A U.S. Army officer from Bakersfield who was seriously wounded in Afghanistan last month has been moved out of intensive care, his family said Thursday.
In addition, a relief fund for the Van Kopp family has been established.
Those bits of encouraging news came from Cliff Van Kopp, Lt. Samuel Van Kopp's father, who said in an email that Samuel has been moved to a regular ward at Walter Reed military hospital, and that a drain in Sam's head to relieve pressure from cerebrospinal fluid has been successfully removed.
Samuel, a Bakersfield High School and West Point graduate, was wounded Sept. 26 when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest, sending a single ball bearing into the brain of the 24-year-old. Miraculously, Lt. Van Kopp survived, although a lengthy recovery is expected. It has not been determined whether surgery will be used to remove the metal ball.
The rest of the email follows, in the words of Cliff Van Kopp:
Samuel's "headaches, while still present are not as severe. He can stand without assistance and walk to the restroom in his room (very short distance). He can't tolerate sitting in a chair or lying on his stomach; too much nausea and dizziness. He has bouts of seasickness-like nausea. Vision is about the same. He can see shapes but not focus, so reading, TV and looking at Facebook are not possible. The portions of his brain that govern visual processing and balance/equilibrium evidently have been the most affected.
"Sam's memory is excellent. He's had many visits from friends and well wishers. West Point friends and BHS classmates have been by and his memories of events, stories and adventures have been spot on. He doesn't recognize their faces well but once he hears their voices it's like old home week.
"Surgery to remove bone and skin from his brain is still pending. The move to the Traumatic Brain Injury center in Palo Alto seems assured but the timing hasn't been determined. Along with all the traditional medications and treatments, he has had an acupuncture session to try and alleviate headaches and back spasms.
"A high school friend of Sam's has set up an account 'Relief Fund for Samuel Van Kopp and Family' at Rabobank at Truxtun Avenue branch.... Its purpose is to help the family with travel needs and other expenses that might pop up. BHS is not on the account, it is strictly a community effort."