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.

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)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Heading West



Hello everybody, Daniel here again. The last couple of days have been better and I certainly more mobile, see picture. I have more freedom around the hoispital, unfortunately it extends only within the bounds of the hospital. But, I still managed to get outside and bear the DC cold and roam around. I am also excited to be unplugged from all my IV's.

This week will mark a change in my treatment - I'll be heading to sunny and warm San Diego. I'll be at my rehab learing how to walk, run, jump, and climb again. I will be travelling via a military med-evac - still don't know which day, but probably within the next seven days - i don't know when (typical Marine Corps). My dad will be flying with me and staying in San Diego as well. San Diego will be my new home for maybe a year and a half or so. I'll first be in a hospital bed and then hopefully soon i'll be out of the hoispital and have much more freedom.

Thanks for the continuing support. As I will be moving soon do not send any more mail to Bethesda. For now you can contact me by email (danielcwriley@gmail.com ).

I am happy to move on and i'll update you more when i am on the otherside.

Daniel

Friday, January 21, 2011

Little steps forward

A few little steps forward that clear the way to the next phase ....

- pain management doing well. Still some constant pain and tough to handle spikes in pain. But generally more manageable.
- off the Ketamine.
- off IV Dilaudid.
- off all continuous IV's
- all "wound vacs" gone
- central line removed
- fractures on left arm healing, but still not able to bear weight.

Decision on next location should be done on Monday. Enjoyed lots of mail, Colorado Avalanche "swag", visitors, a couple massages, and watching last season's Amazing Race with dad.

Dad

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Do i need to use a sarcasm sign?"

------

The other day, after Daniel received a dose of a mild sedative ....

"Hello, what is your name?" asked the nursing staff.
"Jose," replied Daniel. The nurses looked puzzled.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Sun tanning on a beach. Why are you bothering me?". The nurses looked worried and concerned that something was going wrong. I looked over and saw Daniel's face and noticed the very small and subtle smirk.

-------

Daniel received a little bag of homemade chocolate-chip cookies and was chowing down on them.
"Daniel, I'd love one of those cookies," I asked softly.
With a raised eye brow and a smirk, "Yes, and I would like to get up and walk right now."

("bazzinga!"
-------

Yes, we have a sick sense of humour.

=D

The journey continues

Daniel is fully aware that this journey will be long and that it will involve some rising and some easing of the path. This is not a straight, or fully mapped out, trail he is travelling. So, this last week, while not unexpected, was a hard one.

He had a pretty good weekend. He enjoyed some rest, sleep, good times with visitors and friends, enjoyed seeing his brother (Aaron), getting around in his wheelchair, watching the Vancouver Canucks beat the Washington Capitals, and eating some food. He also received a wad of mail. He was excited to read cards and letters from so many of you. He was very thankful and emotional. Some from people he had not heard from in a very very long time. Aaron also brought a really cool, and large, sheet of paper with get well wishes for Daniel from the students and staff of Aaron's school, D'Evelyn Jr./Sr. High School. Thank you for all the support.

A parcel from the Vancouver Canucks organization was a real joy. He received an autographed Daniel Sedin jersey. The Canucks played here on Friday and were hoping to all drop by and visit him; but, their flights did not allow for it. a big "thank you" to the Canuck organization. Meanwhile, we are also thankful to the Colorado Avalache organization (and the sister of a coworker of mine) who scored Daniel's brothers tickets to the Avalanche game tonight versus the Vancouver Canucks.

That was after a few really tough days and nights. Those in the medical field could have picked up from the last post what he was dealing with. As he was being weaned from one medication (Ketamine) they were increasing another (Dilaudid) to compensate. An unfortunate side-effect was an ileus (basically the digestive system shuts down). This was painful and the remedy seemed just as bad as the problem. It has been worked out. He hated the three days of NPO (no food or liquid by mouth) and the NG tube. He REALLY did not like the delay in removing the NG tube. Finally, after a one-on-one "assertive and very clear conversation" with his doctor it was removed. He REALLY enjoyed the Chipotle burrito when it was over.

Today he also is going back into surgery for some work and clean up on his right leg. A bit of a set back.

He is still really wrestling with his big decision: where he wants to go for his long rehabilitation phase. There are so many factors to weigh and it is not always easy to get the information he needs. It is tough. We had three of us on computers trying to get information on housing options at the three possible locations - couldn't find anything. He keeps saying, "This isn't the Marine Corps that I know .... No one ever gets to choose where they go! But, the lack of good information is the Marine Corps I know!" The choice has to do with looking at facilities, housing options, available support of family and friends, medical care, opportunities for education or internships, climate, cost of living, and where he wants to live for a couple years. Of course, what also makes it difficult is that pre-injury he wouldn't have chosen any of the three options. So ..... Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, DC; Brooke Army Hospital (Center for the Intrepid), San Antonio, TX; or San Diego Naval Hospital (Balboa), San Diego, CA. All options far from home. Stay tuned.


- Dad

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Alex, I'll take medical mayhem for 400"

Oh, the vocabulary you learn with an extended stay in a hospital! I thought I learned a lot of medical jargon when Tristan was in the hospital a few years back. I thought i was confident in hospital vocab after the delivery of our four children. I thought I had mastered the basic lingo by the end of my stay in the hospital a couple years ago. But, no way. With each new experience comes a whole new set of scrabble words. I also think I'm getting close to answering at least a few of the $200/$400 questions in Jeopardy.

Just a few things I've learned.....
- A "bolus" is not a taunt by a rival bowling gang.
- what idiot, with the name "Foley", would allow his name be remembered and hated by so many.
- after the doctor refers to an "ileus" it is best not to say that you remember reading that in your college Classics class.
- being in Washington, DC, is no excuse for confusing an NPO with an NGO.
- one looks stupid when the doc refers to a drug (Ketamine) and one responds, "Yes, my kitty was sometimes mean."
- an order to aspirate is not saying that the patient had to chew their Bayer aspirin.
- The central line is not part of the DC Metro
- "NMDA-antagonists" are not a new terrorist organization.
- I'm not even going to guess how the "NG" tube gets its name.

(there are times you can choose to cry or smile - at the moment, smile, especially after an "all-nighter" working through some of the above)

Neil =)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Three steps forward, two steps back

The last couple days have seen some trade offs and ups-and-downs in his treatment and healing. Some of the steps forward were the lowering, and even removal, of some of his pain medications, the removal of his epidural, and some advancements in his early rehab. The other day, he was out of bed and in his powered wheelchair moving around the floor. He has been to physical therapy a couple times.
The trade off was some steps back. He has been worn out by everything going on and feels a little overwhelmed, and even pressured at times, by the medical, military and rehab staff. This has been frustrating for both of us. He has also had significant pain as new pain management plans are put in place. A number of other complications have arisen as well. They have had to put him back on some of the pain medications that they had weaned him off.
He described most of today as not the worst day, but the most miserable day - all the various pains, complications, and issues were hard to handle and made for a miserable day.
He has needed a great deal of care the last couple days - sorry for the lack of updates. But, he is sleeping now!

He did have a wonderful visit last night from a navy seal double amputee (both above the knee) that is nearby at Walter Reed hospital doing his outpatient rehab. The guy - his name is Daniel - walked in wearing shorts to allow our Daniel to see his progress. It was inspiring and Daniel got to ask a lot of questions. They spent over an hour together - just the two of them.

An interesting morning yesterday. It seems that the doctors do their rounds with the medical students each morning at about 6:00am. That means that the students come by the rooms and wake the patients starting about 5:00am to prepare for what they have to present during their rounds. This can be annoying as ortho, pain management, urology, surgical, etc. teams keep waking Daniel up. He said to me the night before that he really wanted and needed some sleep. So, yesterday morning I walked from the hotel to the hospital (only 2 miles) at 4:15am through the new snow and ice (and 19 degrees F) and set myself up in a chair in front of his door and was on guard duty. I survived the constant barrage of people trying to see him. I figured if Daniel could stand post in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan with a weapon I could sit in a chair in a hospital in Maryland with a cup of tea. Daniel got to sleep until 6:45am when the nurses and corpsmen had a shift change. I told him, as I headed home that night about 10:30pm, that I was not as tough and young enough and I was not doing that very often. :-)

- This morning I had a nice tea and bagel with Congressman Mike Coffman. A good man. He brought Daniel some wonderful books to read when he is ready.
- Still undecided where he will go next for his lengthy (about 18 months) rehab.
- Daniel excited to get some mail today - from the Vancouver Canucks! Cool.
- He looking forward to a weekend visit from his brother, Aaron.

Dad

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hello and thanks

Hello Everyone. This has been my first real opportunity to post something. First off thank you for all the thoughts and prayers, the suppport friends and family have given is great, I wish I could thank everyone indivdually, but time/pain/drugs/etc don't allow for that.
As for me I am doing as good as you can be after finding an IED the hard way. The medical team here has done a good job of keeping my wounds healthy and as painless as possible. The major obstacle right now (which i think my dad mentioned ) is the phantom pains in my "legs". It is just a little crazy to hurting in you feet and knowing: "wait a second I don't have feet anymore". Yesterday the pain made for a really rough day but today it seems to be better. At least I'm doing well enough to write this, but on the other hand really need to get some sleep (but that is probably me just being lazy) Hopefullly everything continues to do go well.

Daniel

Friday, January 7, 2011

Worst day for pain so far!

Today was a really rough day. Daniel said that it was the worst day for pain since getting back to the US. The pain is primarily Phantom Limb Pain. He was already tired and then he had to muster all remaining energy to manage the pain. This is difficult and tricky pain to manage; medically and mentally. They are doing their best and seem to have it basically under control this evening. He is finally getting some well deserved and needed sleep.

The long and winding road

Daniel is on the next part of the long and winding road of recovery.  It will be a long (and lifelong) path towards the healing of body, mind, and spirit.  It is certainly winding. He has limited ability to see what is just around the bend in the path.

The last couple days and evenings have been pretty rough.  But, he has some periods of relative comfort and has enjoyed some visitors.  These visitors have lifted his spirits and helped him not feel isolated.

But, there is a contant battle against pain.  The pain management is the biggest immediate issue.  While "surgical" and wound pains are generally kept in check, the Phantom Limb Pain is the most significant concern.  He describes this pain as being the feeling of someone putting burning coals on his feet or someone smashing his knees with a sledge hammer.  This is very real pain and not unexpected. It will be a while before these subside.  At the moment they are primarily handling it with drugs.  They are moving forward on other drug free methods of helping ease that pain.  The goal is comfort and sleep.

Every day brings a series of good and bad news.  Yesterday we were happy to hear that they have basically closed up all the wounds and he will not need to go back in to surgery until Monday.  We were sad to see and hear about the wounds to his left hand.  While the index finger and thumb work fine (very good and miraculous) they had to reconstruct his hand and that he has lost the lowest knuckles of his other three fingers. If you were to look at the palm of your own left hand, his ends at the top large crease.

The long road.  Daniel will likely spend the next 3-4 weeks here at Bethesda Naval Hospital.  He then chooses the next location for his rehabilitation (Walter Reed hospital here in Bethesda, MD; San Antonio, TX; or San Diego, CA).  This is a very difficult decision.  There are many factors to weigh (the facilities and what they offer, access for family and friends over a long period of time, places to go when he is an outpatient, even the weather and climate,  etc. etc.); and all of these are important to his recovery.  He will be an inpatient at that facility for 4-6 weeks.  The goal of this time is to enable him to be confident and mainly independant in a wheelchair.  He then continues his rehab and work with a prothestics team at the facility as an outpatient for 15-18 months.  During this time he will continue as a US Marine, report Monday to Friday to the base and his Wounded Warior Regiment, and live on or near the base.  The goal of this time is to have him ready to continue active duty or be able to have a full life as a civilian (school, work, or whatever).

The winding road. There are still many many unknowns.  The timeline above has too many variables to be very accurate.  While he is still a US Marine and he could continue, by Commandants Orders, in the marine corps it is unsure what that looks like.  Decisions on what type and timing of rehab are a ways away. The kind of prosthetics that he will choose or be available to him are unknown. At the moment, he is thinking that he will likely choose to leave the marines and seek to complete his education.  But, that is a year to 18 months away.

The last couple days have been active as well.  Some highlights ....
- he was able to get himself sitting up in his bed.  This took a great deal of energy and was tricky (his left hand is still bandaged and has a couple fractures).
- Congressman Mike Coffman (CO - 6th district) came by to visit.  Daniel and I really enjoyed that visit.  He has sinced called again to check in on Daniel, is bringing some books for him, plans to visit every week, and has breakfast scheduled with me next week.  He is former Army and then saw the light and became a US Marine.  He took leave from elected office to do a tour in Iraq as a marine.  Daniel says he has "good cred".
- Daniel got out of his bed and did a couple circles around the ward in his powered wheelchair.  He wishes his brothers were around so they could "pimp out" is ride.
- We have discovered that Daniel's refined culinary tastes are not compatable with the offerings of the food services of this establishment.  (read - the food sucks!)  When asked by the nurse, "have you had any bouts of nausia?" Daniel responded, "Only when they take the cover off the meals."
- Chipotle!  "awesome"

Daniel continues to be focussed, working hard to "get the &%$@# out of here", hopeful, planning for the future, and very thankful for all the prayers and support.  God is good!

I am at the hospital from first thing in the morning until he settles to sleep.  I am around as much, or as little, as he wants for his support.  I have found myself being his personal assistant (a role i think i am gifted to be able to do) - keeping all the many details organized, helping to coordinate his care, a repository of all the information that he is bombarded with, keeper of the plethora of business cards, helping to comunicate between him and the medical staff (and vice-versa), being a guard-dog at his door when he needs rest, supplying him with "real" food, helping to arrange his room and bed (he likes his room tidy), .......   This is a full-time job!  But, I am pleased to be here and be able to help out!  I am very grateful for the support of Bishop O'Neill, the Rev. Carl Andrews, the staff at the Diocese of Colorado, and the great team members at Cathedral Ridge - all of whom have allowed me the time, space, and priviledge to care for this brave young man!

I am also thankful for all the prayers and support that has been received and/or offered.  We do not fuly know or understand his or our family's future needs.  But, we are confident that through God, His people, and the wider community of caring people surrounding us we will be cared for and get through this.  We know that God will not put anything in our path that we will not be able to handle!

Dad

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Purple Heart

Just a brief update from the other day ....

Daniel was presented his Purple Heart by General James Amos (Commandant of the Marine Corps; four-star general who is in charge of the US Marine Corps) and the Sargent-Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt-Maj. Kent.  It was a wonderful ceremony that honoured Daniel as a US Marine and as a young man.  As the general said, "It is the medal no one wants to earn; but once you have you earned it you want to receive it. It is our way to honor those who sacrificed so much for their country and their fellow marines."

It was a special moment for the family, friends, and marines present.


Roller Coaster Ride

Daniel has moved into the next stage of his recovery. He is clearly out of the ICU stage where the concern was keeping him stable and significant immediate needs surgery. He is now in a routine of surgery every other day and a recovery day in between.

Surgery days include surgery (usually in the mornings), recovery, and rest. On these days Daniel spends much time coming out of the haze of sedation and pain medications. He does well and is more alert later in the afternoon and evening. He will continue surgery on his legs, hand, etc. for quite a while.

The non-surgery days are a roller coaster ride of feeling quite alert and talkative to the low valleys of pain management. The day after surgery is a battle against surgical and phantom limb pain. Daniel describes the peaks of his phantom pain in his limbs as the feeling of someone placing hot coals on his feet and knees.

He did have the joy of his first Chipotle meal (one of his favourites) since August and his Doppio Expresso Machietto.

He, and we all, still struggle with the parade of visitors that Daniel doesn't know. He gets overwhelmed sometime with all the medical staff, friends, and family visiting. Family is giving him as much space as possible. But, there are a bunch of people from all kinds of agencies who want to stop by and see him. Very well meaning and caring people and organisations. It is just hard for Daniel to take it all in. I have been able to manage most of them - just hard to know when they are coming in and the timing of the visit.

Sad day today as well - Julia, Tristan, and Aaron had to return to Colorado. Julia has surgery on her torn achilles tendon tomorrow. Her mother (Jean/Nana) is coming in today to Colorado to help out at home. They were all excited to see her.

Dad

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Visiting Daniel

Daniel has been enjoying some time with visitors and others have shown interest in stopping by to talk to him and offer support. That has been a wonderful opportunity for Daniel's continuing healing.

Please note - visiting hours for non-family members is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 1200 and 1500 hours. During those times please check in with the nurses station before entering the room. Due to surgery, rehab, need for rest, and other matters he may not always be available visitors.

If you are unable to visit during those times please contact his father (Charles "Neil" Riley) via email (cnriley@coloradodiocese.org) or text (720-635-8718) to see if alternate times and days might work out.

Thank you

Dad.