Scott Lilley: April fifteenth two thousand seven I was injured over in Baghdad, Iraq from a roadside bomb. When I saw the explosion, or heard it, I tried getting down into the humvee. And my only guess is the shrapnel that went under the helmet, I had these radio earphones on, it missed all that and just hit somewhere right up in here in the temple. And it stuck on the right side of my brain. I was taken to the green zone to the cash unit. I had a pulse, I was breathing on my own. My medic that was an Army specialist argued with the doctors and told them that they need to put me on a helicopter and fly me up to Balad. There’s nothing they could do and they don’t have the surgical tools there. They didn’t want to put me on that helicopter because they didn’t want to put their helicopter crew or the helicopter at risk for getting shot down for someone who wasn’t going to make it. The medic argued with them for two or three minutes and they finally gave in and put me on the helicopter.
Frank Lilley: When we first heard the news Jolene and I were very calm.
Jolene Lilley: He came into the bedroom and he was writing stuff down on a piece of paper and it said “shrapnel to the head.”
Frank Lilley: We started making plans.
Scott Lilley: I was flown to Balad, Iraq. When I got there I was taken to the ICU room. They did a horseshoe type of incision to remove the skull. One of my good friends now is a Four Star General in the Air Force. He was outside of the tent. After the surgery he walked in and asked the doctor “what is the likelihood of him surviving?” And the doctor said, “I don’t perform miracles. But the odds are he’s not going to survive.” So that night they presented me with the Purple Heart. Then the next morning that’s when they, they flew me to Landstuhl. One of my older brothers told my mom to call my room and have the nurse put the phone to my ear so she could talk to me. But my mom told my brother “well he’s not going to hear me. He’s not going to understand me. He’s not going to know.” And my brother said, “just do it.” So my mom called, the nurse put the phone to my ear.
Jolene Lilley: I told Scott “mommy and daddy are on their way over. You’re going to be fine, everything is going to be okay.” And they said he immediately started trying to reach for the phone.
Frank Lilley: The Air Force you know got us in touch with everybody. Made all the arrangements.
Jolene Lilley: We got to Landstuhl. They took us into the chapel.
Frank Lilley: We were briefed by a medical doctor along with a chaplain was in with us.
Jolene Lilley: Then the surgeon came in. It wasn’t good news.
Frank Lilley: The doctor gave us a prognosis.
Jolene Lilley: They were giving us I think the worst scenario. The next step in our journey was they said that we would be leaving for Washington D.C.
Frank Lilley: We flew back from Germany to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington D.C.
Jolene Lilley: Scott was the only critical care patient on that flight. And as we left they gave him the most beautiful quilt that people had made back here in America. Covered him in it, red, white, and blue. During that flight his blood pressure would go up two hundred over one thirty, one forty, I mean seriously high. We would hold his hand and talk to him in his ear and it would start coming down. And they said we have no medicine that can do this. The love of the parents, the love of the family, that’s why they have the family members go with these critical patients. We landed. They explained to us that there was a ramp freeze and that Air Force One was circling and that the only thing that took precedence over Air Force One landing was when the medevac came in and the President waited.
Frank Lilley: I’ve never been to Washington D.C. I’ve heard about the Beltway and everything else. And I’m thinking oh gosh, you know four-thirty in the afternoon, a big city, it’s going to take us forever.
Jolene Lilley: They put him on the ambulance and when that siren went off, it went through my heart.
Frank Lilley: The traffic was backed up all over the place.
Jolene Lilley: Everybody on the Beltway on Friday evening at five o’clock moved out of the way.
Frank Lilley: Our ambulance, it didn’t stop one time.
Jolene Lilley: They understand who’s coming through here. And I was so proud to be an American. We got to Bethesda. They explained to us the main purpose at Bethesda was to get them to a point where they were ready for a more intense therapy.
Scott Lilley: My recovery lasted about the four months without the skull. I had to do occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy.
Frank Lilley: The first couple of years after a brain injury are very, very important. That’s when the brain can heal itself.
Scott Lilley: I had to learn how to walk, talk, eat, swallow my own spit. I had to learn how to do everything at twenty-eight years old.
Jolene Lilley: It’s like he went through the infant stage.
Scott Lilley: My poor parents. They had a new baby at twenty-eight. I even had a soft spot like a baby.
Jolene Lilley: He went through being just a little toddler when we’re teaching him how to talk and how to walk.
Scott Lilley: I had to wear a belt that had a handle on the back. And every time I got out of bed, my parents had to put it on me and they had to hold on to the, that handle. I had to wear a soft helmet.
Jolene Lilley: And then he went through his teenage years again. A little irritated with us.
Frank Lilley: You don’t get many chances to re-raise your kid. Maybe we can do it right this time. Cranioplasty’s usually are scheduled no sooner than six months after the injury to make sure there’s no infection.
Jolene Lilley: On August fourteenth, he was able to have the cranioplasty.
Frank Lilley: I would call it an instant success.
Scott Lilley: I remember waking up and saying “wow, that’s better.” My mom said
Jolene Lilley: “What’s better?”
Scott Lilley: It was my voice. It was loud, it was clear; it was like it is now.
Jolene Lilley: As soon as he told us “that’s much better,” we knew immediately what he was talking about. It was his voice.
Frank Lilley: And then he said, “Can you go get me a hamburger and a Doctor Pepper?” And the nurse said “no, not until tomorrow.” And he said, “twelve o’ one?” And that was a milestone to us. Cause’ that meant his brain was working.
Scott Lilley: And I thought I knew everything. I still think I know everything but it’s hard to retain things.
Frank Lilley: Yea I asked him I said “Scott, do you think you could go out and run your police station now?” He says, “Yea, I can do it.”
Scott Lilley: I wanted to put the uniform back on and go do my patrolling on base again like I was before.
Frank Lilley: We figured that once he got down to San Antonio he’d have to prove himself again.
Scott Lilley: I went back active duty and I got sent to Lackland Air Force Base to become a tech school instructor. Prior to the injury my goal was to make Chief Master Sergeant. I wanted to stay in my twenty, if not more, and make the highest rank as an enlisted and be a Chief. I went in and took the test. I came out with a big smile saying “wow that was easier than everyone said it was.” Got my scores back, point like zero zero two. So I spelled my name right. A lot of people don’t understand what a TBI is. They don’t see it. I’m not missing a leg; I’m not missing an arm. They think that you have a brain injury. Why can’t you run? Why can’t you do this? Why can’t you remember this? It’s like a filing cabinet in your head and it gets tipped over and everything gets spilled out. The effects of the TBI was causing a little trouble at my job. I’d forget my lesson plans; I’d be late for work. And it wasn’t me. I’d never done that before. I got a letter of reprimand. They’re saying if I get another one they’re going to give me an article fifteen. So I decided to go to my commander and tell him I wanted to go through the MAB and be done. After I retired in two thousand ten it was about six months later I got a phone call from a retired Chief who was a top enlisted person for Security Forces. He called me and said hey come to my office; I got a job for you. Don’t ask questions right now. I need you here so I can offer the job and tell you all about it and see what you say. So I went to his office out at Randolph Air Force Base and sat down with him and a active duty chief. They explained the job. Pretty much told me don’t worry about it, it’s the same thing each and every day. So I said okay. So I accepted the job. It’s information protection, security manager. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve seen a lot, heard a lot. The group of people I work with are in the top three that I’ve ever worked with. I’ve enjoyed them. We have a great time in the office everyday. The job I have now as a security manager, I love it, I’m enjoying it, and I plan to stay here and retire with this job. I went up to Minot Air Force Base, Minot North Dakota for my Flight Chiefs retirement ceremony. I met a girl named Candy. She moved down here in February of two thousand and eleven. We got married in June of two thousand eleven and had our baby girl in December of two thousand eleven. My mom about passed out when we told her Candy was pregnant. She didn’t think it could happen after the injury. Our little girl is five years old but acts like twenty-one. She wants to do everything on her own, which I love. Since then Candy and I have split. Our custody is just about fifty fifty. I pick her up in the morning, take her to daycare. Pick her up from daycare. We hang out after work and school for a few hours then she’ll go home. My mom and dad, which my baby girl calls mimi and grandpa, adore her, love her, want her every summer. She’s a great girl. She has to be my angel that god gave me. My family’s stuck with me and they supported me. The love they had, the prayers that they said along with everyone else throughout the world that was praying, made a huge, huge impact on my recovery.
Frank Lilley: Without prayers and support of probably hundreds of thousands of people out there, Scotty wouldn’t be here and Jolene and I wouldn’t have made it.
Scott Lilley: Beating the odds has to just be from the prayers and the love and the support. It’s a lifelong journey due to the short-term memory loss and like I’m doing now, forgetting words. Knowing they’re at the tip of my tongue. It’s a recovery that will be a lifetime.