Dentist gives veterans reason to smile: free dental care

February 11, 2014

Where to begin talking about what Rory Dunn has been through since he was wounded that day in Fallujah? His best friend, who bled out next to him? His traumatic brain injury that has altered his personality? His forehead held together by a plastic prosthetic?

It’s hard to know where to begin, so Issaquah’s Dr. Theresa Cheng concerns herself with what she knows best as a dentist: his teeth.

By Chris Joseph Taylor/Seattle Times  Dr. Theresa Cheng, a periodontist, prepares to perform surgery.

By Chris Joseph Taylor/Seattle Times
Dr. Theresa Cheng, a periodontist, prepares to perform surgery.

In the nine years since his unarmored Humvee in Iraq was hit by explosives on his 22nd birthday, Dunn has been making a long, hard recovery. His mother, Cynthia Lefever, has been by his side the whole time — sleeping next to her then-comatose son at Walter Reed Army National Military Medical Center and later traveling the country to advocate for veteran care.

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Battles continue for Iraq war veteran Rory Dunn, mother Cynthia Lefever

November 8, 2011

The challenges resonate almost a decade after crude bombs detonated along a roadside in Iraq.

Cynthia Lefever (left) and her son, Purple Heart recipient Rory Dunn, take Gunner, Duke and Mister on their daily dog walk in 2008 at Ron Regis Park in Renton. File

The struggle for survival started in the frantic moments after a bomb explosion near Fallujah left Army Spc. Rory Dunn, a Liberty High School graduate, sightless and near death. Then came a much longer campaign to navigate a medical system unequipped to handle veterans from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The day Dunn turned 22 in March 2004, roadside bombs tore through a Humvee. Shrapnel pierced the unarmored vehicle and left Dunn’s best friend and another soldier dead. The explosion shattered Dunn’s forehead and left the 6-foot, 3-inch former basketball player blind and deaf for a time.

The “battle after the battle” — as Dunn’s mother, Cynthia Lefever, came to call the long healing process — opened days after the explosion at a military medical center in Landstuhl, Germany.

Lefever, leaned close to the bed and shouted, “Rory Dunn, this is your mother! You will not die! Don’t you dare die!”

Dunn did not die. Instead, after surgeries and rehabilitation, the soldier beat the “imminent death” predictions from doctors.

“I’ve never had anything in my life that if I wanted to achieve it — if it was realistic — that I haven’t been able to make happen,” he said. “I’m not worried.”

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Voters to decide King County veterans-and-human-services levy

August 9, 2011

Measure funds Issaquah programs for teenagers, parents

King County voters decide the future of a county veterans-and-human-services levy soon, and as Election Day nears, recipients of levy dollars demonstrated how the measure impacts Issaquah and other communities.

The electorate approved the initial veterans-and-human-services levy — 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — to fund programs for veterans and social service efforts in 2005. The measure, Proposition 1, is up for renewal on the Aug. 16 ballot.

If passed, the levy renewal is projected to generate $100 million through 2017. The funding is split 50-50 among programs for veterans and the neediest residents in King County.

Proposition 1 matches the existing levy and does not include additional taxes. The owner of a home assessed at $340,000 is expected to pay $17 in 2012 if the levy is renewed. (The existing levy is due to expire Dec. 31.)

Proposition 1 receives broad support from human services organizations and advocates for veterans. The measure received unanimous support on the often-contentious council. The county Voters’ Guide does not include any statements against Proposition 1.

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Outdoor Channel honors Liberty High School graduate wounded in Iraq

July 20, 2011

NEW — 2 p.m. July 20, 2011

Retired U.S. Army Spc. Rory Dunn, a 2000 Liberty High School graduate, survived devastating injuries caused by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Now, as a display of gratitude for Dunn’s sacrifice, the Outdoor Channel whisked the former soldier deep into the heart of Texas for a whitetail deer hunt. Crews filmed the expedition for “Grateful Nation” — a show about disabled veterans on a hunt alongside host Tim Abell, a former Army Airborne Ranger.

Dunn’s episode is scheduled to air at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and 4:30 p.m. July 24 on the Outdoor Channel, channel 406 on Comcast.

In the episode, Dunn returns to South Texas and the Catarosa Ranch in the famed “Golden Triangle” of big game hunting.

Dunn also made a surprise appearance on “Grateful Nation” last year to reunite with a combat buddy.

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Issaquah dentist gives back to vets

November 9, 2010

You’d think that when American veterans return from active duty, dental care would be an automatic benefit. However, you’d be wrong.

Only veterans deemed “completely service-disabled” are covered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and that is for only certain types of dental work, according to Issaquah dentist Theresa Cheng. That means most veterans don’t get seen by dentists — and it goes for their caretakers and family as well. Read more

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Who’s News

September 1, 2009

EFR firefighters win gold at paintball tournament

Ryan Hendricks, Nick Parker and team captain Pete Wilson, of Eastside Fire & Rescue, brought home gold medals in the World Police and Fire Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, in August.

The three firefighters of Local 2878 were joined by Terry Dries, a Sacramento, Calif., firefighter, and Randy Paulson, a Pleasanton, Calif., police officer (at right). They competed in a five-on-five paintball tournament against five other teams, including two Los Angeles police teams, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police team and two teams from Victoria Corrections.

The five had never played together before the games and got off to a rocky start. The team suffered crushing losses to the two Los Angeles teams in the qualifying rounds. After the fourth game, the team rallied to defeat one of the L.A. teams, making the finals. The team won both rounds in the finals and took the gold.

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Local mom battles to give a voice to the Wounded Warriors

November 4, 2008

Cynthia Lefever continues to make noise. And she said she won’t stop trying to get national officials to improve medical care for returning Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.

Cynthia Lefever

She’s intimately aware of the devastating effects of blast injuries. Her son, Rory Dunn, a 2000 graduate of Liberty High School, was nearly killed four years ago by a roadside bomb in Fallujah, Iraq. The bomb exploded above his Humvee, killing two of his friends. His forehead was crushed from ear to ear, leaving his brain exposed. Shrapnel destroyed his right eye and his hearing was severely damaged.

He was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Baghdad, where doctors worked to save him. Five days later, he was flown to a hospital at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where family had gone on “imminent death orders” to say their goodbyes.

“Doctors gave him a 2 percent chance of survival,” Lefever said.

Despite the grim prognosis, Dunn did survive. One day after he arrived in Germany, he was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., still in a coma.

“When he arrived at Walter Reed, neurosurgeons said Rory’s injuries were the worst they had ever seen,” Lefever said.

The journey for mother and son the past four years has been a study of perseverance — Dunn defying the odds each step of his recovery and Lefever battling the Army to ensure he continued to receive critical care from Reed’s top-notch surgeons. Almost six weeks later, Dunn emerged from his coma.

“Within days of coming out of a coma, Army leadership was at his bedside putting a pen in his hand to start the discharge process with the ultimate goal of getting Rory off the books,” Lefever said.

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