Update: Soldier allowed to return home
SEATTLE -- Family members of a soldier serving in Iraq on Tuesday said they were informed by the Army that David Harris will be allowed to return home to be with his son after doctors found a softball-sized blood clot on his brain.
The Army initially denied the request for David to return home after an apparent misunderstanding about the seriousness of his son's condition.
Daniel, 10, is in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after hitting his head in a fall last week. He underwent brain surgery, and has suffered a stroke and seizures.
"I will never get over the look on his face of sheer terror and confusion," said Daniel's mother, Cynthia O'Brien-Harris. "He didn't know what was going on. He couldn't move his right side. He couldn't speak."
Hospital nurses contacted the Red Cross, which sent a message to Army offices in Iraq through its emergency communication service. But the Army said it would not allow David to return.
In explaining its initial denial of the request for David to come home to be with his son, a commander at Fort Stewart, Georgia, where Harris' unit is based, told the family the message did not indicate an emergency; the message had reportedly stated Daniel's condition as critical but stable.
"The commander of PFC Harris' unit didn't feel the situation was serious enough to release the soldier because the letter didn't indicate anything about how serious the situation was," said Fort Stewart spokesperson Kevin Larson.
But according to David's wife, the situation has been urgent from the start.
"It's always been critical because he is in a life-threatening situation," she said.
With their son on a ventilator, Cynthia and David agonized over his well-being while thousands of miles apart.
"He (David) was basically begging me to do whatever I can say, whatever I have to say to get him back," Cynthia said.
She contacted state senators and KOMO 4 News. She also tried the Red Cross again. While Daniel's condition was upgraded to serious, the Army got another urgent letter.
"The second letter from the Red Cross more clearly indicated that this is indeed a serious situation," Larson said.
Army officials said Monday they would look into the matter and, at just after midnight Tuesday morning, informed the family that David would be allowed to return home. He began his long trip home on Tuesday to help Daniel with what may be a years-long road to recovery.
"It's going to help in Daniel's healing process. He's going to have his dad here."David is expect to arrive in Seattle some time Wednesday.