HOUSTON, TX (WAFB) - Success for East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy Nick Tullier's recovery is measured in fractions of an inch. Every push and pull is a true testament of the deputy's strength.
"Is it a miracle in progress? Well yeah, because we were guaranteed that he wouldn't live 24 hours," said Nick's father, James Tullier.
July 17, 2017 will mark one year since Nick responded to a call of an active shooter on Airline Hwy. and was shot three times: once to the left side of his head, another to his left shoulder, and one shot that entered just below the right side of his rib cage, but exited through his lower back.
Nick was rushed to Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge.
"He said he saw angels, said he saw God. We joked at one time Nick coded four times in the ER and during surgery, apparently, he was arguing with God. God told him, 'Get back, I'm not ready for you,'" said James.
Doctors told Nick's family he would not survive a day, then five days, then 21 days because that's what science told them, but when the family begged for any and all prayers, they said a higher power proved otherwise.
One hundred and twenty-two days after being brought to OLOL, Nick was moved from the hospital. A police motorcade led the way, with some of his fellow brothers standing at attention along the route. Nick was moved to Houston to the TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehab Facility, where he remains today.
Slowly but surely, Nick is making improvements.
"Fast forward a year, he's made very nice progress during the time he's been with us," said Dr. Sunil Kothari, Nick's physician at TIRR.
Dr. Kothari said in December that Nick is fully conscious, recognizes everyone, remembers the shooting and getting shot, and even knows three of his fellow brothers did not survive, even though no one told him.
Dr. Kothari also says Nick's mind and body were not in sync, meaning when his mind told him to do something, it took a while for his body to actually do it. Now though, he says the communication between his body and mind has improved.
"His movements have come more quickly. He's been able to initiate movement on his own. When he moves, the quality of the movement is more fluid. The speed with which he moves is faster," said Dr. Kothari.
The doctor says Nick has much better control of his head now as well. Plus, Nick is able to completely control a power wheelchair by moving his head. "He's able to hold his head up better than he was. When he moves his head, it's more clear what he's doing. He has more control over it," said Dr. Kothari.
In the past month, Dr. Kothari says Nick has regained some movement in his left arm and left leg.
"By no means is he walking on his own, but the fact that he's beginning to activate the muscle again, like all of these changes, is a promising sign," said Dr. Kothari. "He's getting improved movement in his left arm. If we can get to the point he's using a joy stick, you don't have to have a lot of movement to operate a joy stick. Most of your arm can be paralyzed, but just move it. If he can move it enough and if his visual system is sufficient and his thinking and speed of processing, he could operate a motorized wheelchair."
Nick is now moving his left arm forward and backwards inch by inch. As for the exit wound in his lower back, it has been slow to heal, but a surgery performed on Wednesday, July 12 may have improved that. "We're fairly confident it is going to get definitively get better over the next several months. It's been a complicated wound," said Dr. Kothari.
Bone fragments and bullet shrapnel were scattered throughout Nick's brain and could be seen on a CT scan. When asked if that would impact Nick long-term, Dr. Kothari said, "It shouldn't. In most of our patients, it doesn't have any long term significance."
Doctors are also seeing more activity around his mouth. Just a few weeks ago, he said the word, "hello." He's going through music therapy where his therapists and his fiancée, Danielle, work to help improve his speech. During his occupational therapy, Nick stretches over a ball, pushing towards Danielle, and then back down.
"I told somebody a while back, they asked if he's out of the woods yet. I said, 'He's not even in the woods yet. He's just getting in the woods.' He's got a long path to go before he gets out of the woods, but Nick is a fighter," said James.
Nick is a fighter, who is defying all odds.
"Thank you, because the power of prayer worked. The power of prayer works. It's an awesome force. It's stronger than anything else, stronger than any weapon on the face of this Earth. We have proof. We have a son who shouldn't have survived. He's here," said James.
Doctors say no one recovers fully from a brain injury like Nick's, but also say his short-term recovery is looking promising. Another major factor in his recovery is he is never alone. Between his fiancée and parents, someone is always with him, making sure they're pushing, motivating, and even keeping Nick smiling.