Health scare rallies "army" of supporters for ill veteran - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Health scare rallies "army" of supporters for ill veteran

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Robert Tolan Senior has supported active and retired military personnel across San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties for almost a decade, but now those same service members are rallying for his recovery.

"It was tough, they told us he wasn't going to make it," Robert Tolan Junior said of his dad's arrival at Arroyo Grande Hospital.  Tolan had taken his dog to the Elm Street Dog Park, like he did every afternoon, but the afternoon of January 25, 2018 wasn't fun and games.  Tolan suffered a severe seizure at the park.  Another visitor called the paramedics and got hold of Robert, who managed to beat the emergency responders to the park.

"He already had a seizure and I got there and he started seizing again," Robert said.  By luck, an emergency room doctor happened to be at the park and began chest compressions with Robert until paramedics arrived.  Tolan was taken to the hospital shortly after.

"When we got here we were told it was not good and he would probably not make it through the night," daughter Mikayla Tolan explained.  "They had no idea what was wrong and that's the scariest part is just not knowing and for so long."  Tolan does have diabetes, Mikayla says, but she says he takes good care of himself and regularly regulates his blood sugar levels. 

Mikayla explained Tolan's blood sugar was so high, hospital equipment couldn't accurately register it.  "they said that he should have died because there's no way you can survive off the level of his blood sugar," Mikayla explained.  He was later diagnosed with pneumonia as well.  

But despite doctor's giving the Tolan family a bleak outlook, Tolan began to improve.  Robert says his dad is a fighter.

"He served in the United States Navy, he served his one term and got out and now he's giving back,"  Robert explained.

In 2010, Tolan and Robert founded Welcome Home Military Heroes.  The program gathered welcoming parties to greet returning active and retired military service members at airports throughout San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.  Tolan had seen a P.T.S.D. commercial and wanted to find a way to prevent or aid those dealing with the disorder, and thought showing returning service members they had support upon return would  help.  For Robert, an active Army Reserve member, it was a unique way to help those he served with.  

The program has since expanded to support military families and spouses, amassing a network of thousands.  So when the family spread word of Tolan's health scare, those he had served responded.  "It's awesome these veterans that show up, everyone that's been showing up has been just unbelievable," Robert explained.  

"I was fully expecting to be here with two or three people but we have just been absolutely surrounded," Mikayla said as a group of veterans and their spouses approached the siblings.  Robert said the ICU waiting room had become a new "barracks" with the number of service members that had spent time with the family.

The family also set up a GoFundMe link hoping to cover at least the beginning medical expenses they will face.  Within hours, the $5,000 goal had nearly been reached. 

And that wasn't the only relief the family got.  By Saturday morning Tolan was alert and communicating with the family.  Mikayla says while doctor's still don't have an explanation for the deadly high blood sugar levels Tolan experienced, they hope to have a better diagnosis and plan for his recovery by the end of the week.  

Robert hopes, as well, that his father will be able to watch a live stream of the next Welcome Home Military Heroes homecoming on Monday afternoon around 1 p.m. in Santa Barbara.  More information on that event will be released on the organization's website and social media in coming days.

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