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.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


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???!!???


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


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!