One day, out of the blue, Tom was struck down by a serious illness. After exhausting much of his family’s savings paying private hospital bills, he was transferred to a VA medical center. He credits VA doctors with saving his life.

The only thing I did with VA until my illness is, I went back to college on the GI bill. I did not think that there were any services that would be provided to me like I’ve experienced for the last six years.

What changed your mind?

I was grilling chicken on a Sunday afternoon. And 38 hours later, I was on life support. And that’s how fast Guillain-Barre took me down. I had viral pneumonia.

My wife, who never left my side, ran into a doctor during this procedure who found out that I was a Veteran. And they got me over to VA immediately.

VA basically saved my life – twice. I coded twice with this. I had a very severe case of Guillain-Barre and the only thing that moved for a year was an eye and a big toe. One of the key people at VA came out and saw me in the pool and said, “Wait a minute, you’ve got a lot of movement,” and he challenged this and got me into the polytrauma center at Audie Murphy and I am now back.

And this is the great thing about VA. As long as you don’t give up, they keep challenging you. Well, I kept going back and saying, look, I’ve got goals I want to meet now. And every time I’ve gone back – I’ve been back five times – we’ve met all the goals.

I actually surpassed them. I walked a football field the last time I was in.

The PTs have been exceptional. I had five PT clinics. And I can tell you, none of my people compared to the folks at VA. None of them. I can honestly say that.

Is there anything that you would like to say to other Veterans that have not tried VA health care? 

You can’t expect VA to come and seek you. You’ve got to make the effort to find out what is available. And it’s not there on a platter.

After this, nothing bothers me. I laid in bed with the only things that would move is my eyes for a year. And if that’s not enough to get you close to going crazy, there is nothing. And so to be where I am now, it’s all a blessing. It’s great.

Apply for VA health care

Enrolling for VA health care is easier than ever before. Explore your eligibility today at

Bronwyn Emmet is a public affairs specialist for VA’s National Veterans Outreach Office.

Share this story

Published on Jun. 24, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.3 min.

Views to date: 181


  1. David Holman June 24, 2021 at 4:40 pm someone please help me with current appeal thats in a direct review docket please

  2. David Holman June 24, 2021 at 4:35 pm can you help me with current appeal that is in a direct review docket?

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • PTSD Bytes: Host Pearl McGee-Vincent discusses PTSD and relationships with Dr. Leslie Morland and Dr. Kayla Knopp, clinical and research psychologists.

  • Clinical simulation training has expanded rapidly and nearly any clinical scenario can be created and taught. Orlando VA trains of hundreds of professionals in their labs.

  • How often do you make things harder than they must or should be? This week's episode of #LiveWholeHealth is a progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress and lighten your load.