Welcome

The family and friends of Cpl. Daniel C. W. Riley, USMC, welcome you to join in as we celebrate and support the life of an incredible young man, friend, son, and brother. It is with great love and with many prayers we know that Daniel will move on to great and wonderful things. God has big plans for him! Daniel was born in Victoria, BC, Canada. In 1999 his family (Dad, Mum, brothers Tristan and Aaron, & sister Elizabeth, & cat) moved to Denver, Colorado, where his dad began working for the Episcopal Church in Colorado overseeing work with children, youth, and young adults. Daniel started high school in 1999 at Columbine High School. After three years at CHS he finished his high school at Brentwood College in Canada in 2004. After which he did some college and worked in the US and Canada. Daniel enlisted (still a Canadian citizen) in US Marine Corps in 2008 to serve his new country and to help pay for a future college education. On July 4, 2009 Daniel swore in as a US citizen before the Vice-President in Sadam Hussein's old palace in Bagdad, Iraq. In September 2010 he was sent as a combat replacement for the 2/6 Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan. On December 16, 2010, Daniel was severely wounded by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He primarily suffered severe wounds to his legs, left arm, and left lung. There were many times he was close to not making it. He has since had both legs amputated above the knee and three fingers amputated on his left hand. His lung and other injuries are healing well. Before this event and for many years to come, we know Daniel to be a loving, caring, intellegent, humourous, giving, adventurous, and deep thinking person. Keep praying! And use this blog to share your thoughts and encouragement.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A little Surf, Sun, and fun...



A couple weeks ago I would have said "surfing, sure sounds like fun". Few days later and my response is much more enthusiastic . I'm hooked. Surfing is a unbelievably great time.
This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a few days at San Onofre beach (just north of San diego) doing nothing but surfing and hanging out. Once a year Operation Amped (great guys, check out their website) put together a surf camp for wounded vets. I really don't know how many guys were out but it was a good number., for sure a decent crew. The group do a great job of making it easy; all the accommodations on the beach, food, surfboards and gear, etc. All me and the other guys had to do was show up. Almost at a one-to-one ratio, all of the participants had a mentor/instructor help us out in the water. Seeing though most of us had never surfed before, and all have a vast array of different injuries, the individual help was well received. All weekend I had Josh Harper getting me up and going. Really great guy, he made me look good. (and since he works for Billabong hooked us all up with gear and got the company to help sponsor the event) Can't thank him enough...and hopefully i'll get to keep surfing with him in the future. Honestly, thanks to everyone that helped make to weekend a huge success. (especially Betty, you crazy woman for getting me into this).
My body is still recovering from 4 days of surfing, my face is still sunburnt, my wheelchair is still covered is sand, but i'm still riding the high of enjoyment. Getting out in the ocean and surfing is one of the few times where I don't notice the my injuries, hell it barely an afterthought. Or maybe I'm just turning into a Californian.

Josh riding a wave with me

Catching a wave.

And me about to catch a face full of sea water...

Some of the group


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Surfing USA

This morning included a new adventure ..... learning to surf!
(click the pictures to see them larger)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hand-cycling highlighted in the local news

Daniel was one of the injured Marines featured on a local news channel.  A story was done about a group of the marines who gather every Tuesday to go hand-cycling.  Daniel and a few others are training to cycle the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, in the Fall.

The story can be found at http://www.10news.com/news/28675526/detail.html

*** Video is up. =)

- Dad

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Stroll to Starbucks

Daniel on a quick stroll down to the local Starbucks. Half way there he stops and smiles, "this is the furthest I have been from my wheelchair since I got it."

Time Photos

Since the reference in the 9News interview - http://danielcwriley.blogspot.com/2011/05/9-news.html - many have asked about the pictures that were taken of Daniel on the day he was injured.  After much discussion Daniel has said to "go ahead and post them".  (Note - these are hard to look at.  We offer them only as a way to "make whole" the story and help all to appreciate the fullness of this journey.)

A little backstory.  After a while in the hospital Daniel shared that he recalled that a photographer of some kind was on the helicopter with him as he was being medevac'd after the explosion.  We had tried to find out who the photographer was, or who he was with, from Daniel's unit NCO's, but were unsuccessful.  In February we got a call from a family friend who said that he thinks that Daniel's photo was in Time Magazine.

In December 2009 a woman was visiting a friend and was at a Christmas Eve church service in Vail, Colorado.  Our family was also there and Daniel was in his "dress-blues" uniform.  The woman met Daniel then for the first, and last, time.  Just over a year later this woman is at her home in New York and was reading a Time Magazine.  In it was a photo-article entitled "Wings of Mercy: Medevac in Afghanistan" (January 17, 2011) by the world famous photographer James Nachtwey.  She was interested in reading it because she had heard about Daniel's situation.  She turned to the page and there was a two-page spread photograph of Daniel.  She had only ever seen Daniel once in her life and she recognized him as the young marine she met over a year ago in Colorado.  She told her friend in Vail (and mailed the article). Her friend told our family friend and the information got to us.

Using an iPhone to search the internet we found the photo.  Even on the small screen, we could see that it was Daniel.  It was, however, the most horrific picture I have ever seen in my life.  It was not due to the graphic nature of it - it really isn't that bad.  It was just shocking to my core to see my son laying there only moments after the explosion.  It was the eyes that captured me.  I saw in that picture the eyes of my little boy.  Not hurting. Not struggling. Just eyes that said that he was scared and confused.  It broke my heart. It still does every time I see it - or even think about it.

Later reports filled in that he was still very much struggling for his life.  He "crashed" just before the helicopter arrived and again at the hospital. There are three very real gifts of God when I see the picture. One, that he lived! Two, the miracle that a woman who saw Daniel only once, recognised him in the article and was willing to share that. (We are very thankful to her for that!). Three, that even the though he picture indicates something different, Daniel recalls "calm".  He does not remember panic, pain, or fear ..... just calm.  I cannot explain it other than that the Lord God was with him at the very worst moment in his life.  I trust God will continue to be with him through the rest of the journey.

We share the picture with you today.  We have tried many times and in many ways to contact Time Magazine and the photographer. But, we have been unsuccessful.  We would love to get better quality versions of it and Daniel would love to see other pictures of that day.

The first pictures shows Daniel being carried to the helicopter by members of his unit and the medievac team.  The second shows him moments later being attended to as the flew him to the field hospital.  Both were two-page spreads in the magazine.

From the article:
"Another snapshot from hell, another dusty field. This time it's a Marine being carried on a litter--a young man, both his legs gone, blown off by an IED, the signature weapon of the war. The flight medic works with fierce concentration while the crew chief talks to the Marine, keeping him from passing out so he can help fight for his life as he toughs out the pain."
 
Caption (photo 2): 
"Life Struggle. The injured Marine is treated by crew members. He survived the IED blast but lost both of his legs."

- Dad



You can find the full article at: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2040942,00.html
also http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2041191,00.html

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Danielathlon (June 4, 2011)

Flashback to the Danielathlon (June 4, 2011)


It is thanks to some very good friends of Daniel that the Danielathlon became an idea, grew to an actual event, and was pulled off so successfully. On a lovely sunny day at a park in south Denver many friends, family, and complete strangers gathered to meet and greet Daniel. It was a celebration of him and all that he has accomplished since December 16th. People came from all over the state to even "just drop by" to say hello and shake the hand of this brave young US Marine.

Daniel's story has touched a great deal of lives. Well-wishers and supporters came to partake, even for a small time, of that story by coming to see Daniel, chat with him, and pass on their prayers and support to him and his family. Many of Daniel's friends came to laugh with him. Friends of the Riley family came to wish Daniel and the family well as they venture forth on a new chapter in their lives. There have also been so many people who have only got to know Daniel through this blog - there were plenty of these.

The hardest part, Daniel shared, was that there was not enough time to spend the time he wanted with all who came. A hand shake or hug, a smile, a picture, and a few words were hardly enough to share his story and share his great appreciation for all the prayers and support. But, he would not have given up even that small amount of time for anything! It was precious to him and also to those who got to connect with Daniel, some for the first time.  There was an estimated 350-400 people who came by to wish him well.

It was a day of fun, food (lots of that, especially cupcakes!), and fellowship. It was a memory that will be cherished.

Heartfelt thanks goes to Caitlin Mock, without whom none of it would been possible. Thank you.

to see pictures go to: http://nmphotography.exposuremanager.com/g/danielathlon and put in password "Smiles"

 

Graduation ceremony #1 - Aaron (May 28, 2011)

Flashback to 05-28-2011

Daniel was able to enjoy some leave from the hospital and be back in Colorado for his youngest brother's high school graduation. It was part of a busy and fun-filled Memorial Day Weekend. It was interesting and well deserved to have a significant period of time that was not about Daniel and all about Aaron. Granted, Aaron eventually got tired of it. :) It has been hard over the past few months to have people focussed on something or someone other than Daniel, his injuries, and his recovery. It was a pleasant experience for him to be able to sit back and just enjoy being part of the family, seeing friends, and just relaxing. This all helps to establish the new normal.

Dad

Friday, June 10, 2011

Enough time off and back to work...

After two weeks back in Colorado, I think for the first time ever I was actually anxious and excited to get back from leave. I guess that being able to get up walking again will do that. Not that being back home (sorta??) wasn't great. Started the trip having a chance to see my brother graduate high school and turn 18, in turn just making me feel old. Bookending the trip was Danielathon, which turned out to be a great time. Thanks to Caitlin and all the other that help make it such a good time. It was great seeing everyone, even if i didn't have near enough time to spend individually (next time I guess). Even in the chaos of my family packing up a house around me I managed to relax a little bit.
However once back into San Diego, it was straight back to appointments this week, and a long week it was. Looking forward to a great deal of time walking,with my sockets fitting well, and no other priorities I got my first full week in. Both prosthetics and physical therapy had me doing endless laps in the parallel bars and with solo-step (basically strapping me in a harness and attaching it to the ceiling). I still barely know what i'm doing, and every muscle in my body is burningly sore. Nevertheless it felt unbelievable to be up and working on it. Not that the week was without difficulty, I did manage to have a hell of time going through methadone withdrawals. It is a necessary evil, but definitely a made for a rough week (for evidence ask Aaron or my dad). Of course adding to the pain was watching the Canucks lose Games 3 and 4. But at least the Game 5 win matched my better mood nearing the end of thee week, now if could just forget my body is aching I'd be good.

Everything-Must-Go Garage Sale

This weekend will complete the Riley's move to San Diego. Tomorrow (Sat. June 11th; 7am-2pm) will be the one-day Everything-Must-Go Garage Sale at the house (7613 W. Quarto Ave., Littleton, CO, 80128). Then drop off leftovers to Goodwill and then load a second truck with remaining items going to the apartment in San Diego. We leave Sunday afternoon to drive the 1100+ miles.

We are expecting, and excited about, a special guest that may come by the garage sale and wish us well on our adventure.

We are all exhausted from sorting, packing, and loading. We look forward to being together as a family again.

We are also looking forward to seeing our son, Tristan, who graduates from US Marine bootcamp (at MCRD, San Diego) in a week! on June 17th! Pray for the successful completion of The Crucible this weekend!

Dad

ps - we are moving into a small one-bedroom apartment near Daniel's.
Neil & Julia Riley
2488 Hilton Head Place
Apt 1119
El Cajon, CA
92019
wanderingbutnotlost@msn.com

Thursday, May 26, 2011

9 News

Daniel was interviewed today by a 9 News reporter, Cheryl Preheim.  He was great and spoke very well.  The interview should air on 9 News Denver tomorrow night (Friday, May 27th) at 9:00 and 10:00 as a Memorial Day special report.  Set those DVRs.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back on my feet again!

May 17, 2011 was a HUGE day in Daniel's recovery.  He was back up and walking for the first time since December 16th!  He is now beginning his rehabilitation using his C-legs (computerized legs).

Enough said, here is the video ....



Postscript ... Daniel progressed so well on his first day with these legs they are calling him the new "benchmark."  After many laps back and forth along the bars someone said, "Wow, he's ready to do this with canes."  Another staff member replied, "No one has ever done that on their first time up."  Of course, Daniel heard this and responded, "Get me some canes!" and became the first to ever get up on their C-legs for the first time and walk with just the canes!!  More of this attitude to come.

Daniel's new apartment (May 6, 2011)

On May 6th Daniel began a huge step towards independence and to a "normal" life.  He was handed his keys to his first apartment. 
Daniel receiving keys from Cpt. Fred Gorris (USN. ret), head of VHI

It is in a wonderful apartment complex in the Rancho San Diego area (near El Cajon, CA).  It has many services, stores, and a Starbucks within wheelchair distance and is only a 20-25 minute drive from the hospital.  Through some generous people and Veterans Housing Initiative (VHI) he was given the opportunity to get a one-bedroom apartment and a hugely reduced rate.   VHI also completely furnished it and made sure he had all the supplies the needed - especially in the kitchen where Daniel loves to spend time cooking.
"Hmmm... what to grand cuisine should I make first?
Miso-glazed sea bass and asparagus or ramen noodles?"

It affords him enough room to be on his own and be comfortable (and for dad to have a closet and a sleeper-sofa).  Daniel is very thankful to be out of the hospital barracks (where no one gets healthy again!).

Dad's closet (it took his inner "McGyver" to make it work)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Riley Family Relocating

Dear family and friends,

After a great deal of personal and family reflection (and prayer) Julia and I have discerned that the best thing for Daniel and our family is to relocate to the San Diego area.  This is not something we do lightly or without a measure of sadness.  We made a covenant (a promise) to our children when each were born; that we would do all that we can to support and encourage them - no matter what happens.  This relocation is part of living out the covenant we have made with our children.

We have made the decision for a number of reasons:

(1) Daniel will need support and encouragement for many months to come.  He is likely to be at the Naval Medical Center San Diego until the Summer of 2012.  We go primarily to be there for him.  In the near term he will need help driving him places and some assistance with daily living.  Longer term we will be available for occasional assistance and other encouragement as needed.

(2) We have also found that we have reached the end of our ability to function as a family and be separated.  This "family-via-long-distance thing" has grown old and hard to keep doing.  I have been the sole caregiver for five months without a break.  We want to share the honour of helping out our wounded warrior.

(3) We have also reached a point in our financial situation that demands a change.  I have been without pay since January (my employer, The Bishop and Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, has graciously allowed me unpaid leave until August 1st and has covered our medical insurance during that time). Due to an injury and subsequent surgery to Julia's Achilles tendon she has lost her job at Jefferson County School District working in a school cafeteria.  Up until now we have been able to hold off bankruptcy and due to the generosity of some of our creditors (especially US Bank and Chase/JP Morgan) we should continue to avoid filing.  But, we are now at a place where we cannot continue paying our mortgage. It would not feel right to us to keep living in the place and not paying our obligations.  We will be losing our home.  Therefore, we have put our house up for sale and hope that we get enough to cover the remaining mortgage or we will attempt a "short sale."  Please pray for a buyer! Quickly!

A few other notes:
  • I have communicated briefly with Bishop O'Neill that I will not be returning to my ministry with the people of the Diocese of Colorado and Cathedral Ridge.  After almost 12 years, this was a hard thing to do!   I will miss being part of the exciting future of Cathedral Ridge.
  • Daniel and I will be in Colorado until the Danielathlon (June 4th) and then over the next couple weeks we will get our belongings to San Diego and into storage.  We hope to be all there by Tristan's graduation from marine boot camp (June 16-17).
  • We will be having a BIG garage sale on June 10th and 11th.
  • Due to the gracious financial support of so many we have enough funds to cover the move via U-Haul, rent, and living expenses until the end of the summer. We want to give a special thank you to The Rev. Brooks Keith and the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Vail, who have pulled together people and resources to assist Daniel and our family.  We are also very thankful for the support of our immediate and distant family members. In the meantime, Julia and I will both begin looking for work that helps us cover our expenses and also make sure we are available as needed for Daniel.
  • We have secured a one-bedroom apartment for Julia and I in the same complex as Daniel's new apartment.  Aaron will come with us for the summer and try and find work.  He will live with Daniel  during that time.  Aaron has been accepted, and hopes, to attend the University of Colorado, Boulder, in the Fall.
We really wish we could have told everyone personally.  Unfortunately, this is all moving fast (our house will be up on the market tomorrow) and we need to get things rolling.  We will truly miss living here in Colorado and the dear friends who we have been privileged to get to know over the past 12 years.  We do not know what the future holds.  We are just travelling the path that seems best to us and allows us to be faithful to what we believe is right for us. We rest in God's hands. We ask for your prayers.

in Christ,
Neil Riley

Leave

Daniel will be enjoying two-weeks of leave back in Colorado.  He arrived Saturday and will be there until June 5th.  It will be a busy couple weeks including all the graduation festivities around his youngest brother's high school graduation, an interview for TV news, hanging out at Barnes and Nobles, and the Danielathlon on June 4th.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Danielathlon

Hey everyone. Some good friends of Daniel are setting up a family day of fun and games in celebration and support of Daniel. Those on Facebook can find It under "Danielathlon". It is planned for June 4th at a park in the Littleton area. Stay tuned for details either on Facebook or on this blog.

We look forward to seeing you all.  :)

........  Caitlin said...
Thanks to Daniel and the family for letting me get this crazy idea off the ground!

The 1st annual Danielathlon will be June 4 at Dekoevend Park in Littleton from 11-2. It's called the Danielathlon because it's going to be ten events and games like a triathlon but kicked up a notch! We're going to have soccer goal shoot outs, lawn bowling, shoe kick, water balloons and other awesome competitions- with a prize for the winner of each of course!

The event will be free to attend but donations will be heavily emphasized. We will also be selling hand screen pressed t-shirts, food and having a raffle for some wonderful door prizes.

Please visit facebook.com/danielathlon for more info. We're working on getting a website up and running to be able to register and should have a logo and printed materials in the next two weeks.

I know all of you love Daniel as much as I do so if you are in the Denver area, please come out and show your support. And pass it on to everyone you know!

Caitlin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

#22 Went Better than Expected

Yesterday's surgery went much better than expected. After a quick time in recovery Daniel was up and ready to get out of the hospital and head to his apartment. In fact, he was in a pretty big hurry to get out of there. At first I was wondering, why the urgency. Was he sick of hospitals? Was it the food? Was he tired or hurting? Nope, none of the above. The Vancouver Canuck's playoff hockey game was starting soon. He was lounging at the apartment watching the game with a drink, a salad and a pizza pocket before the first period had competed 5 minutes.

Surgery #22 complete and he is hoping not to have any more. So, one wonders, do these guys get some kind of frequent flyer points for these surgeries? How about one free after each ten surgeries? Or maybe a parting gift after every five? How about an all-expenses paid cruise for four people after you reach 20? Or how about one dollar's worth of travel on Expedia for every stitch? I'm just saying .....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Surgery #22

Well it came as a surprise and a disappointment. Daniel has had to go back into surgery to follow up on some work that was done in surgery #21 (May 2nd). He has gone in today and will go home tonight. It was a real blow to Daniel when he was told this on Monday. But, we are now getting used to the ups and downs.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Finally, some food

Daniel is finally allowed to have some real food (granted, that which is offered by The Rice King can hardly be called "food"). Here he is released for a while off the ward to eat and watch the Canucks game.

No. Really?!?

Yesterday I spent the day cleaning, painting, and helping to prepare Daniel's new apartment. Late that evening, when returning back to the barracks, I texted Daniel to see if he was up for a visit or whether he wanted me to drop by in the morning instead. Daniel was tired and said the next day would be fine.
Julia then said, "Hey, this will be the first day you have not seen Daniel since December 24th".
I replied, "No. Really?!?". Then I thought about it and "Yes, really".
Not too sure what to make of that!

Dad

New Address

Daniel's new address will be:

Daniel Riley
1004 - 2452 Hilton Head Place
El Cajon, CA,
92019

Feeling just plain old miserable

Daniel's surgeries on Monday went well. The colostomy reversal went smoothly and all his pipes have been cleaned out and put back together again. The other procedures took longer than expected, but, turned out better than hoped.

However, he still feels miserable. He went without eating or drinking (even water) from Sunday night until Wednesday. The medical staff finally gave him some juice and chicken broth. He was unable to keep it down. He is trying to have some again today. Needless to say he is very tired and weak and feeling yucky! He still hurts as well and the tv in his room doesn't have the channel with the NHL playoffs. On the bright side, he did get a "Super Patient" sticker from the nurses. We hope he will be discharged soon.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A few changes coming this week.

Today Daniel goes into the hospital to prepare for his surgeries.  After they have been completed and he has healed a bit he will be able to start doing so much more! Regular showers and/or baths, swimming, more and better core exercises, wearing his preferred t-shirts, and a whole lot more.

After he gets out (likely late in the week) he will be moving to his new apartment.  Through the generosity of Capt. Fred Gorris (USN-ret) and the organization he heads up, Veterans Housing Initiative, Daniel has been set up with a nice one-bedroom apartment only a 15-20 minute drive from the hospital.  They have secured the unit for him at a very low cost for up to two years, are helping to furnish it, and offer other support to assist in his healing.  It is near shopping, theaters, Starbucks, grocery stores, etc. (Alas, no bookstore nearby).  This a wonderful opportunity to get back into "normal" life and to get out of the barracks.  The barracks at the hospital are not a place to get healthy.  They are conveniently close to his appointments - but that's all!

I will be staying on his couch and helping out as necessary.  That will involve lots of driving until he gets his car adapted and he has taken the adapted driving training.  Julia is coming out to San Diego today for a few days to see Daniel and help set up his new place - no doubt, adding a mother's touch.

Dad

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Support

For those who wish to help out Daniel here is a way:

** help set up Daniel's new apartment (good news on that coming soon); funds need to arrive by Monday, May 2nd - thanks. (memo note - Daniel Riley)
Veterans Housing Initiative (VHI),  501 W. Broadway, Suite A-306, San Diego, CA, 92101


Thank you!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

PT (Physical Therapy)

One of the constant "appointments" Daniel has each day is PT (Physical Therapy). The work he does there varies greatly. Since the most important muscles that need to be worked to enable him to use the prosthetics are his core muscles (abs, etc) he does lots of exercises and stretching of his core. He also practices walking, balancing, and general fitness. Today included the hand bike while balancing on his stubbies and new sockets. He is now starting to move to two PT times a day as often as possible.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fundraising Breakfast

Some dear friends and neighbours are planning a breakfast in support of Daniel.  He is blessed by the outpouring of care and support. 

LCpl Daniel Riley Support Breakfast
Saturday, April 23rd, 8-11am
Columbine High School - commons room
6201 S. Pierce St., Littleton, Colorado, 80123

For more information feel free to contact Kerry Huntington - huntington57@yahoo.com (he has been Daniel's neighbour and his brothers have hung out with their boys for a number of years)

Donations are still going through:
Daniel Riley Fund
c/o The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration
PO Box 1000
Vail, CO, 81658

Surgery #21 scheduled

Surgery #21 has been scheduled.  FYI - Daniel numbers the surgeries by how many times he was in surgery under general anesthetic.  Not by individual procedures - that would be too hard to keep track of since some of his "surgeries" have had many different procedures, doctors, etc..

He goes into the hospital on Sunday May 1st for surgery the next day.  The main surgery will be the reversal of the colostomy.  Yahoo!!!  We are very grateful that he is a candidate for it - there are many guys who keep it for life.  He is likely to be in the hospital for all week and leave with a wound-vac and catheter. Yuck!  They will "piggy back" a couple other procedures while he is out under the anesthetic.

He has had to do a few procedures and tests before this next time "under the knife."  One of these yesterday was VERY unpleasant.  He had a bad reaction to some medication and it caused him to be in a great deal of pain.  Daniel described his pain level at a 7 or 8 out of 10!  That was the worst pain since back at Bethesda Naval Hospital.  Doing okay now, but it took a lot out of him.  Resting today.

He is already looking forward to his next leave which is planned for the end of May for a couple weeks for Aaron's graduation (May 28th) and the Danielathlon (June 4th).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Road Trip

Arches National Park, Utah

Daniel enjoyed a nice relaxing couple weeks of convalescence leave at the end of March.  It began with a huge welcome by friends, family, and supporters at the Denver International Airport and continued with some quiet and rest for the next two weeks.  His leave concluded with an extended drive back to San Diego.

Daniel bought his new vehicle and was excited to do a road trip. Packing wheelchair, prosthetics, and the personal luggage for Aaron, Daniel, Julia, and Neil in the Land Rover was a challenge.  The further we went on the trip the better and faster we all got at stuffing things in, and on top of, the car.  That being said, it was a nice vehicle for a road trip.  "California, here we come ...."-


The first leg (oops, prosthetic) of the road trip was from home to Moab, Utah; with a stop for tea/coffee with Brooks, Rachel, and Katy Keith in Vail and lunch with Elizabeth in Grand Junction. We arrived into the Moab area in time to do a little driving and sightseeing in Arches National Park. We found a quirky little motel/lodge in Moab to stay in.

The next day was a trek through the eastern deserts Utah and wide expanses of northern Arizona to the Grand Canyon.  A little stop along the way for some pictures allowed for a little off-roading, that kept causing Julia to fear that we would tip over or get stuck.  We enjoyed seeing the Grand Canyon (south rim), especially with the special drives to areas afforded wheelchairs normally only accessible by shuttle busses.  Daniel got close to edges courtesy of his brother carrying him beyond the confines of the paths.  Sunset was pretty, but cold!




Daniel at the edge of the Grand Canyon

Vegas baby! We figured that a couple days wandering around Las Vegas would be fun and fairly easy in a wheelchair.  We were kinda wrong.  This city is not so wheelchair friendly as we had guessed.  While individual hotels (we stayed at the Luxor) were pretty good, getting around The Strip was not as accessible and involved LONG distances between sights.  Too far too travel and too many street crossovers that required the limited and hard to find elevators.  Including one time that he got up and over a street only to find the elevator on the other side to get down out of order.  This affected the level of fun and at times greatly frustrated Daniel as he discovered more of his "new normal". We were also frustrated at the limited (or unavailability) of wheelchair seating at the shows Daniel and Aaron wanted to see.

But, we found ways to have fun, found a show for Aaron and Daniel (Cirque de Solei, Ka, at the MGM), enjoyed some good and plentiful buffets, saw some sights, Daniel enjoyed the poker tables, and we learned to manage the limitations.

After two nights in Sin City we headed off through the deserts towards the coast.  We detoured (Aaron doing much of the driving) through the Mojave Desert, near Twenty-Nine Palms (Ughh!!!), and a quick visit to Joshua Tree National Park.  Neil took over driving and we pushed on through a gorgeous sunset to Anaheim.  After learning about the travails of Vegas we got a hotel across the street from the main gate of Disneyland.

We decided that the best way for us to enjoy Disneyland, not have to rush, and to allow Daniel times to rest, we would visit the place over three days. That was a wise decision.  We could wake up late, go back to the hotel for breaks, take leisurely lunches out of the park, return when we wanted, and rush to hit every ride in a short period of time.  Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure were very wheelchair friendly and compact enough to get around easy enough.  Everyone had a great time and we hope to be back soon.  :-)
Three goofies!

The road trip concluded with a leisurely drive down the southern California coast.  Our last night Julia and Neil were able to get a nice hotel along the waterfront in San Diego while Aaron stayed with Daniel in the barracks.  We all had a really nice time.  We are very thankful to some kind people who gave us some resources and helped made this road trip possible.  Thank you.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pain Wars: The Phantom Menace

Some have asked how Daniel is doing with regards to managing pain. The early phase of just stabilizing him was followed closely by the phase pain management.  Pain can be categorized into two basic groups: surgical pain and Phantom Limb Pain.

Surgical pain is that pain that he experiences much like most of do when we get hurt.  These are nerve and muscle pain that we experience from direct trauma to our body.  This is the easy pain to understand and communicate with others.  You know the kind: a stubbed toe, and broken bone, a torn achilles tendon, the hurt after having surgery, etc.  It varies in intensity and we all handle it in different ways.  Daniel had a great deal of this pain early on.  This is not really an issue any more.  Medication and time have healed most of that pain.  Right now he has it due to his recent ear surgery.  He says it feels like someone shoved a pencil in his ear  - ouch!

The second, and more elusive, group of pain is Phantom Limb Pain. 

Phantom Limb Pain is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb (even an organ, like the appendix) is still attached to the body. Approximately 60 to 80% of individuals with an amputation experience phantom sensations in their amputated limb, and the majority of the sensations are painful. The missing limb often feels shorter and may feel as if it is in a distorted and painful position. Occasionally, the pain can be made worse by stress, anxiety, and weather changes. Phantom limb pain is usually intermittent. The frequency and intensity of attacks usually decline with time.  The introduction and regular use of prosthetics greatly reduces the sensations.

Daniel felt this sensation early on in his recovery and as surgical pain subsided the phantom pains became worse.  He feels it more when stressed and when he is cold.  He rarely feels it with his fingers, but he is in a constant battle with phantom leg pain.  Granted, it is less and more controlled than it has been.  Early on he felt like his legs were continually sticking straight out.  He has said that he pain is sometimes like someone is stabbing a knife into his foot or knee.  Other times it is like putting his foot into a fire.  It is a constant nagging companion that sometimes spikes into an unbearable menace.

There is no easy answer or remedy for the kinds of pain Daniel has dealt with over the past few months.  Phantom pains are treated in many different ways.  Drugs are one way to control it.  That usually entails a mixture of different kinds and levels of medications.  The concoction varies from person to person.  For one Percocet is an important drug, for others it may Methadone, Oxycoton, Pamelor, Morphene, or Lyrica.  More than likely it is a combination of these.  Daniel is past the Dilaudid and Ketamine stage (two VERY powerful drugs) and is slowly lowering his need for his combination of other drugs.

Beyond drugs there are a whole variety of other remedies that have varying levels of effectiveness.
Here are a few ….
·         Tapping and rubbing the ends of the limbs. (sometimes gives Daniel some relief)
·         Acupuncture. (Didn’t work at all for Daniel and only made him look “bedazzled”)
·         Silver or other metal fibers in his “shrinkers” (the socks he wears on the end of his limbs).  (Unsure whether this has helped or not)
·         Pulsed Radio Frequency Ablation- this is a procedure done through the pain clinic here at the hospital (in fact this procedure is done only here in the entire country by the two doctors treating Daniel).  It basically involves probing via long needles the ends of his legs to find and “zap” the nerve endings that are triggering the phantom pain.  If this procedure is done well (actually tapping into the right nerves, which is hard due to the extreme trauma in his legs) it works extremely well.  He had this procedure done earlier this week on his left leg (the worse of his two) and he has little spiking in his phantom pain right now.  In Daniel’s words, “It basically numbs it so it won’t flare up.”
·         Mirror Therapy - Daniel places a mirror near him and looks at another’s legs in place of his and his brain somehow sees it as his own and lowers the pain.  Sometimes just rubbing another person’s foot helps out.  We really don’t understand this.  But, it really does work.  He uses it less now, but at times it was a great way to bridge the gap between the spike in pain and medication taking over.  We thank the Dr. Cindy Bukach (University of Richmond, Cognitive Psychology) for first introducing us to it and Lynn Boulanger (Naval Medical Center, San Diego; Occupational Therapy) for helping us to figure out how to do it.  (pictured below is Daniel doing mirror therapy with the help of his brother, Tristan)




Please continue to pray for Daniel’s recovery and eventual end to his pain.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Surgery #20 - Tympanoplasty

Daniel's surgery yesterday went well - better than expected.  His ear surgery (Tympanoplasty) was to repair the left ear drum that had a hole in it that was caused by the IED blast.  He had lost about half his hearing on the left side.  The surgeons removed some tissue from just behind the outside of his ear and used it to "patch" the ear drum.  To gain access to the ear canal there was a chance that they would have to make an incision behind his ear and fold forward his ear.  Fortunately, they were able to do the procedure through the ear canal.  We should know in a couple weeks to what extent the surgery was successful.  The surgery took a couple hours and then a few hours recovering from being put under.  He has some pain - he said it was like someone had stuck a pencil in his ear), but it is being managed.

Today - main thing on the schedule is a procedure at radiology to look things over inside before they set a date for the colostomy reversal.  He is not up to doing PT today (don't blame him).

He was cheered up a bit by getting a letter from Tristan.  He smiles as he thinks about the fact that Tristan is just down the road at bootcamp - feeling just as miserable!  Brotherly love???!!???

Dad

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Back into the routine

Daniel is back into the routine in San Diego. His mother and brother (Aaron) left late last night to back home. Yesterday was full of appointments and getting a better picture of what the next few weeks will hold. It is going to be a rough next few weeks. He has at least three different surgeries to go through (gets him to 21). Included in the surgeries will the reversal of the colostomy. This is a really good thing. Unfortunately, he will be in the hospital as an impatient for about a week and then be out with a catheter and maybe even a "wound vac" for some time afterwards. He is in surgery today for a repair procedure with his left ear.

Recruit Riley

Daniel is back in San Diego and his brother, Tristan, is only a couple miles away (but a world away) at Marine boot camp. It is feels odd to be so very close, yet so very far away! Daniel has had a couple pieces of mail from him. Of course, due to his hand writing, it is almost illegible! :-) But, it is the thought that counts. Tristan says that it is really hard, but he likes the food! Feel free to write Tristan and encourage him:

Recruit Riley, Tristan, N.R.
2nd Bn, Echo Co, Plt. 2103
38001 Midway Ave,
San Diego, CA, 92140-2103

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Disneyland

With the ups and downs (and limitations) of being in Disneyland in a wheelchair Daniel still finds a way to make the best of his situation - creating his own ride!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Heading out on the road

Hey everyone. Just a quick update. After a quiet and low key time back in Colorado, Daniel is on the road back to San Diego. He is travelling in his new vehicle with mum, dad, and brother (Aaron) and making a few stops along the way. We will keep you all up to date on the trip. Should be back at the hospital April 2nd.

Dad

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 16, 2011 - Three Month Mark

December 16, 2011 to March 16, 2011 - Daniel has got to the three-month mark from his injuries!

It has been three months now and we are so very proud of all that he has accomplished since that day in December. He has recovered faster than medical personnel, family, or friends had even hoped.  He is a determined young man with a big heart, keen mind, and deep spirit.  These have helped greatly in his healing.   We are grateful to the Lord, our family, friends, and the now greatly increased support network around us.

Way to go, Daniel!

Mum and Dad

Here he is on on his three-month "anniversary" taking a little walk around the neighbourhood with his brother, Tristan, and sister, Elizabeth.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Back Home.

Finally made it back to Colorado yesterday (only 186 days, 4 countries, 3 states, 7 Hospitals, 19 Surgeries if any one is keeping track)!!

It was great to be able to fly home to such a welcome. Greeting me at the airport were not only my family but 200 other friends and supporters. Even the local news was there and put a piece on that night. The welcome was more than I could have ever imagined and have to thank everyone who was there, especially the Patriot Guard Riders (a group of veteran bikers) that escorted me all the way home from the airport. Over the next couple weeks I will have a chance to rest and relax for a bit. Just being away for a hospital has been good enough, although I could trade for San Diego's weather.

Daniel

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Coming home

Daniel has been approved for some leave - a couple weeks of rest away from the hospital environment. Yah! He will coming back home for the first time this Saturday!

Saturday, March 12th - United 0342; arrive Denver International Airport 2:50pm

Come to DIA and welcome him home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Walking!

March 3rd marked a huge milestone in Daniel's recovery ..... up and walking for the first time.  Yah!



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Set For His Stubbies

Daniel got "casted" for his prosthetics yesterday.  A member of the prosthetics team (Peter) put plaster on his legs.  The plaster casts were removed, hardened, and will become the basis for his first set of sockets for his prosthetic legs.


The next step for Daniel is to get up in his "stubbies".  These are short "legs" put on the ends of the sockets that he then sets himself into and does his first walking.  The first stage with the stubbies is to get him familiar with the motion needed to walk and to make sure the sockets are fitting well (making adjustments as needed).

He gets up on his stubbies tomorrow - REALLY EXCITING!

Stay tuned ... I'm hoping to get video of this and then post it here.

An "Average" Day

It is hard to imagine an "average" day.  It is even harder to imagine a "normal" day.  We are constantly reminded throughout every day that what we see and experience is anything but "normal".  Daniel comments often how we are now in the midst of a new "normal".  Regardless, I thought it might be helpful for you all to have an example of an average day.

0545 - Dad wakes up
0600 - Daniel gets up and is given his first round of medications
0715 - Be at "formation" with the other marines here in the building (some are here from other bases with a variety of ills) to meet with the squad leader and getting any "word" on anything.
0830 - first appointment of the day (usually primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, etc.)
0900 - check in with Medical Case Manager
0930 - get a coffee (Dad gets his tea) at the outdoor coffee stand
1000 - appointment (perhaps with Occupational Therapy for 30-45 minutes)
1100 - appointment (could be prosthetics, wound care, otolaryngology)
1200-ish - lunch and hopefully a nap or go see the Recovery Care Coordinator
1330 - Physical Therapy appointment (working out in their gym - especially core exercises)
1500 - afternoon formation
1600 - doing errands, maybe napping, other meetings, or recreation therapy
1800 - dinner (Dad and Daniel will be sharing the cooking) then free time reading, computer, TV, or the Liberty Center
2100 - Evening Meds
2200 - final meds and bed time (exhausted!!)

Daniel generally get himself around in his powered wheelchair with dad trying to keep up behind him.  When we leave the base Daniel transfers to a manual wheelchair.  He hopes to get his own custom manual one in April.

We live in the "barracks" here at the facility.  It can be equated to college dorm rooms. The two of us have our own rooms and share a bathroom and common space with fridge, sink, cupboards, and microwave.

Dad

Today's mail

Hey everyone.  Thanks for the mail that you have been sending Daniel. He loves getting it.  Today was a good candy day - a box arrived from the Huntington's in Littleton with some great cookies, candies, and letters; also got some Roger's Chocolates (yummmy, thanks Lynne and Joyce).

Daniel also pointed out that he loves the Swedish Fish candy partly because they are made in Canada.  =)

Just an FYI - the mail that arrived today into his eager hands were all sent from the 23rd to the 25th of February.

Dad

Danielathlon

Hey everyone. Some good friends of Daniel are setting up a family day of fun and games in celebration and support of Daniel. Those on Facebook can find It under "Danielathlon". It is planned for June 4th at a park in the Littleton area. Stay tuned for details either on Facebook or on this blog.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sorry about the time delay

Hey everyone.  Sorry for the time delay in the blog posts.  I hope to use this holiday long weekend to get closer to being caught up.  We have been incredibly busy the past couple weeks and have not had much time to write (or even think).

As you will see .... we are in San Diego, Daniel is an now an outpatient, we are settling in to our rooms in the barracks, we enjoyed some sunny weather and a visit to the beach, and Daniel is generally doing okay.  We have had a couple bad points, but slowly progressing.  Daniel is also hoping to get some convalescence leave in March.  This will enable some much needed rest at home in Colorado!  Stay tuned for details.

Thanks for all your prayers, support, and patience.

- Daniel's NMA (non-medical assistant) and dad

The Ordeal

February 1-3, 2011 - There was no way to have prepared for the ordeal we were about to endure.  In our wildest dreams - or nightmares - we could not have imagined the two days it took to get to San Diego from the Washington, DC, area.  Please bear with the length of this story - believe me, living it was longer and harder!

The journey actually had it's start the day before. Daniel was all set on the manifest to be on the flight. All looked good. Then one observant person (Sgt. Liniez) noticed that I had not been included in the flight orders.  They started to say that they would send me on a commercial flight and meet up with Daniel in San Diego. I made it very clear, "Get this fixed!"  After some rear-ends were kicked (I think Sgt. Liniez enjoyed it) and some higher-ups got involved the issue was eventually sorted out.  I think some medical staff and some administrative-types got a very serious talking to.  After the journey was done it was clear that Daniel could not have done it without some help and someone with him.

We would not know the route we would take, the type of aircraft, or the length of the trip until just before we were to get to the flight line.  So, this could be a 10-12 hour trip or a 48-60 hour ordeal.  The latter would be our fate.

The day started with a walk with two suitcases and a carry-on from the Navy Lodge to Daniel's room at 4:15am.  We readied our luggage and the boxes and bags of Daniel's medical items (medical records, supplies, medications, etc.). Daniel was strapped down on a stretcher and eventually placed with some others into a hospital bus.  One of the other amputee wounded warriors we had got to know, Tommy Parker, and his mother were also on the trip with us.  The navy logistics officer for the med-evacs (who was awesome), Lt. Reccardi, told the bus driver, "Bells and whistles, please."  The lights and sirens went on and we started our drive to Andrews Airforce Base.  Rush hour traffic along the DC Beltway, at 65 miles per hour, with everyone getting out of our way and taking notice was, as Reccardi put it, "the least that these heroes deserved".

After a weather related delay, we finally arrived at 9:00am on the flight line to be loaded on to the C-17.  At this point there was some excitement about doing this trip.  Believe me, the novelty wore off real fast!  Daniel's stretcher was placed up on a rack and I was shown to a sideways facing "jumpseat" (so named, I think, because after a couple of hours people would rather jump out of the plane without a parachute than continue sitting on these instruments of torture).  We were told our route: Andrews Airforce Base, somewhere in Louisiana, somewhere in Texas, Travis Airforce Base near San Francisco, and overnight stay there, the next day up to a base in Washington State, then back down to Miramar (San Diego).  Fifteen hours of flight time today and eight to ten hours of flight time the next day.  All the flight time I was to be in a jumpseat and Daniel strapped down in a stretcher. OMG!

To make a long story short (too late, I know): the constant take-offs and landings, the back-and-forth of cold and hot, the lack of food (One boxed meal for the entire trip and I had a really really sore throat and couldn't eat), the noise, the shaking, Daniel's pain and anxiety rising, and his pain meds not given on time made the 15-HOUR flight miserable! We finally arrived at Travis Airforce Base at 9:30pm, westcoast time (15 hours after taking off from the east coast).

Daniel was exhausted, hungry, and hurting.  I was exhausted, hungry, and hurting.  After all that we had gone through we were astonished to learn that Tommy and Daniel, the two non-ambulatory patients, along with the two parents, were going to have to share a room.  They brought the two gurneys up the floor and we waited outside the room for it to be made ready to bring in the gurneys in.  A nurse stepped out, obviously frustrated that she had to make the changes in the room loudly said, "Can't these two just get out and walk to their beds."  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We were all so tired we all just had a good belly laugh. But, our confidence in this place for these seriously wounded marines sank below the floor.  The nurse ended up being Daniel's.  After pleading for getting some pain meds (which were now three hours late) and after some time, she finally comes in she brings a medicine cup full of pills, held them out to him, and said, "Here are your meds."  Daniel and I were in shock.  We were in a new hospital. The nurse had obviously not properly looked at his chart to see that he was an amputee. She didn't tell him what the medications were. We had no way of knowing if they were correct.  We knew that this was against any known hospital policy.  Obviously angry and hurting Daniel kept his composure and just firmly said, "Maam, take these away and come back with the meds and do this properly."  The look on his face, and mine, made it clear that he was serious.  Add to all this: the two parents had to sleep in chairs, they had no food for us (we had not eaten for 12 hours), no doctor came and saw them, they didn't have the equipment or know how to care for urgent/acute/trauma cases, a corpsman said he could help change Daniel's colostomy but didn't have any idea what to do, and no one would look at or treat my extremely sore throat.

After finally settling the boys down I tried to get some sleep.  Not able to sleep, at 2:00am I went down to the emergency room to have my throat looked at.  Go figure ..... had acute strep throat.  I was given some motrin, some throat lozenges, and a shot in the butt of penicillin (the size and consistency of a tablespoon of chunky peanut butter).

The next day, after I had complained about the treatment these young men received, each of the guys was assigned an airforce personnel to be there for them.  They also were assigned better staff (two nurses each) to care for them and they took down a report on all that had happened (there was a bunch of other stuff too - including a hospital cafeteria that was not wheelchair friendly!).  The base leadership did a good job of trying to make things right.  A phone call and apology from the base commander a couple days later was also appreciated.

They got them ready for a noon flight that was to go to Washington state and then back down to Miramar.  We got on the flight line and right up to the plane.  It didn't take too much brain power to figure out that the closed doors on the plane, the lack of any visible flight crew, the scaffolding placed under the wing, a maintenance crew talking and pointing up at the wing, and the confused look on the transport nurse's face, were all saying that someone forgot to tell us that the plane was not able to fly today and we were spending another day at this hell-hole!  We puttered around the hospital for the day and the next morning.  Daniel ate a lot, I still couldn't.

The next day we got to the flight line, the C-17 was ready, and they decided to fly straight to Miramar (especially after our ordeal and the fact that 12 injured men were heading to San Diego and only one to Washington).  This trip was only about an hour.  When we arrived in Miramar the signal was given that before the plane was to be unloaded some "brass" was coming to welcome the guys.  We stopped and in walked two priests, a rabbi, and two sargeant-majors.  - that last sentence begs for a joke to be made :-)

It took 55 horrible hours to get these brave young men from the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda to the Naval Medical Center, San Diego.  That just doesn't seem right!  But we made it, and Daniel is sure to never give one of his sons the name Travis.

Dad

Flashback - reality is a b****

Monday, January 31, 2011 - Saying goodbye to all the helpful and encouraging staff at Bethesda Naval Hospital was hard and emotional.  But, it is even harder to keep doing it over and over again. The scheduled med-evac to California was cancelled again! Hopefully tomorrow.  After the successful trip yesterday, Daniel thought it might be an opportunity to go out of the hospital and grab a bite to eat and watch a movie.

It was a bitterly cold day, with some rain and snow.  We headed off to the DC Metro to go from the hospital into Bethesda proper.  We got on the metro and arrived at the Bethesda station where we found that the elevator was not working.  The longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere was not going to be any help to a wheelchair-bound person.  We were told to go back to the station we came from and take the bus to here.  After making the trip back (made more difficult by our metro passes not working properly and security guards who were in too much of a rush to finish their shift or have their donut break to hold the elevator for Daniel) we located the bus, waited, got on, and realized that we were told the wrong bus number.  Fortunately we found out before it went anywhere.

With no possibility of making the movie, completely frustrated, cold, and hungry we bailed on the adventure and got McDonald's and went back to the room. Daniel napped the rest of the afternoon.  The reality of wheel-chair life hit home - hard!

Flashback - A night on the town

Sunday, January 30, 2011 - In anticipation that this would be the last night in Washington, DC, Daniel wanted a night out on the town - of course, we did not know at the time that the Monday med-evac flight would be cancelled.  He was given a pass for the day and all the appropriate medicine.  Rather than trying to drive and find parking he decided it was easiest, more adventurous, and more normal to take the DC Metro (subway). Plans included a museum visit, dinner at something other than McDonald's or Dunkin Donuts, and a look around downtown.

The ride on the subway was a good adventure.  While Daniel had to negotiate it all in a powered wheelchair all went pretty smoothly.  The hardest thing was deciding where to park the wheelchair on the subway.  The only room was in front of the doors and we never knew which side of the car the doors were going to open at each stop.  Therefore, he was sometimes just plain in the way.  He kind of yo-yo'd back and forth.  Travelling around town also went well and included a Starbucks stop, of course.

The museum he chose was the "Newseum".  This place has a facinating approach to looking at major historical events.  It looks at an event, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or Hurricane Katrina, through the journalistic eyes of the media (TV, Newspaper, radio).  For most major historical events it is really how most of us experience what is going on. It also included significant artifacts such as a large piece of the Berlin Wall and a room dedicated to Pulitzer Prize winning photographs. We would highly recommend it. 

For dinner it was off to a spanish tapa restaurant, Jaleo, near the museum.  We enjoyed a good table, attentive staff, and wonderful food.  Daniel even got a table-side visit, conversation, and signed book from the head chef.  As a foodie, Daniel was very impressed.

Then it was time for a roll around town that included seeing some of the significant buildings (i.e. the White House) and doing some shopping for clothes.



All in all a good day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Address

LCpl Daniel Riley,
C\o Wounded Warrior Det,
Building 26,
Naval Medical Center San Diego,
34425 Farenholt Avenue,
San Diego, CA
92134.

(will get there Monday)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Visitors that put a smile on the guys!


Saturday, January 29, 2011 - With a fresh cup of tea in hand, I arrived back on the ward to an interesting hive of buzz. The male corpsmen were gathered near the nurses station and were all smiles and whispering to themselves. The female nurses and corpsmen were in groups of two or three shaking their heads and rolling their eyes. The gossip and chatter was thick in the air.

Something was happening on the floor. It was certainly a different vibe than when visitors were in the hospital from NCIS, military brass, or high-ranking politicians. Daniel didn't know what was up and he had not had any visitors while I was out of the room.
After a few minutes there was a knock on the door and in came someone who asked, "Are you up to having a visitor?"

"Sure," said Daniel. He then looked and asked quizically, "Who is it?"

"Miss America." was the response.

Daniel turned to me with a huge smile on his face. I sighed and rolled my eyes. These guys have had visits from generals, admirals, congressmen, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, friends, chaplains, and family; but, none got this kind of response and buzz around the ward.
It was a nice visit. The guys all loved it (these red-blooded Americans and Canadian boys certainly did). But, was slightly tempered when they found out she was only 17! ;-)

Dad

Hockey Night in Bethesda


Friday, January 14, 2011 - Aaron was able to fly back for the long weekend and spend some time with his brother. It was a wonderful visit and included an evening of watching the Vancouver Canucks play just down the road against Washington.


Burgers, fries, ice cream, and hockey. Ahhhhhh ..... (and the Canucks won! More ammunition to trash talk with Christie - his Capitals-fan occupational therapist).


First time out!



Friday. January 28, 2011 - As we anticipated heading to California the next morning, we took advantage of a evening out sponsored by the hospital and some benevelant organizations. This is a trip out for dinner that happens every Friday night. This was the first one Daniel felt well enough to spend a great of deal of time out of the hospital.
With a group of other wounded warriors and their families we trekked off in a large bus to downtown Washington. It was truly an adventure to be able to get out and see the world outside the hospital and Afghanistan. At the same time, there was a little bit of anxiety.
We were being hosted at the National Pres Club - a club for the "who's who" of journalism, politics, and entertainment. We enjoyed a steak dinner with each other and some of the Physical Therapy crew (these ladies and the others back at the hospital were awesome and very encouraging). The food was good, the company great, and it was just wonderful to get out. The only downer .... finding out that the Saturday med-evac flight had been cancelled. Oh well, hopefully Monday.


(Pictured - Molly, Daniel, and Sarah)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

California, here we come.

California, here we come. (with a couple stops and an overnight at one base).



Monday, January 31, 2011

Hurry up, and wait.

We are still waiting for a med-evac flight to San Diego. Hopefully some time this week.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Next Steps

Greetings everyone. We just wanted to let you know some of the next steps for Daniel (and I). These are becoming clearer as time progresses. As you have read, Daniel has chosen to do his lengthy rehabilitation at San Diego Naval Hospital (Balboa). Given the cold and snowy weather a change to a warmer climate certainly suits me.

He will fly via an air force med-evac flight that could take anywhere between 10 to 36 hours depending on how many stops along the way. Since flight plans are classified we won't know how long it will take until we are getting on the plane (likely a C-135 or C-17). He will then end up at the hospital and be an inpatient for a bit of time (anywhere between a few days to a couple weeks) to assess him, prepare him to be wheelchair safe, train me how to assist, and make sure he is medically able to move to the outpatient mode.

Once he is an outpatient he will begin his routine for continued healing and rehabilitation. Eventually he will be working on adapting to prosthetic legs and maybe a hand prosthetics. He will also receive other services to prepare him for either a return to active duty or transition into civilian life. During this outpatient stage he remains a US Marine and will be under the Wounded Warrior Regiment. His initial housing will be within the confines of the hospital property until (and if) suitable and affordable housing is found "off-base".

The first six months will be pretty intensive. To help manage the outpatient rehabilitation stage Daniel will need, and is required, to have a Non-Medical Assistant (NMA). The NMA will live with Daniel, assist in daily living, help assure safety, and act as his personal assistant. After much prayer, discussion, and soul searching Daniel and the family has discerned that the right person for this role will be me. I will transition with Daniel to San Diego, then to his outpatient stage. This a huge decision. But, this decision was actually made 25 years ago. This decision is something I agree to do when I become a parent - for our family there really is no other choice. This is what it means to be family.

Julia and I (and our children) know that this will mean a great deal of sacrifice and we do not fully see what this means for us all. But, we are confident that the decision is the right one and that the Lord God will be there for us. It does not mean that we are not scared. I do not doubt that Abraham left his home to an unknown place without a measure fear. I am sure that Moses (with all due respect to Cecille B DeMill and Charlton Heston) moved ahead with more than just a little anxiety when following the path chosen for him. I do not dare to compare myself to them - that is sheer foolishness. But, I am confident there are many many witnesses to trusting God in the midst of the unknown that are never recorded in Scripture or spoke about in coffee houses.

I have sought advice and a week ago I informed my work (The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and Cathedral Ridge) that I will need to take advantage of the provisions of the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for families of combat-related injured servicemen. This allows me 26 weeks of un-paid leave from my job (starting Monday), continued medical insurance coverage during that time, and my job (or one of equivilent seniority) when I return. I am still waiting a formal response from the bishop and the diocese.

Daniel is doing okay. Some ups and downs throughout the last week, but always progressing towards healing and restoration. He is unplugged from all the tubes, getting around more in his wheelchair, and looking forward to the next stage. Daniel and I are also almost finished watching the most recent season of The Amazing Race. We both really enjoy the show and, God willing, plan to get on the show and race around the world (& win!).

Thanks again for all the mail, care packages, prayers, and support. Please continue to pray for Daniel and for Julia (still healing from surgery), Tristan (going to Marine boot camp in April), Aaron (graduating high school this year), Elizabeth & Justin. We will need your prayers over the next few months.

Neil (Dad)