PFC Heather Cramer
Mission Accomplished on Oct. 6, 2018
In 2006, Army Private First Class Heather Cramer deployed with the 14th Combat Support Hospital to Afghanistan as a surgical technician. On Feb. 6, PFC Cramer was moving 200 pounds of medical equipment from the hospital at Kandahar across a bridge to a storage area when she fell, causing the heavy items to land on top of her.
Initially, PFC Cramer’s spinal cord injury was not detected. Over the years, her condition worsened and she now has partial paralysis from the waist down. Since her injury, she has endured 15 surgeries to repair nerve damage in her lower back, abdomen, right knee, and kidneys. Heather was also diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD/CRPS), a neuro-inflammatory disorder that occurs when the nervous system and immune system malfunction while responding to trauma. She experiences frequent spasms and seizures, as well as debilitating pain. She has taken an aggressive approach to rehab by doing aerial yoga and working out and can now walk with the assistance of a cane.
Now medically retired, Heather loves to quilt and write, and she is often asked to read her poetry at military funerals and her work has been featured in a war memorial. She enjoys outdoor activities with her two children Kailee and Kody.
Before her injury, Heather loved to cook, but in her previous home, she could not reach the counter or appliances from her wheelchair. Other activities, such as laundry and showering, were also a challenge for Heather. “Being injured turns you into a patient, and a patient doesn’t have much of an identity outside the injuries and problems. I was a mother who couldn’t really take care of my family,” she says.
Heather’s specially adapted custom HFOT home with lower countertops and accessible appliances is a huge blessing, Heather says. Regaining this independence enables her to focus on her future plans and goals. She obtained her associate’s degree in criminal justice at Georgia Highlands Community College in is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree. She wants to continue volunteering by helping other Veterans. She enjoys “living off the grid” in the new home, becoming more active, and growing and raising her own food.
Heather chose to build her home in Georgia, for its quieter, slower pace of life.
Heather and her family always dreamed about a permanent home but never thought it was possible. She is grateful to Homes For Our Troops and its supporters for making this dream happen for her and her children. “To us, it’s not just walls and a roof, it’s the freedom to once again be a productive member of my family,” she says.