The acrid odor of explosives permeated the air and thick black billowing clouds of smoke encased the immediate area where Dustin lay. The last thing Dustin remembered were these men pulling him out of a burning HUMVEE. They were intent on moving him farther away from the smoldering wreckage fearing another detonation. Someone said grab his leg. Dustin looked down and his right leg was gone below the knee and it was spurting out blood profusely. Although he was in tremendous pain all over his body it felt like his leg was still there. A man in camouflage uniform retrieved the bottom half of his leg and placed it beside Dustin.
Dustin’s was in the most horrific pain he had ever felt and his ears were still ringing from the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) they had ran over. Whenever people talked their voices sounded as if they were shimmering. The men around him were shouting medic. Some of them had wounds as well from shrapnel but were able to carry on. In Dustin’s mind he is screaming and he thinks he might have said it out loud a few times; “Where the fucking hell am I?” Dustin cannot figure out why he is on some battlefield in some country wearing a uniform with full battle gear with his leg blown off. He also has no memory of anything else before the explosion. People are calling him Dustin and Sergeant but he doesn’t know if they are referring to him. The medic said “People say weird shit after they get that morphine IV.” Dustin thought he was in some kind of surrealistic dream hell and as he passed out he heard some of the men and a woman call him Sergeant Lewis. They were wishing him well as the medics strapped him down on the stretcher in preparation for air transport.
After he was triaged in Baghdad, Dustin was transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center located in Landstuhl, Germany for treatment. He had been kept well sedated and on morphine for this time period. Each time he became lucid his anxiety rose to a degree that required sedation as he tried to tell the medics around him that he did not know who he was or how he got into the army. He talked about time travel and time warps. He was so weak he could not explain what he was experiencing. Medical personnel soothed him and sedated him. All this behavior was charted for possible Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The priority task was his amputated right leg and keeping it from infection. A young female medic tried to comfort him by telling him that his wife would be able to come to Landstuhl to be with him for a while. This statement only confused and frightened Dustin. He thought. “Wife?” He had no recollection of every being married. He had no name for said wife. “What if there were children?” Dustin drifted off into a morphine slumber.
Dustin woke up to a pastel green ceiling and curtains around his hospital bed; calming colors. He heard German and English being spoken outside of his door. There appeared to be somebody in the next bed as he heard rustling of bedding. An American army nurse entered the room and came to the side of his bed. “Sergeant Lewis, I’m Captain Russo, your primary nurse on your treatment team here at Landstuhl she said in a confident voice. She raised the head of his bed and poured him a glass of ice water. “Make sure you drink plenty of water because we want your kidneys functioning well.” She said. “If I drink water I’ll have to use the restroom and how will I do that with one leg?” Dustin pondered. Captain Russo told Dustin to relax because right now he had a urinary catheter. Just then Doctor Bentley arrived and introduced himself to Dustin. He reviewed Dustin’s injuries and treatment plan.
Nothing was mentioned about Dustin’s lack of memory until Dustin spoke up. “Doc I have no memory before the IED explosion!” “I only know my name because you say that I am who I am.” “I don’t know how I got into the army or how I ended up in a HUMVEE explosion in Iraq!” “They say I have a wife but I don’t remember her or whether or not we have children!” “I fuckin’ looked in the mirror in this over the bed table and I don’t know if it is me or not!” The doctor looked down at his charts and jotted down some notes. “Sergeant Lewis you have been through a very traumatic experience and at this point we are not sure how far your injuries extend.” “Sometimes, this sort of thing goes away on its own.” “I am going to have our top neurologist see you.” The pain became unbearable again and Captain Russo turned up his morphine drip on his IV. Just as Dustin was drifting off he had what he thought of as a vision of a little girl with a missing front tooth. She was smiling and standing behind a sign that read “Welcome Home Daddy.” Around her families were greeting their soldiers coming home.
The sound of a loud blast woke Dustin the next morning. His heart beat wildly and he tried to roll out of bed unto the floor for protection. He heard himself yelling “Get down!”. “Whoa there soldier!” A voice from the other bed spoke. “Yer’ dreamin’” “Happens to all of us that saw what we saw.” Dustin looked over and saw a lanky man with a week’s worth of beard and his military haircut growing out. He was watching the Armed Forces Network on the television which had a variety of programming. “Howdy!” “My name’s Luther.” The man said with some enthusiasm which made Dustin want to groan as he was in no mood for talking. Then Dustin noticed that Luther was a double amputee. Luther noticed Dustin looking at him and said “I got twenty good years in…I wanted to stay in as long as I could to increase my pension but plans changed…hit an IED just outside of Taji.” “Looks like I’ll be sittin’ on my ass doin’ nuttin’ for now on” Luther laughed loudly and then told Dustin that it gets better but the going it a bumpy ride.
Dustin couldn’t remember how long he had been in the army but he knew that in the future he planned to have an outdoor’s gear type of shop near a river for rental canoes. This seemed like a vision like the other thought of the little girl. How could he know this but not know of his past. Dr. Barrett walked into the room and pulled the curtain between the two men’s bed as if this led to privacy. Dr. Barrett introduced himself as a neurologist specializing in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He asked Dustin a series of questions most importantly had he been knocked unconscious and for how long. Dustin stated that he remembers the blast then there was a period of time that was blacked out and when he came to he realized he had no memory of his past. He was very distraught because he could not remember his name, unit, location and other vitals. Dr. Barrett explained to Dustin the hippocampus in the brain was responsible for memory but it was highly unusual for a loss of past memory but retention of future memory at the same time. They typically coexisted at the same time. Future memory is dependent upon past memory. Dr. Barrett ordered MRI scans as soon as possible.
Dr. Barrett was indeed intrigued with Sergeant Lewis. He had seen so many unexplainable nuisances with TBIs occurring from IED explosions primarily due to the sheering affect of the powerful blast. The force of the blast was actually able to cause the brain to shift like the shearing effect of a field of wheat being windblown. Some of the smallest and most intricate nerve endings and structures not even detectable to the eye sometimes could be affected. They just didn’t know everything about it yet.
Dustin was examining the contents of his wallet. He saw photos of a young lady with two children; a girl about six years old and a boy about three years old. The little girl was the one from the vision last night. He did not know her name or the name of the little boy and young lady. He found a copy of his orders. Apparently he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He felt proud of that although his name and rank did not look familiar to him. Dustin suddenly felt as if someone were watching him. He looked up and standing in the doorway was the woman with the two children he had just seen in the photo. He thought she was an attractive woman with her shoulder length chestnut colored hair, green eyes and nice figure. “Who is this woman?” Dustin thought “I can assume she might be my wife but I don’t recognize her at all except from the photo.”
Shannon stood in the doorway. She isn’t quite sure how to proceed. She is shaking and trying to hold back tears. She hasn’t seen Dustin in seven months and she thought their homecoming would be one of joy and running into each other’s arms. Not this. Some much uncertainty, pain, loss of a limb, TBI and he doesn’t know her. The nurses prepped her before going into Dustin’s room. She stood there trying to smile and remain calm. .She walked over to his bedside and said. “Hello, how are you doing?” She felt stupid for asking it, the man had just lost a leg. Dustin looked at Shannon and it was like he was not seeing her at all. He was completely void of feelings He could see a tear in the corner of her eye. Not wanting to provoke tears, suddenly Dustin said “Where are my manners?” “Please sit down” Shannon asked Dustin if he was in pain and Dustin said when the pain became intolerable he pressed a button on his morphine pump and it administered a dose.
Dustin said “I’m sorry you had to come all this way and I can’t remember you. The doctor said this could be temporary.” Shannon shook her head up and down and took a tissue from her purse and dabbed her eyes. Shannon wanted so much to take him into her arms and hold him and tell him that they will get through this together. She wanted his arms around her. The nurses said not to expect much at first and keep the visit short. She decided to ask if there was anything that she could get for him a carbonated beverage, magazine, candy and so on. Dustin didn’t think so at this time. Shannon felt empty and hollow. “Well I guess I better go check into my hotel…I’m a little tired from the traveling.” Shannon said “I’ll come by tomorrow.” She added. Dustin thought “Damn I forgot to ask her name!”
Dustin was playing a game with his mind. According to his orders he could tell he had been in Iraq for about seven months. He asked himself what is one of the first things he wants to do when the deployment is over. He will ask the lady that is his wife if these things would be accurate or something he talked about. He had more what he called future visions. They weren’t memories from the past as he consciously did not think of the past. The future visions appeared to be separate and come like a flash before his eyes. Dustin had tried to explain this to Dr. Barrett the neurologist. Dr. Barrett had no doubt that Dustin was processing thought differently than he did before but he still believed that one could not have future thoughts without past memories. For some reason Dustin’s brain was not accessing his past memory cells. Dr. Barrett suspected this was the area of damage the TBI had caused and it was a matter of time to see if Dustin will recover or partially recover. He would participate in TBI therapy aimed at memory function.
Shannon came to see Dustin the next day. Her mood had greatly improved. She was more forthcoming. She came right away to the bedside and took Dustin’s hand and said “Dustin I know you don’t remember your past before the IED but I do and I am going to help you learn your past. “Where would you be if you didn’t have us, your family?” “We are going to get through this together.” “I say we give this relationship time and we can fall in love all over again.” “I’m sure we will!.” Shannon was excited “uh,uh…lady.” “What’s your name?” Dustin asked. “Shannon.” “My name is Shannon” she responded. “I like that name.” Dustin said “You said that eight years ago when we first met.” Shannon said and smiled. Shannon sat down and took a stack of photos out of her purse and began showing them to Dustin complete with their back stories