Injured soldier wants to return to Minnesotaby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
A former Minnesota soldier has spent the past year in Texas recovering from severe injuries he sustained in a bombing in Iraq. He and his family say they hope to move back to Minnesota soon. And even with all the surgeries and rehab he faces, Scott Adams also hopes to return to another love -- firefighting.
St. Paul, Minn. — Staff Sgt. Scott Adams was the quintessential lifer.
Five tours of Army duty weren't enough, so he moved his wife and three sons from Minnesota to Michigan a few years ago so he could join a unit there that was heading to Iraq.
Last January, on that sixth tour, Adams was on patrol near Baghdad when a bomb ripped through the vehicle he was in.
In the moments after the Humvee caught on fire, Scott thought about all those lessons he'd given as a volunteer firefighter, to "stop, drop, and roll."
"That didn't work for me because I was doused in diesel (fuel), and the white phosphorus was on there, plus all the uneven gear that was on there," Adams said in an interview from his temporary home in San Antonio. "One of the soldiers tackled me and put me out with a fire extinguisher."
The last thing Adams remembers was the nurse and doctor arguing over taking his temperature.
"And I don't remember anything from that point until the end of February, because I was in a coma," said Adams.
When Adams woke up, he was burned over 47 percent of his body. His back was broken in eight places. A blood clot ran the entire length of one leg, and that's just the start.
Adams developed sleep apnea, can't remember things, and has post-traumatic stress disorder. And his arms were so limited, he couldn't feed himself without extra-long utensils.
"How do you recover from being burned this bad?" he asked. "I really had never seen anybody burned this bad before that. I forced myself to drink a lot of the protein drinks they told me to drink to help me get out of the hospital. So they'd tell me to drink eight, I'd drink 12. They tell me to walk around the nurses' station once, I'd go five."
Adams has been recovering for the past year at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
He doesn't need the wheelchair as much any more, but his calendar still lists at least five surgeries. And his house is always set at 64 degrees because he can't control his body temperature.
But through all of that, Scott Adams still wants to volunteer as a firefighter, the way he did for years before the bombing.
It's just in his blood.
"If I can get the surgery on my shoulders and my back, and if I can get enough training through a gym or something, or through a rehab place," Adams said, "then I can possibly condition my body enough to do what I love."
That conditioning will include learning to carry all that equipment on a back that has an almost entirely new set of skin on it.
But Dan Day thinks Adams can do it. The two have known each other for 10 years as fellow Wayzata firefighters.
"I do not see a problem with him getting back on the fire department, moving back here, and doing the things he sets his mind to," noted Day. "He's just that kind of guy."
If Adams is going to become a firefighter again, his wife Susie will be key. She takes care of him every day, re-dressing wounds, driving to appointments, and helping him get around.
It's actually right up her alley. She was a home health care worker for seniors before she quit that job to help her husband.
"I look at it as God was preparing me for what I was about to encounter," she said.
The Adams' are waiting for the right paperwork to go through with the Army that will spring them from their current location.
And when that happens, Scott Adams will have to do one more thing he's never really had to do -- find a job. The Army was a full-time gig and firefighting is volunteer.
Still, he misses the little things.
Adams often shined in the yearly fire vs. police softball game in Wayzata. He could throw the ball home from center field on the fly.
Now, Adams said he can't "even throw a ball with my kids, and that hurts sometimes to watch my neighbors doing it with my boys. But at least someone's doing it."
The family faces many unknowns -- physically, financially, and in other ways. But there are bright spots. A group called the Minnesotans Military Appreciation Fund recently gave the Adams $10,000 as a thank you, of sorts.
Susie Adams said as stressful as it's been, they are closer.
"We talk a lot more," she said. "We're a lot more open about things, feelings and things like that. So, it's been a reconnection for us, too."
Another reconnection that's high on their list is the one to Minnesota. They'd like to be back in Wayzata by year's end.
- All Things Considered, 03/03/2008, 4:50 p.m.