Folks, I’m leaving hospitals behind, ahead of the deadline, or at least ahead of schedule. I’ve had a couple setbacks, and I still face a couple minor surgeries, but overall, the prognosis is far better than the docs had hoped just after I’d reached Germany. The teams at Balad, Landstuhl, and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. worked overtime — something like a dozen surgeries at least, including one that lasted 11 hours.
Just a few weeks later, I’m up on crutches and can even manage with a cane. It’s not pretty, but I’m walking on my own — and that, I also owe, to some hard-driving therapists at Kernan Hospital in Maryland, who kept saying, ‘Now try this…’
The next step: continued outpatient rehab to get my body used to being in motion full-time.
Thanks to CBS, my family and friends have been close by throughout. That, together with all the amazing cards and e-mails from across the country, has really pulled me through. I’ve told friends it’s been like having 10,000 guardian angels on my shoulders.
I’ve learned slowly how close I came to joining my friends, cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan, both killed by the blast. I owe my life to the quick actions of the 4th Infantry Division’s Sgt. Mootoosamy — who took charge of the scene, with his commander down and many of his men injured — and medic Spc. Flores, who patched me up. Even with a car bomb cooking off, sending shrapnel through the air just a couple dozen feet from us, Spc. Flores just kept calmly speaking to me and working on my legs — no wavering, no pause.
Not a day goes by without thinking of Paul and James — two of the most remarkable characters I’ve ever known. My heart goes out to their families, and I know no words to stop their grief. The last I saw Paul and James, they were rushing from their humvee to ‘get the shot’ of a young U.S. Army Captain, James Funkhouser, Jr., greeting Iraqi locals at a streetside tea stand. The bomb hit all three of them, together with an Iraqi liaison officer, and took all four lives.
I choose to remember them from the instant before the blast — each one of them consummate pros doing a job they loved to support the families back home they loved even more.
August 6, 2006
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