The New Mexico VA Health Care System has no inpatient beds for veterans with post traumatic stress syndrome, which requires some New Mexico veterans to seek care out of state.
The Rev. June Ramos decided to seek inpatient treatment after he arrived in Albuquerque for a doctor’s appointment in July and had no recollection of driving more than two hours from El Rito.
“I came to my senses when I pulled into the parking lot,” said Ramos, who was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 2010 after serving three tours in Iraq as a U.S. Marine.
A roadside bomb in October 2004 drove shrapnel into his neck and nearly killed him. Later that month, he was struck by a second roadside bomb the day he was discharged from medical treatment.
He survived a third roadside bomb attack in 2006. The attacks left Ramos with symptoms of traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
The isolation Ramos experienced while assigned to El Rito had aggravated his PTSD, he said.
“I didn’t have the social contact that I needed,” he said. For veterans with PTSD, “the enemy is isolation and being remote.”
Ramos entered a 25-day program at the Southern Arizona VA in Tucson, the nearest inpatient PTSD treatment program.
Ramos has received outpatient therapy at the VA in Albuquerque since July 2010. But the intensive therapy offered at a specialized inpatient program helped Ramos “big time,” he said.
Ramos continues to receive outpatient therapy at the New Mexico VA and the Albuquerque Vet Center at 1600 Mountain NW, which offers about a dozen group sessions each week and serves an estimated 550 veterans of all eras.
Ramos now is assigned to Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Albuquerque, where he ministers to veterans, many of whom are referred by other priests in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
“A vet can always relate to a fellow vet,” he said. “We take care of each other and relate to each other.”
But Ramos said he draws his ultimate strength from his faith and his daily celebration of Mass as a priest.
“Christ is the divine physician,” he said. The Eucharist “is the medication of immortality that I take every day.”
— This article appeared on page A3 of the Albuquerque Journal