HOUSTON -- KHOU 11 News was invited to the Dowling home Tuesday night as Captain Wiiliam Dowling's family began decorating and preparing for his arrival.
"I'm happy for him to finally get out of that hospital,” said his wife Jacki. “It's going to be emotional. We've been through a lot."
The Dowlings will host friends and family for the long-awaited homecoming Wednesday afternoon. They have been supported by multiple fundraisers during the six-month hospital stay. At their Tomball home their bathroom, master bedroom, and kitchen were recently renovated for free by Milton Frank Plumbing to make the home completely wheelchair accessible for the injured firefighter.
"It's going to be huge,” Jacki said of the homecoming that will include Engine 68 carrying the Dowlings from Memorial Hermann to their home. “I've already shed some tears about it today."
Other fire departments and well-wishers are expected to line the route along I-45 and FM 2920 with American flags.
"And when I tell him about it he gets emotional and he cries because I know it's hard for him to grasp it all too," Jacki said. "But it's amazing how many people love him."
The road, however, is still a long one. Captain Dowling will need constant in-home nursing care. How much he will eventually recover from the hypoxia he suffered during treatment is still only a guess. But this is the same Bill known as "Iron Bill" and the same man who yelled from an ambulance the day of the fire, "Tell Jacki that I'm going to fight for her and the kids."
That's the fighter Jacki believes will eventually come home.
"One million percent. He's still fighting. He's a tough cookie," Jacki said. "My hope is for him to get 100 percent recovered and we move forward with our life the way it was before he got hurt."
"All I can think is it's gonna be awesome. It's not gonna be bad,” said Dowling’s daughter Faith. "He's awesome. He's the best dad in the world."
On the fireplace mantle, Jacki has a wedding photo placed behind a carving of the word “Believe” with the quote “believe when it’s beyond reason to believe.” They are clinging to that faith as the next chapter of their journey begins.
"The hard work begins Monday,” said Jacki, who says this will be the best Thanksgiving celebration ever at the Dowling home. “We start therapy on Monday, doctors appointments, volleyball practice, basketball games, our life is not going to change other than it's just going to be a little bit harder. We're going to do the same stuff we did before."