Before a grenade robbed Sgt. José Pequeño of most of his brain mass, he was always doing things for other people, his mother said.
He is showing emotions now that he couldn’t show before, Pequeño’s mother Nellie Bagley said.
He understands what's going on here, she said. The tears were shed in gratitude.
Pequeño is one of the most severely injured servicemen to ever return from Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Army neurosurgeon Col. Rocco Armonda. He was given three weeks to live after the grenade shattered his skull, taking half of his brain. Dozens of surgeries later, he will celebrate 7 years of survival in March.
“He’s a fighter,” Nellie Bagley said.
But he’s not fighting alone.
Nellie Bagley and her daughter, Elizabeth, provide round-the clock care for Pequeño. Though they also employ nurses, one of the two Bagleys is always with him, as well, Nellie Bagley said.
Elizabeth Bagley dropped out of college six years ago to help care for her wounded brother. She works to pay the bills on the family’s home, Nellie Bagley said.
They could have never afforded the improvements the team from Home Depot and The Abilities Foundation made on Tuesday.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Elizabeth Bagley said. “Everyone has been so, so nice.”
A major contribution to Pequeño’s care: the installation of a generator.
The home lost power during Tropical Storm Debby, Nellie Bagley said. And when that happens, Pequeño’s electric air mattress goes flat, and his oxygen machines and other equipment don’t work.
“Having the generator is such a weight off our shoulders, “ Nellie Bagley said. “(It) is an amazing gift.”
Other renovations included making the home more accessible, and beautifying the outdoor area where Pequeño spends most of his time.
“Jose has always loved the outdoors,” Elizabeth Bagley said. “He spends 90 percent of his day outside.”
With that in mind, the team worked Tuesday to install a fountain and new landscaping to upgrade the view he enjoys from both the pool deck and his bedroom. They also installed a shade over the lanai to protect him from the heat of the day, and lighting so that he can continue to enjoy the view at night.
“The beautiful colors and the water fountain are a stimulation for Jose,” Nellie Bagley said.
In addition to the folks from The Abilities Foundation and Home Depot, the GFWC Lutz- Land O’ Lakes Women’s Club provided meals for the volunteers and family—bringing breakfast early Tuesday morning along with a gift card for the crew to order pizza for lunch.
The Home Depot also donated a lawn mower and other yard tools to the family. Elizabeth Bagley does the lawn each week, and the new equipment will make it so much easier, her mother said.
It’s amazing the things that everyone involved is doing, Nellie Bagley said. "There’s a lot of people who care for these (veterans).”
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.