I recently had the opportunity to revisit Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. The last time I was there was over 20 years ago, when I trained as a Combat Medic. Much has changed since then!
My first stop was the Burn Center at Brooke Army Medical Center. This is where doctors and nurses work to keep severely burned patients alive — and then help them cope with the pain of life-changing wounds. Here’s a photo of the emergency suite, which is kept at 90 to 100 degrees since burn patients can’t regulate their body temperature.
Most sobering to me was that most patients don’t even remember their time in the Intensive Care area (average four months!); they are so heavily sedated for pain they wouldn’t want to anyway. Life begins again for them when they reach the Transition area. And after that, it’s still a long road of physical therapy and multiple surgeries.
This was a sobering tour, and weeks afterward, I have to say that I don’t think I could accurately write a character going through this – patient or caregiver!
Second stop was the Center for the Intrepid (CFI), which is where amputees go to get their groove back.
The CFI was built as a collaboration between government and civilian (much like the fictional Medical Center in True Surrender). In fact, over 600,000 Americans contributed financially to make the CFI a reality.
The CFI is truly world class. It’s where I would have wanted to work had I gone on to become a physical therapist (my original college major). And this tour came at a perfect time, as I’ve been reacquainting myself with my amputee hero, Aaron Bricewick, as I write the script version of True Surrender.
Highlights for me included the wave pool (think surfboarding indoors) and the CAREN, which is an amazing virtual reality simulator. (For a complete overview of the Center, watch the video here). I was especially gratified to find that my fictional account of Aaron’s gait analysis in True Surrender (based on internet research) was on target.
When I noticed a huge banner of an amputee riding rodeo, I asked my guide if he knew any amputees who were riding motorcycles, and/or if he’d heard of any special modifications for amputees to do so. He didn’t… but I’ll keep in touch. Because I can definitely see a biker/amputee character in a future story!