“I came home and I was about ready to blow my head off because no one was helping me,” recalled Staff Sergeant Jay Vermillion about what his life was like when he met NMCRS CCA Visiting Nurse Kim Bradley. “She called me one day when I was at my worst. I was upset. She got me to hooked up with people who care about me. My health started getting taken care of. I felt better about myself. She got me hooked up with FOCUS and the Shepherd Center [a community center for adults]. She calls me all the time. She makes sure I have everything I need. She’s been a godsend.”
Vermillion retired from the Marine Corps, where he worked as an engineer, in October 2012 after being deployed twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. In 2003 in Iraq, Vermillion’s vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. “At the time if you didn’t lose a limb, it wasn’t considered serious,” said Vermillion’s wife Mackenzie. “It was normal to have headaches and puke and pass out for a few days. They might give you Motrin and water and let you rest for a week, but back then if you could walk, they put you right back in because they needed guys.”
Then in July 2010, when Vermillion was on mounted patrol in Afghanistan, his vehicle hit a command-pull IED made of 100 pounds of homemade explosives. Vermillion was thrown head first into the back of the vehicle and lost consciousness. Initially those who came to the scene thought he was dead, but he suddenly showed signs of life. He went through a series of medical facilities, including one hospital that was taking mortar fire, before returning stateside and ending up at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, where he received inpatient and outpatient treatment through 2012.
The couple moved back to Missouri, where both had grown up, but were struggling to get Vermillion the treatment he needed. “One day Kim Bradley called us and said I’m your nurse, what can I help you with?” recalled Kinzie. “We were having a hard time and her call was a miracle. She referred Jay to Focus [Marines Foundation], where he now goes back and mentors other Marines. Kim got him involved in the polytrauma unit here. She helped us move to St. Louis. She told us about the caregiver program so I can get paid for taking care of Jay. Whatever we need, we can call her anytime and tell her what’s going on. Even if it’s just that I need someone to talk to today.
If we hadn’t had the nurses to work with we would have had no idea about these resources, and my husband would probably be back in his wheelchair and extremely depressed,” Kinzie said. “He has great care here. We wouldn’t have it without Kim Bradley. When you move home to be around family, you do get support from family but they don’t have the same understanding about what you’re going through as your military family.”
“The NMCRS nurses are a breed of people like the Marine Corps,” Vermillion said. “They never give up on us.”