Since I was a child I had an insatiable desire to help people; ..all people but more specifically those that were unable to help themselves .... and I knew the way I wanted to do that was in law enforcement. I made sure I stayed out of trouble growing up so nothing would hinder me from being the top candidate for any job. I joined the police explorers to gain valuable connections and experience into the field.
I had to get permission from the police academy administrators to apply since I was only 20 ..and at the time they were only accepting applicants that were 21 or older... but since I went through the law enforcement vocational program at their high school they allowed it.
After graduating the academy I was hired at a local university; I advance through the ranks from Auxiliary officer to Corporal within 3 years and I was happy. I loved what I did. I consistently ranked very high on all my evaluations. I loved the fact that I had set goals and achieved them time after time after time. Little did I know that all those accomplishments would be ripped away from me in a single moment of impact.
On August 8, 2003 I went to see a movie before work with a friend. I decided to take my motorcycle because it was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky. After the movie I got on my bike and started home and that's the last thing I remember...
I woke up 4 weeks later realizing that I was in a hospital room but having no idea how I got there or why. I had tubes coming from every limb too including coming out of my left side and I could hardly speak.... I thought I was dreaming.
Looking around the room the first thing that I could see clearly was a blood drive poster that read “Roll up your sleeve and give blood for Corporal David Geiger” and a calendar that was opened to September 2003....
I was understandably confused because I was absolutely positive it was August. I asked my Mother what happened. She told me that I was in a motorcycle accident and we're at Miami Valley Hospital”
The first thing I thought was I needed to call work and tell them that I wasn't going to be able to make it in... I had no idea that so much time had already passed.
The days that followed I became more and more aware of the full gravity of my injuries.
I had 3 bruises on my brain, 2 cracks in my "T" spine, cracked ribs, my left lung collapsed, I was fight blood clots and a 105 temp. ...but the most serious injuries were sustained to my right shoulder.
Those that witnessed the crash state that I was rounding the left hand bend lost control and struck the guardrail. After hitting the guardrail I was ejected off the bike and instead of landing on either side of the guardrail I landed on top of it ...on my back.
This caused my right arm to be forced behind me forcefully severing my subclavian artery. The ER doctors gave me 16 units of blood. They knew I was bleeding internally but they didn't know from where. After the break was found in an MRI my arm was without blood for over 7 hours.
The break was bridged with a vein from my thigh. After blood flow was restored the arm swelled well beyond its compartments, my skin was acting like a tourniquet and a faciotomy had to be done or I was going to lose my arm.
There are 4 nerves that feed the arm from the spinal cord. These nerves are called the Brachial Plexus nerves. The violent backwards motion from landing on the guardrail severed 3 of the 4 nerves and stretched out the fourth. Stretching a nerve is worst than severing it because it is damaged over a longer span paralyzing my arm.
Still, In my mind there was no doubt I was going to be able to be fixed up and reclaim my position on the force. Over the next several years I had numerous surgeries geared to reclaim function and feeling; as a result I have over 8 feet in surgical scars all over my body. I earned each of these scars and I never try to hide them. They are my badges of courage and strength and I display them with pride.
Although I was having all these surgeries with an end goal in mind I fell into a deep depression. The journey I was on seemed overwhelming. It was just too tough, too long, it was too much to handle.
I was in constant pain and wasn't getting the function back that I was expecting. I was doing everything I was told. I went to physical therapy 3 days a week and followed my doctors orders to a "T" but nothing was getting me where I wanted to be. My doctor looked me in the eye and said "You're not going to be a cop anymore and I think someone should have to tell you that." My first thought was "You don't think a patient with my injuries can be a cop because I've never been your patient before... You have no idea what I'm capable of."
That afternoon I heard a Physiologist on TV say "How's that working for ya" about a completely unrelated subject but it started me thinking. How is what I'm doing working for me?... The answer was.. "It wasn't"
Ignoring what a doctor is advising and just going for it is never suggested I took a big risk. The risk of re-injury and starting my recovery all over. But I knew it was now or never. I felt as though I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I couldn't help but wonder "What if I did it?"
The doc told me not to lift anything over 15lbs, If it hurts stop and rest but these restrictions were not getting me any closer to putting a uniform back on. I made a choice. I choose that I was not going to let my life be determined by someone else or by circumstances; I was going to dictate my future.
The following day I joined the YMCA and I started a 3 on 1 day off schedule. Again .. not a workout schedule that would be advocated by a trainer. I was breaking the rules and lifting weights with my right arm.
My movements were not always polished but I was starting to see major improvements... I knew there was going to be some fundamental things that my department might have a concern about. Self defense, handcuffing, first aid and shooting just for starters.
So I trained. And trained. I joined a Mixed Martial Arts academy and learned many self defense tactics that apply to real world threats. I would put myself in positions of disadvantage and fight from them with world class athletes and I was holding my own.
Learning how to handcuff someone was tricky but I found a way and now can handcuff a suspect without difficulty. Yes, if they fight it will be more difficult but isn't for everybody? I am no different.
People may be skeptical about my ability to perform first aid so I went to school to become a nationally registered Emergency Medical Tech. I was taught, evaluated and tested on all procedures and passed to include intubation.. one of the more difficult procedures.
I knew the biggest block was going to be firearms requalification. How can I qualify with only being able to shoot with one hand? Has this ever been done before? Is it possible?
I scoured the internet looking for anyone that was in law enforcement that had a disabled arm or hand and I found two, surprisingly they were both from Ohio. I contacted them and asked how they were able to qualify. One officer explained that since he had a documented disability the department allowed him to shoot all required rounds with his strong hand. This is the ONLY accommodation that I need.
In an effort to prove I could pass the state qualification I drove to the London, Ohio Police academy. This is the main campus that governs all satellite academy's elsewhere in the state. I was able to pass with an almost perfect score.
In July 2007 after recovering from my final surgery I called my Chief at the university and requested to have lunch. During the lunch I told him that I was ready. I was ready to come off long term disability and reclaim my position with the police department.
I thought I had been through a lot. Surgeries, Recovery, Physical Therapy etc but after that meeting I found out that I still had a long, rough road. I applied for an open position and jumped through every hoop they asked of me but in February 2008 my reinstatement was rejected.
My firearms re-qualification was found to be invalid because the university didn't use the main anchor campus in London, Ohio to re-qualify they used the local police academy that refused to give me the accommodation of shooting all rounds with the strong hand.
I was devastated! I didn't know what to do or how to react. I was absolutely confident that I could perform every single function of an officer I just needed someone to give me a chance. A chance to prove myself to show what I'm capable of. I spent a few months soul searching. I didn't know where I fit in anymore. I'd go to gatherings and a group of my friends were all telling cop stories and what exciting events happened and I just couldn't relate anymore and I so much wanted too.
I decided that I wasn't done fighting! I wasn't going to feel sorry for myself anymore! I decided that I would find a way to do every single thing that I want to ... But knowing what I can do isn't good enough...I needed a way to show police administrators what I can do.... I find it's the assumption I can't do something the most frustrating.
I knew if I wanted to get back into a cruiser I needed to start back at the bottom... I took my summer break from college and called every police department in my county ...and every county surrounding me. I'd simply ask "I'd like to speak with someone about your auxiliary program." And they would either tell me they didn't have an auxiliary force or would give me information on how to apply. I took a day and I went to every department that had an auxiliary force and picked up an application, brought them home, filled them out and mailed them back. I must have sent out 20 applications and I only got one call back from Oxford Township Police Department.
I went through the process and had an in-depth conversation with Chief Goins. I explained to him that I can do everything any of his able bodied Constables can do I just needed a chance! Hire me and allow me to be evaluated by the field training officer if they feel I'm a danger and unable to fulfill the essential functions of the job efficiently and safely then I'll leave quietly as I would still be on probation.
Again firearms were one of his concerns and I asked him if I could do a short demo. He unloaded a pistol and handed it to me. I showed him how I worked the slide and performed reloads. He decided to give me a chance and hired me as an auxiliary Constable in February 2009... I've subsequently been moved to part-time and have promoted to a field training officer. So, not only am I trusted to do the job, I am trusted to train others to do the job.
Finally my dream had come true! I'm back to work in uniform.. the biggest challenge of my life was conquered. It was because I put in all the hard work ... but someone gave me a chance. I wish I could tell you I always knew I would succeed ... I didn't. I had doubts, fears and setbacks. All I knew was I had to keep going.
I believe that EVERYONE posses the same level of drive and determination as I do... They just have to find it within themselves ... internal dialog is exceptionally powerful... look at yourself in the mirror and imagine yourself accomplishing your goal. You can do it if you choose too.
There is no reality only perceptions if you perceive yourself as being less, unable, different, awkward, then you will project that out word and you will be treated that way.... If you are perceive yourself as strong, confident, courageous, able then you will be treated that way.
I no longer have a disability. I have a Dif-Ability I can do everything you can do I just may have to do it differently. I didn't accomplish all these goals on my own.....When something like this happens to you find out who your true friends are... Some people left me in my greatest hour of need and some stepped up and supported me beyond measure. My family is at the top of that list and I will never forget what they have done for me.