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Injured officer Defying the Odds

Injured officer Defying the Odds

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Tampa Tribune via YellowBrix

April 07, 2010

TAMPA – It was only a flutter of the eyelids.

But to Cheryl Law, waiting by her daughter’s bedside at Tampa General Hospital that November day, it was a hopeful sign.

“I said to her, ‘Andrea, if you can hear me, move your foot.’ And she wiggled her foot,” Law said. "I said, ‘Move your left foot,’ and she moved her left foot. I called the nurses in and I said, ‘She can do things.’

“The next day (Thanksgiving), when the (neurology) guys came in I told them and they looked at me like I was nuts.”

A doctor asked Andrea Law to give a thumbs up. She did. The doctor asked her to raise a hand. She did.

Nearly five months after a wreck that many believed she wouldn’t survive, Tampa police Officer Andrea Law now is recovering at her parents’ home in Ohio.

Known as “Dre” to relatives, she used to play defensive end for the Cleveland Fusion, a women’s professional football team. Now Law, 37, needs a walker or a supporting arm to get around.

Eventually she should regain most, if not all, of her ability to walk.

“I’m a medical miracle,” she said. Cheryl Law remembers the numbness she felt in the hours after her daughter’s Nov. 18 crash in Cozumel, Mexico.

When she and her husband arrived at Tampa International Airport the next day, they were met by a sea of blue uniforms. Police officers told them their luggage would be taken care of and escorted them to the hospital.

The mayor and police chief were at the hospital, along with a cadre of Andrea’s co-workers and friends.

Only about 25 percent of people survive the kind of liver injury she suffered, TGH trauma surgeon David Ciesla said.

“Without proper trauma care, the severe injuries will bleed to death right away,” he said.

After surgery, a doctor told the Laws their daughter was alive but that the situation was “very bad.”

Andrea Law had also had a stroke, and doctors had to work to reduce brain swelling.

She would spend 32 days at TGH, undergoing three liver surgeries. She then spent about three months at a Cleveland hospital. She checked out March 16.

Law joined the police department in 2007 after about two years with the St. Petersburg Police Department.

In October, she began her assignment as a school resource officer at Stewart Middle School. She helped teach classes on school and public safety, and volunteered in the Ladies of Elegance program for at-risk female students and mentors.

During a cruise in November, Law and four friends took a sightseeing excursion in Cozumel. They were heading back to the ship when their Jeep was T-boned by another Jeep, Cheryl Law said.

Andrea Law, who was in the back seat, had to be extricated. Everyone else in the vehicle also was injured.

There were six people in the other Jeep; at least two died.

Doctors in Cozumel said they couldn’t save Andrea Law’s life there. Her parents wanted her flown to Cleveland, but doctors there said she wouldn’t survive that long.

They weren’t even sure she would survive a flight to Florida.

To get their daughter to TGH quicker, the Laws arranged a Learjet flight.

“We didn’t find out until three or so weeks later, but apparently even with the Learjet they only gave her a 10 percent chance of surviving the flight,” Cheryl Law said.

Three months after the wreck, Andrea Law regained the ability to speak.

“I asked her not to do something, and she said, ‘I won’t,’” Cheryl Law said. “I almost fell over.”

Andrea Law will continue physical and speech therapy through early June. Her liver is fully recovered, and she hopes to return to work within months.

“At this point, I wouldn’t rule out anything when it comes to Andrea Law,” Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said. “She has simply shattered every prognosis that she has been given so far.”

To Cheryl Law, it’s clear there’s a plan for her daughter.

“We are relatively religious folks, and we are convinced that God has something special for her to do which has not been completed,” she said. “Because she has defied every odd and has come back.”

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