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Challenges and triumphs: A law enforcement family’s journey through trauma and healing

Dr. Patricia Kay Reyna shares her family’s ordeal following a devastating on-duty accident that left her husband, a North Carolina State Highway Patrol Master Trooper, with a traumatic brain injury

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Every day, law enforcement officers put themselves in harm’s way to ensure public safety and are often severely injured in that process. The repercussions of on-duty injuries can extend far beyond the physical. The aftermath often brings a cascade of challenges that affect not only the injured officers but also their families and colleagues.

In this episode of the “Policing Matters” podcast host Jim Dudley speaks with Dr. Patricia Kay Reyna about her family’s ordeal following a devastating on-duty accident that left her husband, Humberto Reyna, a North Carolina State Highway Patrol Master Trooper, with a traumatic brain injury.

Currently working with the Center on Brain Injury Research and Training at the University of Oregon, Dr. Reyna discusses her transformative journey from a finance professional to a traumatic brain injury expert and advocate. Her story sheds light on the physical, emotional and bureaucratic struggles that ensue following such injuries in the line of duty.

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Memorable quotes

  • “It changed our lives instantly ... the man that left that morning didn’t come home with us.”
  • “There were no nonprofits in the country that helped injured officers at that time ... he had to be dead in order to get support.”
  • “We can create new systems of care and support even if the old ones don’t change fast enough.”

Key takeaways

  1. Impact of injury: Dr. Reyna vividly describes the immediate and long-term impact of her husband’s brain injury, highlighting the drastic changes in his personality and their family dynamics.
  2. Lack of support: The episode underscores the significant gap in support systems for officers who sustain severe, non-fatal injuries and the challenges their families face in obtaining necessary care.
  3. Advocacy and education: Transitioning from finance to brain injury research, Dr. Reyna’s journey illustrates the power of advocacy and education in driving systemic change.
  4. Community and rehabilitation: Dr. Reyna emphasizes the therapeutic benefits of community and adaptive sports, sharing heartwarming stories of veterans and organizations that have supported her husband’s recovery.
  5. Call to action: The episode serves as a call to action for enhanced departmental support, policy reform, and community involvement to better assist injured officers and their families.

Resources mentioned during the show

  • Reyna’s TBI/CI Family Caregiver Care Models: Providing Care After Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Catastrophic Injury
  • Non-Profit: Operation Homeland Honor
  • NC Master Trooper Adaptive Golf Tour Challenge
  • Center for Brain Injury Research and Training (CBIRT): CBIRT, a center under the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon, conducts research and training to improve the lives of children and adults with traumatic brain injury (TBI). CBIRT’s research focuses on developing interventions to improve outcomes related to education, employability, and quality of life.
  • Neuro Community Care: Neuro Community Care (NCC) is an independent provider of community based neuro-cognitive therapeutic services for persons with brain injury and other neurological conditions. Highly experienced staff and providers develop individualized plans designed to meet each client’s unique needs and help them transition successfully into the next phase of their lives. This vital but often overlooked link in the brain injury continuum of care aims to give the worker, caregivers, and family members support to generalize functional skills and strategies.
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation Operation Rebound Program: Challenged Athletes who are honorably discharged members of the U.S. armed forces, active military personnel, as well as U.S. law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics are eligible to apply for the Operation Rebound grant.
  • Lifeaid: Life Aid Research Institute seeks to improve brain health by researching and validating emerging technology and functional medicine therapies in order to create new treatment protocols. The whole health approach empowers resilience by combining peer support, technology, functional medicine, and community activation that will reduce suicide in military, veterans, and first responders. This integrative and evidence-based therapeutic approach utilizes objective quantitative analysis using data from before and after brain imaging.

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Policing Matters law enforcement podcast with host Jim Dudley features law enforcement and criminal justice experts discussing critical issues in policing