Doctors thought he was unconscious, ambushed officer now rehabbing

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Day in the life of ambushed officer's rehab
Doctors thought East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy Nick Tullier was unconscious but ambushed officer is now rehabbing.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- One grueling step in front of the other, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy Nick Tullier shuffles a few dozen feet down the length of a small gymnasium, suspended in a swing attached to the ceiling to help support his body weight.

His progress is nothing short of a miracle.

Just three months ago, back in November 2016, doctors thought he was unconscious.

ORIGINAL: East Baton Rouge Deputy Is 'Fighting for His Life'

"Are there angels about?" asked his father, James Tullier, sitting in a chair surrounded by tools used for occupational therapy.

"Oh yeah, definitely," Tullier answered his own question.

At TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in the Texas Medical Center, miracles are movements measured in millimeters, a nodding of the head or a vocalization.

"You can see there are miracles happening here and I knew then, I picked the right place," James Tullier said of his decision to move Nick from hospitals in Baton Rouge to TIRR in Houston.

Nick Tullier was shot in the head, abdomen and upper arm by a man targeting police in July 2016.

Three officers were killed, Tullier wasn't supposed to make it.

"He showed us the brain scans and all and hes says I'm sorry to tell you, he's not going to live past 21 days," said Tullier of one of the last meetings the family had with Nick's doctors in Louisiana.

Still, Nick did live, in a coma for four months. Thought to be unconscious, the family opted to bring him to TIRR for another opinion. After only a day or two of observation, Tullier says doctors quickly realized his son was conscious. In the months since their discovery, Nick Tullier has continued to defy expectations.

The work is painstaking and there have been infections and other setbacks. Nick's communication is limited to "yes" or "no" answers, indicated with a slight head nod up and down or a small head shake to the right.

"For him to do a very simple action would be like you or I having a one hour workout at a gym, just for him to reach over two or three times and grab something," said Dr. Sunil Kothari, Medical Director of the Disorders of Consciousness Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

By his side through every setback and breakthrough have been his parents, James and mother Mary, as well as his fiance Danielle. They say as long as Nick is in Houston, it is their home. They spend long days at TIRR, at night, his parents sleeping in a travel trailer, Danielle sleeping in Nick's hospital room. The three, so engrossed in Nick's recovery, they didn't even realize a flood had destroyed their Baton Rouge home in August.

"Mary told some people, I didn't care if it floated off, we're concentrated on Nick, you can replace wood, you can't replace that child," said Tullier of commitment to Nick's care.

Nick's doctors don't know how fully Nick will recover, "What we do know is that he can understand us, he can see, he can read, he's able to recall things shortly after telling him," said Katherine O'Brien, Tullier's Clinical Neuropsychologist. "We're still in the process of assessing all the things he can do," O'Brien said.

Still, Tullier says his family is keeping the faith, "He's been given every roadblock possible and he has passed every roadblock possible, so we don't know an end point," said father James. "It's between Nick and God."

To support and donate to Nick's medical costs visit his GoFundMe account, the "Nick Tullier Strong" fan page or his father James Tullier's Facebook page.