VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Volunteers Provide Hope for SCI Veterans
VA Palo Alto Health Care System’s Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Center has always been a center of excellence, with many dedicated staff and researchers looking to make quality of life better for Veterans with SCI. However, it also takes dedicated volunteers to help restore hope for those recently recovering from any injury.
Two of these volunteers recently spoke at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event in early February, at the SCI Center, where various speakers talked about ways they give back to their community.
Kevin Patton was only 21 years old when he sustained spinal cord injuries while stationed at Mather Air Force Base in Mather, Calif. He was planning his military career, was recently married and just had a newborn daughter. His injury left him paralyzed, which was a major blow to his future.
His daughter ended up being the catalyst that pushed him to deal with this situation and become the father she needed.
“I think it was my oldest daughter. She was very young at the time and she was not going to let me ‘not be daddy.’ Even when I was at my worst time in pain, she just wanted me to play ball wit her. That motivated me to keep moving forward,” he said.
After enrolling for care with VA, he became involved in the SCI community, serving twice as a national service officer for Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) in the late 1990s and late 2010s. He also spent ten years with the City of Sacramento Access Leisure program and volunteered with many other Veteran organizations, including making regular visits to places like the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.
During his time in PVA, he received a call to speak at a SCI support group at U.C. Davis. He asked if anyone in the group was a Veteran and he met U.S. Army Veteran Shane Simmons.
Simmons has been injured for eleven years and accredits Patton for inspiring him to give back to other Veterans living with SCI.
During the interview, a couple stopped him to thank him for visiting their recently injured son on the unit.
“There’s some many people who come through [SCI Center] who are not familiar or even know what’s out there. I do all I can to let them know life goes on. This isn’t the end of your life but the beginning of a new way of living.”