For Iraq War vet, a trip home is part of healing process

July 24, 2006
After spending nearly seven months lying in a hospital bed, a two-day furlough at home was just what the doctor ordered for Iraq War veteran, Marine Corps Gunner Sergeant Carl Traub. The staff at New Hanover Regional’s Coastal Rehabilitation Hospital took on the mission to make it happen. “It’s my job to advocate for patients and get their needs met. Whatever is important to them is what we try to do,” said Jayne Sanderson, registered nurse and case manager for spinal cord and brain injury patients at Coastal Rehab. “Carl desperately missed his family.” On October 30, Traub, a Jacksonville resident serving in the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, sustained life-threatening injuries when his military vehicle hit an explosive device in Fullujah, Iraq. His accident resulted in him being paralyzed from the hips down, losing his left leg to amputation and having limited use of his right arm. He broke his back, his right arm, both feet, both ankles and pelvis in three places, and suffered serious internal injuries. “The doctors originally said there’s no clinical reason I should have survived,” he said. By the time Traub was admitted as an inpatient at Coastal Rehab Hospital on April 5, he’d had more than 40 surgeries and stayed nearly six months in several different veterans hospitals out of state. Because his wife Cindy and two sons, Carl, 11, and Brandon, 9, were still in Jacksonville, they were limited to visits on weekends when the boys weren’t in school. “As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing like family to help you through hard times. It’s such a morale booster,” said Traub, a career Marine with 12 years of service. “There’s tremendous healing power in having the kids around. You feel rejuvenated. I was very set on wanting to go home.” However, the common stance for insurance companies is that patients who are well enough to go home for a visit are well enough to be released from the hospital. Sanderson advocated for Traub, explaining that even though he was not quite ready to be fully released, a visit home was a critical part of his recovery. “Rehab is interdisciplinary,” she said. “He needed that as much as he needed physical therapy. It was as therapeutic as anything we’ve done. Instead of taking a rehab program and putting Carl into it, we took Carl and put a Rehab program around him.” The insurance company finally agreed, and special arrangements were made to transport Traub in a customized van from Wilmington to Jacksonville for two full days on May 6-7. His trip was filled with visits from friends and neighbors and quality time with his family. It reinvigorated him to tackle the difficult therapy that was still ahead. “They try to tell me it’s because of me. They say for therapy to go well you have to be willing,” he said. “The care I’ve received here was great. Within three days of being in this hospital, they had me doing more than I did in a month at the other hospitals. “My goal is, of course, to walk again. Every time you turn around somebody’s telling you you’re paralyzed – you’re not going to walk again. A few months ago, I would have never thought it was possible, but it’s looking pretty attainable now.” Traub has since been released from the medical center and now returns from Jacksonville three times a week to continue his physical and occupational therapies at Coastal Rehab’s Outpatient Program. Now that school is out, his whole family comes for his tough rehab sessions to provide support and encouragement. Though the road ahead is challenging, Traub is determined to live an active lifestyle and enjoy watching his boys grow up. This week, he will receive a computerized prosthetic for this leg that will help him to walk with little assistance. Soon, he hopes to maneuver well enough to get in and out of his antique hot rod car for a ride. “His attitude from the very beginning was just unbelievable,” Sanderson said. “He’s been like that from the day he got here. He’s one of the many success stories here.” If you are interested in finding out more about the services offered by the region’s only Rehabilitation Hospital, please call 343-7845 or click here: www.nhrmc.org/coastalrehab.