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Life is never settled

(Left to Right) Lisette, Mariela, and Emile Meylan pose for a family photo

(Left to Right) Lisette, Mariela, and Emile Meylan pose for a family photo

By Randy D. McCracken
Friday, May 3, 2019

When reaching their 70s, most people think of retirement or at least slowing down their pace of life, however Emile and Lisette Meylan are not like most people.

"Life is never settled" says 73-year-old Emile Meylan, "there is always something to think and worry about.”

For Emile and Lisette, the pace of life and worries are different than most because they are parents and caregivers to Mariela Meylan, an Army Veteran of the Iraq War who is still recovering from injuries sustained in 2004.

After completing her second tour of duty in Iraq, Mariela was traveling in a convoy through Kuwait when she and three other soldiers stopped to change a flat tire. As they were working, a hit-and-run driver crashed into the soldiers, killing two of Mariela’s comrades and leaving Mariela’s mangled body in the dust as the unknown driver sped off into the desert. 

The injuries she sustained were massive – a traumatic brain injury, fractured pelvis, collapsed lung, severed liver, and a stroke leaving her partially paralyzed. Meylan was immediately evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where she lapsed into a coma. She was then transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where doctors advised her parents that she would not survive.

“One doctor told us that she would never wake up” said Lisette Meylan. “Another said she would never speak or walk again.”

Emile and Lisette knew their daughter would emerge from the coma and fight to regain as much of her life as possible – and they were right!
It took eight months before Mariela would awaken from the coma. After more than 10 years of intense therapy, Mariela is making a remarkable recovery. However, the recovery is not complete - it will be a day-by-day road to recovery.

Mariela continues to improve in ways few could imagine. She is now walking, talking and grows stronger each day, with her parents beside her every step of the way to encourage, support, advocate and love as only parents can do for a child.

These days Mariela is busy every day of the week, taking part in various VA therapy programs ranging from speech and physical therapy to yoga and horseback riding. And she has become a regular participant in the annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

Emile and Lisette are happy to see so much progress but know their daughter will never be able to live on her own. "What's going to happen when my wife and I pass away? Mariela will never be totally independent", says Emile. "The VA is helping but it is not enough "

To help in this unexpected journey in life, Emile and Lisette are buoyed by friends who help the family and believe that Mariela will continue to improve. "We are busy with so many things and have a lot of other caregivers that we can talk with and relate to" says Lisette. "We are all in the same boat as a family and community. It helps to talk with other people who understand.

Emile and Lisette continue to compliment VA for the care Mariela receives: "We are grateful for the VA, many people we see who are not Veterans do not receive the same level of care" says Lisette. Emile, who is in the VA caregiver program, is appreciative but added his concerns, "Because we saw other people at the VA who are also Veterans, but not having close family fighting for them, they are lost in the system. The VA administration is very big and very complicated. Sometimes, young disabled people alone do not know where to turn for help." 

This spring Emile and Mariela attended the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colorado for their fourth year as Lisette took a respite break to enjoy a non-snowy spring in Livermore, California

Keeping their lives focused on Mariela seems to be a natural transition. "Caregiver is just another name for parent," says Emile, "A disabled person at 40 years old is just another kid. They need parenting."

"Taking care of Mariela is the most important thing in our lives and we are determined to make things better," added Lisette


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