The Enquirer’s Paul McKibben has an update on the condition of the Mason police sergeant who suffered a traumatic brain injury May 9 in a bicycling accident with his dog near his Loveland home.
John Cullen doesn’t remember the accident that happened around 6:30 p.m. on a sidewalk on Lebanon Road across from Loveland Intermediate School. He does recall talking to one of his daughters before departing. Previously, he would ride his bike with his dog Winston, a friendly black Labrador, on a leash.
Details about what happened aren’t clear. Sharon Cullen, his wife, said a witness reported John wobbling and then falling. After Cullen fell, the dog ran out into the street, standing there and stopping traffic. She’d like to think the dog, who wasn’t hurt, did that to get help for its fallen owner.
Emergency medical technicians thought Cullen suffered a concussion but he had in fact fractured his skull in two places. Blood was collecting between his brain and his skull. They took him to Bethesda North Hospital in Montgomery.
Cullen, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, underwent emergency surgery that first night to remove a piece of his skull to allow his brain to safely swell. He was on a ventilator starting that first night until around day No. 10 or 11.
Cullen spent 14 days in intensive care at University Hospital, fighting for his life. He battled gall bladder problems, pneumonia and pancreatitis. Sharon Cullen said that first night is a blur and the entire two weeks he spent in intensive care was just one long day.
Cullen was released from University Hospital on May 23. He was admitted to the Drake Center in Hartwell and was released from there June 3. While at Drake, he underwent several types of therapies, including physical and speech. Something happened during Memorial Day weekend when he improved markedly. Sharon Cullen said nurses who came in that Tuesday to resume his therapy couldn’t believe the progress he made during the weekend.
Cullen needs to have his skull repaired with a titanium plate. He visits Drake twice a week for physical, occupational and speech therapies. He doesn’t drive or cook yet. He’ll insert random words off subject into a conversation. He can’t stay home alone, needing someone with him just in case he would fall. A helmet protects his head.
But those who know Cullen say his progress is amazing and miraculous.
“He’s just far and above beyond what … we’d thought he would be at this point in his recovery,” Sharon Cullen said.
Dr. Sheital Bavishi of Drake Center said that long-term, Cullen will eventually get back to what his previous life was, if not exactly what it was. “He’s actually blown out of the water I think what we would see as normal recovery,” she said.
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