[SPECIAL] Destroyed by War: Tyler Ziegel
UPDATE : It is with a heavy heart we tell that Tyler Ziegel died 5 months after the publication of this story. You can read the news and leave your condolences at the following update: Tyler Ziegel, 30, Has Passed Away.
Tyler Ziegel lost his face, hand, fingers and fragments of his skull in Iraq, but Renee treasured him no matter what, and so she married him. This is no war-hero fairytale – for after one year of marriage – he lost her too.
Their story was once the center of media attention – typically magazines like Woman’s Weekly and the like – but the story once dubbed as “Love conquers all” has since been buried. After a year and three months, Tyler`s appearance and traumatic stress – as well as intense psychological issues caused by his self-esteem – became all too much and Renee and Tyler divorced.
In 2004 Ty’s life changed forever. He was 50% blinded and physically disfigured. The deformation lead to severe mental instability and (understandably) took Ty down a dark path.
On Renee’s 19th birthday—precisely one year after he’d proposed—Ty was given notice that he’d be returning home. Renee excitedly spent spring planning their perfect day. 7 weeks before Ty returned, Renee received the call that would change their relationship eternally – she flew straight to the emergency recovery area where medical attention was the main priority. For 17 months, Renee stayed by his side at the intensive care unit.
She claimed he looked like a darker burnt version of himself, but reality sunk in when Ty was taken into surgery to have the layer upon layer of dead skin removed.
Doctors removed Ty’s damaged frontal lobe and undertook the very complicated brain surgery that would determine whether or not he would see the next week.
For 8 weeks Ty was held in reserve, profoundly anesthetized. All the while, Renee showered him with regard, donning sterile gloves to hold his remaining right hand, leaning over to kiss his face. It was a while before they could lock lips—not until surgeons grafted him new ones with groin tissue. (As for greater intimacy, that took many months. Now, Renee says, “it’s the same as it always was.”) Renee’s and his mother’s devotion, Ty says, hastened his recovery. “Why should I get any better if there’s nobody there to get better for?” he says.
“We’d take him outside, and he’d say, ‘I want sunglasses’” “We couldn’t tell him, “’You can’t wear them because you have no ears.’” – Renee
Tyler and Renee wedded on October 6, 2006. The governor of Illinois declared the day a state holiday and the masses cheered. This act of bravery – which had nearly caused his death – was seen as heroic and their wedding, romantic.
Renee must have at some point realized Ty would never be the same again. Other than his appearance he – like many veterans – became victim of his Post-traumatic stress disorder and when it came to moments of excitement – he risked falling comatose.
After roughly 50 surgeries, it became clearer that Ty was extremely lucky to have made so much progress – the surgeons noted that the events of the suicide bombing had perforated Tyler Ziegel’s brain with shrapnel.
The awful reports of having a shower and watching blood disappear down the drain gives voluminous images of how disastrous war can be to the outside believe they are defending our rights and honor.
See our gallery below.