Getting by with a Little Help from Good Friends

Justin Ellis

When Justin Ellis got up on the morning of October 10, 2016 to report for work as a motor officer with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit P.D., he could not have imagined the way his day – indeed, his life – would turn out before the day was over. Just before the end of his shift, he'd been called into a search for an aggravated robbery suspect, who had stabbed a victim at the Hatcher station in south Dallas and had subsequently fled the scene. Justin was called to sweep the nearby Lawnview station.

When his search came up empty, he left the station to return to the scene of the crime. As he proceeded northbound to Hatcher, a truck heading in the opposite direction failed to notice Justin's motorcycle and turned directly into his lane, sending him careening off his bike, across the truck's hood and roof, and onto the pavement 20 feet away from the initial impact. A nearby citizen, seeing that Justin was still conscious, retrieved the officer's radio, and Justin called for help. Within 13 seconds, the ambulance arrived, racing Justin the nearest emergency room where he had already gone into shock from internal hemorrhaging. From there, Justin's recollection of the story goes dark.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m., Justin's wife, Rachel, got the call that her husband was down. Leaving their two children, Charles (5) and Miranda (2), with grandparents, Rachel proceeded directly to meet her husband. At 5 a.m. the next morning, TMPA North Texas representative, Clint McNear, showed up and remained a steady support.

The doctors began feeding reports to Rachel. The situation had become tense. Justin had an "open book" pelvis fracture, pulling his pelvis away from his spine, along with internal bleeding caused from a break in his femoral artery. Doctors had to open his abdomen to take the pressure off his organs; within the first 24 hours, 24 units of blood were pumped into him to keep him alive.

By day three, he was put on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, to filter, clean and recirculate his blood as orthopedic surgeons worked to repair the fracture.

"No one had ever been on an ECMO machine during an orthopedic surgery before this," Justin relates. "Rachel had to decide for me whether to run the risk."

She did, and the operation worked. For the next 10 days, Justin remained on the machine and was moved to ICU once he stabilized.

“In retrospect, becoming a TMPA member was probably one of the best decisions I ever made.”

"Throughout the ordeal, Clint and other members of the law enforcement community surrounded us with love, advice, care and support," Rachel said.

Justin remained heavily sedated for almost five weeks, undergoing multiple operations and surgeries, and slowly came back to over the last six weeks of his hospitalization. During that time, Clint and the TMPA raised money and began remodeling the Ellis' home for wheelchair access. They also repaired fences and fed the livestock that roam the six-acre plot on which the Ellis family home rests just beyond the city lights. During the holidays, TMPA members brought food and supplies, in addition to providing legal counsel, and money in the bank at the end of every month.

"I never had to ask for anything," Rachel said. "It was amazing seeing this organization come together to support our family. Our entire home was made over at no expense to us, in preparation for Justin's return. They even purchased a family vacation for us, to make up for us missing our son’s fifth birthday, my birthday, all of Thanksgiving and our wedding anniversary, while Justin was recovering from the accident."

Today, Justin is back at home, getting used to his new reality. He is at last beginning to get feeling back in his legs, and with therapy, his next goal is to learn to walk.

"When I joined the TMPA at the very start of my career 14 years ago, I could not have foreseen the impact they would have on my life today," Justin said. "In retrospect, becoming a TMPA member was probably one of the best decisions I ever made."