Vancouver paralyzed vet raising money for spinal surgery

Brandon Powell has been paralyzed below the shoulders for 13 years

Brandon Powell is hoping spinal surgery will give him feeling and functionality in his hands (KOIN).

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — On this page of the scrapbook are 4 photos, showing a Brandon Powell from another time. In one, he stands tall, surrounded by friends. On another, he’s dressed in full Army uniform, an Abrams crewman working as a member of the 3rd brigade, 21st infantry-regiment striker brigade.

Brandon’s best friend, Dustin Troupe, who has been by Brandon’s side since they were 13, lifts the scrapbook and shows Brandon the photos.

“Oh, man,” Brandon says, smiling at a glimmer of yesteryear. “I had no idea what was going to happen — no idea what my future held.”

Photos in a scrapbook of Brandon Powell’s past (KOIN).

The two exchange a quick glance and a smile as Dustin turns the page. Brandon, now 33, looks down as his smile slowly lessens.

He pauses.

“Never would’ve imagined this would happen,” he says.

It’s been 13 years since a Dragunov sniper shot down from 3 floors up, sending a bullet through Brandon’s throat and out past his C4 vertebrae, just two months into his first tour of duty in Iraq. He was immediately helicoptered to a hospital Germany before he was transported to D.C. and eventually Seattle.

He was paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Since then, Brandon, has been in a wheelchair. His arms and hands strapped palms-down on the sides. Brandon, who needs help to get around and accomplish most things, said he doesn’t know what he would do without the support system around him.

But Brandon has aspirations. He’d love to do more painting, or go to the concerts and movies theaters on his own. When he builds Legos with his nieces and nephews, he’d love to use his own hands and do it on his own.

He’s hoping, at the very least, he’ll get feeling in his hands again, just enough to get a manual wheelchair he could move with a joystick.

There’s a chance he might. Brandon is raising money for an expensive epidural stimulation surgery where two devices would be placed above and below the injured vertebrae in the hope it would bridge the gap and connect activity from the top to the bottom.

“I want to improve my life,” Brandon said. “And if getting out of this chair and being able to get out there more and be able to actually — sometimes I feel like I’m not able to live my life. (The surgery), it’ll open up a lot more possibilities.”

In order to raise enough money, Brandon will need to hit a goal of $100,000. So far, he’s raised $375. You can donate to Brandon’s Go Fund Me here.

A benefit concert will be held on Sunday, Nov. 12 from noon to 8 p.m. at the Cascade Bar and Grill in Vancouver. There will be a silent auction, live music and raffles.The proceeds will go to fundraising for Brandon’s surgery. You can learn more about the event here.

“We’re just trying to start chipping away because the surgery is extremely expensive and we’re not expecting to get it all in this one show,” Dustin said, “but we’d like to start with a nice big chunk to get out of there.”

Brandon Powell is hoping spinal surgery will give him feeling and functionality in his hands (KOIN).

It was supposed to be a simple patrol mission. Fellow soldiers were sweeping buildings in Iraq while Brandon and the rest of his anti-tank unit set up an outer perimeter. They were watching out for enemies when the shot came that almost killed him.

“A couple millimeters either way it would’ve hit something really important,” Brandon said.

Brandon eventually arrived in Seattle where he stayed for a couple of months doing rehab. Then, when his rehab was over, it was time for Brandon to leave the hospital and head home, where someone would need to help take care of him.

Dustin Troupe has been friends with Brandon Powell since they were 13. (KOIN).

His brother Blaine volunteered.

“They trained me to take care of him,” Blaine said. “And here we are today.”

Though he can’t move from the shoulders down, Brandon stays active. He paints statues using only his mouth, attends concerts frequently with Dustin and even plays video games, using brain fingers and infrared technology that read his facial and muscle movements in order to scroll and click a computer mouse.

But Brandon wants more control of his life, and though he and his support group are unsure how effective the surgery will be, but any progress would help.

“Just imagine not being able to feed yourself or scratch your nose when it itches,” Dustin said. “It’ll give him control again over his life that he hasn’t had for the last 13 years. He won’t have to rely on us to do everything for him. It’ll be a relief for him.”