms had the stink of urine. We could go on and on.
At this point and time, our issues are the lack of therapies we have for Eddie and the lack of home care. Eddie is rated for 24-hour home health care from an LPN, which he has never received to date.
At times, Eddie has seizures but the VA sees no urgency in this. We received only personal care assistance and many days have no coverage at all, leaving Eddie and mom alone, unless dad takes off from work. We have asked the VA about this but to no avail.
Neurologists and neurosurgeons have told us from the beginning that Eddie needs to work hard every day in rehab to regain as much as he can and that the first five years are critical. We asked the VA for more therapies but instead his VA doctors actually reduced his 45-minute physical therapy sessions from five days a week to two days a week. With help from Congressman Hinchey and Senator Clinton's office, Eddie was re-instated back to five times a week but that took seven weeks to do that this summer. In the meantime, he missed out on hours of therapies during the most important phase of his rehabilitation.
The VA gives Eddie 45 minutes for physical therapy five times a week , 45 minutes of occupational therapy two times a week (some weeks less) and 45 minutes of speech therapy five times a week.
The doctors said Eddie was not even supposed to live. He not only survived but this young Marine sniper, our son, remembers his intense training in the Marine Corps and is displaying his tenacity in rehab. Eddie has made remarkable progress and yet the VA doctor that cut Eddie's therapies has never even examined Eddie, never personally evaluated Eddie, never had the decency to visit or meet this brave young warrior, a Purple Heart recipient with two combat tours in Iraq.
Eddie's dream is to go back in the Marine Corps one day. As a family with many, many, witnesses, we are sad to say we have had to and continue to have to fight and battle with the VA for much of what Eddie is in need of.
The VA should be there for these wounded warriors asking them and their families "what do you need?" or "how can we help you and your family?" On the contrary most times we stand on opposite sides of the fence.
We as a family are asking Congress to change and address this.