Inspiring Others, Using Himself As An Example…
June 30, 2007
This young man is truly inspirational. Though he was not injured in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, he suffers from an injury he received while training, that many of our troops who are returning from these wars, suffer from. He’s using his experiences, to help other injured Troops. He’s showing them, by personal example, what they can accomplish, even after suffering an injury such as his. He’s an amazing young man, one who all of us should hope to emulate in our daily lives.
Seven years ago, PFC Chris Lynch, a former 82nd Airborne Division Soldier, was attending a French Commando school in July 2000 when he fell 26 feet and landed on his head. Following his fall, Lynch was in a coma for 45 days, before he arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He was later diagnosed, as suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). An injury that many returning Troops are suffering from.
Not only do falls, such as the one PFC Lynch suffered cause TBIs, but things such as roadside bombs, mortars and other explosives. These explosions affect not only the troops bodies but also their brains, in many instances. While troops are wearing kevlar to protect them from serious injury and death, the kevlar cannot adequately protect the brain from the impact of these blasts. The injuries occur much like an egg inside it’s shell, slamming against the skull from the impact of the sudden jolts, shock waves and explosions of the blasts.
â€œWhen they explode, your skull gets pounded against your Kevlar (helmet),â€ Lynch said. â€œYour brain gets tossed around like an egg in a bucket of water.â€
TBI symptoms are many, from decreased reaction times to severe emotional and cognitive problems. Lynch remembers well what he experienced, as he recuperated from his injuries. Upon awakening from the coma, he had a breathing tube that had been inserted. He had a lost a considerable amount of weight, approximately 1/3 of his total body weight and he was paralyzed on his left side. He was unable to speak, walk, eat or even dress himself without assistance from someone else. He endured months of intensive therapy both at Walter Reed at a the James A. Haley Veterans Administration Hospital in Tampa, Fla. Slowly, over time, Lynch was able to once again relearn how to walk, talk and do everyday, mundane tasks that all of us tend to take for granted.
“The 82nd gaveme the mentality to drive on,” he said. â€œThere are a lot of speed bumps in life. TBI is just a bigger one.â€
Lynch is now back in his hometown of Pace, Florida, and has been medically retired from the Army. Lynch understands only too well, how traumatic it is for Troops to deal with TBI and the frustration they face in their recovery. He’s hoping, that by using himself and his experience as an example, he can inspire them to understand and recognize that there is hope and that there is life after a TBI diagnosis. He hopes that he can inspire them to “press on.”
“It’s definitely eye opening,” Lynch said of his own injur. “But it makes you more empathetic and gives you a love for life.”
Today, 7 years after he was injured, Lynch is living with his parents and continues to “drive on”, as he rebuilds his life. He spends days walking 5-10 miles along the beach in Pensacolo. Last year he competed in 8 marathons and attended the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic that was held in Snowmass, Colorado in April. He attended college at Pensacola Junior College where he just graduated, studying recreational technology. His goal is to continue his studies and one day teach physical education to underpriveleged and handicapped children.
Even as he looks to his future goals, his main focus right now is to continue to help other Troops who are suffering from TBI. Part of what he’s done to do so, is to travel extensively sharing his story and increasing awareness of TBI. He has also started a website, called Chris’s Story that details his struggle through recovery. Even though his is a success story, he has moments where he too continues to face personal hard times. He becomes frustrate when people who don’t know what he’s dealt with, think he’s intoxicated, because his speech remains distorted. He continues to miss his fellow 307th Engineer Battalion Soldiers and thinks often about the military career he was forced to leave behind.
“I’ve learned a lot about interpersonal communications and become a public speaker,” he said. “The bottom line is to try to inspire other people.”
“I miss it,” he said. “I miss it every day.”