WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It has been nine months since the horrific attack on Wichita police officer, Brian Arterburn.
A suspect in a stolen truck ran him over in the street Feb. 7, leaving him with a critical head injury. It could have easily killed him or left him comatose.
Now, Brian himself is showing KSN just how far he has come and why his wife and many others consider himself a miracle man.
Before the attack, Brian Arterburn was a picture of strength. He and his wife, Claudale, used to run marathons together, when they weren’t on duty as Wichita police officers. He had 25 years on the force, and she has 15.
But just three weeks after they were married, they had to find a much different kind of strength.
“Y’know, I guess in the beginning. I didn’t know how injured he was until I started talking to the doctors and realized it was truly a miracle,” said Claudale Arterburn.
From the paramedics who stopped the bleeding, to the doctors who patched his broken skull, Brian has defied death. Yet, he still doesn’t understand what happened to him or how lucky he is.
“Yea, for all the injuries he had and what he sustained,” said Claudale.
“What sickness do I have?” said Brian. “Well, you got ran over,” said Claudale.
On this day, Brian is struggling with the medicine that makes him sleepy and confusion caused by the brain damage.
“I mean, something truly evil happened to him, but so much has come out of that that’s good and positive.”
– Claudale Arterburn
“He doesn’t remember the incident. He has a lot of short-term memory loss so he doesn’t remember even last Thanksgiving. To him, he hasn’t been home in a year because his memories are from last Labor Day,” said Claudale.
Brian does remember his wedding day and his partner on the police force, Janette Griggs, who recently spent three days with him.
“I love Janette,” Brian said.
“Yea, was it nice fishing with her yesterday?” said Claudale.
“Yea, that was really nice,” said Brian.
She too is still healing from witnessing the attack on Brian. Whether he’ll ever regain his memory is still unclear.
“Well, he had as serious of a brain injury as you can get,” said Dr. John Cassidy.
Dr. Cassidy founded the neuro-recovery center outside Houston where Brian now lives and does hours of therapy each day.
“I don’t mind it all,” said Brian. “Doesn’t bother me.”
In fact, Brian is eager to show us the progress he’s made.
“1, 2, 3. All the way up,” said Julie Grimes, Brian’s supervising therapist.
Brian is now more steady on his feet, and his balance and confidence are improving.
He no longer needs the cane he used just a month ago. It’s all part of rebuilding his muscle memory.
“So right now, we’re working on a lot of repetitive activities, standing, walking, sitting down safely, all the things he was doing before his injury,” said Grimes.
But Brian’s biggest challenge in rehab is his emotional recovery. His brain injury affects his judgment and impulse control.
“So it’s a little like people’s friends who have a little too much to drink on New Year’s Eve. They say and do things that the next day they wake up and say, ‘Oh my goodness!'” said Dr. Cassidy.
Because Brian’s moods can change quickly, he has good days in therapy and bad.
“There’s times that he’s very trusting and willing to participate, and other times it’s more challenging, maybe because there’s confusion and not understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Grimes.
Brian’s sense of humor is still there. The old Brian comes out when we asked his age.
“I think I’m 35,” said Brian. “Brian is 48,” said Claudale. “I’m kidding!” Brian responded. “You’re kidding?” Claudale laughed.
It’s that attitude, plus incredible support from home that keeps both of them going. Brian has receivied encouraging notes from thousands of Kansans.
“Look at all these cards, Brian. From El Dorado, Wichita, there’s some from Rose Hill,” said Claudale.
She read him one card. “Always remember we are thinking of you, and that’s an order.”
Other officers also remember.
“He’s our family. Even though we’re meeting for the first time, he’s our family, and we just want to make sure he’s okay,” said Spc. Mike Evans, Montgomery Co. Sheriff’s office.
The Texas sheriff’s officer is just one of many in law enforcement paying Brian a visit.
“We had to get to know him,” said Evans. “From what I’ve read, he’s a genuine Kansas hero.”
KSN asked Brian what he thought about people considering him a hero. He responded, “I think it’s awesome. It’s amazing.”
While he may never be a police officer again, the goal for Brian right now is independence. That means taking care of himself and getting home to the people he loves.
Doctors can’t say yet how long that will take, but those who know Brian best say don’t underestimate him. A few years ago, he had a liver transplant and was back on the job in record time.
KSN will continue to follow Brian’s recovery and keep you updated on his progress. Leave Brian a get-well wish on Facebook by clicking the link below.