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Art, medicine merge in patient care

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tory Patterson
  • 59th Medical Wing
In January 2021, Army Sgt.1st Class Randolph Adams was on leave in Chicago, Illinois before departing for his next duty assignment. The next chapter of Adams’ career was set to take place at the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany, and this visit to Chicago was a chance to reconnect with family before relocating more than 4,000 miles away.

Adams left the city after enlisting in the Army after multiple visits to a Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS, there.

“Chicago was a rough place for me growing up,” shared Adams. “My family struggled - we’d been evicted, I’d moved from place to place, I’d been homeless several times throughout my life. I was homeless when I joined the Army.”

At MEPS, he spoke with recruiters from each branch. Anxious to leave Chicago, he enlisted into the Army after discovering it was his quickest path to starting a new life. Now, close to 16 years after joining, Adams was back in Chicago and visiting with family as many service members do before a Permanent Change of Station.

Neither Adams nor his loved ones had a way of predicting his vacation would end with him waking up at Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston, Texas with no recollection of how he got there.

“I was leaving a relative’s house one evening and on the way to my car when two men approached me,” said Adams.” I was assaulted. I was beaten pretty badly and lost a lot of blood.”

After the attack, Adams sought medical treatment at a local emergency room.

“I had really bad lacerations under my left eye and bruising and swelling around my face,” he said. “[The medical providers] gave me stitches and pain killers and sent me home. ”

The last thing Adam remembers was going back to his mother’s house and laying down to rest. Everything he now knows about that fateful night was told to him by people who were there.

Adams’ mother went in to check on him later that night, he was unresponsive. His face was blue and his fingernails had turned purple. His mother called 911 and he was transported to a second Chicago hospital.

“They had me hooked up to a lot of machines and one thing I do remember is going in and out of consciousness and seeing bright lights and scrubs around me,” he said. “Honestly, I thought I had transitioned to the next life.”

The care he received at this second hospital was vital in stabilizing him.

“They actually saved my life,” he says. “They stabilized me and got my organs working again.”

During this time, the Army had Adams transferred to BAMC for continuum of care where he regained consciousness after being in a coma for nearly a month. While unconscious he experienced multiple organ failures to include that of his heart, kidneys, and lungs in addition to contracting an infection which spread throughout his entire body causing significant trauma to his facial features.

Since the attack, Adams has received extensive treatments from surgeons, speech therapists, psychologists, ophthalmologists, and more to improve his quality of life.

With a blend of science, technology, and art, multiple contributors from within the San Antonio Military Healthcare System were able to craft a facial prosthetic that, according to Adams, is a “game-changer” for him.

In September, Adams visited the Air Force Post Graduate Dental School for an appointment with U.S. Army Maj. (Dr.) Steven Handel, maxillofacial prosthodontist, who fits Adams with his new facial prosthetic that, according to Adams, is a “game-changer”.

“Pressure masks are commonly used to reduce edema, or swelling, in burn patients,” Handel said. “For Adams, we added facial contours to make it anatomical.”

Adams has received several compression masks throughout his treatment plan, each one more closely resembling his pre-surgical anatomy and who he is.

While many things have changed for him since that January night, one thing remains the same - his love for being a Soldier.

“Right now, I’m focused on returning to duty,” said Adams.