Archived Story

Eslinger makes miraculous recovery

Published 7:27am Saturday, February 25, 2012


Donny and Mary left Jemison on Jan. 2 to return to the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, where Donny has completed the bulk of his rehab.

They flew back to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 12 for more tests to determine when his cranioplasty would take place.

Ryan Cox, one of the soldiers credited with saving Donny’s life, visits him in Tampa on leave from Afghanistan.

“It is good to be back and see all our nurses and doctors who we love,” Mary wrote Jan. 16. “They were so happy to see Donny walking unassisted. Soldiers are still coming here three nights a week from the battlefield … it is a sad cycle to watch, but the military takes extreme care of these soldiers and their families here.”

The next day, Mary said Smoke was on his way to Florida for his reunion with Donny before going to his new home in Alabama.

Donny and Smoke, the stray dog he found and cared for in Afghanistan, were reunited in January after about four months of being apart.

“Reuniting Smoke and Donny was so sweet,” Mary said. “It has been a journey to get this dog to the U.S. We thank the Puppy Rescue Mission for making this a reality and the Washington Animal Rescue League for keeping Smoke here so Donny can visit him.”

Doctors removed the exterior fixture on Donny’s right leg after tests confirmed his bone had healed sufficiently, and they gave him the green light for his cranial surgery.

“My family, friends and prayers of many have helped me reach this point,” he said. “It is hard to realize all that has happened to me because I don’t remember the times they thought I would not make it. I am determined to overcome this. It is a personal mission to not let those who did this think they got the best of me.”

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