Saturday, November 14, 2009

Excessive Dan Growth

If we thought the transition from inpatient to outpatient was going to make our lives slow down, we were wrong! This week was a busy one. Apartment life is good though - much, much better for Dan than hospital life. We've turned one of the bedrooms in the apartment into a Dan-friendly environment. All of his medical supplies are stowed way in the dresser, he can get in and out of the bed in a snap, and we even rigged up the bathroom just right so he is able to take showers now! I've never gone 2 days without showering. I can't imagine what 2 months would feel like. Needless to say, shower time is one of the best parts of Dan's day. The other best parts are his PT and OT sessions, of course. We commute back to Walter Reed every day for 2 hours of PT in the morning, and another 2 hours of OT in the afternoon. It's pretty cool to be able to spend so much time in that gym, watching Dan improve every day, and also watching the other guys in their various stages of recovery making such huge strides with their new legs.

He still has some wounds that require nursing care every morning and night, so we took about 5 grocery bags full of medical stuff home with us when he was discharged. I wake him up about an hour before we have to leave every morning to get him all fixed up for the day. I'm considering our early-morning wound care time as good brother-sister bonding time. Except most of the time he just sleeps through it. Then he'll have a big sleep-twitch right as I'm doing something important and it scares the daylights out of me. Earlier in the week we discovered an infection where the pins on his external fixator go into his hip, so he is on antibiotics and a new pin site dressing regimen for a little while to combat the infection. He had an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon the other day regarding the fractured pelvis, and the doctor feels that the external fixator is OK to come off as soon as December 3rd! Hallelujah that will certainly be a day of celebration - it is really becoming a nuisance for Dan as he becomes increasingly more mobile.

He is also facing a new challenge that has developed over the past few weeks: both of his legs have started to develop what's called heterotrophic ossification, or HO. In other words, HO is excessive bone growth at the ends of his legs where they were amputated. Most blast-injured amputees experience this, so we sort-of knew it was coming. When the IED blast hit Dan's legs, bone fragments were deposited in the soft tissue surrounding the area. As a healing mechanism, the bone wants to keep growing - it's the body's way of trying to repair itself. It grows rapidly too....every day we notice changes. We joke around that maybe it will just grow all the way down into some new legs. Unfortunately the bone growth is abnormal - it just goes in all directions. There's no point in surgically cutting it off at this point, because it will just keep growing. The plan as of now is just to let it run its course, and then when it seems to be done growing (usually within 6 months after injury) they'll go in and modify it surgically.

On Veteran's Day, Dan got all gussied up in some khaki shorts and a polo shirt and we went into DC to attend a dinner to benefit CAUSE (Comfort for America's Uniformed Services), which is a fantastic organization that does some really great things for the injured troops and their families. We were lucky enough to sit at the same table with our good friend Kim Dozier from CBS news, and met some other truly amazing people throughout the night. Lt. Jay Redman, a fellow SEAL who was injured in Iraq, gave an awesome speech (Jay, it is always such a pleasure to see you - you never disappoint!). I want to especially thank Jennifer Griffin from Fox News for her fantastic job as emcee, and her other fantastic job battling Stage 3 breast cancer. Jennifer, your mention of Dan in your speech meant so much to us. You are truly an amazing woman. And he is serious about working out sometime soon! For anybody who wants some extra inspiration, check out Jennifer's story: We also had the pleasure of meeting General Petraeus, who expressed genuine interest in Dan and his recovery.

Next week we have more appointments to look forward to: one with his plastic surgeon at NNMC to evaluate his skin graft, and another with his prosthetist at Walter Reed for an initial fitting of his prosthetics.

We hope everyone is having a great weekend!


  1. I have been one of many following your family's triumph in Dan's recovery. I search for words, none come, save may God continue to bless Dan, and your family. Thank you for showing to the world how to champion tragedy with a defined courage of purpose and love. I don't even feel worthy to write due to how humble I feel in respect to Dan's determined focus and the love of his family. Truly beyond inspiring.

  2. I'm so glad to hear that Dan is adjusting to apartment living again. Sounds like the recovery continues at an amazing pace, very Dan-like!

  3. I had to laugh about what leslie said of the body twitch and scaring her. Keep up on lettings us know how Dan is doing and thanks more times over for allowing so many people to share in the experience of what all you are going through. Prayin for you all. Luke

  4. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 11/16/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  5. Keep going Dan. I think of you often and wish you the best. Thanks for the up dates as well.

  6. Thank you Leslie for providing us with constant updates on Dan's wonderful progress and victory! Please let Dan know that his Teammates from ALPHA Platoon are cheering and praying for him everyday. You and your Mother are a testament to the true courage and steadfast strength that has built the very foundation of our country. May GOD bless you and your family always. Oh yeah, Let Dan know that Big Will sais Hi!

  7. Dan,
    You are truly a source of hope and inspiration to us all. Thank you sincerely for your service and we pray that your recovery process continues to go well. In the days months and years to come, ask yourself not what you can do, but what CAN'T you do.
    "Don't be afraid to go out on a limb.. thats where the fruit is"..

    -Mark Twain