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Picking Up the Pieces

Iraq Vets: Radio Transcript

How Family and Faith Are Healing Veterans Home From War.

Barry: That day, Shurvon's Humvee hit a roadside bomb and the injury from the blast paralyzed all four of his limbs. The reason Gails refers to the 'last time they spoke'—even though Shurvon is in the hospital room with us—is that his brain injury also left him unable to speak.

Shurvon now requires 24-hour care and most of that burden falls on his mother. For 16 hours a day, she sits by his side, ready to help if he starts to choke, as he often does.

When Shurvon was first injured, Gail would not accept a doctor's news that her son would never walk or talk again.

Gail: And I was, like, 'Excuse me, what did you just say?' He said Shurvon would stay like that for the rest of his life. And I just got up with tears in my eyes and I got to my, went to my son’s room, and I held him by the, he was sleeping, and I lift him up by the shoulders and I said, 'Shurvon I would not allow you to stay in this bed if it takes me the rest of my life. You’re going to get up. You have to wake up.' And he opened his eyes and he was looking at me, like, 'What’s going on?' I said, 'Shurvon, the doctor said you will never walk, you will never talk.' I said, 'You have to show them you are strong and you can do this. We can do this together.'

Barry: At the time, Gail was working two jobs as a home-health care aide. But Shurvon's injury has forced her to quit both jobs—and to say goodbye to some big dreams.

Gail: I really wanted to work and make a little nest egg…but, um, to retire one day and travel. I always wanted to travel. I always wanted to go to Hawaii. You know, I always wanted to go to Paris, I said, you know, do something, but no. Now my future is Shurvon. My life is Shurvon.

Barry: For all of Gail's commitment, being a full-time caretaker has been crushingly stressful. Her hair has started falling out. She has trouble remembering things. And with no income of her own, she doesn't know how she'll maintain her own health.

Gail: I get scared knowing that I don’t have any health insurance. Sometimes I, things I feel, sometimes things are changing in my body, like, um, the, like, going down to the basement to bring up, bringing up his stuff, by the time I get up to the top of the steps I’m, like, short of breath. Sometimes I don’t have to do anything and I can feel this pain in the middle of my chest and I have to, like, kind of, relax and I can’t go to the doctor or anywhere, because I don’t have any health insurance. Because even if I go, I still have to find the money to pay, pay the bills. So I just pray that God is going to give me health and strength to take care of Shurvon.

Barry: But like so many of the parents I spoke to, Gail understands she has no choice—and she would not have it any other way. Moving Shurvon into a long-term-care facility would, for her, be like walking away from motherhood.

Gail: He’s my son. I carried him for nine months, and as a mother you have to do what you have to do. You just have to, don’t even think about the future and just live day to day. There is a lot of bumps in the road, a lot of negatives. The negatives outweigh the positive and you have to look for that, even if it’s just, even if it’s just a little, little a little share, that little shiny thing, the finest little thing, you got to hold onto that hope because if you don’t hold onto hope you are not going to make it.

Barry: Gail Ulerie, who told me that her 12 years as a nursing assistant was God's way of preparing her to take care of her son, Shurvon.

When we come back, country music, family, and friendship prove healing to a pair of veterans coping with loss in Nashville.

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