In early 2003, Army Ranger Jeremy Feldbusch was on patrol along the Euphrates River in Iraq when two rounds of enemy artillery landed just 30 feet from where he was posted. The resulting blast drove shrapnel deep into Jeremy’s face and head. He was immediately blinded and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Jeremy’s squad rushed to stabilize him. However, the results looked grim. Ten days after the injury, Jeremy was transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. A team of doctors worked to minimize the swelling of his brain. He was then placed in a medically induced coma for six weeks to allow his brain to heal. He was kept alive with a ventilator. As Jeremy began to recover, hospital staff attempted to remove the ventilator. Five times, they were unsuccessful. On the sixth attempt, Jeremy awoke.
After he was well enough to return to him home in Blairsville, PA, he spent nine months in intense rehabilitation, learning how to live without his eyesight. Since his injury, Jeremy has had an array of additional surgeries, including seven surgeries on his eyes and sinuses and one to remove additional shrapnel from his brain. However, despite his miracle recovery, Jeremy was left with several facial deformities.
But in January 2012, UPMC surgeon and chair of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, J. Peter Rubin was able to use a special procedure to smooth out the depressions in Jeremy’s forehead from the border of the metal plate now in his skull, and fill in some of the “potholes” near his eye, as Jeremy puts it. The procedure worked by taking fat from Jeremy’s abdomen and thighs, and injecting the fat into the facial cavities. To help prevent the fat cells from being absorbed back into Jeremy’s body, Dr. Rubin concentrated them to collect the most active cells, which helped to grow new blood vessels once they were injected. Even though Jeremy can’t see the results of the procedure, he’s happy when people tell him what a good job Dr. Rubin did.
Now, Jeremy has learned to make the most of his disability, and has even picked up a few new hobbies. With the assistance of his father and a laser sight, he returned to his lifelong passion of hunting. In fact, Jeremy lobbied the Pennsylvania Game Commission to enact a law that makes it legal for blind individuals to hunt with the aid of a laser grip and a licensed partner. He’s even gone on fishing trips to Long Island and Alaska. He also bowls, kayaks, golfs, and rides a bike when he can.
But he also wanted to share his experiences with, and help, wounded military personnel. Jeremy and his parents are three of the 26 co-founders of the Wounded Warriors project, which raises awareness and provides aid for the needs of severely injured military men and women. Jeremy spends countless hours doing speaking engagements, making hospital visits, and providing emotional support for wounded soldiers and their families. In March 2004, he became the national spokesman.