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Dez Donating Member (826 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 10:59 AM
Original message
Can you help? This family isn't being helped by the army
Soldier, family face sinister foe

Guardsman stricken with encephalitis


Dianne Williamson
T&G STAFF






Picture

John M. Salonich, who was stricken with encephalitis in January during National Guard service at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, spends time with family members _ from left, Emily, 3; Andrew, 5; his wife, Lisa; and Collin, 5. (JAMIE LYN GIAMBRONE)

Enlarge photo

Army Sgt. John M. Salonich is home now, but he never really returned from Guantanamo Bay.

Can I give you a hug? the 35-year-old father of three sweetly asked a first-time visitor to his home. You look familiar. Where are you from?

His wife said he gives the same greeting to almost everyone neighbors, friends, even strangers in the supermarket, which is why the Saloniches dont venture far these days from their home on Clearview Avenue.

People are uncomfortable around him, said Lisa Salonich, as her husband sat next to her at the dining room table. Hes not the same person he was. Hes a child. He has no inhibitions or boundaries. He asks everyone for a hug. Never in a million years would he have done that before.

In January, while stationed with the Army National Guard in Cuba, Sgt. Salonich called his wife complaining of a headache. Within days, he was confused and hallucinating. He eventually collapsed and was flown to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was diagnosed with viral encephalitis.

Sgt. Salonich came home in March, physically healthy but mentally ravaged.

The once-charming husband who routinely bought flowers for his wife now paces obsessively and stares blankly at their wedding album. The man who once designed Web programs for UMass now asks strangers for gum and gets lost walking the dog. And perhaps worst of all, the soldier who willingly answered the call to serve is now locked in a battle for his familys survival, his illness rendering him ineligible for the services he needs.

For almost a year, Lisa has run into walls as she seeks programs and help for her husband. The Statewide Head Injury Program wont assist her because his brain damage is not the result of trauma or an accident, she said. He doesnt qualify for services offered to the mentally retarded or to victims of brain tumors. He has no caseworker and no advocate save his wife, who is struggling to provide her husband with the 24-hour care that he requires.

Ive had to fight for every single thing, Lisa said. Im very disappointed in the lack of advocacy for him and the lack of resources for my family. In this day and age, when help is poured out for everyone and everything, a soldier like John should have more at his disposal. Everyone involved in this is scratching their heads. No one knows what to do with him.

Recently, Lisa found a Community Rehabilitation Care program in Newton that accommodates her husband from 10 a.m. to noon on weekdays, but his needs are enormous. His memory is seriously impaired and his diminished cognitive skills require that he be watched constantly. He suffers a seizure disorder, behavioral problems and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Last week, when Lisa asked her husband to take out the dog, he wandered into the woods behind their house and got lost.

Doctors have suggested that Lisa place her husband of eight years in a long-term care facility, but she cant bring herself to do it. Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, is caused by a virus and can result in permanent brain damage.

I married him for better or worse, Lisa said. Hes still loving and sweet, even though hes not the man I married. The kids have come to accept him for who he is, and hes still their father.

Sgt. Salonich realizes that hes ill, but is unable to comprehend the ramifications. Friday, as his wife spoke to a visitor, he held her hand and listened, occasionally injecting a childlike comment about the laundry or his dog or his children, ages 6, 5 and 3. He was a 15-year veteran of the National Guard when he was stricken in Cuba; he said he still loves his country and hopes to someday return to active service.

God must have intended this to happen to me, he said softly, with his ever-present smile. There must be a reason. Im not happy about it, but my life will go on. I know God will heal me. If you pray, please pray for me. Id appreciate that very much.

Lisa also prays.

Sgt. Salonich was being paid more than $70,000 a year at UMass when his unit was deployed, and his Army pay of $35,000 will be cut in half when he receives a veterans disability. Hell also receive Social Security, but Lisa must return to work as a graphic designer and is unsure how shell juggle a job and kids with the overwhelming task of caring for her husband.

She said shes grateful for the support from family, friends, her church and the military. Members of his Army unit help drive him to Newton and volunteer for other chores, but the brunt of his care falls on Lisas tired shoulders.

Sometimes Im bitter, she acknowledged. Sometimes I shake my fist and ask why. But Ive never been angry at God. Its more like I have moments when I ask, Where are You? My husband and best friend and the memories we made together have been stolen. Hes so dependent on me. Im not his wife anymore; Im his caretaker. He cant be left alone.

Why cant I be left alone? her husband asked.

You get distracted very easily, she replied gently.

OK, he said with a smile. You take very good care of me.

His prognosis is uncertain, although Lisa said she loses hope for recovery as each day passes. But she remains devoted to her family and sometimes allows herself to remember what her life was like before a cruel virus robbed her of the man she married. She remembers the man who made her laugh, the man who adored his kids, the man who, on their wedding anniversary in October 2003, greeted her with champagne and flowers through a Webcam from Cuba.

Things are very hard, but John is my husband and the best thing that ever happened to me, she said. Im proud of the way he served his country. And sometimes I have hope that hes still inside there somewhere. Physically, he came home to me mentally, he never did.

Donations may be made to the Salonich Family Fund at UMass Five College Federal Credit Union. For more information, call (800) 852-5886.


Dianne Williamson can be reached via e-mail at dwilliamson@telegram.com .
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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 11:11 AM
Response to Original message
1. Post this on the Freeper board. They should love to help, too.
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nostamj Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 11:15 AM
Response to Original message
2. send the bills to BUSH
how is this possible in this country?

/rhetorical

Nostamj_blog
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Dez Donating Member (826 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 11:19 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. What's the freeper board's URL?
Yea, exactly! Let us see how much compassion they have. I want to send this to Bill O'Reilley too! Let's see how compassionate he is!
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nostamj Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 11:22 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. www.freerepubllic.com
Edited on Tue Dec-21-04 11:29 AM by nostamj
www.freerepublic.com

and maybe the Ldotters will chip in too:

www.lucianne.com

on edit: oops! one 'l' too many... sorry
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luaneryder Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 11:24 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. Try this one
www.freerepublic.com The donations should come pouring in from the compassionate conservatives at FR especially for a troop unless they've spent all their money earmarked for charity on yellow ribbon magnets.
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gratuitous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 11:26 AM
Response to Original message
6. Help him? This guy's bankrupting social security!
Okay, sarcasm off. This is one of those people that social security helps. He will clearly take in more from the system than he'll ever put in, but we as a people have chosen to set up our system of government benefits and entitlements to help folks like Mr. Salonich. Does that make him a leech on our society? There are surely folks who would say so -- fortunately, not too many of them are here at DU.

But keep Mr. Salonich and his family in mind when the uninformed prating of the haves which will be flooding the airwaves in the next few months tries to persuade you that social security and government assistance programs are massive failures, designed to rob decent working people of their hard-earned money to be given to a bunch of slothful and lazy parasites.

Then send ten bucks to the UMass credit union.
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Dez Donating Member (826 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 12:07 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. I told Bill O'Reilley
Let's hope he includes this in his broadcast! And some of them freepers will help this guy out! Bill loves to go on and on about injustices, well here's a good one!

Thanks for the freeper URL too!
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msanthrope Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 12:15 PM
Response to Original message
8. Tears in my eyes---for this ruined family.....
Will we ever, ever, exorcise the sins of this war? Will we ever heal from this tragedy?

Why must the poorest and least powerful among us pay the greatest price?

Why? Why?
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Dez Donating Member (826 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 12:22 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. The poor always pay the most.
And the freeper site just revoked my right to post there, and they pulled the story! How's that for compassion?? Incredible!!
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One_of_8 Donating Member (289 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 12:22 PM
Response to Original message
9. I'm going to try to send this to Keith Olberman
Do you think he might cover this story?
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Dez Donating Member (826 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 12:23 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. You can try.
I hope O'Reilley mentions this one. lots of rich neo cons there!
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Dez Donating Member (826 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 12:37 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. this soldier's a Rephublilca too!
Does that change your views on contributing to him? I have no idea why the freeper site blocked me from posting this story. I just registered there! This is one of their own!
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One_of_8 Donating Member (289 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 12:51 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. No
I feel for his wife and children, and as a fellow human, I want to help. After Christmas (and my next paycheck), I'm going to send $10 their way. Not much, but all I can afford. And I sent a link and a short summary of the situation to Keith Olbermann.
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Dez Donating Member (826 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 01:15 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. Thanks One of 8
I'm sure they will be very appreciative for your contribution. And I hope Keith Olberman will spread the message in his story, I mean, it IS the season of helping others in need..
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Malva Zebrina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 01:01 PM
Response to Original message
14. I am sorry for this situation
but i have nothing more to contribute to anything. I would suggest however, that since my money is being used to dole out welfare to faith based charities, this family try contacting some of them.

In this way, I would feel like I was contributing something to ease the pain and suffering of families like this, you see.

How about Pat Robertson's charity--he gets 500,000 dollars per year for three years (1.5 million dollars all told)per the personal discretionary order of the great god president, to spend as he likes, without any oversight. I would think such a holy and concerned man would be willing to pay for some person to come in and give this poor woman a break every once in a while. And there are a few more faith based organisations that also get my money. A simple search would provide their names

Other than that, I must feed, clothe and provide shelter( and heat here in the frozen north)for myself or get sick or die, and there is nothing left over any more for the unfortunates such as this family.

If they voted for him--well, they voted for him. :shrug:
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Dez Donating Member (826 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 01:17 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. Yea, I'm in the same financial situation
I am living on SSI! I should say existing on SSI. I have nothing to offer this family except in spreading the word on their story.

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susanna Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 09:57 PM
Response to Original message
17. I am a viral encephalitis survivor myself.
The road back from such an "injury" (it is not classed as such, though - the article is right) is difficult. I was incredibly lucky; my brain eventually re-wired (adapted?) itself and I recovered, but not before learning to do a lot of things all over again. In my case, behavioral issues and subsequent adjustment was probably the most difficult for me and my loved ones. In the end, I was a very different person; the "before" me was quite different from who I am now, personality-wise.

I really feel for this family. It's a grevious injury, even though it was caused by a virus and not an outside influence. The wife is in for a very long haul, even if her husband does recover some of his former functioning.
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