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First Journal Entry

Greg in Afghanistan spring 2011

The Captain Gregory Galeazzi Recovery Fund was started by his family in an effort to help support Greg on his long road to recovery. He is our brother, son, cousin, friend, leader, and hero.

My family and I would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support that we have received over the past several weeks. The genuine love and compassion that people feel for Greg is truly touching, and we will be forever grateful. All that you have done and continue to do for Greg, from prayers, to letters, to offering a wide range of support, all of it is immensely appreciated. He has incredible strength, courage, and faith; if anyone can overcome this tragedy it’s Greg.
As many of you already realize this is going to be a long road to recovery, so please keep the prayers and support coming. Greg represents the best of us: he is selfless, kind-hearted, and honorable. Those of us who know him best, know that Greg is a lover of life, a loyal friend, and the best son/brother that anyone could ask for. If you’ve met Greg, you’ve likely experienced his witty sense of humor, his contagious charm, and his free-spirit…and you know that overall he is just a GREAT guy.
Depending on how you know my brother, you may remember him playing soccer on a crisp autumn day in Glastonbury, CT, or drinking a beer on a warm summer night in Sag Harbor. You may know him as the guy tearing down the slopes on his snowboard in Colorado, or exploring Europe with a pack on his back. Some of my favorite memories of Greg aren’t of a particular time and place, rather they are repeated, simple moments that blend together and imprint themselves on my heart- Greg playing the guitar with my other brothers, John and Tom. Greg swimming in the ocean. Greg going for a hike in the woods behind my parent’s house after a new snowfall.
Knowing all of this, and knowing what a great person Greg is, it’s easy to ask “why?”. Why him? He certainly didn’t deserve this, but then again I can’t think of many people who do. Nonetheless, it’s easy to question how this could have happened to such a good person. I have asked myself that very question a thousand different ways over the past couple weeks and the truth is that I will never fully “accept” or “embrace” my brother’s misfortune. It is a horrible thing that has happened, plain and simple.
That said, I have been reminded by those wiser than me that while it’s ok to question “why” this happened, it has in fact happened and we have no choice but to move forward. It’s easy to be sad, angry, and even vengeful- and these emotions may continue for some time, but we need to realize that Greg is not dead and we are lucky to still have him in our lives. Our focus now should be on how to help Greg heal and regain the life that he has such an immense passion to live. To that end, we can count on creating new memories with him, just like the aforementioned ones we cherish so much. Things may be different, but they can also be happy and fulfilling- we haven’t lost Greg and he certainly hasn’t lost us.
I know that everyone is eager for updates on Greg’s well-being, so let me give you a brief summary of the past couple weeks. My apologies for not starting this sooner, but I’m sure you can understand that things have been hectic. (We also wanted to wait until Greg was settled-in and able to decide for himself if he was onboard with us creating this webpage).
After Greg was injured, he remained in Afghanistan under intensive care for a couple days until he was stable enough for air travel. When sufficient arrangements had been made, he was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he spent approximately 24 hours before flying back to the US. As mentioned in the introduction, Greg was brought to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. Some have asked why he wasn’t moved to Walter Reed in DC, but our understanding was (and still is) that BAMC could offer Greg the best care for his specific injuries; especially considering the long-term rehabilitation that will be required.
What made that Memorial Day weekend even worse was that it was the one year anniversary of losing our beloved sister Claire to her three-year battle with cancer. Most of the family attended Claire’s memorial service in Sag Harbor and then came to be by Greg’s side as soon as possible. I must say that I have always been proud to be a part of my family, but it’s difficult times like these that make you truly appreciate what you have. Greg’s girlfriend, Summer, has also been here from the start and she has been an incredibly positive influence on his spirits and general well-being.
Greg’s injuries are extensive. Both of his legs were amputated above the knee, and his right arm was seriously injured. The triceps on his right arm is almost entirely gone, as well as the majority of his elbow, a large amount of soft tissue and his ulnar artery. The ulnar nerve was completely severed (this nerve allows you to spread your fingers and controls the feeling/dexterity of the pinky and ring fingers). We have been in daily consultation with a myriad of doctors and surgeons, ensuring that everyone is being as proactive as possible and that we are utilizing every option available. The tough part in trying to reconstruct Greg’s arm is that, if you lose bone OR tissue, you have the other substance to support transplanted or synthetic material. When you lose BOTH, as Greg has, it is extremely difficult to rebuild after that kind of trauma. There’s no real precedent or textbook example for the doctors to follow, so they’ve gone to the drawing board and come up with some options.
As of June 17th, Greg has had about seven surgeries since arriving at BAMC. The wounds on his residual limbs have been closed off and are beginning to heal (albeit painfully for Greg). To supplement his right arm, doctors have pulled muscle and other tissue from Greg’s back/latissimus and have inserted pins, screws and rods to try and fill-in for the bone loss. He will have an external-fixator on his arm for about three months, which holds the arm in place while it heals and provides support until it’s strong enough for a brace. In time, doctors will also try to reconnect Greg’s ulnar nerve (but we’ve been told that there are no guarantees with that). In truth, there are no guarantees with any of this. A continuing worry is the risk of infection- not only are hospitals renowned for spreading infection to weakened patients, but also Greg was injured in one of the dirtiest places on earth. Many of our soldiers come back with all kinds of debris in their wounds, some big (grass, dirt, rocks, shrapnel) some invisible to the naked eye; so we must be fastidious about cleaning Greg’s wounds and keeping them clean.
So far we are happy with the care that Greg has received. There is a fairly aggressive plan in place to continue his recovery, and everyone can rest assured that we will settle for nothing but the best for him. Once he heals sufficiently, he will be discharged from the hospital and moved next-door for extensive rehab at The Center for the Intrepid. I would tell you everything I know about the rehab center, as there is much to tell, but I’m sure you will all become experts over time once Greg moves there and begins his work. Right now there is no set timeframe for that to happen, but my guess is in a few months.
Many of you have asked my family and me about Greg’s mental state. Overall, I would say that Greg is the same guy we all remember: he’s quick with a joke and retains his sarcastic sense of humor that we know and love. The nurses here love him (surprise, surprise). While there is likely some level of traumatic brain injury (that’s basically a given based on the explosion he survived) he is smart, alert, and has great short and long-term memory. He has a positive outlook, but understandably gets frustrated at his current lack of mobility. All of that said, I think there’s a natural healing process for the mind, just as there is the body. He is extremely eager to heal and face the challenges ahead, but as in any endeavor there will be good days and bad days, victories and setbacks. Ultimately, knowing Greg’s spirit, courage and strength, he will undoubtedly prevail and inspire everyone with his abilities.
My family and I know that many of you are eager to help Greg in any way you can, and we cannot thank you enough for your desire to do so. Some want to donate directly to Greg to ensure that he has everything he needs once he is completely discharged in the future (advanced prosthetics, a disabled-modified home/car, unforeseen healthcare costs, etc). Others want to support broader organizations that provide general help to all of our wounded veterans. And still others want to offer their time, prayers, professional networks, and a wide range of other support that is extremely helpful. All of these are noble ideas, and all are immensely appreciated.
Again, we need to recognize that this is going to be a long road to recovery. As time unfolds we will have a clearer picture of what he needs and how we can help. Just because we haven’t taken you up on an offer to help this week, doesn’t mean there won’t be something you can do to help Greg next week. The important thing is to maintain our commitment to Gregthroughout the journey, and I’m confident we will all do just that.
For now, a few things to keep on your radar:
1. We are planning on setting up a recovery fund for Greg. This will be for those interested in donating directly to Greg’s future care and quality of life.
2. Some of us intend to establish a foundation to aid in the research and development of advanced prosthetics. While the world of artificial limbs has come a long way since the days of wooden legs, it is my belief that prosthetics are nowhere near where they could and should be for the 21st century.
3. My family and I would like to bring your attention to a few organizations that have been particularly helpful thus far.
-The Hero Miles Program: Offers flights to wounded service member’s families so that they can visit them wherever they may be: Please consider donating any airline miles that may otherwise go unused or expire.
-The Fisher House: Provides a room near the hospital for families to stay. The houses have many families but are fully equipped, comfortable, and are a great place to meet other families going through similar situations:
-Warrior Family Support Center: . Hosts activities for wounded service members and their families.
Currently, my Mom, Summer, and I have decided to stay in Texas indefinitely to be by Greg’s side during his recovery, and the rest of the family will be here as much as possible. Once he becomes an outpatient in a few months, we look forward to a steady stream of visitors, and we hope that you consider visiting Greg in Texas at some point. In the near-term, however, while he is an inpatient we plan on limiting visits to immediate family unless Greg makes a specific request otherwise. This is also a practical decision in some part, due to the fact that the hospital limits the number of visitors who can visit Greg at any given time.
Again, we cannot thank you enough for the outpouring of support we have received over the past three weeks. Your genuine love and care for Greg has been a rock for us during this difficult time, and we hope that you continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. We will try and keep this journal updated on a fairly regular basis (with somewhat shorter entries) and you are welcome to follow along during Greg’s recovery. Best wishes to each and every one of you.
Love,
Steve (Greg’s brother)

4 Comments
  1. Tracy Shavor #

    Steve,
    Thank you so much for doing this blog, I dont personally know you or your family. I heard about Greg thru Scott Fortier as he was asking for prayers and cards on facebook for him when he got injured and I took action to get a bunch of the elementary schools, ROTC program, my kids classes and the day care that I work at to make cards for Greg and mailed them about a month or so ago from Dover NH. Since then he has continuously been in my thoughts and always will be. I wish I could do more. I know as far a prosthetics, one of my daycare parents actually works for a company that does that as a job, they actually just brought a girl from Haiti over and fitted her for a leg and the parent was even on the Chronicle on TV. Who knows.. maybe when the time comes I can give him Greg’s name and he can talk to his company? My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to all of you! I wish you well!
    Tracy Shavor

    August 1, 2011
  2. Audrey Yellen Quinlan #

    Hi,
    I am sure you know this BUT in case you don’t…..there’s a neurologist who pioneered a method to retrain the brain in relation to pain and phantom limbs. His name is Dr. Ramachandran out of Univ of ca San Diego. The procedure appears amazingly simple with a box and mirror as well as training. At what point during recovery, this might be used…..I don’t know.
    Prayers go
    Greg’s way everyday,
    Audrey

    August 1, 2011
  3. Carmina #

    Steven,
    I saw your message and wanted you to know, that Greg, you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. I cannot imagine the pain your family has gone through up until now, however, I remember how lovingly you always spoke of your family, and knowing this I am sure your family’s LOVE and Strength will give Greg the fortitude to be successful in his recovery.
    Hugs to Everyone!!
    Carmina

    August 1, 2011
  4. Patty Collins #

    To Greg’s family,

    I met Julia this summer while she toured CFI shortly after her arrival. I was touched by her stories of your brother. After reading this blog, I can see what a strong and wonderful family you all are and how fortunate Greg is to have you supporting him. You’ve been in my prayers since I met Julia, and will continue to be. If there is anything I can do from a little Army post up the street from you’all, please let me know.
    Sincerely,
    Patty Collins
    LTC, US Army
    Ft Hood, TX

    August 30, 2011

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