John Doody deployed to Iraq, was shot three times in the leg in March, 2007. JT was doing well, recovering from his wounds when he suffered a strep infection in his aorta, causing anoxic brain injury.
Here's JT's story from his mother's eyes.....
John Thomas Doody was born March 7, 1983 in Denver, Colorado. He was my first and last child. I used to tease him when he was little saying, "You hear parents say if 'so and so' would have been my first child they would have been my last". I was kidding of course. I love JT with all my heart. He's been my best friend since the day he was born.
JT was miserable in high school so I made a deal with him. You can drop out but you have to take and pass the GED and start taking college classes. He passed the GED with flying colors and started taking college classes.
After 9/11 and a few years of restaurant jobs and college classes, JT decided to become a Marine. No one in our family was a Marine or 'very military' and so the entire experience was new to us.
I wrote to JT every day while he was in boot camp. I missed him terribly. I had a calendar of all the training and had studied the crucible so I was writing to him and telling him what to expect. JT graduated boot camp on December 15, 2005. I was never more proud of him then I was that day. It was an experience we would cherish forever.
After boot camp, JT went back to Colorado for his 30 day leave. He stayed with my dad in our condo. On January 16, 2006, the day JT had to ship out for SOI (school of infantry), my dad was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He died on February 24, 2006.
Needless to say, my heart was broken. I loved my dad dearly and he and JT were both away from me. I grieved terribly. JT deployed to Iraq on January 29, 2007. He was on the battlefield and I was a nervous wreck.
JT got to call me on his birthday (March 7) and said excitedly, "Guess what? I got my combat action ribbon". I was stunned. People were shooting at my baby. JT tried to console me by saying, "Don't worry mom. The insurgents just shoot over our heads and run away".
Two days later, as I was getting ready to board a plane in Orange County, Calif, I got the call that would forever alter our lives. The stranger on the other end of the phone said that my son had been shot multiple times in the leg and was in surgery. I had to board the plane not knowing if my son would survive. By the time the plane landed in Salt Lake City for a brief layover, I received the news that JT was out of surgery and was stable.
Shortly thereafter, I traveled to San Diego and was at the Fisher House waiting for my son to arrive. When he finally got there, it nearly broke my heart. He was on an ambulance gurney, in great pain and white as a sheet.
Although his wounds were bad, I knew that he would be ok. Boy was I wrong. By all appearances, JT was recovering. He had to change his life plan of being a police officer because the last bullet had taken out his peritoneal nerve and he would never be able to run fast enough. So he enrolled in pre-law and started interning with a San Diego medical malpractice attorney who became a good friend and mentor to him.
Ten months after he was shot, I got the second phone call that every parent dreads. This time, the stranger on the other end of the line said that my son was 'found unresponsive in his room and was admitted to the emergency department'. I couldn't understand what I was hearing. What happened??? I already had a flight scheduled in two days time to go visit JT. The man on the other end of the line told me I needed to be on the first flight in the morning. I was in shock.
I had a layover in Denver and both of my sisters and brother-in-law met me at the airport. I was still in denial but they knew something was dreadfully wrong. My sister Patty decided to go with me to San Diego and so with nothing more than her wallet purse, she purchased a ticket and went with me.
We were met at the airport by the Colonel of the MCRD and the Chaplain. Patty almost fainted but I held tough and tried to get to the bottom of what was happening. When we got to the hospital we were met by a team of about 14 or 15 medcial personnel. The news couldn't be any worse. JT had suffered a series of strokes and then lack of oxygen (anoxic brain injury). He was on full life support, barely clinging to life. The doctors kept doing CT scans and MRI's, telling Patty and I that there was no hope. JT would either die or if he did survive, he might not wake up and if he did wake up, he would have severe brain damage. After 15 days on life support, JT's breathing tube got clogged and they had to do an emergency extubation. He was able to breath on his own!
People ask me how I made it through those first few months. My response is always the same...I didn't. God carried me through as He continues to carry us through each and every day. JT was in a vegetative state but at least he was still alive.
From January until mid February while in San Diego, many family and friends rotated through and were with JT and I providing all the love and support one could possibly have. To this day, I cherish each and every new relationship JT has brought into our lives.
JT's rehab doctor in San Diego said that if JT were his son, he would get him to Tampa with Dr. Scott. On February 21, 2008, my sister Sheryl and I were flown across the country with JT in an ambulance jet. JT was still breathin on his own but barely clinging to life.
He remained in a vegetative state from January until April 29, 2008. During that time, I knew JT was still 'in there'.
I will never forget April 29th when he said his second 'first words'. I had been torturing him with his favorite comedies, 'South Park' and 'Family Guy'. My mom had just left that day but we knew JT was on the brink of doing something. He was so agitated and restless but had no way of moving his body to communicate with us.
I knew JT could hear and understand what was going on around him but he couldn't move his body to respond to commands. I had brought him back to his room and was asking him, "Do you want to watch Family Guy or South Park? South Park?"
JT SAID, 'NO'. I cried out in excitement and grabbed my camera and filmed his next few words. I said, "say mom". JT said, "Mom'. By this time, I was crying and had been joined by all the nurses and other family members up on 5 north (James Haley's polytrauma unit at that time). It was the happiest day of my life. My son could talk to me again.
We're now over four years out from the brain injury. JT is paralyzed from the neck down, cortically blind and still has cognitive difficulties (although his cognition continues to slowly improve).
We almost lost him again in June from 3 pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lung). He was just re-hospitalized because the fluid in his lund didn't absorb and therefor grew. The Dr's drew the fluid off of his lung and his lung re-expanded. We are back home now and trying to keep him doing breathing excercises to keep fluid from building up again. I'm praying that this recent set of issues will become a dim memory.
My job as JT's mother, best friend and caretaker is to do whatever I can to help him get better. JT needs whatever medical treatment we can get him to bring him all the way back. I took him out of the country in 2009 for two stem cell treatments and I believe in my heart that it gave JT back most of his eyesite.
So, whether it's stem cell treatments or other specialized equipment, we need to do whatever it takes to help him get better. That's why I'm asking for help. The stem cell treatments took all the money we had and I know he needs more. I've been researching madly and think I've found the solution. I'm not even sure of what the cost is yet but knew I needed to start fund raising.
Asked if he would have joined the Marines if he knew this would happen to him, JT's reply is always the same, a resounding, "Yes. I would 'die again' for my country".
Help me help JT. He was severly injured for his country, us and we need to do everything we can for him.
Bless you and thank you.