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Looking Back and Next Steps

This past May, I quietly celebrated my ‘Alive Day,’ or four years to the day that I was injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.  I’m not big on anniversaries, opting instead to celebrate each and every day as a blessing.  Yet, while this year’s Alive Day was much like any other day, I will confess that it was not.  This anniversary provided me with a startling reference point, from which I could compare each anniversary of my injuries.  When I consider where I am today, versus where I was on May 26th, 2011, I can’t help but be amazed at the difference.  While I certainly continue to encounter challenges, I’m confident that the worst is behind me.

We all face struggles in our lives, and while they evolve and change in their degree of difficulty, such day-to-day challenges are a part of life.  In the moments following the explosion, I struggled with the fear of death, and the uncertainty of what awaited me on the other side.  In the weeks and months that followed, I fought unbearable pain and depression, constantly questioning if my future would hold any happiness or satisfaction.  I failed to see any life for me that would be anything but miserable.  In my defense, life in those initial weeks was little more than surgeries, pain, and a lot of late nights wondering when things would get better. But as time progressed, the severe pain subsided and I learned to tolerate the rest.  The surgeries became fewer and farther apart, and with them, the ability to make some meaningful progress became real.  Moments of positivity became more common and I was finally able to live away from the hospital.  Setbacks, however, were inevitable, and long plateaus in my progress easily fooled me into believing that such a condition was as good as it was going to get for Greg Galeazzi.   While I was out of the hospital and becoming comfortable in my new life, I remained heavily dependent on others.  Again, I was unable to envision a life where I could be independent, instead resigning to be satisfied with what little improvements I had made.  But I didn’t give my stubbornness enough credit, and before long found myself living independently, driving, going to school, cooking, traveling, etc.  And I guess that’s the catch; independence.  I eventually realized that as an independent adult, I am in control of my life.  If I can’t find happiness or satisfaction, then I have the power, and capability to change it.

Which brings us to today.  It has been a year since I last wrote, but this past year has been (in terms of recovery) rather uneventful.  My focus has shifted away from physical rehabilitation, and toward my pre-med studies.  I am currently at the University of Maryland, taking my science prerequisite courses. I have four more classes to take, and still need to take the MCAT before applying to medical schools.  My current timeline has me applying next summer (Summer 2016), and if all goes well, I would start a medical school program in fall 2017.  Over the past year, I had a few small surgeries, but each of them were pretty superficial and the recovery for them was much easier than the operations I had in 2011.  I haven’t walked much over the past year, instead feeling more confident and comfortable in my wheelchair.  I do intend to devote time to regaining my abilities on prosthetic legs, but I want to maintain my academic momentum for now.

Ultimately, this year’s Alive Day has enabled me to put things into perspective.  Not only in regard to my physical and psychological recovery, but also for the challenges of everyday life.  Traffic? Little sleep? Bad grade on a test?  You name it, and chances are, I’ve dealt with and overcame far worse.  Such an attitude has renewed my confidence in myself, and my future.  While there were hopeless days early on, when I wondered if it was worth it to be alive, I am here today to tell all of those who saved my life, and anyone who has ever wondered the same, that YES, IT TOTALLY IS WORTH IT.  The fact that my Alive Day will always be around Memorial Day, means that each year I will be reminded that while I am alive, far too many men and women were not so fortunate.  That can sometimes spur a feeling of survivor’s guilt, but such feelings are not helpful or productive.  Instead, I try to channel that energy into an annual reminder that, as bad as my injuries might be, I am one of the lucky ones.  And with that, comes a humbling feeling of just how grateful, and fortunate I am to be here.  It fuels a renewed sense of purpose, and a drive to live a meaningful life.

Finally, it would be wrong of me to act as if I’ve made this journey alone.  While I have faced a lot of challenges, I have not faced them alone.  So I say this: To the men of the Reaper Platoon, who acted without hesitation in saving my life and evacuating me off the battlefield, THANK YOU; To the many nurses, doctors, and therapists, who pieced me back together and coached me through my recovery, THANK YOU;  To my incredible family, who supported me every step of the way, especially my Mom and brother Steve who essentially uprooted their lives to care for me in Texas, THANK YOU;  And of course, to the countless supporters and friends, especially the many blood donors, on whom so many depend, and remind me every day how great this country is, THANK YOU.  The drastic improvement in my condition over these past four years has been a collective effort among all the aforementioned parties, and I will not forget.  I can’t say if or when I will write on this site again, but do check back from time to time in the event that my condition changes.  Thanks for all you have done for me.

Until next time, your friend, Greg.