Corrections Officer Injured

Content Note: This article contains themes of depression, addiction, and suicidal ideation. If you or a loved one are struggling, consider reading our mental health resources page.

I will begin my story with a basic understanding that when you put on a badge and swear to uphold the law, then you are accepting that something bad can happen. However, in my story there was more than a plentiful supply of bad. In 1988 I was in the USAF as a Law Enforcement Specialist and spent over a decade as both an active and reservist for the USAF and the Air National Guard. I went over to the California Department of Corrections as a forced move when my job with the State of California was eliminated due to budget cuts.

While working as a Corrections Officer (C.O.) at Salinas Valley State Prison I was involved in a staff assault and friendly fire mishap. As a result of being shot in the head with a 37mm wooden baton round at point blank range (less than lethal if skipped off the ground) and while unconscious, I was beaten, and had my head kicked and stomped on, I had suffered serious head and neck injuries. That was on March 4th, 1997 and my life has been turned upside down and round and round.

My family history

A little family background before we continue with my story. I was married to my best friend in 1992 after we co-habituated for some time. We had started dating in 1987 and were nearly inseparable for our entire marriage. We had 2 wonderful kids and my personal life seemed like I had hit the lottery. However, that would change after my injuries. At first it was a struggle to understand what was happening to me. I had played high school football and went through basic training. I was on the Air Force's Emergency Services Team (think SWAT) and not one but 2 different academies for both police work and corrections. I was in good shape and almost never had even a headache, let alone was seen by a doctor. However, I did get dinged up over the years; you can't do the job without getting a few stitches or a broken bone or two, but the multiple concussions would play a factor later.

Treating my head trauma

While I was recovering from my head injuries, I kept passing out at therapy. I was struggling with horrible headaches and then the medication got stronger. I tried over and over to return to the job but was sent home due to being unfit for duty. The ego took a beating and when you were raised within a military family it was worse. I was forced into retirement in 1999 after fighting for years to keep my job. After retirement my medical care became my life. Doctors, clinics, specialists, and the pharmacy day in and day out. It was not long after I was put on the worst drug ever invented and a heavy price would be paid for taking OxyContin.

At one point I was being shipped 90-day supplies through the mail! What was more disturbing was we had moved to Kentucky, and I found a doctor to treat me. She put me on OxyContin and Vicodin at the same time. I suffered respiratory arrests and nearly died on more than one occasion. The drugs would nearly do what the inmates in California failed to do, kill me. However, I was gaining weight at an alarming rate. I went from 240 pounds to 400 pounds and by 2010 sought gastric bypass to keep myself alive. The panic over OxyContin around 2008 had forced my removal from that drug by the time we returned to California, This had made things much worse than before I began taking the drug. AH! But we had not yet seen the bottom.

Seeking help in the wrong places

While I tried to return to school in hopes of becoming a history teacher, I was struggling with so many things and it was taking its toll on my wife. She was my strongest advocate, but doctors had failed to explain what was happening to me and thus resorted to calling me everything from a LIAR to a fraud. I had grown so angry at the system for the way I was treated. After all, I did my job and saved a young officer from being killed. Yet, I was the one still suffering and so was my family. In the summer of 2009, we let the devil in the door. When I was forced off Oxy without any help I went through the worst case of withdrawals and then could not sleep, even with Ambien (yes, I was taking all of that and more). We were at a loss as most doctors where terrified to help. While at Costco, my wife and I thought that a shot of hard booze at night would help enough with the Ambien and the Vicodin that I could get some rest. We made a HORRIBLE choice, and it cost my family dearly. Now, I take full responsibility for my actions and never have allowed the blame game to take away from my bad choices. When you make a choice in desperation it may seem logical, but it is anything but logical.

Facing my hardest moments

My father passed away and I lost my job all in one month at the beginning of 2013. That sent me into a tailspin and my wife tossed down the hammer. I was forced to face my addictions if I wanted to complete my graduate work and save my marriage from destruction. So, for a time I willed myself into a "state of health," so to speak. I graduated with a master’s in public administration in 2014 and found a job with the federal government in Denver, Colorado in 2015. We picked up and moved from California to Littleton, Colorado. All went well but the stress of being a 48-year-old intern was too much for me, and I began to drink again in hopes of getting much needed sleep on the weekends. The one thing that I would have never thought could happen, did.

My wife passed away suddenly in 2019 from a rare condition called Clarkson's syndrome. It nearly destroyed what was left of my family. My oldest was in college and my youngest was a high school senior. I had failed my wife in many ways by becoming so addicted to the various opioids and alcohol that when she needed me the most, I wasn't there. When she died it took everything for me to find a reason to stay alive. It was our children that kept me from joining my wife and so did grief counseling.

Rebuilding and managing migraine

Today I am still trying to rebuild my life while working to maintain my treatments for migraine due to the brain and spinal trauma that I suffered on that one night back in 1997. My kids are grown and gone so it is a time where I rely on the kindness of a new woman in my life. However, the migraines drive me to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms and I have gone through multiple procedures to fry the nerves around my spinal cord. Four fusions and 3 plates to stabilize my spine have helped but not done anything for the migraines. The future is uncertain, but I know my time is limited as I am nearing 60. One day I will pass from this world and be reunited with my beloved wife. That is the day this will all end for me. Until then, I am a pin cushion and test bed for any and every drug and operation that will help.

Navigating trauma and migraine

There it is, my story. I have had a historically interesting life, Desert Storm, the L.A. Riots in 92, 2 Presidential Security Details and the Atlanta Olympics in '96. However, the events of March 4th, 1997, will be the second worst day of my life as they have taken so much from me. The migraines are just a reminder of the cost of my choices. I seek no pity and offer no excuses for my decisions. We all face this monster called "Migraine" that is neither understood by the masses nor excepted as a vailed handicap.

Do not allow others to dictate what you experience and what your choices are. Be your own advocate and never allow anyone to take from you what is the most important to you, that being your voice. Remember, that fate is not what we make but what we are dealt. Ask for help and don't be ashamed to do so. Thank you for reading my story and I hope you gain something from my experiences. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.

- Michael A. Rose
A time before it all began for us.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.