MY STORY

My name is Tim McCarthey. I'm a retired police officer in the city of Bethany, Oklahoma. Bethany is a suburb of Oklahoma City with a population of approximately 25,000 people and 30 police officers.

I began working as a police officer in February of 1997 after graduating from college in July of 1996. I was a patrol officer and a bicycle officer. Most of my shift was usually split between the two.

On July 3, 1999, I was on bike patrol during the City's Fourth of July celebration in a local park, after having worked all night the night before (2230 to 0630 hrs). Myself and other bike officers heard over our radios that another officer in a patrol unit was in pursuit of a motorcycle headed in the direction of the park. The pursuit was on a large four lane divided highway that runs along the park. There had been temporary stop signs set up at an intersection leading into the park to stop traffic so people could safely cross the highway. We knew that the pursuit would enter the intersection, and that there would probably be people crossing the street. Myself and four other officers rode to the intersection to make sure that all cars were stopped and all pedestrians were out of the roadway. We then maintained our positions along the roadway to make sure no one entered into the path of the pursuit. As I waited for the pursuit to pass, I saw that the driver on the motorcycle was traveling at a high rate of speed. Just before entering the intersection, the driver leaned down over the bike and accelerated to a faster speed. The driver swerved at two officers who were standing on the other side of the intersection and ahead of me missing them by only a couple of feet. The driver then swerved the motorcycle toward me, at 91 MPH. I had no time to react. The impact instantly severed my leg below the knee and broke my left arm. Thankfully, Officer Jason Skaggs was a trained emergency medical technician and he immediately retrieved a trauma pack from a patrol unit, while yelling into the radio "Officer down start med flight", and then began first aid. Other officers arrived at the scene and began holding me down because I was trying to sit up. Lying there on the pavement was a very strange feeling for me. I remember the look on everyone's face as they came up to look down on me, as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing. They never let me look down at my leg and I am truly happy today that they didn't, but I did see my arm, which was barely still attached. I tried to move my fingers, but they wouldn't move. Talk about a scary feeling. After that, the only thing I could think of was to just be still and let the people I trust the most take care of me. I was never in fear of dying. I didn't consider that to be an option.

Both the fire department and the ambulance were in the park that day and were able to get to me and load me in the ambulance in only a few minutes. I was then rushed to the hospital, unaware that my leg had been severed. I remember the intense pain and the feeling that my leg was still there. In the back of my mind I knew that I would loose my leg that day and I was terrified. The ride to the hospital was something that to this day still gives me goose bumps when I think about how officers from four different agencies blocked intersections and escorted the ambulance to the hospital. I've been one of those officers, blocking intersections and escorting the ambulance, I never thought that I would ever be one of the officers in the ambulance. It's amazing how police officers come together to help each other.

In the emergency room, the officers who had been with me from the beginning stayed with me until I was taken into surgery. I knew by looking at the officer's faces that I was in bad shape. Every officer in that room had tears in their eyes. That day there were several officers who cried and prayed. While in the emergency room, the on-call surgeon told me that he didn't do reattachment surgeries, but he could call another doctor that did. That's when I realized that my leg had been severed. I told him that I wanted to keep the leg, and after the other doctor's arrival, I was taken into surgery.

During surgery, doctors were forced to amputate my leg above the knee as a result of bone and tissue damage in the knee area that could not be repaired. Due to my physical condition before the accident, the doctors were also able to perform surgery on my left arm, which had been planned for four days later. A "nail rod" was inserted through my shoulder blade and down the center of the humorous bone in the left arm. After four or five hours in surgery, I was taken to recovery and then to my room where I would wake up to a new life.

When I awoke from surgery, my family was standing next to my bed. I asked if the doctors were able to save my leg at which time I was given the worst news of my life. My first thought was that I would not be a police officer anymore and I didn't know what my future would be like. After some comforting words from friends and family I was put at ease about my future. From that moment on, I've tried to keep a positive attitude.

While in the hospital, I had a reaction to the Morphine and stopped breathing. Luckily for me, my wife and and other family members found me in time to wake me up and get me breathing again. I wasn't in much pain until I stopped breathing, then they took me off the morphine. I was only in the hospital for six days before I went home, that's when the "phantom pains" started. A "phantom pain" is a pain that feels as if the limb is still there. It's not clear what causes "phantom pains". It is the most painful and frustrating pain I have ever felt. It felt like someone was twisting my foot up to my knee and then around the leg and then pulling my toenails back. I would lie in bed at night screaming because of the pain and only get around three hours of sleep. Finally, the doctor prescribed Neurontin for the Phantom pains.  I still have phantom pains but it's not near as bad as it was before I began taking the Neurontin.

Shortly after returning home from the hospital, I began to lose the feeling and use of my left hand. My arm became numb from the elbow down and I was no longer able to move my left hand or fingers. I couldn't even extend my wrist or fingers. In December of 1999, I underwent surgery to repair nerve damage in my upper arm. After more rehabilitation I was able to use my left arm again, although I still to this date have less then 50 percent of my original strength, some shoulder pain, and some numbness from the elbow down.

After a few weeks of physical therapy and healing, it was time to get fitted for my prosthetic leg. I went to Scott Sabolich Prosthetics and Research Center and met with Scott. I instantly liked Scott and we began the process of preparing my first prosthesis. My first temporary prosthesis felt weird at first but I soon became accustomed to it and the more I walked the more I improved. It only took me three days to begin walking with a cane and one week to walk without a cane. I excelled faster then anyone had thought I would and I learned to run four weeks after walking for the first time. It takes a lot more energy to walk with a prosthesis then it does to walk with the legs that mother nature has given us. Learning to walk again was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. I have been able to inspire many other people because of my determination and desire to lead the same normal, happy life that I lead before the accident.

The biggest inspiration for me came from the director of the Limbs for Life Foundation, Craig Gavras. Craig went to the hospital to visit me at the request of my family and friends. Craig showed me that life is not over after an amputation. It really helped me a lot to meet someone who has been in the same situation and to see him doing so well.

I also was able to meet Shawn Boorman, a police officer from the Martin County Sheriff's Department in Florida and a below the knee amputee. Shawn has been seen on an episode of "COPS" chasing a large male down and tackling him and taking him into custody. Shawn was flown into Oklahoma City by Southwest Airlines to lend support.

The loss of a limb is a life changing experience, not a life ending experience. It puts things in perspective and shows you the things that we all take for granted. I may never totally accept what happened, but I will live a happy life. Sometimes I get angry or depressed. I hate not being able to move like I used to. I now have to do things a little different than I did before but I can still do just about everything. In fact, just three months after I lost my leg, I completed a six-day, 225-mile bike ride from Oklahoma City to Dallas to raise money for the Limbs for Life Foundation, to buy limbs for people who can't afford the high expense of a prosthesis.

Living with a prosthesis is a little difficult to get used to. I put my leg on in the morning and I take it off at night. To the average person, it probably looks like the prosthesis is uncomfortable to wear but its not too bad, once you become accustomed to it. Sometimes it becomes uncomfortable due to the changes that my leg is going through. The fit of the socket is affected by the change in volume that the residual limb goes through during an amputees life time. Like other people, amputees also lose and gain weight, and when this happens it changes the fit of the prosthesis.

My old prosthesis was made up of a suction socket, a hydraulic knee, a torque absorber, a shock absorber, and a PathFinder foot. I soon began using a C-Leg, eventually moving to the Genium, and am currently using the X-3, all made by Otto Bock. It is a computerized prosthesis that is programmed to know my walking habits. It is constantly checking my gait and making adjustments up to 50 times per second. This means I can go from a walk to a run and then back to walk without having to make adjustments to the hydraulic setting. The knee has an advanced swing-phase control and stance control, allowing me to walk with less effort and more safely. I can now go down stairs, hills, and ramps step-over-step without holding onto anything and without fear of falling down.

In May of 2000, I medically retired from the City of Bethany Police Department. I really didn't want to retire. Police work had become my life, but I didn't see any other options. It was obvious that I would not be returning to the streets, due to the injuries to my left arm. If I had stayed with Bethany, they would have made me a dispatcher, which was not at all an option for me.  I was only give 75% medical retirement, instead of the 100% retirement, and I've had to fight workers comp to obtain the very best prosthetics and medical care.

I received a valorous service award from a community church, a purple heart from the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, a letter of commendation from both the Oklahoma State Senate and the House of Representatives, a letter of commendation from the Bethany Police Department, and the Governor's citation for courage and inspiration. I did not receive a purple heart from the City of Bethany, which is what I wanted most.

On September 21, 2000, Jason Michael Hollingsworth entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 years on deferred. He admitted to the judge, while under oath, that he was trying to kill me.

After retiring from the Police Department, I began training in Information Technology, while working for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. I eventually left law enforcement, to work full-time in the Information Technology field. After several years of working in I.T., I decided to become my own boss, and I left my I.T. job to build, and operate, a new self storage business in Bethany.