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.

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.


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

(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! ;-)


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).