Monday, October 01, 2007

What's Up with Lance?

I've gotten behind on my Lance updates. . . Sorry about that.

Here's a stack of three so you can see his progress, beginning with the least recent and moving downnward to the most recent. . . .

9.20.07 update

Hello Family & Friends,
Yesterday and today were good days for Lance’s recovery! He is making slow and steady progress in his physical therapy. He walked about 30 feet yesterday with his back brace and walker and he three times that far today! His reward today was that if he could walk a certain distance, the physical therapist would allow him to walk down the hall to his office and use his computer to look at his Facebook page! That was just the motivation Lance needed. He worked up quite a sweat and was able to read a couple of messages from friends. It was a huge encouragement for him! He was wiped out after that and slept for a couple of hours!
Another huge step forward is that he started eating last night! He has also been off of the morphine for two days and taking only oral narcotics. Each little thing is a break through!

I wanted to thank everyone who prayed the last couple of days for his back. The MRI came back that he does not need surgery! The doctors were really relieved because this would have been a risky procedure right next to the heart they said. They also said there are bone fragments but they are far enough away from the spine to not worry too much about them. He does have one bulging disc that may cause him some pain but it is not worth doing surgery for.
Here is the next step. We are waiting now for a back brace that goes all the way up to his neck (very uncomfortable poor guy). Until he gets this, his back is not stable enough to sit in a wheelchair. Once he can sit, they need to send him to the ENT (ear doctor) to have his ear cleaned out (dried blood and debris) and then have his hearing checked for any hearing loss. He also needs to have X-Rays taken while in his brace both standing and sitting so they can tell if his back will heal in just the right way. He also has a couple of weird infections that they are treating him with medications for (nothing they are really worried about, just from being injured in a third world country).

Lance has been put into a really neat program called the “Wounded Warrior” program that actually takes the soldier and puts them into a new Battalion called the “Warrior in Transition Battalion”. We were escorted from the airport by a major who was instrumental in starting this program here in Georgia (which is now all over the country if I understand correctly). The Army started this program in 2004 because they didn’t know what to do with all of the wounded soldiers that were coming back from Iraq. One of the nurses (our case manager) explained that during Vietnam many soldiers died but in this war the body armor is so good that most soldiers are surviving and coming back injured. It is really hard to follow up medically with them during all the various stages of treatment if they are with their normal Battalion (say if Lance is made to go back to Fort Bragg when he gets out of the hospital). Instead they transfer them to this Warrior in Transition Battalion until they are ready to return to active duty or medically retired. He has a Major and a Colonel that checks on him and us everyday in the hospital. They are very supportive.

At this point in time he will need to be in the brace for at least three months. He needs lots of help and care because he is not allowed to twist or sit up to get the brace on without assistance. We have been hearing that once he is ready to leave the hospital, he will be able to do those three months at home but may have to come back to Georgia for check-ups. Nothing is for sure (especially with the Army). I will be flying home on Saturday to get caught up on a few things and make it to a couple of appointments and then coming back to trade places with Larry by the end of next week, unless he miraculously gets out before the next Friday! Please continue to pray for continued progress in his recovery, wisdom for those making his discharge plans, and travel mercies for Larry and I.

I have continued to see God’s hand in everything we are experiencing. Each new day we can see how He has orchestrated this entire event including the placement of Lance at this hospital. Ken Peet’s aunt (Lance’s youth pastor in high school) came by to visit us and brought a cake, fruit and some books. She was wonderful! Then we received a personal call from Colonel Betts who is the Assistant Chief Nurse of the entire Eisenhower Hospital. She called Lance and told him she would come by to visit him and that she heard he was a wonderful young man and that his fourth grade teacher (Barbara Hawkins) said hello. She happens to be her sister!!! It has been such a small world!

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. We feel them and they are keeping us going!!! Praise God for His goodness and His faithfulness! He has been our Rock and our Shield! We give thanks in all things!

In His grace and for His glory,

9.24.07 update

Hello family & friends,

Lance is improving so much each and everyday! He received his new back brace on Friday and he said it helps with the pain so much. He has been able to sit up for short periods of time and walk around the entire 9th floor of the hospital wing!! His balance is so good today that they may even start him on a cane instead of a walker! God is so amazing! They still need to get him into the ear clinic to clean out his ear and check his hearing (please pray for no hearing loss) but once that is complete he will be ready to be released from Eisenhower Hospital. They had told us this morning they were sending him home (I have to admit that made me very nervous for both Lance and us) but they changed their mind and said he was not quite ready for an across the country plane flight and to be cared for at home so they will be moving him to a VA rehab hospital in downtown Augusta, Georgia.

We will be able to continue to stay at the Fisher House. So if you wanted to send Lance a card this week you could send it to:
c/o DDEAMC Fisher House, building 280
Fisher House Road, Attn: Iunker Family
Fort Gordon, Georgia 30905-5650

For those of you that have sent cards to our house, I am flying back on Friday and will bring them to Lance. He has been so encouraged by all of your support and prayers and so has our entire family. The support you have all given us is so inconceivable. It only reminds me more of Christ's love for us! I came home this weekend to our entire street lined with big yellow ribbons on every neighbor's tree! It is beautiful and I hope it lasts until Lance makes it home!
We continue to see God's hand in every little thing that has happened and every decision that keeps happening. I was sharing with a few people at church on Sunday how weird it is to have the Army "own" your child and to not have a say in anything they do. I try to advocate for him or I try to ask for things but in the end they make all the decisions. At one point I was starting to have a little emotional breakdown in the hospital when I felt like they were not going to make very good decisions for Lance. Lance turned to me and said, "Don't worry Mom, that's just the Army. They say a lot of things but in the end, the Lord has me and it will all work out. It always works out." So I started thinking and praying and thought, he's right. When he was in Baghdad I had completely released all control and worry to the Lord and was in peace (usually). Now that he was back safe in the USA, why was I suddenly trying to control everything in the hospital? So I submitted his care and his release over to God and peace came rushing over me once again. Why does my son at age 19 learn that so much younger than I do in my mid forties????

Please continue to pray for his physical recovery as well as his mental recovery. Returning from war is hard on the psyche. He said he is so grateful to be here and to not have people trying to kill him everyday. He said that it is so weird to not feel like he needs to be ready to fight everyday and night, but yet he still thinks that things are going to blow up or that certain sounds are RPGs or gunshots so he can be startled. The good thing is that he just tells himself "I am not in Iraq anymore and no one is trying to kill me". That brings him so much peace. He also says he cannot wait to talk about how God has been so faithful and good throughout this entire experience with other people!

Thanks for all of your prayers!

In His grace and for His glory,


9.28.07 update
Hello family & friends,

I thought I would give you a quick update on Lance's recovery. He had his ear checked on Tuesday. The doctor was so impressed by how well the surgeon put the inside of his ear back together as well as the outside. He said it was truly a miracle he has hearing at all! There is both high and low frequency hearing loss in the right ear but it is considered conductive hearing loss which means that they will continue to check it because it could easily come back with time! Praise God! Lance was really excited to hear that. His plans to be a police officer would definitely have changed if there was permanent hearing loss. The other ear was fine even though it was the one that was injured when they were hit with the first roadside bomb back in February. Lance was making very quick progress in walking, but on Wednesday he had a set back and the doctors told him that he needed to slow down. They put him back on the walker and allowed him only one physical therapy session a day (one time up and walking). He was so disappointed and discouraged. He is desperate to be independent! Today, he was finally moved to the Uptown VA Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. They have converted the entire first floor into an active Army rehabilitation hospital for wounded Iraq war soldiers that are rehabilitating and working toward independence. It is a one of a kind facility and a model for the rest of the country. Lance loves it! He has a whole slew of doctors that work with him and he will be there until he can sit up long enough to make the flight home. One of there first goals is to have him be able to walk 100 feet and be able to sit up without having hot flashes (he is now so sensitive to all of us going through menopause)! Lance has met some amazing soldiers that have various injuries. They all talk together about what has happened to them. Lance said even though some are missing limbs or have lost their sight they have the best attitudes! Lance was deeply touched by their stories. Most of these guys had been there for months and could take "field trips". Lance said, "My goal is to take one of those field trips this week". He said he wants to be as independent as possible before he comes home. He doesn't want anyone taking care of him anymore. I told him that was fine, he could come home and take care of me! My dad and I are flying out in the morning to be with him and Larry is returning tonight to come home for the week. We will take each week as they come but the plan is for Lance to be in this rehab. hospital for at least two weeks then see the back doctor again. If he can make the trip to California, then he will come home for six weeks before going back for a recheck and home again for another six weeks! Please pray for Lance's continued recovery, that he would not push himself to hard (doctor's orders), for traveling safety, for wisdom when dealing with all the options/benefits/rights/advocacy/etc... that goes with the military. God has been so good and faithful and we are so grateful for everyone in our church, our jobs, our community, and all our family and friends. You have been so supportive and helpful in every possible way. Thank you so very much! In His grace and for His glory, Dori P.S. I wanted to include a couple of things. One is an email from a father in Atascadero who has two sons in Iraq. One of them is in the 82nd Airborne and Sgt. Hardegree who was killed was his son's best friend. His son attended the memorial service for all seven soldiers at Camp Taji and he wrote me this email: I'm glad to hear you are able to be with Lance now. I spoke with Jeremy yesterday after his return from Taji. He said the chaplain gave a great memorial for all. He also spoke of Lance in the memorial service. The chaplain said he had visited with Lance at his hospital bed in Baghdad. When he told Lance he was going to be ok, the Chaplain said Lance wispered his thanks to God. He used this in the memorial to speak of Lance' undying faith in face of tragedy. He continues to be a strength to his fellows though he is half a world away! I look forward to meeting up with you guys when Lance makes it back to the Central Coast. I shared this with Lance and he was so encouraged! I also thought I would share with you the web site that holds the names and pictures of all seven of the men who were killed in Lance's platoon. These were great men that Lance misses very much and talks about all the time. I chased down the following link, to photos of the men with whom Lance served, those for whom he grieves... (Cut and past in your browser address line) A compassionate review of these men is also readable from .

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