August 5, 1999

McCarthey determined to continue life's work

The Character on the video screen ran effortlessly down the alley, pursuing the fleeing criminal. It will never again be that easy for the officer holding the game controller. Tim McCarthey is determined, however, that one day he will return to police work.

"It's something I wanted to do ever since I was a little kid," McCarthey said in an inclusive Tribune interview. "I would see a cop and just be in awe. I always wanted to be one." McCarthey still looks every inch the police officer with his neatly combed, short brown hair and clean-shaven face. The t-shirt he wore commemorated the 1999 Family Fun Fest in Bethany where he was injured in the line of duty. A motorcyclist, fleeing police, swerved and ran into him. McCarthey's left leg was severed and his left arm broken in two places. "We knew the pursuit was coming by the park," he said of that July 3 day. "We had temporary stop signs at Glade. We knew that people were crossing the street right there to get to the park, because there was parking across the street on the airport land. We went over there to get people out of the intersection. He swerved right toward me. I remember every bit of it. I don't have nightmares or flashbacks. It's almost like it didn't really happen to me." McCarthey has the physical proof that it did happen. His left leg was amputated above the knee and it took two surgeries to repair his broken left arm. While 21-year-old Michael Hollingsworth is in Oklahoma County jail charged with attempted murder, McCarthey is busy putting his life back together. "For two weeks I did physical therapy here at the house," he said. "That was mostly for range of motion and to get the strength back in my arm and shoulder and to a little conditioning to my residual limb. McCarthey starts rehabilitation this week at NovaCare Rehab. It will basically consist of increasing his endurance and cardiovascular strength as well as strengthen his residual limb, getting ready for the prosthesis. "It takes four times as much energy to walk with a prosthesis as it does for a regular person to walk," he said. "I know it isn't going to be easy." He also knows it may not be easy to face on-the-job danger again after this experience. "Everybody thinks about it," he said. "It's always back there in the back of your mind, but it's something you don't want to worry about, especially when you're on duty. I always knew there was the possibility that I would be hurt or get killed. I never thought it would like this, though." McCarthey's family is supportive of his goal to return to the police force. "I'm okay with it," his mother, Paula Tipton, said. "That's one of the things I worried about the most is whether he would be able to go back to being a police officer, because I know how much he loved it. He always wanted to be a policeman." His wife Cassie is also supportive. "She's planning on me going back to work," McCarthey said. "We had a talk about it. I told her that if she was ever uncomfortable with the thought of me going back, all she had to do was tell me. I have a great wife. She is really understanding." McCarthey admitted, though, that his feelings might change when he was actually back on the street. There's always the possibility, he said, that he might be hit with feelings of fear and decide that he really doesn't want to be a cop anymore. "At this point, I hope it won't make a difference," he said. "I have other options, but patrol is where I really want to be. That's where the real law enforcement is." Throughout his ordeal, McCarthey has managed to stay upbeat and positive. He credited his friends and family for helping him through the difficult time. Realizing that he has so much to live for also motivates him, he said. "To me there are two kinds of people," he added. "There are the kind that sit here and feel sorry for themselves and ask 'Why me?' Those are the ones that never get up out of the wheelchair. Then there are the people who accept it and try to make the best out of what they have. They're the ones who go on with their prosthesis and try to make the best out of life. That's the way I want to be." The only time he gets emotional, he said, is when he thinks of the outpouring of community support. "Everyone has been just great - the police department , the city, the fire department, the city council, other police departments. The Chief has really been supportive. Everybody at work is looking forward to me coming back to work. I just can't believe all the support I've been given," he said. He also expressed gratitude for all the financial help provided by the trust fund collected for him from the citizens of Bethany and the metro area. Close to $40,000 has been donated to help the McCarthey family with expenses while he is off work. Although he was covered by insurance, he will no longer be able to work a second job, and his wife had to take a leave of absence from her job to help care for him during his recovery period. The fund will help make up the difference in income, among other things. "I just want to thank everyone for their support," he said. "I'm more than greatful."