Hey everyone - thank you all so much for your patience and understanding during my recent absence from these updates. January 2010 has been the busiest month of my entire life! And undoubtedly one of the best. Now, where to start....
Dan has been up on the stubby legs for quite a while now, and is doing remarkably well walking on them. He's made all the progress that he can on the stubbies and is actually ready for his C-legs, which are the legs with computerized knees that he will use to walk every day, but wouldn't you know....we are waiting for the parts to come in. So in the meantime, we decided to get crazy and just travel all over the place. Some travel has been for therapy purposes, and some has just been for fun (but we can still use the excuse "therapy", right?).
We started 2010 off with a trip to New York City to watch the ball drop in Times Square. We went with a group of guys from Walter Reed and had the best time. The NYPD were our hosts for the night - giving us police escorts all over the city - absolutely amazing. I don't think I ever want to ride around that city any other way ever again. We had our own roped-off section underneath the ball, and even a restaurant on 42nd street that opened its doors to us so we'd have a place to stay warm (and not to mention eat - this is Dan we're talking about) while we waited for midnight. When the ball finally dropped, it was pretty indescribable. Thanks to Wounded Warrior Project and the NYPD for making such an unforgettable experience possible for us. As a Christmas present to me, Dan arranged for us to stay an extra two nights in the city so I could see all my friends. Best Christmas present ever.
Then it was back to the grind at Walter Reed for a few days - physical and occupational therapy, doctors appointments, pharmacy lines (my specialty), and getting all the medical supplies we'd need for the next few weeks of traveling.
And just as soon as we got back from New York, we were off to Orlando. Now, I thought we were supposed to be in Orlando. But it was 30 degrees and snowy the whole time so I'm still refusing to believe that that's actually where we were. Dan competed in the Disney Half-Marathon on a hand cycle - his first race since his injury! The Disney Marathon is pretty special to him....it was actually the first marathon he ever did, when he was a freshman in college. That rollercoaster picture is from the day before the race, when Dan and I got to play around Disney World all afternoon. All we did was ride the rollercoasters over and over again like 7 year-olds. Which is silly now that I think about it because there were only two rollercoasters. That day was 4 months from the day he was injured. The marathon was the next day, and we all met in the hotel at 3:15am (A.M!!!) to head over to the starting line. It was so cold I had to hop around constantly just to keep warm. It was hard for the guys on the hand-bikes because once you're in the bike, you can't really do much to keep moving and stay warm. Dan did so well, despite the cold, and crossed the finish line in a little over an hour. He was in quite a bit of pain and completely frozen, but considering the fact that he hadn't trained at all, he was in great shape! After the race, we went back to the hotel and I watched him consume the largest breakfast of all time.
We came back from Orlando to two very busy days at the hospital. We were invited to dinner at the White House with the President and Mrs. Obama, along with all the combatant commanders and their wives. Dan and I were so fortunate to get to sit with the First Lady for dinner, and lovely doesn't even come close to adequately describing her, but it's the best I can do. For those who are interested, check this out:
And just as soon as we got back from Florida, two days later we went to Florida again! This time to Miami, where the weather was MUCH more to my liking. Walter Reed sent a group of about ten amputees and other combat-injured men down for a Soldier Ride with Wounded Warrior Project. This organization did such a fantastic job putting this ride together - all the employees and volunteers deserve round after round of thanks and praise for all their hard work. It was a three-day bike ride starting in Miami and ending in Key West, and it was a blast. I rode along with the group, and it was very special to me to get to be alongside my brother and the rest of the guys. The applause and cheers of gratitude from the people that would line the streets as the guys rode by would put chills down your spine. The highlight of the trip was riding on the 7-mile bridge over the ocean, it was breathtaking. I wish I had pictures, but I haven't mastered the art of one-handed bicycling yet.
When we came back from this Florida trip - a very hard trip to come back from! - we were back to the hospital again for another two days of therapy before jetting off again, this time to Chicago. A group of very generous people in the Chicago area hosted Dan and I, along with several other injured SEALs and Marines, in a resort for a weekend of R&R. We met some great people and had the best time.
Somewhere in between all these trips, if you can believe this, we had to move apartments. I about died. You wouldn't believe how much stuff you accumulate in four months when a family member is injured. But we survived the chaos of the move and love our new place! The address here is:
5801 Nicholson Lane Apt. 201
N. Bethesda, MD 20852
Now, please bear with me here as things get a little more serious. We were supposed to head to Aspen this weekend with a group from Walter Reed so Dan could learn to ski, but unfortunately things took a turn for the worse a few days ago. The day we got back from Chicago, Dan woke up in the middle of the night vomiting. He had been feeling fine all day, and doing so great for the past month, that we thought it must have been something he ate, or the stomach flu, or something temporary like that. The vomiting continued the following day, and just didn't stop. Every time he would put anything into his stomach, even water, it would come right back up. I soon realized that this wasn't just a bug, and that something had to be wrong with his GI system. He's had these problems in the past, where his intestines just go to sleep because due to the effects of narcotics or anesthesia, or because they're just irritated. But those problems always come on gradually, not all of a sudden out of nowhere like this one. He has a complicated GI tract now, with so much surgery and a colostomy, that it's very possible that something could be mechanically wrong with his intestines. Dan has been hospitalized enough times for GI problems that a deep fear of going back has settled into him. So, understandably, he refused to let me take him in to get checked out. After a few days of not being able to keep anything down and worsening dehydration, he finally caved and let me drive him to the hospital. We spent all day yesterday in the ER at Walter Reed, where he was put through a series of tests to determine what and where the problem was. Long story short, Dan has a mechanical bowel obstruction somewhere near his ostomy, but the doctors can't pinpoint exactly where it is and what to do about it. He is going in for surgery tonight, to either repair the ostomy if they are able, or to get a new one altogether.
It is very frustrating for us to go through such an incredible few weeks of progress, only to land in the hospital again with a surgery looming overhead. But we know that once this bump in the road has passed, an even more incredible phase is in his future. Please say a quick prayer as you read this - my brother is going to need it tonight and over the next few days as he recovers and moves toward achieving what he so deserves. His C-legs are ready for him, we just have to get him back in fighting shape so he can knock our socks off once again with his progress.
Thank you all, more to come.