Friday, July 7, 2007 — or 7-7-7 — was supposed to be the luckiest day of the decade, according to McLean native Patty Horan.
Instead, it was the day her husband, Army Capt. Patrick Horan of Springfield, was shot in the head while on night patrol in Baghdad
Patrick Horan, a 1991 graduate of West Springfield High School, survived the shooting but the bullet struck him under his helmet above his left ear and exploded when it hit his helmet strap — sending metal fragments from both the bullet and the strap into his brain.
Patty initially was told he likely would never walk or talk again, a prediction that did not come true.
On Tuesday, the couple took possession of their newly-renovated home in McLean, both walking, talking and holding hands as they toured the house.
The couple met while students at Radford University. After joining the Army and completing stints in Washington state and Hawaii, Horan deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2006 as the platoon leader of Bravo Company.
On the night he was shot, his platoon was working night reconnaissance missions.
“We were getting up on roofs and looking for bad guys,” he said. “It was really hot, even at night, and as platoon leader I was in charge of about 35 guys, so I decided to go down to our transport and get some water for my men. Next thing I knew, I had been shot. One of the men tackled me to the ground and began wrapping up my head with something. I was conscious for about 10 minutes and then passed out.”
According to Patrick Horan, the quick action of the men in his unit saved his life. That same night, a medical military team was able to perform surgery on his brain, removing his temporal lobe and nearly half of his skull to allow the brain to swell without causing further damage.
“I was at Fort Lewis in Washington [state] and was notified at about 4 a.m. Saturday,” Patty Horan said. “By that same time Sunday morning, Pat was at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in critical condition. I flew the red-eye from Seattle and joined him there.”
Although Patrick Horan defied the odds and now is able to walk and talk after more than three years of physical and occupational therapy, he was unable to regain full vision of his right eye and still requires a brace on his right leg to walk. Additionally, his right arm and hand are not fully functional, and he suffers from occasional epileptic seizures.
“But hey,” he says, “I gotta be happy … I lived!”
Patrick Horan attributes some of his recovery to music therapy, which he said engaged both sides of his brain to speak to each other.
“I enjoyed listening to U2 and Bruce Springsteen and will thank them both personally if I ever get the chance,” he said.
On Tuesday, through the Sears Heroes at Home project and the Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church chapter of the nonprofit Rebuilding Together, the Horans took possession of a new two-story McLean home they purchased a few months ago. It now has been fitted with many features custom-made for Patrick’s specific disabilities.
“My favorite is the elevator,” he said.
The home’s numerous renovations, including a new handicap accessible bathroom and the elevator — which includes a telephone — are valued at more than $100,000 according to Patti Klein, executive director of the Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church Rebuilding together.
“We try to make the homes of persons with disabilities safer and more comfortable for their everyday lives,” she said. “We renovate about 40 homes in Fairfax County every year and get some funding from the county as well as partnerships with corporations like Sears.”
According to Patty Horan, her husband’s story received national attention when the couple were guests on “The Bonnie Hunt Show” on Veterans Day.
According to her, that appearance led the organizations to become involved with the home’s renovation.
“I can’t believe that has led to this,” she said Tuesday.