Damage Beyond Wounds
What do you think of when you hear of an officer being injured in the line of duty? I would bet most think of the physical injuries sustained by the officer and how lucky the officer is to have survived. What you likely do not think of is the damage beyond the physical wounds.
Let me take a moment to tell you what that damage is like for a family. On July 13, 2015, a vehicle fleeing an investigative stop hit my husband, Orlando Police Officer William Anderson. (Editors note: Feature image is dashcam screenshot of Officer Anderson the night he was wounded. In the difficult to see picture, he is at the driver side door with his firearm drawn.) This resulted in a traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. We often hear how great he looks now that his physical injuries have “healed.”
What most people do not see is the non-physical damage sustained. They do not see that my husband has not picked up our now 3-year-old daughter since the day before he was injured. Imagine for almost two years not being able to pick up your child. They do not see a child who every time she sees a car puts her hand up and tells the car not to hit her daddy. I cannot even image how her three-year-old brain processes everything she has seen over the past two years. They do not see a person who had no prior physical limitations now forced to spend several hours a day in bed because his body can no longer handle a lot of activity. They do not see a family that has to leave most social gatherings early because the noise and lights are just too much to bear after a brain injury.
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They do not see a family that has completely rearranged all the plans they had set out for their future because someone did not feel like stopping for a traffic stop. They do not see the depression and sadness suffered by an officer who had his entire career taken away from him in an instant and is now told he is permanently disabled. They do not see a family that has lost several friends and family members because those individuals just no longer come around. They do not see a wife struggling to work full time and care for a toddler while also caring for her husband whose body and mind is damaged more than they ever could have imagined. They do not see the endless nights of tears from being overwhelmed and depressed over a situation thrust upon them by a criminal. They do not see the lost time suffered as a family due to over five months of hospital and inpatient rehabilitation stays and hundreds of medical appointments and therapy sessions. Lost time that they can never get back.
Before you tell a wounded officer how lucky he or she is for surviving an injury or how great they look now that their physical wounds have “healed,” please remember the damage beyond the wounds that continues for years, if not an entire lifetime, after an injury.
– Jessica DeBono Anderson is the Director of Advocacy for the Wounded Officers Initiative. Jessica is married to William Anderson who was medically retired from the Orlando Police Department on March 1, 2017 due to being catastrophically injured in the line of duty. Jessica uses her skills as an attorney to advocate for improving benefits for wounded officers around the country, including working on federal legislation to improve medical retirement benefits for officers permanently disabled in the line of duty. Jessica obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida and her Juris Doctor degree from Mercer University School of Law.