Wounded officer mending Young's progress pleases doctors

October 08, 1992|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,Staff Writer

Baltimore Police Officer James E. Young, Jr. is angry. That pleases his doctors very much.

"Anger is one of the higher functions of the human brain," said Dr. Philip Militello, clinical director of the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where Officer Young has been treated since he was shot in the head three weeks ago. "So I'm very happy."

At a news conference yesterday, Dr. Militello gave a generally encouraging assessment of Officer Young's progress and of his prognosis. If not for the appearance of a slight fever, he said, the policeman would have been transferred to a rehabilitative hospital yesterday or today.

"It is my best hope and position that, if properly motivated, he will be able to return to law enforcement," the doctor said. He cautioned, however, that the psychological obstacles will be as difficult for the policeman to overcome as the physical ones. A full recovery, he said, "depends on physical and mental progression as well as his motivation."

Nevertheless, Dr. Militello said, the young man was "progressing quite well."

Officer Young, 26, was pursuing drug suspects Sept. 18 in the Flag House Courts high rise in Southeast Baltimore when one ofthe men overpowered him, took his gun and fired a shot into the back of his head. Officer Young went into cardiac arrest. For four minutes, Dr. Militello said, the officer was "clinically dead."

Surgeons in Shock Trauma performed an hourlong operation on Officer Young to remove the bullet. Bone fragments remain lodged in his brain.

Dr. Militello said Officer Young can speak, although "his speech and diction are not crystal clear" and he is able to feed himself. He said Officer Young cannot remember the shooting. Doctors have recounted to him the events of that day, the doctor said.

Dr. Militello said that Officer Young has been frustrated and angry that he can't enunciate his words clearly or move his limbs agilely. Display of strong emotion, the doctor said, is a good sign that the damage to the brain is not extensive. But he said that depression is a common reaction to the slow recovery that Officer Young now faces.

The policeman can expect to be at a rehabilitative hospital for a year, less if his will to recover is strong, the doctor said. Whether the officer ever returns to active field duty, Dr. Militello said, will depend on how he deals with the emotional and physical trauma FTC of the shooting.

When the doctor visited Officer Young shortly before yesterday's news conference, the policeman was well enough to grouse about the food. "He seemed to be unhappy with the roast beef, the potatoes and the gravy wasn't quite right," Dr. Militello said.

Before Dr. Militello spoke, Officer Young's mother, Garnetta Raynor, told reporters that she, too, was gratified by his recovery so far, though she knew the process had only barely begun. "Everyday I just pray he's a little bit better," she said. "If he's not, I just thank God he's here."

Although Dr. Militello's assessment was rosy, he warned that "Jimmy is never going to be the same. He has a hole in his head; his brain was jostled about; he was in cardiac arrest."

Even though Officer Young may seem completely recovered to most people, the doctor said, those close to him, his mother, for instance, may be aware of changes in him.

Though Mrs. Raynor had been composed earlier, when she heard those words, her eyes filled with tears. Mrs. Raynor is a registered nurse at Francis Scott Key Hospital, where she has worked on the neurological ward. She is familiar with brain trauma cases, she said, adding that "sometimes it's not good to know a little bit more." Still, she said she was encouraged by her son's progress. She said the first positive sign came the second day when she called her son's name, and he opened his eyes. Now, she said, he has asked for people by name and laughed at jokes.

Police Commissioner Edward Woods, who also attended the news conference, said that Officer Young had broken into a big smile when he recognized his boss.

"It sent chills down my back," Mr. Woods said.

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