Do you see yourself in the mirror? Come on, give us a thumbs up if you
see yourself. Communicate with us. Give us a thumbs up.
This is up, and this is down, and what I want you to do is lift it up and hold it up.
Scott Noss is minimally conscious. In simple terms, that means he is awake and aware,
but he can't communicate. What it really means is no one really knows
how much Scott knows.
This isn't what people think of when they think about injured soldiers.
Anthony Thompson is a Navy corpsman. Three years ago, he was on his second
deployment in Iraq, and a suicide bomber blew up his post.
This particular dump truck had been loaded down with what they estimated at
3,000 pounds of explosives. So the guy drove the dump truck under their post station
and detonated. Five or 10 years ago, people weren't surviving these kinds of injuries.
Scott Noss is an Army Ranger. He served 8 deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan
before he was injured in a helicopter crash.
We had a wonderful marriage, full of respect and love and happiness. I mean--it's testimony
I'm still with him. We wanted a football team. We wanted lots of little boys
running around. You know, I wanted a career. But most importantly, I lost my soul mate.
There's no darker moment than the one that brought RyAnne Noss
and Ivonne Thompson together.
They met within months of their husbands' injuries.
Two young wives dealing with unspeakable tragedy, they formed an instant bond.
Ivonne is the one person that I can say knows exactly what I'm thinking
or worried about or going through. I know she'll laugh at this if she hears it,
but she really does ground me. She really has helped me out a lot.
I look up to her strength.
Just don't tell her I said that, though. [laughs]
When there are 2 wars going on, being a military wife takes a certain kind of toughness.
But nothing could prepare Ivonne and RyAnne for this.
They took me back in the ICU room, and they're like, "RyAnne, he does not
look like himself. You gotta be strong." And I'm going, "Just let me see my man!"
I looked around the curtain and walked in there, and the sight haunts my dreams, 3 years later.
I have never fainted before in my life, and I took one look at him,
and I was on the floor. I fainted.
I looked at him, and I lost it. I completely lost it. He was so bloated from all
of the fluids they were pumping him with. He was intubated. He was on a ventilator.
He was completely lifeless.
At the time, Ivonne was pregnant with their first child, and giving birth to
their son, A.J., was bittersweet.
On the one side it was wonderful, because the last gift that Anthony ever
gave me was finally there.
And on this other hand, Anthony wasn't there like he was supposed to be.
>>Hi, A.J. Can you say hi to A.J.?
RyAnne has stepped in as a second parent to A.J. She and A.J. call each other "Bubby."
Hey, darlin'. Hey Bubby! Hey! [laughs]
At a moment where you just sit and think that you could ever laugh and love and
have those emotions. You know, her baby boy was right there to help you
realize that you could feel those emotions again.
It's been about 3 years since Scott and Anthony were injured.
RyAnne and Ivonne fought hard to get them into the Kessler Institute in West Orange,
one of the leading research and rehab facilities for traumatic brain injury.
Kessler is known for its mix of traditional, holistic, and experimental treatments.
There are several hours of intensive physical therapy every day.
Jonathan Fellus, Director, Brain Injury Services>> We need to really get aggressive,
because this is perhaps the most challenging patient population in all of medicine.
The time has really come that we need to try multiple treatments in combination
Stretch it out, Anthony. Ohhhh, there's your stretch.
In the 3 months since they've been at Kessler, RyAnne and Ivonne say
they've seen measurable improvements: more body awareness, more movement.
It's not the miracle everyone wishes for, but it defies the common wisdom
that traumatic brain injury patients stop improving after the first year.
Ultimately, kind of the Holy Grail here is to establish some kind of sense
of communication, however rudimentary that is.
If you can maximize the potential in the injured brain, then maybe you can turn
an inconsistent response to a consistent response, and that means the world
to the families.
I would love if he could just have some form of communication.
Even if it's [thumbs up] yes.
You know, if he's uncomfortable. Anthony, are you uncomfortable? [thumbs up]
You know, anything. Any kind of functional communication.
Living with someone who is minimally conscious is an emotional roller coaster.
Ivonne and RyAnne haven't been employed for years. They've been living
out of group homes and motels, separated from their families.
I never in a million years ever even fathomed this being an outcome of him going over there.
I didn't even know what traumatic brain injury was until he was injured.
You see wives leaving soldiers with less injuries than Scott. I've witnessed the
divorce papers on the side table in ICU. It just breaks my heart.
It makes me want to take all of those soldiers home with me and just love and
take care of them.
It's the little moments that keep RyAnne and Ivonne going.
Ivonne remembers the first time she put A.J. in the bed with Anthony.
Usually when I stretch his arm out, eventually he always gets it right back here.
This day I stretched his arm out, and then I laid A.J. in that little nook,
and his arm did not move. It was like he knew that his son was there
in his arms, and he did not flinch. And A.J. just--you know--laid there all
swaddled up, and it was--it was awesome.
It must be something very deeply human, because I've rarely, if ever,
seen someone just throw their hands up in the air and say, "I give up. No more hope."
I just don't see that.
I always want him to realize that he is safe and, um, not alone.
And so I'll crawl into bed with him and just reassure him that I'm there for him.
And it's nice. I know that he knows that I'm there, and it's just our time,
a chance for us to be, in that 30 minutes to an hour, a couple.
Video by Nyier Abdou. ©2009-2010.