Soldier campaigns for private care

July 15, 2008 3:26:19 PM PDT
A soldier treated for his injuries in Chicago is now fighting for other wounded military men and women.Two years ago, a roadside bomb in Iraq left Army Sergeant Eric Edmundson unable to walk, talk or move most of his body. A year later, he amazed his doctors by walking out of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). Today, he underwent a follow-up checkup.

"I would like to say thank you to everyone in Chicago for all their prayers and support," said Sgt. Edmundson with the help of a computer. The sergeant-- who doctors predicted would spend the rest of his life in a vegetative state-- is filled with gratitude for the doctors and staff at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Edmundson suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Iraq in 2005 when the vehicle he was driving detonated a roadside bomb. TBI has become the signature injury of the Iraq war. Disappointed by the care in Veterans Administration facilities, his father, Ed Edmundson, lobbied for Eric to come to RIC.

"He was here for 7 months and got extensive acute therapy and put him over that hump onto that road to recover," said Ed Edmundson, Eric's father.

In the past year, Edmundson has gone swimming with his daughter and wife in North Carolina and fishing with his father. Now he's fighting for other wounded servicemen and women.

"My hope is that all wounded service members someday will get to experience what the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has to offer," said Edmundson, who is the only wounded serviceman currently being treated at the Rehab Institute of Chicago.

RIC officials had hoped dozens more veterans would be getting this kind of care by now, but that's not the case. CEO and President Doctor Joanne smith says since the Iraq War began, the RIC has treated 20 military personnel.

"It's a good question. I'm not really sure. I couldn't begin to understand the Veterans Administration," said Dr. Joanne Smith, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Last month, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois sent this letter to James Peake, secretary of Veterans Affairs, urging him to send more TBI patients to private facilities.

"The Congress has given the Veterans Administration the authority to move patients to hospitals outside the VA system if care is offered that they can't find in the VA...and they haven't done it, haven't done enough of it," said Senator Durbin.

Senator Durbin said on Tuesday afternoon Veterans Administration Secretary James Peake promised to visit the Rehab Institute of Chicago soon.


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