Day Two of physical therapy - with the help of the therapists in getting him up, Dan sat upright all on his own in bed today! He even touched the footboard of the bed. PT is the highlight of his day, and he's so excited about continuing to progress. God bless physical therapists. His right leg is even ready to be prepared and fitted for an initial prosthetic device. The left thigh still has a huge open wound that will need several more weeks before it can be closed with a skin graft, so prosthetic preparation will come later for that leg.
The NG tube, aka the Devil, is annoying to both Dan and his nurses, but is improving his stomach distention day by day. This is a tube that goes through his nose into his stomach and is hooked up to suction to remove fluids from his GI tract. This decompresses and rests his bowels until they are ready to start working again. A big concern right now is his inability to eat or drink anything - he really needs good nutrition in order to heal adequately, and without proper bowel function, there's no way he can get any food in by mouth and the normal route. Last night they re-started him on IV nutrition, so at least he's getting something now.
This week Dan has benefited (and so have we!) from some very influential visitors. Oliver North stopped by yesterday and really made an impression on all of us. A brilliant, personable, and very supportive man. This morning Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, paid Dan a visit, which he enjoyed so much. This afternoon the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, came by to present Dan with a Purple Heart, as well as a Bronze Star with Valor. We, as well as Dan, are appreciative beyond words. (And to Admiral Maguire and Mark Lippert: THANK YOU too!) Here's the citation that came along with the Bronze Star, as written by Ed Winters, Rear Admiral, USN Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command:
For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as DELTA Platoon Commander, Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Trident, in direct support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM from 7 September to 8 September 2009. Lieutenant Cnossen was an element leader during a cordon and search mission in the Malmand Basin, Ghorak district, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Lieutenant Cnossen was leading a security element to seize a hilltop to be used as a command and control position overlooking the Malmand Bazaar, a cluster of shops where insurgents were known to store Improvised Explosive Devices. While establishing this position, he stepped on a Pressure Plate Explosive Device emplaced by enemy forces, inflicting life-threatening injuries. The blast uncovered a series of other Improvised Explosive Devices chained together to form a minefield blanketing the hilltop. Overcoming tremendous physical pain, he remained calm and selflessly assisted his team in extricating themselves from an active minefield, ensuring that no other injuries occurred. Lieutenant Cnossen's stoic behavior and positive demeanor while enduring a severe injury were truly heroic and contributed significantly to his teammates' ability to safely navigate out of extreme danger. By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative and total dedication to duty, Lieutenant Cnossen reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Another huge thank you goes to our new friend Spanky! He is a Marine gunnery sergeant, wounded in Iraq a few years ago. He is a single above-the-knee amputee and he brought, along with 3 of his bionic legs, an insanely positive attitude and a good reason for Dan to look forward to what's ahead. He reinforced that Dan's attitude and mind will take him to unimaginable heights in the near future. Seeing what a man like that can make of his life after such a devastating injury is truly inspiration to all of us. Spanky, my mom would like you to know, again, that she "really likes you."
Tomorrow is another day in surgery - a pretty simple one this time, just some cleaning out of the wounds that are still open.
We continue to stand in awe of the doctors, nurses, and support staff at NNMC; it is an awesome place. Unfortunately there are more guys like Dan, and with even more devastating injuries, that are being flown to Bethesda from OIF/OEF on an increasing basis. Please, PLEASE keep them, as well as the men and women that are still over there, in your thoughts and prayers. God bless them and their families. Nobody can do ANY of this alone, and the support system that we are all able to provide is invaluable. We should all be so proud and grateful that we as Americans care for each other so much.