LA JOLLA, Calif. - Doug David went through a series of occupational and physical therapy evaluations at the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the VA Healthcare system in La Jolla earlier this week.
His friends were surprised to see the 64-year-old at ease. According to some close friends, they say the professionalism of the VA staff and a visit from therapy dogs helped.
However, the road to getting the Army veteran into the VA healthcare system required patience and determination. Friends said, Cathy Carey, also David's medical power of attorney, jumped hurdles, determined to get her friend the right care.
Carey has known David for years and says she only hopes he can return to being the guy who was happy with life.
In October of last year, David traveled to New Orleans, as he did every year for his love of jazz music. But his visit in 2015 would leave him paralyzed from the neck down.
David was a crossing a street when he threw a beer can at a car that came too close. In surveillance video, the driver of the car, identified as 30-year-old Christopher Smith, is seen getting out of the vehicle and punching David. Witnesses say the La Jolla man fell to the ground and hit his neck on the curb, paralyzing him.
Carey said after months of working with the VA, David was finally categorized as catastrophically disabled. His medical bills are paid for, as well as medication prescribed by the VA, and he also gets a customized, motorized wheelchair free of charge.
After a number of moves to different medical centers in California, David was finally moved to a board and care center in Escondido close to Carey.
Carey admits the new wheelchair will give them access to go outdoors and provide a better quality of life for him.
Smith faces aggravated battery charges and is scheduled to be in a New Orleans court later this month.