HOUSTON—A former HPD officer who was shot on-duty 17 years ago says he hopes to be a success story that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords can emulate as a patient at Memorial Hermann’s TIRR rehabilitation program.
Danny Vaughan was a Houston police officer in 1993 when a gunman entered his police substation and shot him at point blank range. One bullet lodged in his neck. Three more struck him in the head. He defied the odds and survived, emerging from a coma in 18 days. Months later he walked out of the hospital under his own power. He’d lost his right eye, his left side was partially paralyzed, but he was alive.
Now he hopes he can be an inspiration to Giffords.
"I’m not just living," he said. "I’m having a fantastic quality of life after my brain injury. And she can too."
Vaughan returned to the police force for an additional eight years after the attack. Since his retirement, he has written two books, become a real estate investor and a licensed charter boat captain and is active as a public speaker.
During all that time, including during his successful rehabilitation at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR), he’s lived with fragments of those bullets still in his brain.
"She’s going to the best place I believe in the country. I mean look at me 17 years later," Vaughn said. "I’m still walking, talking, breathing and driving a car. I worked eight more years as a cop before I retired. I’m doing it all man."
Vaughn has also served as a mentor to other TIRR patients struggling through rehabilitation. He tells them that while his injuries are still obvious all these years later, his miracle is too.
"They need to know there is a quality of life after a brain injury. And she will have a quality of life if she tries as hard as I did," Vaughn said. "She’s going to the right place. She’s got the right people, the right doctors and everything. She just needs to buckle down and get tough."
Meanwhile, Vaughan looks forward to meeting the congresswoman and her family - if given the chance - to offer them his advice and a good dose of hope.
The gunman in Vaughan’s attack was sentenced to 200 years in prison.