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Ruth Ficken

Ruth A. Ficken learned about the nature of resilience when her youngest son was wounded in May 2008 while serving in Iraq. A complex ambush resulted in an improvised explosive device hitting the Humvee in which he was traveling. The blast threw him from the moving vehicle causing serious injuries to both legs. He spent five months at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, undergoing dozens of surgeries to repair broken bones, reconstruct his foot, remove shrapnel and restore function. Ficken spent the first two months at his bedside (his stepfather, Paul Ficken, was there for last three). She remains in awe of the dedication of his medical team. “I watched doctors research his case to find out what was making him ill and find a solution. They stayed late into the night and often sat with him and weren’t willing to leave or go home when their shift was done until he was able to rest comfortably,” Ficken says. Her son made remarkable progress. He went from being immobile to sitting in a wheel chair, then walking with crutches and a leg brace. “Is the healing done? Not yet. But we are seeing amazing progress. He is once again enjoying the outdoors along with mountain biking and snowboarding”.

Special Ops: Operation

9 x 11 x .5 in.

Oil Pastel

Her son’s left foot underwent extensive reconstruction. “I learned that my son is strong – physically, emotionally and mentally. It was his positive attitude and acceptance of the situation that allowed him to excel in the worst of situations,” Ficken says.


Surgeries #7, #10 and #12

Three 8 x 10 in. images

Digital Photographs

Ficken created a visual diary of her son’s recovery, using photos taken in the operating room by his physicians. “I chose to digitize the original work to soften the impact of the graphic photos and lessen the shock factor. I want the viewer to experience the process these soldiers go through when they are ‘wounded.’ I feel the public has no clue of what the word wounded means in relation to our injured soldiers. It isn’t about putting a Band-aid or cast on someone and sending them home. There is an amazing amount of time and work – physical and emotional – that goes into recovering from the injuries our soldiers sustain,” she says.