Veteran completes Army career thanks to rehab at Tampa VA


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When Patrick Stamm woke up at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, his first thoughts were, “What’s going on?”

He didn’t know it at the time, but he’d suffered major injuries – including a traumatic brain injury – after falling four stories from a hotel balcony in Hawaii on Labor Day Weekend 1996. He’d been celebrating his reenlistment in the Army when the accident happened, and spent the next 40 days in a coma before waking up in Tampa.

While most people would be grateful just waking up at all after a four-story fall, that wasn’t enough for Stamm. With the help of the Tampa’s rehabilitation and therapy programs, the soldier recovered enough that he was able to remain in the Army and complete 16 more years as a military intelligence specialist, including two deployments to Iraq, a stint as an instructor and going back on jump status as a paratrooper, before retiring in 2012.

Stamm was an infantryman and Ranger during his first enlistment, but realized after getting out of the Army that he missed it. He eventually reenlisted and was stationed in Hawaii.

“We were celebrating my being back in the Army and I fell from the fourth floor of the Hale Koa Hotel and Resort,” Stamm said. “I don’t remember exactly what happened, but my fall was broken by the air conditioning unit for the kitchen.  That’s how they found me.  They said something’s wrong with the AC or something, so they went out to check and there I was.”

Tampa VA occupational therapist Kerri Martin works with Army Veteran Patrick Stamm during his recent reevaluation at the hospital.

Tampa VA occupational therapist Kerri Martin works with Army Veteran Patrick Stamm during his recent reevaluation at the hospital.

After waking from his coma, Stamm was told he’d suffered a diffuse axonal brain injury, one of the most common and devastating types of traumatic brain injury. He’d also broken his arm, leg, back, ribs, hip and skull, and ruptured his spleen.  “I was messed up,” he said.

“I was in therapies to strengthen my left side, my left arm. I had to learn how to walk again,” Stamm said.  “I had to learn how to eat, how to talk.  My speech, which is still jacked up a little bit, was worse then.”

He said his primary motivation through it all was to continue his Army career.

“I ain’t going down like that…I used those words,” Stamm said. “I wasn’t going to put my family through me being unable to care for myself.”

After months of rehabilitation, Stamm was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, where he began his fight to stay on active duty. It took about a year before Stamm got the good news – not only was he going to stay in the Army, but he was going back to Hawaii to finish what he started.

Unfortunately, a hearing problem disqualified him from the infantry career field, but he was offered the chance to retrain into military intelligence.

“I was like, OK, I have a traumatic brain injury but they want me to be in M-I,” Stamm said. “OK, I’ll take it.”

He spent the rest of his Army career in the intelligence field, including three years as an instructor for the intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He had two combat deployments to Iraq and requalified to become a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., before retiring in 2012 with 20 years of service.  He is currently living in Louisiana, but recently visited Tampa for an evaluation to see how he has progressed since his rehabilitation.

For Dr. Steven Scott, chief of the hospital’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service, Stamm is an inspiration.

“He’s a success story as well as beyond anybody’s expectations of his recovery,” Scott said. “He was able to serve our country again despite a serious head injury, and serve at the highest level of capacity.  It exemplifies the ability of the brain to recover, and it’s also a mark of the strength of this individual.”

While Stamm has ended his military career, he’s hoping to continue working for his fellow Veterans. He’d like to open a community for injured and disabled Veterans that is self-sufficient and allows the residents to contribute to their own well-being and also contribute to the community.

“I know I’ve been blessed, and I was fortunate to be able to get back my head and thoughts,” Stamm explained. “Now I want to be able to help other fellow Vets.”

Author

Ed Drohan

Ed Drohan is a public affairs specialist, at the James A. Haley VA Hospital, Tampa, Florida, and a retired Air Force master sergeant who has reported from Somalia, Haiti, New Orleans (post-Katrina) and Afghanistan.

Comments

  1. Daniel M. Wiberg    

    I broke my neck in 1987 and was misdiagnosed by the Naval Hospital st Great Lakes Ill. I was b=an instructor there for 5 years serving with a broken neck and went on to serve till 1996. In 1994 I broke my lower back slipped L$ 1/2 inch to the right and served another 2 years mis-diagnosed by Portsmouth naval hospital.

    I was forced out in my 22nd year listed as fit for duty. Went to the VA and they had me at 80% in 2 months and 240% by a year and a half. Meanwhile ALSO misdiagnosing me for another 18 years. Instead disgnosing me with ALS in 2002 and giving me “End Of Life Counseling” in 2005. In 2014 they determined I was the longest living veteran with ALS. OR THEY WERE WRONG when the had a doctor from MUSC examine me and diagnosed a broken neck that year I had 4 vertebrae fused but I was still in a wheel chair (17 years) and while doing XRays to find a broken Heparin needle they got a clear image of the L4 and in 2015 I had 3 lumbar vertebrae fused.
    Now I am out of the wheel chair which could have been completely avoided is the Military and the VA had real doctors and not complete idiots who cannot get jobs anywhere else.
    The Navy got away with not having to pay my disability and also put in my records I was malingering. One does not “malinger” a compete cervical spine damage nor lumbar damage. Yes I had and have NO RECOURSE.

    Imagine serving with honor and excellent evaluations while “malingering” that much damage. Meanwhile I was told at retirement I had been put in for a Congressional Medal of Honor which was denied by Bill Clinton because, “Not enough people of color have it.” And here I thought it was all about “Content of Character”?

    So what do you have to say about my “experience”.

  2. johnny    

    sympathize with you and your events with caregivers.Ive had PD since 2009 and found the hardest part of PD is finding a good doctor who puts their patients first.This everywhere today not just the military.The last VA nerologist I went to tried to tell me I didnt have PD evn though he had dx me three years before.
    Take care of yoursel.We cant control the doctors or why they dowhat they do,all we can do is laugh .I always tell myself its just a hurried opinion ,so they can get back to the screen,lol
    best of luck to you.
    hey i ve found laughter therapy a good allyin our fight to keep our sanity.
    hehe,hoho,haha
    best
    john

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