IMPD Officer Santos Cortez spent Father’s Day 2012 in the intensive care unit of Wishard Memorial Hospital.
“Last year it wasn’t too bad considering I was in the hospital,” he said.
Does Cortez even remember Father’s Day last year?
“No. I don’t.”
The Sunday before, one day after his son’s tenth birthday, Cortez was involved in a horrific crash with a drunk driver on West Washington Street. The accident left Jerrel Watkins with a stiff neck and a three-year prison sentence.
It left Santos Cortez in a wheelchair.
“I don’t think I would do anything differently,” said Cortez on the eve of the day that would change his career and his family’s life forever. “Everytime that radio chimed up and it was something in my zone, I wanted to be the one that chimed in for it.”
Cortez said he still listens to his police radio on occasion like when he patrolled the westside of Indianapolis.
“I miss hearing David 240,” he said. “I miss hearing my radio number getting called and myself keying up and, ‘I’ll be in route. I’ll take care of it. I’ll check it.’”
Cortez’ wife Fran presented him with a photograph taken last Father’s Day of four of the couple’s children, clad in matching t-shirts, expressing their love and support of their dad.
This Father’s Day the two littlest ones, Elizabeth and Santos IV, climb on their dad like he’s a chair-bound jungle gym.
“It has new meaning this year. It really does,” said Cortez. “I told my wife I know the kids want to get stuff but to just wake up and have them there, that’s all I really need.
“Just to be here and see them grow up and I’m not missing any of it and, yes, they drive me crazy, but that’s what kids do. They drive you crazy, but I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
Since the crash, Cortez has received the IMPD Purple Heart, undergone several surgeries, begun rehabilitation, represented the nation’s injured police officers at a Washington D.C. memorial service and celebrated his son Riley’s 11th birthday Saturday.
“This year’s gonna be less surgeries, less problems, less infections and less everything,” said Riley. “The biggest challenge is wondering if dad will ever walk again.”
Cortez said he has no doubt that someday he will walk.
He works out daily in a gym with that goal in mind.
Cortez expects to return to duty in August and work in IMPD’s Wounded Guardians program with other injured officers.
“Its important that I get back to work so I can show everyone I haven’t let this defeat me,” he said. “This is just the next part of what I’m going through and its going to shine through and everyone’s going to see it.”