For many soldiers, serving their country comes at a terrible price to their bodies and minds. The rest of us should do what we can to pay veterans back for their service and help them manage the consequences of their injuries.
And that’s what Wellington, FL NuCalm dentist Dr. Marianna Kaufman did. When she treated Blake, an anxious injured vet, in her practice, Dr. Kaufman realized he could benefit from using NuCalm at home as well as in her office.Dr. Kaufman is the first Certified NuCalm Provider in Florida and is entitled to donate four NuCalm systems to people in need in her community. When she met Blake, she knew he was someone deserving of help and would benefit from having his own NuCalm system.
Overcoming Challenges as a Child
Blake didn’t have the easiest childhood. His mother ran off, leaving Blake and his brother in the care of their father. Their father worked hard to keep them fed, housed, and clothed, but his demanding night job left him little energy to care for his sons during the day. Blake and his brother were often left on their own, and they had a hard time managing, especially Blake, who was young and felt isolated.
Blake had difficulty making and retaining friends, and he had trouble in school. He started using cocaine by the age of twelve. His school troubles intensified when his mother took partial custody of her children and moved them among schools. Blake dropped out of school.
But that doesn’t mean he neglected his education. He studied independently and obtained his G.E.D.
Answering the Call
One of Blake’s joys as a child had been dressing up in fatigues and pretending to be a soldier. Because his childhood home was near the US Marine training base at Parris Island, he had always imagined he would be a Marine.
Unfortunately, the Marines told him that his G.E.D. didn’t qualify him for a place in the Marine Corps. He didn’t consider the Army, even though he was disappointed. But when a recruiter called him, he decided to give the Army a try. After all, his main goal was to serve his country as a soldier, and the Army gave him that opportunity.
He completed basic training and the army’s Jump School before being deployed to Anchorage and then to Iraq. He also married his first wife at this time, and his deployments took their toll on the marriage, which ended while Blake was overseas.
Paying the Price
While in Iraq, Blake suffered his first injury. He was walking on patrol when an IED (improvised explosive device) blew up about ten feet from him. Although he was able to complete the mission, he suffered serious injuries to his shoulder and brain.
He received extensive care on his shoulder, but he experienced the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Despite this, he decided to re-enlist. He knew that his experience would be of value to units that included many new recruits. He wanted to help recruits avoid the situation he’d found himself in, not knowing what to expect, so he returned to Iraq.
Blake’s final tour of duty was in Afghanistan. While on what was supposed to be “just a simple mission”, his vehicle was struck by an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). Blake suffered serious head and chest injuries, which were so severe he had to be put in an induced coma.
Blake was blind, he’d lost much of his hearing, lost eight teeth, and had suffered considerable damage to his jawbone.
Heroism in Recovery
Blake worked hard to achieve the best recovery he could manage. His dedication paid off and he was able to walk out of the hospital one month after being admitted. Although he became dependent on drugs at this time, he also met Lauren, who would become his second wife.
Lauren helped Blake overcome his addiction to painkillers and find a new goal in life. Blake found his joy in powerlifting, and he now participates in lifting competitions, squat-pressing as much as 363 pounds and bench-pressing 297 pounds. He wants other blind vets to follow his example, to not be limited by their injuries and pursue their abilities and attain their goals.
Blake’s recovery is still not easy. His serious dental trauma leads to ongoing problems, which is not helped by the fact that he’s always had dental anxiety. However, when Dr. Kaufman used NuCalm, it helped Blake overcome his anxiety and get the treatment he needed.
How NuCalm Could Help
Hearing Blake’s story and seeing the impact that NuCalm had on him in the office, Dr. Kaufman knew that he could benefit from using NuCalm more often. Although Blake is currently sober, he knows that he is still an addict inside. He hopes that NuCalm will help him stay sober.
He says, “the things that might make me want to use again are addressed through the NuCalm system. It keeps me calm. Before, I might choose a narcotic to do that. Now, I don’t have to anymore. NuCalm helps me stay strong.”
Just as NuCalm helps people overcome anxiety and get through a dental visit without drugs, it can also help people who are struggling with addiction. We are proud of Dr. Kaufman for making this gift. But most of all, we are proud of Blake’s sacrifices and his effort, and we hope to hear more about his achievements in the future.