Recovery and Recuperation

Law enforcement is replete with stories of true warriors whose will to prevail often defies even the most daunting odds.

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My November 14, 2007, SWAT column “Officer Down! Medic Up!” referenced Dallas PD SWAT Lt. Carlton Marshall who was critically shot Oct. 17 during a morning drug raid. Only the quick actions by the team’s two on-scene SWAT docs saved his life.

The next chapter of Marshall’s story is one of a fierce will to survive and the determination to someday resume living a normal life. That “someday” came a long and difficult eight-and –a-half months later. On June 28 he was discharged and allowed to go home to his family.

Marshall’s road to recovery was filled with a number of seemingly insurmountable roadblocks. He was in a coma during his first month in the hospital, then suffered paralysis from the neck down, a stroke, pneumonia, and meningitis, which left him deaf in both ears.

However daunting these roadblocks seemed, the SWAT lieutenant  never gave up hope, never wavered in his determination to return to his family and regain his life once again. His road would prove to be the most difficult challenge imaginable, giving new meaning to the term “R&R.”

Most of us are familiar with the military term R&R, which means “rest and relaxation”–usually in the form of well-deserved days of leave from a combat zone. The R&R that I refer to here means recovery and recuperation. Ironically, when both forms of R&R are over, you return and resume what you were doing before your R&R.

However, Lt. Marshall’s R&R has been anything but easy, with progress measured by agonizingly slow, tedious, grueling physical therapy, amounting to three baby steps forward and two steps backward. Once only able to blink his eyes, Marshall can now, in his words, “walk about 800 feet” with the help of a walker. And after two cochlear implants and intense therapy, he can now hear again.

Marshall epitomizes the warrior spirit expected of police officers, especially those in SWAT. He has the will to not merely survive, but prevail against the most formidable odds imaginable. This and his equally strong desire to go home and be with his family formed a potent combination to motivate him to recover.

Now that he is home and with his family ,Marshall now wants to eventually return to the Dallas PD in whatever capacity he’s capable of performing.  He knows that he may never make it back to full active duty. But he just wants to get back.

I’ve never met Lt. Carlton Marshall, but I salute him and wish him Godspeed on his road back to both of his “homes.” This is the same wish I have for all wounded warriors.

Law enforcement, SWAT included, is replete with many stories similar to Marshall’s. These are stories of true warriors whose will to prevail often defies even the most daunting odds. Many of us can readily put names, dates, and locations to these stories, because we were there–as part of these stories—either as participants or witnesses.

I can readily cite a number of “survival against the odds” stories from my department and units I was assigned to. My academy classmate was shot through the temple by a sniper’s high-powered rifle. Incredibly, he survived and despite his physical disabilities remained on the job for many years before finally retiring with dignity and honor.

I can also tell you about the tactical officer, permanently paralyzed and wheelchair bound from a rollover vehicle accident, who returned to the job and worked for many productive years before retiring. Then there was the officer who was struck by a speeding car and sent sailing over a freeway guardrail,shattering his leg so badly that it required a pin. Not only did he return to work, he earned his way into SWAT.

Another SWAT officer who severed his Achilles tendon defied the odds by fully recovering to full active duty and working for many more years. Another SWAT officer I know had heart (involving multiple valves) bypass surgery, but worked his way back to SWAT so he could “hit doors” again. And I knew yet another SWAT officer who didn’t let his pacemaker prevent him from bouncing back.

These stories represent only the tip of the “survival against the odds” iceberg. They are justa few of the stories from only one unit of one police department. Multiply this by all the law enforcement agencies in America and the number of similar stories is staggering.

These are the stories of true unsung heroes–unsung because outside of a select few and the occasional fleeting news story, hardly anyone knows about them. What makes these stories all the more incredible is that many, if not most, of these warriors have the same goal:to recover and recuperateso they can return and resume doing what they know and do best.

About the Author
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SWAT Sergeant (Ret.)
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