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Doctors detail the amazing recovery of Trooper Potts

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A bullet wound on the face of Trooper Michael Potts. A bullet wound on the face of Trooper Michael Potts.
DURHAM, N.C. -

In my 27 years as a journalist, I have never been approached by a police officer, or a state trooper, for a story. Never. It just doesn't happen. They are professional, they are devoted, they are courteous and respectful, but they aren't exactly forthcoming about their jobs.  

I get it. Their jobs involve standoffs, murder investigations, gruesome car accidents. Journalists want details and they really can't give them. Sometimes because the repercussions would be severe, especially if there is a trial involved (and there almost always is).

So, I was surprised when State Trooper Michael Potts reached out to me for a story.  Potts is the guy we've been talking about for months. 

In February, he stopped a young man named Mikel Brady on I-85 in Durham.  When a car behind him hit a rumble strip, Potts turned around. When he turned back Brady opened fire.  

Five shots, at point-blank range. Two in the head, one in the shoulder, a couple in the hands.

Potts described this all to me in a previous interview...the four seconds that changed his life.  He talked about crawling back into his car, and somehow, calling for help. Even with his body riddled with bullets, he managed to describe the suspects. That went a long way to help catch the gunman. 

In the hours that followed those four seconds, Potts was in the hands of the doctors at Duke Hospital. And those doctors were the reason that Trooper Potts reached out to me.

Trooper Potts is an instant hero, and deservedly so. He survived almost certain death. He managed to help catch his own attacker. He threw out the first pitch of the Durham Bulls season opener to a deafening standing ovation. He had dinner last month at the Governor's Mansion.  

But he was calling me to tell me that the real heroes were the ones who put him back together that night.

You be the judge. We united the bravest guy in town with three of the smartest guys in town - Jeffrey Marcus, MD, craniofacial surgeon.  David Kaylie, MD, head and neck surgeon. Pedro Santiago, DMD, craniofacial orthodontist.

The three of them, and several others, stopped the bleeding. They got the bullets out (well, almost all of them... there's still one lodged in the back of his neck, which he has affectionately nicknamed "Bessie").  

They went to painstaking depths to fix his jaw. They fixed his teeth so he can smile at his wife and his kids the way he used to. They managed to restore most of the nerves in his face, when it looked like there may be permanent loss.

As for how they did it, check out the reunion video. I'd dare not try and explain, I'm way out of their league. But I can tell you, there is an amazing sense of mutual respect between the doctors and the trooper.  

The doctors are also incredibly engaging, honest, and thoughtful.  They speak of miracles, higher powers, and insurmountable odds.  It's a side of surgeons we don't see too often, and I wish we could see more.

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