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Navy vet weathers rough patches on road to recovery

Dan Hika, 44, of New Kensington in his hospital room at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. He was paralyzed from the chest down in a swimming pool accident June 18, 2012. Photo courtesy of the Hika family.

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Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Editor's note: The Valley News Dispatch has been updating some of the stories that we covered in 2012. This is the final installment.

A New Kensington man who was paralyzed from the chest down in a swimming pool accident in June is being treated in a Cleveland veterans hospital.

Dan Hika, 44, transferred to the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in mid-October to receive treatment for an ulcer so deep that it exposed his tailbone, said his wife, Cheryl.

“Thank God he was a vet because they're not worried about ‘This is ‘x' amount of time and then you have to go (home),' ” said Cheryl Hika, 45. Her husband enlisted in the Navy upon graduation from high school in 1987 and served four years.

“They want him well,” she said. “If we were relying on regular insurance, he'd be in a nursing home with no chance of coming home because he wouldn't get the wound care and he wouldn't get the rehabilitation.”

Hika suffered a spinal injury and was paralyzed when he dove into the family's backyard above-ground swimming pool on June 18.

He has limited movement in his upper extremities and diminished fine motor skills in his hands.

Hika's wife and three children, Michael, 8; Ashley, 14; and D.J., 13, make the three-hour drive to Cleveland every other weekend.

The weekend before Christmas, the family gathered in Hika's hospital room to celebrate the holiday.

“It was nice,” said Cheryl Hika. “We thought he would be upset because when we first took him there, he was upset that he would miss the holiday and all our birthdays in December and January.

“It was me who was the one that was upset,” she said. “He just said, ‘I'm done crying — we just have to take things one day at a time.' ”

Hika expects to return to the area in March. He'll transfer to HealthSouth in Indiana Township for rehabilitation in preparation for returning to their Freeport Road home.

The family uses money donated to a fund set up at the CGH Federal Credit Union to pay for travel costs and medical expenses.

“The next big thing will be home modification,” Cheryl Hika said.

She said that once her husband is up to it, he hopes to speak at schools in the New Kensington-Arnold School District about the dangers of diving into above-ground pools.

“There he is, living proof of ‘I'm supposed to know better, and here I am,' ” she said.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or

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