Officer Tudor's courageous recovery from car crash

On Aug. 25, Hazelwood police officer Craig Tudor was critically injured in a rollover crash when his patrol car was hit by another car as he was responding to an emergency.

It's been a heartbreaking and terrifying few months for our local law enforcement community.

St. Louis County police officer Blake Snyder was shot and killed October sixth while answering a call for a disturbance.

On July 8, Ballwin officer Mike Flamion was paralyzed when he was shot during a traffic stop.

On Aug. 25, Hazelwood police officer Craig Tudor was critically injured in a rollover crash when his patrol car was hit by another car as he was responding to an emergency.

Newschannel Five's Kay Quinn spent time with Officer Tudor and his wife recently at the specialty rehab center where he's now recovering.

"It’s been difficult at times,” Craig Tudor said.  “Every day's a challenge to try to adapt to what's going to be my new way of life, our new way of life."

For Craig Tudor, life changed in an instant back on Aug. 25. His wife Christine got the call no police wife ever wants to get.

"I think it's one of any police family's worst nightmares," Christine said.

In the days that followed, Craig's heart stopped twice. 

"I was dependent on a ventilator to breathe, I wasn't eating, I was being fed through a feeding tube,” Craig siad. “I really don't remember a lot of it.”

It fell to Christine to make the big decisions that will shape the rest of their lives. Including leaving St. Louis for a Craig Hospital, a specialty rehab center and center of excellence for people with neurological and spinal cord injuries located just outside of Denver.

Since his arrival September 14, the officer who loved driving his patrol car through the streets of Hazelwood, cutting lawns for elderly neighbors, helping others even in his spare time, has shown bravery and determination above and beyond the call of duty. 

“I experience a lot of pain right now in my shoulders from sore muscles or muscles that have shrunk or haven't been used as much since the accident,” Craig said. “It's very difficult when you have to depend on somebody to lift you up to even pick your head up and place it on a pillow."

"His injury was up in here,” Dr. Mark Johansen said, pointing at a model of the spine. Dr. Johansen is the medical director of the spinal cord injury program at Craig Hospital.

“So he does have some bicep movement. Everything below that right now is paralyzed,” explains Dr. Johansen.

Craig's injury occurred between the fifth and sixth vertebrae of his cervical spine.  From the day this member of the force arrived at Craig, a team of doctors, therapists, pharmacists and psychologists his got him eating on his own, breathing on his own, and mobilizing.

Craig spends an exhausting five or six hours a day in rehab, work this patrolman tackles with focus and determination.

"Spinal cord tissue can repair itself to some degree, that's why we can't tell him exactly how he is going to be,” Dr. Johansen said.  "Most of the recovery that an individual will have after an injury of this type occurs in the first 6 months."

When officer Tudor and the other patients leave Craig Hospital, they're called grads or graduates and right now Craig Tudor is learning why. He's helped outline his own rehab program, planned the schedule and of course he's doing all the hard work.

Work that includes getting used to the reality that life will be different from now on.

"Once I became a police officer I knew that that was my calling and what I was meant to do,” Craig said. "It's difficult at this point knowing that I'll never be able to do that again, so that's a challenge each day to understand that that's one goal I might not be able to achieve."

But he knows other goals may be more within reach.

"Being able to drive again would be nice,” Craig said.  “Anyone in my position would like to be able to walk again and do all of the same things that they have done before, but sometimes those aren't realistic goals."

Craig and Christine miss home, and their five rescue Chihuahuas.  They say their faith has helped them get this far, and the love and support of the St. Louis community, including local police, fire and EMS.

"I think this is the first time I've had the opportunity to thank anybody for what they've done and all the support they've given us,” Craig said, “and again I don't think any words could give it justice to describe how grateful we are to them.  And my wife Christine, she's been there every step of the way I couldn't ask for a better support than from my wife."

A wife getting used to watching her husband who vowed to protect and serve now learn to accept help from others.

“It's hard,” Christine said.  “We loved our life before, so sometimes it's hard thinking how things won't be just how they were. But I do believe that we will overcome this and have a good life."

Officer Tudor isn't the only St. Louis police officer at Craig Hospital.

Ballwin police officer Mike Flamion, who was shot and paralyzed back in July, is also being treated at the hospital.

If you'd like to learn more about Craig and Christine Tudor, upcoming events in their honor, or follow his progress, visit  this Facebook page in support of the Tudors.


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