03/23/2007

Mo. officer shot at close range wakes up from coma

'My first birthday again' On waking up Sgt. Jon Brough asked his wife, 'Was I shot?' after drug-induced coma
 
By Doug Moore 
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)  
 
BELLEVILLE  -- Police Sgt. Jon Brough has made it through five surgeries to his face and will have at least seven more on his long road to recovery. He was critically wounded in a shootout with a suspected killer more than four months ago.

"It's been an up and down hill battle to deal with this loss of eyesight," Brough said Wednesday in his first interview since the Nov. 10 shooting that almost took his life. If not for his wife, Wendy, and their two sons, he said, "I don't know if I would have made this journey."

Brough's remarks came at a 49th birthday party in his honor at City Hall, thrown by the department where he had worked for 22 years.

"I kind of consider this my first birthday again," Brough said.

Brough recalled waking up from his three-week, drug-induced coma at St. Louis University Hospital. His wife was by his side.

"Was I shot?" was the first thing he asked her.

"Yes," she replied."

"Where was I shot?" he asked.

"In the face," she told him.

From there, he slowly discovered the nature of his injuries and his close call with death. It took doctors 12 hours to stop the severe bleeding. He learned that his eyes were gone, as was much of his nose. He would not see or smell again.

Brough was part of the department's rifle team called to a house on South First Street. Larry J. Sicka was holed up inside. Police say that the night before, Sicka fatally stabbed his in-laws, Henry and Dolores Kahle, at their Swansea home. The killings were to get back at his wife for leaving him and filing for divorce, his attorney and police have said. Brough was shot in the face at close range as he and other officers stormed the house.

Sicka then fatally shot himself in the head.

There will be one or two more surgeries to Brough's face, then three to the right eye socket and two to the left eye socket so he can be fitted for prosthetics. He can talk with the help of a tube in his throat. His hearing is fine. And his sense of humor, if temporarily lost, has been restored.

"I told (the surgeons) I was trying to look like George Clooney, but they said it couldn't be done," Brough said.

Brough arrived at City Hall in a large red pickup driven by his wife. He was immediately greeted by a group of firefighters who had been called to the adjoining Police Department for a small electrical fire in the emergency radio room. There were jokes about the candles on his cake setting fire.

Brough walked into City Hall wearing dark glasses, a blue Belleville police polo shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. He used a walking stick to steady himself. His wife held on to his left hand to warn him of steps and other obstacles. He was greeted on the City Hall steps by Police Chief Bill Clay.

At the party, Clay clasped Brough's hand.

"I'm ecstatic to have you here with us. You really made this special for us," Clay said.

As a gift from the department, Brough received a black jacket with "America's Bravest" and "Belleville Police Department" stitched on the back; the sergeant's name and badge number were crafted on the front.

Brough is recovering at home with the help of a nurse and regular visits to the doctor's office. He spent more than six weeks in the hospital. He will find out next month when his next surgery is scheduled.

His party had all of the traditional trimmings, including balloons, tables full of food, soda, a rendition of "Happy Birthday" and a cake.

The support from his department has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated, Brough said. Under the circumstances, he is doing the best he can, he said.

"It's a day at a time," Brough said. "I'm trying to get healthy each day."

Copyright 2007 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

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