Sunday, August 21, 2011
August 21, 2011
Galvan remains strong
Local soldier recovering after June blast
By Deanna Brown
Corsicana Daily Sun The Corsicana Daily Sun Sun Aug 21, 2011, 11:11 AM CDT
His life changed in an instant.
Marine Lance Cpl. Erik Galvan, a 2009 graduate of Blooming Grove High School, was on a mission with the 15th Bravo Battalion on June 15 in Sangan, Afganistan.
“The sweeper went in front of him, and missed an IED,” said Mildred Pierson, Galvan’s mother. “Erik stepped right on it, and it threw him in a canal.
“Sgt. Josh Yarbrough was the only one who saw it happen. He went and pulled Erik out of the canal, put tourniquets on, then went to save another guy, when Josh got hit by an IED too.”
The IED (Improvised Explosion Device) caused not only the loss of Galvan’s legs, but also one hand and wrist, and most of his other hand. Yarbrough suffered the same injuries. Because of a severe dust storm, it was two days before the injured Galvan could be transported to Germany, and ultimately to Bethesda, Md.
“Erik lost his right leg below the knee, and his left leg above the knee,” Pierson said. “His left hand is gone, with nerve damage to his left arm, and his right hand is missing all the fingers except his pinkie, and his entire palm.”
Galvan was on life support the first week, with the outcome uncertain. His older brother Edward, also a Marine, and parents Mildred and Harold Pierson arrived by his side June 20.
“He doesn’t have any head trauma, but has some memory loss,” his mother said.
Galvan was awarded a Purple Heart on July 19, after spending two weeks in a critical care unit. He has had several surgeries to clean the wounds and remove debris.
“They took muscle from his shoulder to fashion flaps for his right knee, then took skin from his thighs to put over those muscles,” she said. “Both legs are closed now and healing. He wants to try and save his pinkie, and we have talked to surgeons about it. Erik says if the finger has too much nerve damage to function, they may amputate it too.”
Once Galvan was off the heavy pain medications, he was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Aug. 10. He has begun the rehabilitation process, which involves moving himself from bed to chair, dressing himself, and other milestones.
“Erik had a breakdown of emotions in Bethesda, and I keep telling him he is still Erik — nothing has changed,” Pierson said. “If it kills me, he will walk again.”
Galvan celebrated his 20th birthday Friday. He intends to remain in the Marines. His brother Edward turned 21 Monday. The first time the brothers had seen one another in three years was this past Christmas, when they both came home to Barry to visit.
Mildred, a CNA for a hospice company, is the breadwinner in the family. Her husband is disabled due to a serious illness, and their three younger children, ages 14, 13 and 8, are being cared for by grandparents Tommie and Harry Pierson of Frost.
Since Mildred has been with Erik since the accident in June, she has been unable to work. The family is struggling, with the three younger children returning to school Monday.
“I always have their school supplies and school clothes ready by now, and I don’t now,” she said, breaking down. “It’s a hard thing to be away from your family. I’m never away from my husband and children, never longer than a week.”
The house the family has in Barry was bought to fix up, but with her husband’s illness, there has never been enough time or money. The house is not handicapped accessible for Erik once he returns home, and the plumbing is going bad, floors are caving in, and there are other issues that will make it not work with a wheelchair.
Mildred is staying at Fisher House, across the street from Brooke Army Medical Center, free of charge, and Erik will join her once he reaches a certain stage of progress. The younger children haven’t seen Erik at all, as the family can’t afford for them to make the trip to San Antonio to visit him.
“It may be the holidays before Erik is released to come home,” Pierson said. “Once his legs are healed, they will fit him for prosthetics.”
“He’s a very strong little man,” said Tommie Pierson, his grandmother. “Always strived to do his best.”