Air Force moves injured airman closer to home

Nov. 17, 2012 @ 06:26 PM

Airman Bryce Powers, 20, has been in a coma since early October. 

The 2010 Piedmont High School graduate was in a car accident near the base in Misawa, Japan where he was stationed. 

His mother, Cathy Powers, has been by his side since then. 

Cathy was flown to Japan the day of the accident, the Air Force told her that death was "imminent."

"They don't know what's going to happen," Cathy said. 

Bryce sustained severe head and chest injuries. His mother said the chest injuries are healing nicely. Last week, he underwent surgery to put a shunt in his brain. The surgery went well, but it is too soon to know its impact. 

"Hopefully it will help the pressure in his brain so that maybe he might be able to hopefully wake up," Cathy said. 

In November, Bryce woke up for a few hours. His mother was telling him to blink if he could hear her. He blinked twice. 

"The next day, after that happened, he never woke back up again," Cathy said. 

Eventually, the Air Force flew Bryce from Japan to Hawaii, where he and Cathy are now. After Thanksgiving, the Air Force would like to move him to a hospital in Richmond, Va. 

"(It is) one of the top five hospitals for traumatic brain injuries," Cathy said. 

The doctors are not sure if Bryce will go into a vegetative state or what will happen with his brain activity. 

"They said it's too early," Cathy said. 

Right now, Bryce is on too many medications for them to properly measure brain waves. They usually check every three months and in his case, he will have to be weaned off of medication, which is not possible yet. 

Cathy's daughter attends Union County Early College and her husband works in the County. They were unable to travel to be with Bryce. Cathy has not been home since October. 

Her daughter wants to be a doctor, specifically a neurologist. 

However, the community has reached out to help the Powers family. 

"The community's been great," Cathy said. "(The neighbors) have brought us dinner six out of seven days since I left...multiple teachers, churches have brought food (and) people are checking on what we need." 

Neighbors also started a donation page. The donations given so far will cover Cathy's cell phone bill, which she was panicked about. 

The community and visitors to a Facebook page Cathy set up for her son are part of the reason she has remained strong. 

"One minute I'm just crying," Cathy said. "It just seems so permanent and there's nothing I can do." 

Bryce's friends from the Piedmont and Porter Ridge Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) have been rallying around the family and giving Cathy hope, she said. 

Two things are keeping her strong, she said. 

"One is faith. Just praying, asking God for hope and help," Cathy said. "The second is journaling every day.."

Cathy created a Facebook page for Bryce that has close to 5,000 followers. They each send her messages telling her to stay strong or that they are praying for the family. 

"That gives me hope and keeps me going," Cathy said. 

The support was especially useful when Bryce had his first surgery. 

"I cried and cried and cried when they took him for surgery," Cathy said. "I thought I was going to die." 

Seeing the messages from people, not only in Union County, but across the world gave her hope. 

"The other thing is that I have no choice," Cathy said. "I have to keep walking forward, there's nothing else I can do." 

Bryce  has dreamed of being in the Air Force since he was five. His mom said he ate, drank and slept Air Force. 

In high school, he was the commander of the Piedmont and Porter Ridge ROTC. He spent four years in the ROTC and Cathy was the booster club president. 

In 2010, Bryce won the Patriot Award for Union County. He received a placard for going into the military. 

Cathy is a substitute teacher for Union County Public Schools. They are also volunteers with the American Red Cross. 

Cathy is thankful for the community. She is grateful they have reached out in her family's time of need. 

Anyone wishing to follow Bryce's progress can see Cathy's almost-daily updates on his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Prayer-and-Support-Group-for-Airman-Bryce-Powers/114785088676645.