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Getting Better at Helping Warriors...Fast! By Dr. Mike Colson

After four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and having paid the price with significant disabilities, I retired and began working as a trauma and outreach specialist with the Veteran’s Administration. That said, it was obvious that if I were going to visit wounded warriors, I would need help. Enter Quilts of Valor (qovf.org).

When I asked QOV responded. From seeming every corner of the United States, I received quilts from wonderful people that I began taking with me as I visited wounded and traumatized veterans across the great State of Washington. It hurts to admit that I actually became quite attached to these blanket-sized works of art. The mostly men, and some women, who received these in their hospital room and homes were overjoyed – speechless even. On subsequent visits the recipients would invariably ask if others they knew could get a similar blanket. QOV never let them down.

On one occasion, the blanket itself taught me a great lesson. As a provider and clinician, I move through medical facilities constantly. I take into account the standard rules of engagement and, though friendly and engaging, try and keep some distance. On this day my patient was confined to his bed, legs akimbo in stirrups, and bandaged from feet to hips. He had been crushed when two M1A1 tanks crushed the Humvee he was in when executing a failed two-sided pass. The outside of his leg was virtually stripped of flesh. Enter Dr Mike and his quilt.

As I stood talking and commiserating with my charge, the Army sergeant’s dear wife and baby entered. With quilt in hand I attempted to leave the right side of his bed, move to his left, and thereby give the family some room. At the end of the bed I managed to drop the quilt just low enough to catch the stainless steel rod exiting directly out of where his left toe should have been. That’s right; I hooked with the quilt a steel rod sticking out from a man in traction’s toe…with immediate effect! He howled. I howled. The baby started crying and his wife thought we were being filmed for a bad reality show.

The result was two-fold. One, he got his QOV blanket for which they were very thankful. Two, I learned that I needed to get much better at my job fast! The entire family agreed.

To date, I see nearly four hundred soldiers and other military personnel a week conducting trauma outreach for the Seattle, Washington and other Vet Centers. And since that little incident I have not impaled one single quilt loop on a patient or on any of the medical apparatus. So, I am better. But I am not nearly as good as the QOV quilters and staff. I do, though have one piece of advice for QOV’s volunteer; Keep those loops small!