SRMC staff pays nurse's expenses to visit wounded son in Germany

Gen. Doug Brown, right, visited Staff Sgt. Kenny Hill in his hospital bed at Frankfurt, Germany, recently after the solider was wounded in Iraq. Hill, a Stuttgart native, was visited by his mother, Bessie Jeffery, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at SRMC Nov. 20. Submitted photo
By Larry Binz
"He came so close to being paralyzed, and being able to see him spared that fate made my Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays," said Bessie Jeffery, a long-time LPN at Stuttgart Regional Medical Center, who recently visited her son, Staff Sgt. Kenny Hill, at a Frankfort, Germany hospital, following an injury he sustained while serving in Iraq.

Showing some color photos Thursday taken during her visit, Jeffery said the airline trip would not have been possible without the kindness of her fellow employees, SRMC President John Neal, the SRMC Board of Directors and the physicians at the new Stuttgart Medical Clinic.

"Everyone chipped in to pay for my trip to Germany," Jeffery said of her Nov. 20 visit to see her son.

Jeffery said her son sustained injuries to his back from pieces of shrapnel which were located behind his spine and had nicked his spinal cord slightly. He underwent spinal surgery that took several hours to remove the shrapnel.

"The doctors removed this (approximately two and a half inch) piece of shrapnel from his back," Jeffery said. "He's walking with a cane, and doctors said he would be okay after some therapy."

Jeffery said her son, who has been in the Army for 10 years, averted certain death on an earlier occasion when a bus carrying him was bombed.

"A man sitting next to Kenny was killed," Jeffery said.

Jefferey, who has worked in the critical care unit at SRMC for years, said medics treated her son on the battlefield before he was airlifted to the hospital at Frankfort.

Hill, who serves with the 173rd Delta Battery 319th, a Special Forces airborne artillery unit, began his advanced military training learning while he was at Fort Bragg, Jeffery said.

Normally, he would be serving with his unit in Vicenza, Italy.

The injury that temporarily disabled Hill was a "boobie trap that he stepped on," she said.

Jefferey said Neal informed her that the collection had been taken and that she could be granted the leave of absence to visit her son. She also said the paperwork is being completed for Hill to receive a Purple Heart for his combat injury.

Jeffery said Dr. Eyad Abochale, one of six staff physicians at the new Stuttgart Medical Clinic and a native of Syria, turned to the travel agency he has used for flights to the Middle East to secure her flight plans.

Jeffery was thankful she only had to travel to Frankfort, Germany, rather than direct flights to the war zone in Iraq.

"Security is very tight on foreign air travel," Jeffery said.

A special memory Jeffery said she will always cherish was her visit with 4-star Gen. Douglas Brown, one of the top leaders in the Iraqi campaign.

Brown presented one medal each to Hill and Jeffery entitled, "Quiet Professionals...General Doug Brown." The head of the medal is in the shape of a club with distinctive markings clustered together.

Bessie Jeffrey herself has been engaged in many critical care situations as an LPN for three decades.

"I just received my 30-year pin earlier this year," she said.

Jefferey said tending to the wounded has been a lifetime commitment of her own and she can appreciate "the kind of good work medics are doing in the field at Iraq and at hospitals for our military personnel."

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