Canadian Soldier thanks LRMC medical team for saving his life

Thomas Warner
LRMC Public Affairs

***image1***It took more than a few months for a former patient at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to get a look at the people who saved his life.

Canadian infantry Soldier Cpl. Jared Gagnon was injured Aug. 4, 2006, in Afghanistan and spent nine days in a coma in the intensive care unit at LRMC. In June, Corporal Gagnon and his family came back to Germany to meet and thank the people who nursed him back to life.

“Time has flown by since I was injured, but I don’t even remember this place,” Corporal Gagnon, 21, said. “I was not awake for any of the time I was in Germany. My family was all here, and I think it was their support along with the hospital staff that pulled me through.”

When Corporal Gagnon’s armored vehicle was struck head-on by a suicide bomber’s car, one of his Loyal Edmonton Regiment comrades was killed and another was injured. He was flown from Kandahar province to Germany. His mother and father, Linda and Dennis Gagnon, brought two daughters with them. The family stayed at the LRMC Fisher House while Corporal Gagnon clung to life in the Landstuhl ICU.

While he doesn’t remember his stay, some on the staff do.

“He’d squeeze my hand and let me know he was making that effort to respond,” Capt. Karla Clarke, an ICU nurse who took part in the Canadian’s care, said. Family photos show a comatose Corporal Gagnon, but with his eyes wide open in his ICU bed. Captain Clarke had a good feeling that the Canadian reservist could recover.

The blast from the car bomb had such an impact on Corporal Gagnon’s head that a portion of his skull was removed and replaced with an artificial, permanent piece not now noticeable under his scalp to casual observers. He remembers most everything about his life and what he does now, but has no memory of the accident and hours leading up to it.

The treatment he received at Landstuhl followed another key sequence when he received expert care in the battlefield. Corporal Gagnon actually tracked down the medic who first administered aid to him in the field. They met in Canada and conversed about what exactly happened during the initial moments after incident.

“His best prognosis initially was to maybe someday be able to sit up in a wheelchair,” Captain Clarke said. “We just don’t see the kind of recovery he’s made. Hardly ever. Not ever in the year-and-a-half that I’ve been in this ICU. Those types of recoveries, when the injuries are that severe, just don’t often happen.

“He was stubborn while he was here. He’d do things for me that he wouldn’t do for other doctors,” Captain Clarke said of Corporal Gagnon. “I’d tell them he was squeezing my hand or doing some of those other things and they’d say ‘We’re not seeing that.’ I told them I knew what I was seeing. Seeing him the way he looks now is fantastic.”

***image2***Once stabilized by the intensive care staff at LRMC, Corporal Gagnon was flown to Alberta, Canada where he has almost fully recovered.

Corporal Gagnon’s father, Dennis, was a dentist for 17 years and had already made plans to retire. Following his son’s injury, he accelerated those plans, devoting full attention to his son’s recovery. He praised the work of military liaisons, hospital staff and the entire circle of people his family interacted with here in Germany.

“The family – the fact that we all were here – was important in trying to help Jared recover,” Mr. Gagnon said. “But everywhere we turned here we were getting support and positive things were happening to us. The Canadian forces people here in Germany were there for us and this hospital, though Jared remembers nothing of it, is a place that our family won’t ever forget.”

While Mr. Gagnon closed one chapter of his life to help his son’s recovery, Corporal Gagnon sees his life as just beginning.

“I am enrolled in college and want to get a degree in business,” Corporal Gagnon said on his trip to Landstuhl. “I feel like I can do anything I ever wanted to. I appreciate what the people here did for me and for my family.”