Tom Udall Humbled to Approve This Message
Tom Udall, a Democratic candidate for the US Senate in New Mexico this year, has released a unusually powerful advertisement featuring a disabled veteran from the war in Iraq. In 2005, Specialist Erik Schei was shot in the head by a sniper in Iraq. The doctors put his chance of survival at zero. With the right treatment, Sergeant Schei was able to not only live, but can now communicate with others, as seen in this advertisement.
Tom Udall is given credit for his time in Congress pushing for and voting in support of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007 which became Public Law 110-28. It included $600 million in funding for post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
In October 2005, Erik was a 21-year-old Army sergeant serving in Mosul, Iraq, as a machine-gunner with the Army’s 94th Engineer Battalion. A sniper’s bullet pierced the right side of his helmet and passed through both frontal lobes of his brain.
“They gave him zero chance of survival,” Erik’s father, Gordon Schei, said. “They said if he did survive, he would be a vegetable. They wanted us to pull the plug on him. But we dug deep.
“We’re people of faith, and we brought him home, and today he communicates with people. He laughs, he’s standing — not on his own, but with help. He’s doing so many things.”
Erik uses a wheelchair and lives with his parents and 7-year-old sister in the Rio Rancho home his parents helped him purchase in August. The family moved from Taos to be closer to the VA hospital.
He is constantly impressing his parents, friends and therapists with the improvements he is making. He now speaks one or two words at a time. Often, “annoying” is one of them, speaking of his sister, said Christine Schei, laughing. He has a computer attached to his wheelchair, which often speaks for him. He activates it with his head.
“We’re also teaching him to feed himself, which takes a lot of effort,” Christine Schei said. “His brain just seems to have forgotten which muscles to use.”
There are some things, however, that his brain has not forgotten how to do. “He knows how to read, which was a shock to all of us,” she said. “They held up cards and he mouthed the words. A lot of times, it’s a whisper. It’s not real loud. We have to push him sometimes, ‘Erik louder, try harder.’ He has been our miracle child. We have great expectations, and hopefully by the end of next year, he can walk in a walker even if it’s just two or three steps.”
Erik has occupational and physical therapists come to the house three times a week, and a speech therapist comes twice a week. His mother also drives him to speech therapy three times a week.
“My hope is for him to be able to live independently, to be able to take care of himself and not be dependent on anyone else,” Gordon Schei said. “He’s always going to need some kind of help. Right now, he needs 24-hour care, but nobody thought he would get as far as he is right now, so there’s no sense in thinking he won’t get further.”