Cynthia: The rest of the family is like, 'No. He’s in a wheelchair. His social skills…It’s just not gonna work. It’s gonna be too much trouble.' And so he had to go through a panel, an assessment, to see whether he could go home and be seen in public, and of course I’m just outraged, because this is the reality of this war and what happened and if we don’t treat him normal he’s not going to act normal.
Barry: This is a panel of whom?
Cynthia: Psychologists, psychiatrists and his doctor and they were–
Stan: The medical doctors were okay.
Cynthia: His medical doctors were like, 'Rory needs a break from the hospital. He just needs a break. He needs to be out of the hospital and needs to be around family and friends and he needs to go home.'
And so I was like, 'We’re gonna take him home for this wedding.' And so I’m battling the rest of the family and the psychiatrists and the psychologists are like, 'No, this is not gonna be good for him.'
Stan: Bear in mind he doesn’t have his forehead yet at the time.
Cynthia: No forehead. He’s wearing a helmet to protect his brain. Can’t see because he had just gotten the cornea transplant. And he still can’t see. He’s still in a wheelchair. But he went through this panel, and they were asking him these questions about 'How are you gonna feel being around crowds?' and they’re asking him all these questions. And the psychiatrist says, 'Aren’t you a little nervous the way you look and being around family and friends and everybody that’s gonna see the way you are. Aren’t you a little nervous?'
And Rory said, 'Why should I be nervous? I’m not the one getting married.' And so they just said, 'You’re good to go.' So we just packed him up, and I will e-mail you a picture. He walked his sister halfway down the aisle. Got out of his wheelchair with his helmet and his dark glasses and walked his sister–
Stan: Yeah. In a tuxedo.
Barry: The trip home for the wedding was a milestone for Rory, who has continued to improve – to the point that if you met him on the street, you would see he was injured, but you wouldn’t automatically assume he was nearly killed in Iraq … but as Rory got better, his mom got worse…
Cynthia: And so as Rory became more independent, self-sufficient, bought his own home, resumed hunting, resumed his outdoor lifestyle, we still spend a lot of time together, but I had a lot of time on my hands, and I wasn’t able to go back to work, and I found myself in the doctor’s office depressed and unhappy and not knowing what to do with myself. And she very quickly diagnosed me with secondary PTSD. And so I remain under a doctor’s care for that. But I also remain very committed to Rory and to our service members. And so I have had to achieve a balance for myself.
Barry: Rory’s recovery isn’t done yet. And he may never be back to the same person he was before the pair of roadside bombs blew up his truck. But he’s got enough self-awareness to keep moving ahead… and he’s got a clear sense of his shortcomings.
Rory: My fuse is a lot shorter. I don’t have much patience for stupid people…. if you can’t use common sense, it just incredibly drives me crazy. I’ve got a bomb rapped off my head. My frontal lobe is all smashed up. I’m still able to use common sense. And I can’t stand the noise of screaming kids. I get irritated easy. And I have to try to calm down and stay cool which is not always easy.
It’s different than when I used to be able to maintain a little bit better. I can be a real crab, a real crabapple, but I can also be nice, too. I see with all the injuries I could have sustained, amputees, paralyzation, I’ve seen myself being OK in the long run with overcoming the disabilities. But yeah, it sucks. I wish I wouldn’t have got rapped over the head.
Barry: Cynthia Lefever gave up a lot to nurse her son, but, for the first time since his injury, she’s optimistic about his future, at least in the long term.