Ariz. deputy, declared brain dead, makes comeback

March 18, 1994|By Arizona Republic

PHOENIX -- The day after he was shot by a suspected drug dealer in a domestic fight turned shootout, police officer Don Mauldin was declared brain dead.

Knowing that "cops don't want to drag on," his wife reluctantly gave the doctors permission to disconnect his life support. She cried hard, prayed harder, then waited for the end.

Nine days later, with friends and family assembled at his bedside, he coughed and woke up.

Doctors are astounded by the recovery of the 19-year law-enforcement veteran.

Although a painful, frustrating rehabilitation lies ahead, Corporal Mauldin, 51, has regained his speech and limited movement of his hands, legs and toes, says Dr. Candyce Williams, a Barrow Neurological Institute physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist working with him.

"He's made a remarkable recovery, given the circumstances that were presented," she said. "The doctors who operated on him did not expect him to live."

Doctors say he's within reach of a goal a friend and colleague set for Corporal Mauldin soon after the Dec. 11 shooting: to walk out of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center on his own two feet.

That goal was set by Sgt. Joe Martinez, 32, Corporal Mauldin's supervisor at the Pinal County Sheriff's Department.

Every day since the shooting, Corporal Martinez has driven from Apache Junction to Phoenix to visit his stricken colleague, spending hours massaging and working Corporal Mauldin's muscles to stave off atrophy. He and Corporal Mauldin's wife, Maggie, have checked on long-term care centers for when Corporal Mauldin is released.

Even after doctors showed him the disastrous results of Corporal Mauldin's CAT scan, Sergeant Martinez refused to concede his friend's life.

He made his fallen brother in arms a solemn vow: "I promise you, Don, I know that you and I will walk out of here together."

Maggie Mauldin, 33, didn't want to give up hope, either.

"They [doctors] told me, 'He's going to die in a few hours,' " she said, referring to the decision to disconnect life support. "I thought, 'Please, Don, don't leave me to raise these kids.' "

The couple have two sons.

She and Sergeant Martinez were among those gathered around Don's bed Dec. 21, she recalls, when "Don coughed, and his eyes flew open. He looked at me, and he looked at Shane [Don's son from a previous marriage], and there was recognition there."

Corporal Mauldin can't explain what happened: "I guess it just wasn't my time. I don't know why."

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