BACK FROM DESPAIR
pain I was in.
It’s amazing what the human mind is capable of. It can protect us, but it can also render us
helpless. While in the hospital, I had months
of operations and rehab and lots of time to
think, wonder and deal with God. I began the
negotiation and made promises that I would
AFTER THE PHYSICAL PAIN
As I began to recover physically, I was overtaken
by post-traumatic stress. I felt lost.
I had no identity and I felt there was no
place to go. I made promises and deals with
God, negotiating constantly and, like a child
who can’t swim, I was looking for an edge of
the pool to cling to.
What I didn’t know was that the EMS crew
that helped me were at the hospital offering
support to my family almost daily. They donated
blood for me. How do you ever thank people
for such a generous gift? That answer would
eventually come to me, but not until much later.
The day I was discharged to go home was
perhaps the most frightening day of my life. I
was alone with no identity or direction, unable
to return to my career in law enforcement. I
was nobody, and the months of rehab, surgery,
depression and medications weren’t making
My downward spiral accelerated rapidly. I
completely lost who I was. Attempts to regain
my life ended in failure. I was trapped in my
own mind, unable to honor those who gave
so much to me. I became bitter and resentful.
I remember being asked once, “Do you
believe in God?” At the time, my answer was
“no.” What kind and merciful God would allow
this to happen?
The anger soon progressed to self-pity and
then to outright rage. I didn’t care anymore. I
stopped seeking help, and I became reclusive,
fearing the reality of what I was going through
and believing no one could ever understand.
I never considered that I may have been
experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder
(P TSD). I was told it was a major depression,
and that the symptoms would resolve in time.
I remember having horrific dreams where I’d
see myself collide with the truck, only to step off
the sidewalk and pick up my severed right arm.
As time went on, the nightmares were
replaced with euphoric dreams of being back
at work amongst my friends again. However,
when I awoke, my nightmarish reality would
return and I would once again discover that I
I could cite statistics about PTSD all day
long, but when you’re the one suffering, they
don’t matter—the statistics are 100%.
I finally figured it out one day after a close
friend told me I was crazy. After his remarks, I
returned home and sat in a chair the rest of the
day with a loaded 9 mm in my lap. I thought
my only recourse was suicide. I was so wrong.
Instead of following through, I reluctantly
decided to attend a vocational rehabilitation
appointment that the state of California had
arranged for me. I took a series of aptitude and
intelligence tests and scored high enough to be
provided the opportunity to attend college with
financial assistance from the state.
I had never even considered college. I couldn’t
see myself attending classes alongside students
who were much younger and brighter than me.
The vocational counselor told me something that I wasn’t aware of: Most police, fire
and EMS personnel have extremely high intelligence levels and it would be the social aspects
of college, not the curriculum, that would be
my major challenge.
HOPE AT LAST
Finally, I had hope, or, at least, something to
look forward to. College was a challenge for me
both academically and socially. I was treated
differently because of my age as well as my
I was often confronted by students and staff
resentful of a traffic citation or some incident
involving police. There were comments in the
classroom about anyone in a position of trust
It became a game. I had to pretend to be
everything I wasn’t and just survive. Somehow, I came to believe that what I was experiencing was justified and I deserved everything
that was said to me and the challenges these
remarks created. I learned to leverage the pain
of my past as motivation.
I completed my undergraduate and my master’s degrees. I began to think that the only
way I could become the equivalent of a police
motorcycle officer was to find its equal. Growing up in a law enforcement family, the only
thing equal would have to be something unique
and respected. So, I decided to apply to medical school.
I was accepted into the West Virginia School
of Osteopathic Medicine. Medical school was a
long, challenging journey, but I succeeded and
became a physician.
It was during that time when I discovered
what had propelled me forward for so long: I
was subconsciously becoming the best ex-cop Upward: Medical school graduation.
A terrifying day: My hospital discharge. A life-changing injury: A nearly severed arm.