Injured soldier speaks about his recovery - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Injured soldier speaks about his recovery

WATERLOO (KWWL) Army Sergeant Ian Ralston, a 2004 Waterloo West High graduate, suffered a spinal injury during his second deployment to Iraq.

He was at Walter Reed for three weeks and then spent six months at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis. He made it home just in time for Christmas, and he was greeted by the Patriot Guard Riders. Ralston's initial prognosis wasn't good, but he's steadily making progress.

Sergeant Ian Ralston is happy to be out of the VA hospital and back home in Waterloo.

"When I was in the hospital I felt good, but being here I get up earlier and stay up later, able to go out a lot more. It's been good seeing a lot of my old friends," said SGT Ralston.

Ralston's family is also glad he's home.

"Everyday driving to and from work I go across Highway 63, and I said 'thank you Lord I don't have to go north'," said father Steve Ralston.

About nine months ago, shrapnel from an improvised explosive device went in the back of Ian's neck, lodged in his spinal cord and paralyzed him from the neck down.

"I just remember going under an overpass a loud boom. I fell into the bottom of the stryker and was out. I didn't regain memorable consciousness until I was at Walter Reed," said SGT Ian Ralston.

Initially, doctors told his family he'd never talk, eat or breathe on his own again.

"I can't thank the people at the Minnesota VA enough. They got me up and able to do things I'm doing today," he said.

It was at the VA Ralston learned how to operate his "sip" and "puff" chair.

"I sip on the straw to go backward, puff to go forward. There's light puffs and strong puffs. Light sips and strong sips and that's how I turn," said SGT Ralston.

He said he learned in one day what most people learn in a week.

"I scared the heck out of my physical therapist every time they added something new to my chair she'd cringe because she knew I'd be pushing it to the limit and close to corners and stuff like that," he said.

While Ralston was in the hospital, volunteers helped remodel the family's home to accommodate his wheelchair.

"Having the rooms added on. This setup wouldn't work nearly as well or at all if it weren't for that addition, so that's a huge blessing," said Steve Ralston.

It's also a huge blessing to have his sister and girlfriend around to help out with everyday tasks as well as physical therapy.

Ralston believes his determination as well as support from so many people are why he's doing so well.

"Encouragement people have given me and prayer the will to move on and push self to do things I didn't think I'd be able to do in this condition," said SGT Ian Ralston.

For now, Ralston's continuing his rehabilitation and waiting for warmer weather so he can spend more time outside.

While at the VA, Ralston received the Bronze Star award for his service overseas. No one is exactly sure what Ian's prognosis is, but doctors removed the shrapnel from his neck and only time will tell how fully he'll recover. But the family is optimistic he'll walk again.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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