July 23, 1999

United by injuries, Officers share goals

By Bob Doucette Staff Writer

Bethany - Tim McCarthey and Shawn Boorman met just two days ago, but they are fast friends. Cruising around Bricktown on Thursday afternoon, McCarthey and Boorman took in a meal, a boat ride and a few sights. But unlike the crowds around them, these two had bonds forged by a loss few could understand.

McCarthey, who turned 26 on Thursday, lost his left leg on July 3 after being run over by a speeding motorcyclist fleeing police. McCarthey, a Bethany police officer, was on foot helping control traffic at a holiday event that day. Boorman, a Florida police officer, lost most of his lower right leg in a high school hunting accident eight years ago. But in their loss the two also have hope that is based on Boorman's experience. Boorman rides with his departments bicycle patrol and has been known to run down suspects on foot despite despite having to wear a prosthetic leg. Boorman, an officer since 1994, hopes that McCarthey, one of eight members of Bethany's bicycle patrol, will one day do the same. "We've got a lot in common," Boorman said. "Tim's going to be an inspiration to a lot of people." McCarthey first saw Boorman on a videotape provided to him by the television program "COPS." In one scene, Boorman ran down, tackled and arrested a suspect, a feat that gave McCarthey hope that one day he'd do the same. "When I saw him running on his prosthesis, I thought, "That's going to be me one day," McCarthey said. McCarthey said hearing Boorman's story has helped him. "Just seeing Shawn, knowing that he's an officer and has a prosthesis, that gives me a lot of encouragement. It makes me feel good about my future. It makes me think I can do all the things I did before, including riding a bike." McCarthey's physical activity before the accident was not limited to police work. He was an avid runner, weight lifter and practitioner of martial arts. Martial arts and running may have to weight a few months, but his physical therapist already has him on a light workout program to rehabilitate his left arm, which was broken in the crash. He is strengthening what's left of his left leg, which was amputated above the knee. McCarthey is also having to deal with his body's reaction to the amputation. He still feels pain in his left leg, even though it's been gone for nearly three weeks. Doctors call them "phantom pains." "I can tell you which nerve it is, big toe, little toe, ankle. Sometimes it hurts so bad I can't stand it. But most of the time it's just irritating." With time, those pains will cease. He'll be fitted with a temporary prosthesis in about a month and will begin learning to walk again. By the time his permanent prosthesis is fitted, he'll be able to learn to run and regain much of the mobility he lost July 3. When - not if - McCarthey gets back on the force, he'll have to adapt to working with the prosthetic, Boorman said. "There's mechanical breakdowns with anything man-made. I've chased after guys and my leg comes flying off. What do you do but roll around on the ground, get your leg, put it back on and get going again?" Boorman has taken a few verbal jabs, known by some in the neighborhood he patrols as "peg-leg" or "Robocop." It doesn't bother him, and McCarthey knows he'll have to have the same attitude. "That's expected, and I expect it," McCarthey said. There are advantages, both practical and humorous. Boorman teaches firearm safety to children. The accident when he was 17 occurred because his hunting buddy was not handling his shotgun properly. The gun fired just three feet from his leg. But there are other things - not having to change his right sock every day, for example - that brought laughter to his discussions with McCarthey. "I can take a knife or a bullet in my right leg, and I won't feel a thing," Boorman said. He also used his prosthesis to make a point while on patrol. Told by a partner that local residence needed to think he was "crazy," he used his artificial limb to make a statement while taking care of an alligator that had wandered into the neighborhood. Walking up to the reptile, he provoked it to open it's mouth. He then jammed his right foot into the gators toothy maw, causing the animal to clamp down. He promptly pulled his leg out of the prosthesis, grabbed the alligator by the snout and hopped away with it, to the astonishment of the crowd that had gathered nearby. Humor aside, McCarthey knows that the accident that claimed his left leg could easily have been worse. "I don't have nightmares about it. I don't have flashbacks. I don't cry about it. I'm just happy to be alive. A few inches more over to my right, and I'd be dead. The Lord was with me."