Sandoval, of Yuma, Ariz., joined the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was on his second tour in Iraq when a bomb left him badly wounded on Nov. 28, 2005. After he was airlifted to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., his family was told he would probably not live more than 24 hours, and if he did, he would not be able to walk or see.
But he undertook months of rehabilitation, relearning to perform the simplest functions — swallowing, speaking, walking. He made much progress, and the prosthesis was designed to cover an exposed part of Sandoval’s brain, which would have allowed him to stop wearing a protective helmet, doctors said.
Before the surgery, Sandoval said he wanted to be more independent and not have to rely so much on his wife Michelle, 22, and the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, Joelena. But he was also worried “that I won’t wake up,” he said the day before the operation.
Sandoval was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Artillery, out of Fort Sill, Okla. His parents and wife decided to donate his organs to acknowledge his desire to use his life to help others.
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