Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in January, has been back in the news in the last few weeks.
Her doctors recently replaced part of her skull, and her astronaut husband made it safely back to earth on space shuttle Endeavor's last flight.
As she continues her rehabilitation in Houston, a local man talks about how he shares a similar story.
Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her long recovery over the past months brought back a tough memory for 46-year-old Kevin Thomas.
"It's going to be a process. Of course the media look at it as, well okay, she recovering but at the same time, it's going to take a process. It takes a while for fully recovery (sic). She may not ever fully recovery," said Thomas.
And he understands that all to well. It was just after Hurricane Katrina. Thomas was protecting the chaotic streets of the ravaged city when a looter in Algiers shot him in the head with a .45 semi-automatic handgun.
"I saw him in court and he just couldn't look at me. And I actually looked at him and pointed at him, that you are the one that shot me. And I don't know why, but hey, only he knows," remembers Thomas.
Doctors at West Jefferson Medical Center had a tough time, but saved Thomas' life. Remember there was no electricity, no running water, and in the sweltering heat, not enough back-up power to do a CT Scan of the brain.
Culicchia Clinic Neurosurgeon Dr. John Steck performed two hours of surgery to remove part of his skull, the bullet and bone fragments from his brain.
"When he arrived, (at the emergency room) we knew it was serious. He had been shot in the head but initially he was responsive," remembers Dr. Steck.
To see and talk to Thomas is to see success. But to him, while he is alive, his life was still taken from him.
"The main thing, I can't go back to my job. I had to take a), I was forced to retire January 4th of this year because I was not able to be a police officer anymore after 20 years, and that was a very, very, big, important thing to me," Thomas said
It's because of the lingering seizures he still has that is keeping him even from desk duty.
"I get up and just hang around and pretty much don't do anything. And that's kind of hard, you know, when you used to after 20 years, used to working so much," he said.
Thomas would love to spend his days talking to the young people still out there who get sucked up into thinking crime and shooting people are normal.
"We've still got the people actually killing for senseless reason," Thomas said.
While his skull and left ear, which was blown off, are back intact, what's tough is the time he spends working to be normal again in speech, in thinking, and in writing. It's those things he worries about for a congresswoman he's never met, shot on the same side of her brain.
"Well there's a similarity in that they are both in the left frontal lobe, but not knowing the specifics of her injury and also knowing that just a few millimeters of change in a track can make a huge difference," said Dr. Steck.
But Dr. Steck stresses it's not hopeless for people with traumatic brain injury. Patients can improve.
And for Kevin's five daughters, just 19 to 25 years of age, and his wife Thelma, because of good trauma care and rehabilitation, they still get to celebrate graduations and milestones together.
And people wonder what Giffords will want to do when she is years post injury. Thomas can only guess it's to continue to serve. Knowing what he knows, he would still put on the blue uniform and badge and do it all over again.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, because I wanted to be a police all my life," Thomas said.
Doctors say people with brain injury can seem okay to everyone at first, but they can have trouble in crowds and with loud noises. They also can get more irritable and emotional because it can take time for them to learn to focus again and filter out the things that normal people take for granted.