Never give up

For Kernersville Police Officer Sean Houle, the overnight shift going into Sunday morning, Feb. 21 wasn’t unusual. By Houle’s own admission, it was “a night like most others.”
Until it wasn’t.
At approximately 3:30 a.m. that same morning, Houle was shot by a suspect not long after making what on every other occasion previously would have been described as a “routine” traffic stop.
“It was something I had done numerous other times and came out okay,” Houle said of the 10 years he has been a law enforcement officer. “I guess it was meant to be.”
Houle was on patrol in Kernersville that night and had pulled over a vehicle in the Century Park area. One of the passengers in the vehicle ran from the scene, but Houle placed the driver and another passenger in custody because both had outstanding warrants. He then transported them to police headquarters, where they were processed.
After the driver of the vehicle was released on a written promise to appear in court, Houle returned the driver to the stopped vehicle. That’s when Houle saw that the third occupant had returned and was sitting in the vehicle. Police said some type of altercation followed, with the suspect firing three shots from Houle’s weapon. According to the Kernersville Police Department (KPD), Houle was struck once in the hand and once in the face.
As Houle felt the life leaving his body, an image of his family appeared, providing the wounded Kernersville police officer just the motivation he needed to survive.
“I truly, honestly believed that was it,” Houle said of the moment he felt the bullet from his service revolver enter his body. “I closed my eyes and I saw my wife and two boys. It was like I could reach out and touch them.”
Houle knew in that moment that giving up was not an option, not if he wanted to see his wife, Ellie, and sons, Tucker and Tanner, again.
Despite his injuries, Houle was able to radio for help. The response was immediate and the stricken officer was transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center where doctors continued efforts to save his life.
For those who question divinity or the power of prayer, Houle said one only has to look at him for the answer. The bullet severed Houle’s carotid artery, an injury so severe that Houle needed 70 units of blood to keep him alive and left only the most minimal chances of survival.
“If there’s a person out there that has a doubt about God, about prayer, read about me. God definitely had His hand on me that night,” Houle said.
Houle said everyone involved in responding to his call for help had to be perfect.
“Everyone, Forsyth County EMS, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the officers I work with on my squad and the dispatcher, they basically had to be perfect that night and they were,” Houle said. “They responded with urgency and in record time. They got me to the hospital where the doctors could treat me.”
Houle continued.
“It had to be perfect. God made us all human. We’re not perfect, but that night, He had his hand on me and everyone else to do their jobs and work on me perfectly.”
Houle knew instinctively what he needed to do, as well.
“That night, I knew I needed to stay in the fight to survive. There’s a reason I saw my wife and two boys the way I did. They were sent to me for a reason. It was a kick in the butt telling me, you need to keep fighting,” Houle said. “As soon as I opened my eyes, I realized I needed to keep fighting.”
One of the thoughts that went through Houle’s mind was that his youngest son Tanner, who will turn one-year-old this month, would only know his father through photographs if Houle didn’t survive.
“I knew I had a lot to live for. I needed that extra strength that night, to see what I was going to lose if I didn’t stay in it and fight,” Houle said. “I never lost consciousness. I stayed awake the entire time. I knew if I did (lose consciousness), my youngest boy would never know me. He would only know me by pictures. That killed me inside and was another reason to not give up.”
As his care continued at the hospital, Houle not only had the support of both his own family and his brothers and sisters in blue from the Kernersville Police Department, but the entire Kernersville community rallied around them all. The outpouring of prayers and generosity did not go unnoticed.
“I certainly want to express my thanks, my gratitude and my gratefulness for everything that has been done, not just for me, but my entire family,” Houle said. “This was definitely the darkest time my wife and I have ever faced in our lives. We’ve been married for eight years and together for 10. My wife battled and survived cancer. A lot of things needed to happen to bring me out of this a survivor and one of the biggest was prayer. It now seems impossible that it wouldn’t have worked out the way it did. What this community did for me is amazing.”
Houle admitted that there have been times he struggled with what has happened to him, but at the same time, Houle has chosen to focus on the positive. Daily updates on the community’s support helped tremendously. Those updates included a multitude of fundraisers, gatherings and blood drives in his honor.
“I was updated daily on what was being done and the amount of people praying for me. Everything all those people did, nothing went unnoticed,” Houle said. “I will forever remember it. It helped me survive this, to know there were so many people out there supporting me. One of the biggest things I want people to know is that I will be forever grateful.”
Houle was released from the hospital on March 16 to an escort of law enforcement, firefighters and EMS who wanted to accompany him on his journey home. Those who couldn’t follow lined roads and bridges along the way. He continues to undergo treatment today and is making progress.
“I’ve made some really good progress. Every day is one step closer to normal. I’m fighting for that,” Houle said. “The goal is to get me functional to where I can function as an officer and do what I need to do. There are definitely some challenges I have to overcome to make that happen, but it’s definitely what everyone is working for.”
Houle had high praise for his KPD family, especially for their support during the nearly three months since he was shot.
“I’m very fortunate to work for Kernersville and working for them when this happened. They’ve done everything and anything they can possibly do for me,” Houle said. “They’re making it so I have numerous options, that I’m taken care of and have options. We’re working toward that and they call and check on me every day.”
Houle said an experience like his is life-altering. It also puts a lot of things in perspective.
“An experience like this certainly opens your eyes,” Houle said. “Time with my family and with my boys, I will never take that for granted again for as long as I live here on this Earth.”
Houle knows how highly the odds were stacked against him, but he’s living proof today that miracles do happen.
“I had a lot of help to get here right now, from God, my whole squad, the paramedics and doctors and everyone else,” Houle said. “This is a story about a miracle.”
It certainly is.

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