Veteran Viewpoint Episode 4: "The VA Set Me Free" - Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
Attention A T users. To access the menus on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Please switch auto forms mode to off. 2. Hit enter to expand a main menu option (Health, Benefits, etc). 3. To enter and activate the submenu links, hit the down arrow. You will now be able to tab or arrow up or down through the submenu options to access/activate the submenu links.

Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
My HealtheVet badge
EBenefits Badge

Veteran Viewpoint Episode 4: "The VA Set Me Free"

September 14, 2015

BAY PINES, FL --  The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) announces the release of  Veteran Viewpoint episode four as part of its ongoing video series that highlights personal VA health care stories from Veterans residing in southwest Florida.  Episode four features VA patient and U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran John Brouwer.

Nearly two years ago, John contracted an aggressive bacterial infection in his legs that ultimately resulted in a double leg amputation at a hospital in the community.  Following his surgery, medical professionals at the hospital told John he would never walk again and would forever be confined to a wheelchair.

“The end result was not satisfactory,” John said referring to the surgery.  “I would never walk again or be able to have weight bearing again on my legs.”

At the time, he was not enrolled in the VA health care system, but was informed about his potential health care benefits by a nurse involved with his early rehabilitation activities at the hospital. 

“I heard about the VA from a nurse,” he said.  “And since it was almost 50 years since I had served, I decided, well, I’ll try this.  I just didn’t think of it on my own.”

After being assessed by clinicians at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, it was determined that a surgical revision was needed to correct his residual limbs.   Following a successful surgery at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa on February 14, 2015, he returned to the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center to start the lengthy process of rehabilitation.

The turning point in John’s care was his involvement in the healthcare system’s Recreation Therapy program – a program tailored to help Veterans overcome illnesses, disabilities and other conditions through treatment, education, and recreation services.  The ultimate goal of the program is to enhance Veterans’ health, function, independence, and quality of life. 

“The first thing that woke me up here at Bay Pines was Recreation Therapy,” John said.  “My first excursion was to a local restaurant for a fish fry.  After the dinner was over these ladies were lining up wanting to dance with me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I spent about an hour on the dance floor being twirled around in a wheelchair.  I thought, you know, I may just fit in in this world again.”

From that point forward, John never looked back as he got involved in adaptive biking, kayaking, balloon volleyball, whatever skiing – almost anything and everything the program offered.

Today, John is strong enough to wear prosthetic legs and is getting closer to his goal of walking without support by the minute.

“Before, I was relegated to living a life in a wheelchair in a nursing home or assisted living facility.  I came here (Bay Pines), and the VA set me free.”

See John’s full story at:

About Veteran Viewpoint
Veteran Viewpoint is an ongoing video series developed by the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System that highlights personal VA health care stories from Veterans residing in southwest Florida.  Through personal, one-on-one interviews these heroes share detailed and private accounts of their experiences as users of VA health care – a system dedicated to providing Veterans with timely, accessible, high quality care that is personalized, proactive and patient driven.  To view previous episodes, please visit  Do you have a story to share?  If so, please email the Bay Pines VAHCS Office of Public Affairs at