Paul Bradley has many things to be thankful for this year.
He’s thankful for his wife and frankly just to be alive.
There were too many days this year when the 30-year-old Dallas police officer wasn’t sure he would be alive to see another Thanksgiving.
“It's pretty scary when the doctor is just not sure what to do anymore,” Bradley said as he prepared a green bean casserole to take to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.
This past June, the seemingly healthy young cop became desperately sick. Doctors found he had an irregular heartbeat. He spent months in the hospital. Eventually, he’d be diagnosed as having congestive heart failure.
“I was scared," Rebekah Bradley, Paul's wife. "I literally thought I was going to lose him."
It was the fight of his life and hers.
They’ve known each other since high school in California. They were best friends then and later fell in love. They married six years ago. He joined the Army and served one tour in Iraq. After three years of active duty, he served four and half years in the reserves.
Three years ago, Paul Bradley joined the Dallas police force. He was assigned to the city’s northeast patrol station. He says he chose to follow in the footsteps of his father who was also a police officer.
His wife recalls that morning in June when he awoke in pain. He ended up in the emergency room – the first of many hospital stays.
Doctors performed a procedure to try to fix the problem. It didn’t work.
“The doctors said out of a 97 percent success rate, I was the three percent,” he said.
They would eventually find his heart was functioning at 10 percent. There were days when he wasn’t sure if he’d make it.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve heard him say,” his wife said. “It broke my heart.”
Friends from the force visited often to try to keep his spirits up. Rebekah was by his side as much as possible.
She’s been a rock,” he said.
Doctors put a pacemaker in to regulate his heart beat.
“In the future, he could have a heart transplant,” Rebekah Bradley said. “All we can do is keep praying and keep hoping and taking it day by day.”
How he ended up with congestive heart failure is a mystery.
He worked out regularly, ate healthy and didn’t smoke. There was no history of heart disease in his family.
He does admits that when he got out of the hospital this last time he did something his doctors wouldn’t have liked. He made his way to In-N-Out Burger, a mainstay of Californians like him.
“I ate it,” Paul Bradley said with a grin. “I did. Sorry, Whataburger, but In-N-Out is king.”
He returned to work about a month ago.
He and his wife are trying not to worry too much about the mounting medical bills. They estimate they owe in excess of $50,000. They keep them in a basket on the coffee table.
“All we can do is pay off what we can,” Rebekah Bradley said.
The Assist the Officer Foundation has helped them financially. Friends and family also donated to more than $6,000 GoFundMe account his wife set up.
“Their help and support has been pretty awesome as well,” he said. “It's just like having extended, dysfunctional family.”
The three-year veteran of the force returned to work last month on light duty. He looks forward to being on the front lines of fighting crime again soon.
“That's my job is to be out there,” Paul Bradley said.
He has his good days and bad days.
But for Rebekah and Paul, there are so many more reasons to be thankful this year.
“Just being able to say thanks and having him sit next to me to eat. I'm happy,” she said. “Life is too short and you’ve got to make the most of it.”
Donations to help Officer Paul Bradley can be made through the Assist the Officer Foundation at https://atodallas.org/donate or by mail to 1412 East Griffin Street, Dallas, TX 75215. Designate the donation to Paul Bradley.