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A paralyzed soldier, a mother’s love



     There are mothers who will spend today missing sons and daughters fighting overseas. There are women who have lost children in those wars, for whom Mother’s Day will never be the same.

Then there is Eva Mendoza Briseno.

     Joseph Briseno Jr., Eva’s 27-year-old son, is one of the most severely wounded soldiers ever to survive. A bullet to the back of his head in a Baghdad marketplace in 2003 left him paralyzed, brain-damaged and blind, but awake and aware of his condition.

Eva takes care of “Jay” in her home, with the breathing machine and tubes he needs to stay alive.

     Each day starts with two hours of bowel care, an ordeal as awful as it sounds. She labors over his body, brushing his teeth, suctioning fluid from his lungs, exercising his limp arms and legs, and turning him every other hour to prevent bedsores.

     She sleeps a few hours at a time. She has been out to dinner with her husband, Joseph Sr., once in seven years.

     She could have a better life if she put Jay in a nursing home. Or if she brought back the nurses the government provided. But one looked indifferently without wiping Jay’s mouth when he drooled. Others fell asleep on the night shift as Jay had seizures.

Taking charge

     It is hard for a mother to watch such lapses. The nurses don’t love Jay. His parents do. So they have chosen to care for him on their own, and you will not find them feeling sorry for themselves — only for him.

     A lesser man would leave, Eva says of her spouse, whom she has known since grade school in their homeland, the Philippines. A lesser woman would cringe at the wound care and bodily indignities that Eva has learned to manage, Joseph says.

     “I can’t walk away from this,” he said. “She can’t. I’m very proud of my wife.”

     What keeps Eva going is hope that stem cells or some future treatment advance will help her son. “I do believe in miracles,” she said.

     Yet desperation clouds her prayers. “Most of the time, I ask God if I can take Jay’s place,” she said, sobbing.

     Hearing his mother, Jay cries too, tears silently slipping from his eyes.

     For Eva, the tears began the day Jay shipped out, on his 20th birthday in 2003.

     He was a student at George Mason University, hoping to become a forensic scientist. He had joined the Army Reserve and was surprised to be called up so soon. Eva took a cake to his unit before he left.

The dreaded phone call

     At first, she wasn’t very worried: Jay was assigned to civilian work, building community relations. A few months later, the call came. One of those civilians had shot Jay in the back of the head at point-blank range. His spinal cord was shattered, and cardiac arrests led to brain damage that left him unable to see or to speak more than an occasional word.

     His parents quit their jobs and drained their savings. His younger sisters, Malerie and Sherilyn, help when they can, and Joseph does a big share. But much falls to Eva, who weighs 100 pounds to Jay’s 147.

     Eva reads to him. He grins when the Redskins win, or when Linkin Park, Eminem, Jay-Z or Beyonce are on the radio. Other songs get a grimace.

     “Probably other mothers regret having their sons or daughters go to war, especially when they come home hurt. It’s not easy seeing your child be in this position,” Eva said. “We are so proud of Jay, and we thank God every single day that we have him.”


By Marilynn Marchione – The Associated Press
Posted : Monday May 10, 2010 on ARMYTIMES

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