Saturday, January 30, 2010


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 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.


  1. Leslie ... I've been following your posts, as well as your mother's and Dan's, since I originally read about Dan's injuries on Michelle Malkin's blog shortly after he sustained them.

    You all have come to mean a great deal to me, and I just wanted to let you know that your family remains in my prayers, as you epitomize exactly what family should be -- a unit of love, strength and support.

    As a military wife, I only hope that were I in a similar situation, that I'd be able to handle events with even a fraction of the grace and strength that you've shown.

    I'm so sorry to hear about Dan's recent setback. But "knowing" Dan as I've come to after reading about him for the past several months, I'm certain this is just another speed bump in the road.

    Keep on keepin' on.

    Warmest regards, prayers and admiration,
    Elizabeth Farrell
    Houston, TX

  2. Leslie and Dan, I was wondering what had happened, I've missed your posts! You sure know how to keep us interested in Dan's progress! This too shall pass, just take a deep breath and forge ahead. Dan, hang in there. I'm rooting for you everyday, and throwing some prayers your way as well. Be patient.... I have faith that you can DO anything you set out to do. Thanks for your service to our country as well. A proud American. Jayna Kay Hart, Benton, IL

  3. Hi Dan,

    I just read this update, omigosh! I am confident that you will soar through this situation like you always have done - sending over many prayers for you --


  4. Many prayers on the way from Soldiers' Angels! so glad you had a great time on Soldier Ride!

  5. I love your spirit. Thoroughly enjoyed the slideshow, and your posts. (Came her via Facebook).
    I guessed bowel obstruction. Gosh, I'm really sorry. Over the years, we had many patients come in with the same problem. Fortunately, the surgery is usually successful and let's hope he's feeling better in a week or so.

    Smart you.... dehydration is very dangerous. You were spot-on to get him there as soon as you could.

  6. You are an inspiration to the nation... prayers going out....

  7. It sounds like you guys have been having a great time ! He's such an amazing guy--I know he'll pull through this surgery with flying colors. We'll be thinking of him.

  8. Well, what a month! Dan, you'd totally kick my butt at just about anything it sounds like! Congrats on the marathon! Leslie, good God girl, you are the absolute best ever! What an amazing family; I am just in awe!
    Continued prayers for healing, I pray your surgery goes well and that you will be up taking life by the horns here in a few days.

  9. I love me some Michelle Obama and the updates on Dan's status! I'm always so inspired and joyful when I hear the positive news about how he's progressing, and of course, concerned about the challenges he faces. My continued prayers are with you, especially for a speedy recovery from this most recent surgery.

  10. Setbacks suck, basically. Argh. Talk about the un-fun rollercoaster. Looking forward to catching up with you both on the other side.

  11. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 02/01/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  12. Know that God is in control and hears your ever word. Trust Him with Dan like you have this whole time. I can't even begin to put into words how much your family has uplifted and encouraged me and so many others. I read these post and new articals as if it were all a dream. Thankfully it is very real. Even when we can't see the outcome of today or tomorrow, we can rest assured that God has he best for us and we have to lean on him and allow him to work. Dan has an awesome character and will about him. The way he continues to fight and push himself, speak volumes to me. God place your hands on Dan and those working with him, we thank you for what you have done in their lives so far and ask that you continue to just show us grace and mercy as they press on. AMEN - Luke M. from T town

  13. Dan,
    Sounds like you've had an incredible start to 2010. I am confident that you will overcome this little bump you've experienced and will continue having a great year! You Rock! T

  14. Thanks for the updates, Leslie. You guys have been super busy. I hope Dan's surgery went well.

  15. Just wanted to let you guys know you were on my mind. Hope all is well.

  16. still thinking and prayin for you guys. Hope Dan is back up and getting around.

  17. Leslie and Dan,
    My boyfriend, Dave Thomas (USNA '02), directed me to this blog back when it first started. I have been reading your updates and praying for you guys for many months. I was just reading the May 2010 Good Housekeeping interview with Michelle Obama and I am certain she mentioned Dan in her interview - on page 247 she talks about a young man who just lost both legs who had completed a half marathon. She said meeting an optimistic overachiever like him, "bucks [her] up, in a way." I am not sure if you've seen the article but I'd be happy to scan it and send it your way if you'd like. Email me at Dan, you are an inspiration!

  18. It is now June, my family and I send you warm wishes and thank you for your inspiration. We hope that all is going well in your recovery and that your new legs are putting you up front and center where you want to be. I say go for it Dan, you can do it, and have proven this, and I thank you for your example.

  19. Hey Guys, I was sitting under the dryer in my salon in Iowa City, Iowa, yesterday, casually reading an interview with Michelle Obama in the May issue of Good Housekeeping. Dan, I think you are now famous!

    She was asked by the interviewer: "How have your feelings toward veterans changed as you have met with more of them and their families?"

    Michelle Obama: "I love visiting the military bases. I sat next to this one young man who had lost both legs. He had just finished a half a marathon in a wheelchair. He's an overachiever in so many ways, and still retains this spirit of optimism. I wish every American could spend time on a military base, because it changes the way you feel about our military forces (Sighs) It makes any sacrifice I'm going through in my life seem miniscule in comparison. It bucks me up, in a way.

  20. From all of us at Ross Leather, DAN, YOU ROCK!!! Stay awesome brother!!!