Profile: Army SFC Scott Barkalow
“We had gone down that road it seems like hundreds of times, and nothing ever happened,” he says. “But that day it did.” The blow severed his right leg below the knee and broke his left leg in several places, including all of his left toes. He also suffered damage to his face and right eye from shrapnel. After he was pulled from the wreckage, Barkalow was taken to a local hospital for the first of many surgeries. He went through two more surgeries in Germany before ending up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he underwent 12 additional operations.
A veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, Barkalow began his Army career in 1984 after attending college for one year. He spent four years on active duty with the 7th Infantry before joining the National Guard. After completing both Airborne and Ranger schools, he started the Special Forces Qualification Course (or “Q course”) and trained for one year. Upon completing the course, he finished college and joined the 20th Special Forces Group, eventually becoming a Special Forces sergeant. Now, at 41, Barkalow is close to retirement after serving his country for about 20 years, with half spent on active duty and half in the National Guard.
After his injury, Barkalow was an inpatient at Walter Reed for more than four months. He was then an outpatient for about five months and lived in the Mologne House, a small, apartmenttype residence, where he learned to move around on crutches and take care of himself. After receiving and learning how to use his prosthesis, he was able to return to his home outside of Nashville, Tennessee, but he still visits Walter Reed periodically for check-ups.
“It’s a day-by-day process, but I never feel sorry for myself,” he says. “Some days are good, and some are bad. It’s all about getting used to the leg, the feeling of it, and being without it sometimes.” The past year has been difficult, he says, but he is getting used to it. “It becomes a little overwhelming because you’re used to being in the hospital, and then you go to outpatient, and then on to your house. It’s an adjustment to just get around, and you still have to work out and keep in shape.”
For now, Barkalow’s main focus is raising his 9-year-old son, though he also hopes to get back to work sometime soon. “I’m so close to Fort Campbell,” he says. “I’d love to get a civilian job out there and help out any way that I can – I don’t care if it’s bagging groceries or pumping gas or whatever. Being around other soldiers I think would help me psychologically.”
It helped him when he was at Walter Reed, which, he says, was surprisingly enjoyable. “When you look at a lifechanging experience like losing a limb, you’re not really going to expect the best. But, honestly, I had a fantastic time there.” The experienced staff, including all of the doctors, nurses, physical therapists and psychiatrists, made a big difference and helped him learn to adjust to life without a leg.
Barkalow is also grateful to members of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other amputee service members, including peer visitors who are years out from their initial injury, who came to talk to patients at Walter Reed. “Those people came in and let you know that there’s a different life ahead of you, but it’s not so bad,” he says. “You still have the rest of your life to look forward to.”
— by Julie Wiest
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Amputee Coalition, the Department of the Army, the Army Medical Department, or any other agency of the US Government.
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