Can the traumas of one family member spread to the others indirectly, causing secondary PTSD? The experiences of the Pearce family suggest that this is indeed the case. When former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Pearce’s humvee was hit by an IED in Iraq, the reverberations of the blast made their way all the way back to his family in the United States. His wife Angie, son Logan and daughter Jordan were all deeply affected by the explosion and his resulting traumatic brain injury. Read their moving story here.
A few of the still life images were shot by Washingtonian staff photographer Jeff Elkins. I spent a Sunday with the family, following them from their home, to church services, to lunch and back home again.
The scars on the back of Brian’s head show where doctors had to remove a portion of his skull to relieve pressure. There was damage to his optic nerve and he has no peripheral vision. Writing this just now while looking at the photograph, I realize that a profile portrait of him presents an unusual scenario in that I can see him, but unlike most people, he must not be able to see me at all.
Brian and Angie at church- they stay toward the back, a calmer place, to minimize the potential of Brian being overwhelmed by too much stimulation. In the event he does have to step out, the exit is close and he can do so discreetly.
Brian puts his arm around his son, Logan, while his guide dog Gunner waits patiently after church. Brian credits Gunner with being a tremendous help in his recovery.
We went to Pizza Hut for lunch. Despite what they’ve been through and continue to endure, the Pearces are very warm and engaging and there was plenty of laughter throughout the day.
And there are islands of quiet moments, like this.
This is their home in Mechanicsville, VA. They moved there to be close to the VA Polytrauma Center in Richmond, where Brian goes for treatment.
Jeff’s still life of Brian’s Purple Heart is beautiful. Flawless, even. My take on it left it where I found it- on a table among odds and ends, covered in dust.
-Thanks and acknowledgements to Washingtonian and also the Pearce family for letting me spend a day with them in an attempt to try and tell their story.-