January 23, 2006

Injured vet's battle
Quest for housing on wing and prayer

By Paul Brooks
Times Herald-Record
[email protected]

Ellenville - Wounded Marine sniper Sgt. Eddie Ryan will soon be ready to come home, but his home is not ready for him.

Sgt. Eddie Ryan and his Parents, Chris and Angela
Times Herald-Record Photos / Tara Engberg
The Ellenville High School graduate was shot in the head in a friendly fire incident in Iraq April 13. The two bullets, one to the brain and one to the jaw, left Eddie seriously impaired. He speaks haltingly. He cannot walk on his own yet, though the family hopes that will eventually happen. He gets around in a wheelchair.

Doctors at Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Hospital in West Haverstraw tell the family that Eddie's stay there could end in as soon as six to eight weeks.

Eddie could go to a rehab facility with a lower level of care, but that won't happen.

"I made him a promise that from Helen Hayes, he was coming home," said his father, Chris Ryan. "That's what he wants to do."

But the hallway to Eddie's bedroom is too narrow for him and the wheelchair. The main bathroom in his family's 1,300-square-foot ranch-style home can't accommodate him, either. The living room can't hold Eddie, his mother, Angela, his dad and sister Felicia at the same time, Chris Ryan says.

A contractor who specializes in renovations for the disabled said the family needs an addition to the home on Wintish Road outside Ellenville. At $100 a square foot, the addition carries a price tag of $90,000 to $100,000.

That's a big hit on the family finances, and while the federal government will help out, Eddie is eligible for only $10,000 in aid at this point. The government says another $40,000 is reserved for Eddie's use later, Chris Ryan said.

Ryan Family Home
Times Herald-Record Photos / Tara Engberg
With time slipping away, Chris Ryan took a gamble. He applied to ABC-TV's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The show descends on a home with a large crew and does home renovations in just a week at no cost to the homeowner.

Eddie filled out an 18-page application and taped a video of the home and of the family at the hospital with Eddie. They submitted it Jan. 10.

"We are just hoping and praying this pans out because it will save us a lot of time and money," Chris Ryan said. "Time is of the essence."

A producer and casting director with the ABC show held out little hope for the Ryans.

"We get up to 15,000 applications each week," said Charisse Simonian. The show has already done three soldier stories, including the kickoff for this season.

"I am not saying we won't do it again," she said. "It just might be a while. " It's kind of a wing and a prayer. I encourage everybody, please don't wait for us. " Do your own Hudson Valley Extreme Makeover. You will be amazed."

Chris Ryan said he is looking at other options, but that there should be more government support for these wounded veterans.

"We are not only thinking about Eddie. There are nearly 20,000 wounded Marines and soldiers, and half cannot return to active duty," he said. "Things have got to change, not just for Eddie, but for all these kids giving their lives and their blood for their country. They are not getting taken care of."

This article appeared in The Times Herald-Record on 1/23/06

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