Nick’s 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!

Latest Journal Update

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 would justify that!  I received a call from Derek Berry, the public relations director at National Rehab Hospital and he informed me that Nick is being honored as one of 3 recipients of the Victory Award from NRH!  I remember seeing pictures of all the recipients while Nick was in the hospital which included people like Sen. Daniel Inouye, Sen Bob Dole, Stevie Wonder, Bod Woodruff, Ray Charles, etc.  It is given to people who have faced physical adversity and overcome it with grace and hard work ethic.  Needless to say, we are thrilled for Nick!

Here is the email I received yesterday from the producer of the show.  We are over the moon!  Thank you Nick Nation for making this possible!
Sylvie and Steve

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Balenger,

On behalf of The Board of Directors of Medstar National RehabilitationHospital, it is my honor and pleasure to send you the attached letter fromJohn Rockwood inviting Nick to receive The Victory Award on Thursday, October30, 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you and the opportunity to honor Nick atthis very special evening of inspiration and celebration.  I hopeyou will not hesitate in contacting me, or Derek Berry with any questionsor thoughts you may have.

Thank you so much, Mr. and Mrs. Balenger.

Mark Henson
The Victory Awards
(310) 502-9920

8 people hearted this



Suzanne Laboy
By Suzanne Laboy
very exciting nick! We will be there cheering you on! You are definitely a shining star!!!
Steve Spoutz
By Teri Spoutz
Wow. That IS great news. Congratulations Nick!
Cindy Mark
By Cindy
Congratulations Nick!! Very impressive and very deserved!!
nancy figgins
We couldn't be more proud of you yet again Nick!
Love Aunt Nancy, Uncle Lee, Aimee and Jack
Jan Woodward
This is fantastic news! OMG....what better a person to receive it? !! Congratulations Nick and the Balenger family and supporters for helping make this come true!
linda charest
By Boom Boom and Donner
Hey, Nick - Wowza! We don't need to read the letter (couldn't open it) to know what an honor this is for you and your family, All of Nick Nation is so very proud of you, We are confident that this is certainly not the last award you will receive for all that hard work and dogged determination. We just don't want you to take home the whole enchilada for DaGulls again! jk, brother, take care and continue to inspire us!
Donna Davis
By Donna Davis
Wow! That's quite an honor! Nick, you've certainly earned the recognition! Hope you're having a great year at GMU!
Jay Coakley
By Jay Coakley
Very deserving.... Please give Nick a hug for me... Or a fist bump:)