My Story

Nick was on vacation with his family in Maui when he sustained a Spinal Cord Injury while swimming in the ocean.  He had two surgeries and was in the ICU for 19 days and spent 9 weeks in rehab at Nation Rehab Hospital in DC.

He is home now and is giving his all toward recovery as an outpatient at NRH.

We started this journey with a much anticipated vacation back to Nick's birthplace, Maui, Hawaii.  We lived there for 2 1/2 years and have always told Alex and Nick that we would return.  This year was the year to make the trip.  We were celebrating Alex's graduation from Lake Braddock and Nick's 17th birthday (July 31st).  We flew into Maui on Tuesday, July 24th - we were very excited to be back home again.  Even though the kids were too young to remember our time in Maui they have relived it several times with numerous accounts of our wonderful time there with family and friends who visited us.  We went to Wailea Beach that night, had dinner at a local restaurant, breakfast the next morning at Duo's at the Four Seasons Resort and then to Wailea Golf Course to visit some of Steve's old co-workers.  We made a tee time for that Friday.  Nick received a call from the head coach of Christopher Newport University that morning interested in talking to him about playing for that school.  Nick decided he should wait to call him after our visit to "Big Beach".  At around 12noon we arrived at Big Beach and went straight to the water.  The waves weren't as big as they normally are.  Alex and I went back to our towels while Steve and Nick stayed in the water (they are always the last ones to leave!).  The next thing I know there is a lifeguard buggy that passes our towels and then another one.  Out of curiosity I walked toward the water wondering who was hurt.  There was a group of people by the water and I saw someone lying on the sand.  I noticed Steve hovering over someone and than I saw Nick's feet.  This was the beginning of our vacation.  We stayed in the hospital for 19 days in ICU at the same hospital he was born in 17 years ago. 

Nick continues to work hard in acute rehab and we are coming close to a discharge date.  We are targeting mid October for Nick to come home.  Currently, home modifications are being made to get ready for Nick's second Homecoming!  After acute rehab, Nick will continue with outpatient therapy every day for a few hours for about 6-8 months.  Nick started school in January part time taking Honors English 12 and Government while still taking Geosystems on line to get his Advanced Studies Diploma.  He is on the Lake Braddock Baseball Team cheering his teammates on and looks forward to graduation on Wednesday, June 19th when he can walk across the stage to receive his diploma from Principal Dave Thomas.

Here we are, Thanksgiving 2014 and since the last entry Nick was able to walk across that stage to receive his high school diploma to a standing ovation at the Patriot Center at George Mason University.  He is now taking classes at George Mason.  He is continuing with his therapy once a week at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in D.C. along with working out with his personal trainers at home 2-3 times a week. He has been asked to participate in the pilot program at George Mason for their Rehabilitation Science department in conjunction with NRH.  We hope to start in December.  Nick is in training to walk 2.6 miles at the Rehobeth Beach Marathon on Dec. 7th.!  Nick is using a walker and his forearm crutches more often than his wheelchair. Progress has been steady and always amazing!

Thank you for following his story!


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Tamara Balenger posted a new journal entry, "Victory Award on October 30th, 2014".

Dear Nick Nation,In my last entry I stated that if something really special happened I would have to write another entry into Caringbridge and I think this piece of news ... Read more

Suzanne Laboy signed Nick's Guestbook.

I love the updates and the positive things going on in your neck of the words. When we are blessed with time on our side, it seems like the road can be a long as it wants ... Read more

Tamara Balenger posted a new journal entry, "Walking outside to the pool".

Tomorrow will be 2 years since Nick's injury.  Hard to believe so much time has elapsed since then.  But just 5 minutes ago Nick walked outside to the pool, without his ... Read more

Tamara Balenger posted a new journal entry, "Äctive Rest Days".

As with most families we are all busy working, doing things around the house and having some fun along the way.  One of Nick's doctors and the Project Walk philosophy is ... Read more

Tamara Balenger posted a new journal entry, "Catching Up".

It's quiet this morning - Alex is sleeping, Steve and Nick are at Smith Mountain Lake with Nick M. and I'm catching up on CaringBridge.  It's been a great 3 weeks.  Nick ... Read more

Tamara Balenger posted a new journal entry, "Great News!".

Ñick got the scholarship from the Swim with Mike Foundation!  While fishing this week with Nick M. he received a call from CA stating that he is one of the recipients of ... Read more

Heidi Burke signed Nick's Guestbook.

It was GREAT to see you today, Nick, when I walked in to the GMU exercise room!  You looked so good, and I was so happy to see how well you are doing!  I told Daniel ... Read more

Boom Boom and Donner signed Nick's Guestbook.

Hey, Balenger family!  Glad to hear Steve and Nick made it back safely from Project Walk and Sylvie, if you notice an improvement in Nick's gait, then there definitely is ... Read more

Tamara Balenger posted a new journal entry, "Settling into Summer".

Good Morning!  Sorry it's taken so long to write an update.  Nick and Steve returned safely from California and Nick enjoyed his 2 weeks at Project Walk.  Some people ... Read more

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