Surgery planned to remove skull from brain of Bakersfield soldier

Surgery planned to remove skull from brain of Bakersfield soldier
Sam Van Kopp is seen in an undated photo provided by former classmate and Eyewitness News employee Walter Suazo.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — An Army officer from Bakersfield is showing signs of recovery following a traumatic brain injury suffered during an explosion in Afghanistan.

Lt. Samuel Van Kopp's father reports his son is off a ventilator and supplemental oxygen, and he's moving his arms and legs with good coordination, according to family spokesman David Reese, who was Van Kopp's principal at Bakersfield High School.

The father warns, however, that "progress, though rapid so far, will slow down."

Van Kopp was on patrol when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-ladened vest. Shrapnel hit the West Point graduate in the head.

Surgery is planned for Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to remove pieces of Van Kopp's skull from his brain. Doctors haven't scheduled a surgery to remove shrapnel from the soldier's brain, Reese says.

Van Kopp on Tuesday "did well on his traumatic brain injury tests and evaluation," according to an email from his father, sent via the BHS principal. Van Kopp is not finding relief for a massive headache - his major source of pain - and room lights bother him.

He can drink out of a straw by holding a cup by himself, according to Reese.