Paralyzed officer learning to do everyday things in new ways

Paralyzed officer learning to do everyday things in new ways »Play Video
Portland Police Officer Paul Meyer, with his wife, Mary, talks about how he's learning to adapt after a tree fell on him during a training exercise, paralyzing him from the waist down.

TUALATIN, Ore. - A Portland police officer who's had the courage to face armed suspects is now realizing the courage and strength needed to face a life in a wheelchair.

Officer Paul Meyer was paralyzed from the waist down when a large tree fell on him in a training accident four months ago. He focuses on the fact that he’s alive and that he doesn't have severe brain damage.

For Meyer just getting up into his driveway takes a little more effort now that he's in a wheelchair. But getting into his house is not doable. He can't get up the step to his front door.

But Meyer isn't complaining; instead, he's waiting to get out of the rental home and into his remodeled house where so much has to change: from the hallways to the kitchen, to the flooring. An elevator will even be installed.

But for Meyer, change is only temporary.

"So just trying to get back to doing the things that I did before the accident," he says. "Doing them just a different way. That's all it is. Just a new normal."

It would be easy to downplay what's he's accomplished so far – what challenges he's overcome – because he can talk about them with a smile.

For Meyer, the struggles he's dealt with, like being unable to stand for the national anthem for the first time during a Trail Blazers game, are just the little things that have helped him see the big picture.

"The only thing that really happened – I just don't have my legs," he says. "I still have my mind set, my head, my sanity, and I get to see my kids every day," he says.

He knows it could have been different on Nov. 19 while riding an ATV. It was a freak accident during a training exercise at Hayden Island. A 110-foot section of tree fell on his head.

"You never think about a tree," says Meyer's wife, Mary. "It was going to be some bad guy with a gun or a knife."

His wife has been Meyer's support ever since.

"She's kept our family together. She's kept the family going," he says.

And they've become the ultimate team.

"I get to live life. That's a good thing. So, I'm happy about that," Meyer says.

He is still going to physical therapy twice a week, and right now he has a nurse helping him each morning.

Once he gets better at those daily activities, he hopes to start driving with hand controls, and biking with a hand-cycle. He even hopes to go back to work this year.

But the main thing right now is getting back into their home – hopefully, by the end of summer. And that's why there is a fundraiser in a few weeks – to cover the costs insurance won't.

The fundraiser is in the Grand Ballroom at the Portland Hilton on Saturday, April 13. It starts at 7 p.m. and the public is invited.