Monday, December 3, 2012

Dan Takes Lessons From Brother's Life ... And Mysterious Death

Dan Sullivan visits his brother's grave.
One of my best friends and the best man at my wedding, Dan Sullivan, is featured in an article by National Public Radio's DC affiliate, WAMU 88.5 FM. By reading the article, you will see that I know how to pick my friends ...

You can listen to the radio segment by correspondent/photographer Raphaella Bennin and view a slideshow of photos at WAMU.


Tom Sullivan ran at life full force. His brother Dan approached decisions with deliberation and caution, so it wasn't uncommon for Tom to jab at Dan, telling him, "Stop being a wimp. Just go out and do things!"

In 2000, Tom had an impromptu conversation with a recruitment officer and joined the Marines. The career turned out to be a perfect fit for his personality.

"He just went at it full force," recalls Dan. "I mean, he went into boot camp; he got through boot camp. He loved the marines. He actually had the opportunity to quit before he was sent to Iraq, and he believed so strongly that the Marines was what he was destined and wanted to do, so he re-upped."

Tom went to Iraq in 2004, but while he was deployed, he started to feel sick. His blood pressure became elevated and he started to have gastro-intestinal problems.

"It was very debilitating," says Dan. "He would literally miss three or four hours a day having to be on the toilet." Tom returned to the U.S., but his health continued to deteriorate. He was in intense pain and he became so swollen that new friends didn't recognize pictures of him from a year or two earlier.

Tom's doctors couldn't identify the cause. They suspected Crohn's disease and then ulcerative colitis, but weren't sure. He saw more doctors, hoping someone could confidently diagnose him, and he began to carry around a backpack full of his medical records everywhere he went.

Even in the midst of his physical suffering, Tom maintained his enthusiasm for life. He got married and had a daughter.

Then, in February of 2009, Dan went to Tom's house to check on his brother, and found Tom's body.

To read the full story (and it's well worth it), go to WAMU.

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