By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Clay M. Whaley, Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Daniel M. Jacobs, a former medical hold patient at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD), is pursuing his dream of making a career out of the Navy in spite of his amputation.
Jacobs is the first hospital corpsman with an amputation treated at NMCSD and medically approved to return to full active duty.
In late February 2006, Jacobs was deployed as an Individual Augmentee from Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton (NHCP) to Ar Ramadi, Iraq assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Division. During a scheduled combat patrol his humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device causing Jacobs severe injuries to all four extremities of his body.
Jacobs was immediately evacuated to the Air Force military hospital in Balad, Iraq, where he received life-saving surgery.
"I don't recall a lot of the medical care I received after my incident," said Jacobs. "Once I arrived at Balad Surgical I went into surgery and woke up with a breathing tube at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), in Bethesda, Md."
On Feb. 28, 2006, Jacobs arrived at NNMC, where he received three months of intense surgical stabilization. Most of his medical care was plastic surgery focused on salvaging his lower limbs in order to rule out amputation.
Doctors were able to save Jacobs' right leg and three toes, but have limited range of motion in his foot and ankle. However Jacobs' left leg had to be amputated below the knee. On May 6, 2006, he detached from NNMC and transferred to NMCSD.
Jacobs arrived at NMCSD on May 8, 2006, where he received the majority of his care and recovered to full active duty status. His treatment included orthopedic care on all four extremities, physical therapy, plastic surgery and oral surgery.
NMCSD's plastic surgery department performed a revision on his left leg to reduce the size of the flap to help match his foot size. A flap is a mass of tissue for grafting, usually including skin, only partially removed from one part of the body so that it retains its own blood supply during transfer to another site.
During his two year treatment and recovery, he was inspired by NMCSD staff to continue to pursue the goal he set out for when he was 12-years-old, to make a career out of the Navy. He wasn't going to let his amputation prevent him from his dreams.
Cmdr. (Dr.) Steven R. Hanling, division head of the pain management clinic at NMCSD, was one of the many medical specialists that helped Jacobs return to full duty.
"To be willing to serve your country even in the best of health is a remarkable testimony to any individual's character, but to be willing to serve when you've already given so much is truly inspiring," said Hanling, Jacobs' doctor.
Jacobs' inspiration, motivation and dedication pushed him through a variety of physical screening tests, to include passing the Navy physical readiness test for the first time as an amputee, and also passing the physical evaluation board (PEB).
The PEB is a U. S. Department of the Navy board that makes fact finding decisions when members of the U.S. Navy or the U. S. Marine Corps challenge a discharge on the grounds of physical disability. He was found fit for full duty by the PEB in February 2009. Jacobs was on a fast track to receive new orders.
May 9, 2009, Jacobs was assigned to the School of Infantry-West a detachment clinic based out of NHCP. On June 15, 2011, Jacobs departed the School of Infantry-West and was reassigned to the 1st Marine Division based at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
"I know he has a successful future in front of him," said Hanling. "His determination and resourcefulness will lead him to success in any profession he chooses."
Jacobs' future goal is to become an independent duty hospital corpsman and ultimately become an officer as a physician assistant.
"I am honored to be one of the first amputee Corpsmen to be setting the footsteps for others to follow," said Jacobs. "Although it is a significant milestone, it hasn't been easy nor will it be in the future." Although Jacobs feels a sense of accomplishment for reaching this significant milestone, he knows the future will be challenging and is prepared to take on any task.