An Atlantic City police officer's road to recovery after he was shot in the head took a miraculous step forward after his skull was reconstructed.
"I'm just ecstatic," Officer Josh Vadell said. "Looking at myself in the mirror, my confidence, I have my confidence back."
On September 3, 2016, Vadell was shot in the right side of his brain as he exited his vehicle in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Authorities say the nine-year veteran of the police force and another officer saw three men trying to rob three others near a parking garage at Caesars casino when at least one of the suspects opened fire, striking Vadell in the head.
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The second officer returned fire and killed 25-year-old robbery suspect Jerome Damon of Camden. The other suspects were charged with attempted murder and robbery.
Vadell lost part of his skull in the shooting and was treated for his injuries at the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center and the brain injury unit at MossRehab in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.
Months after leaving MossRehab, Vadell returned to the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center where he underwent crucial surgery to reconstruct his skull. Doctors used a special piece of medical-grade plastic during the surgery.
"It was based on a CAT scan," Dr. Adam Saad, a reconstructive plastic surgeon at AtlantiCare said. "So we look at the opposite side and make a mirror image. His recovery from what we see in medicine, it is miraculous."
Vadell described his initial feelings after seeing how he looked following the surgery.
"It was amazing," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I was back."
Vadell's story and continued recovery have inspired people all over the world, including a British police officer who sent him a message.
"Hi, I know I don't know you but as a UK cop, I just wanted to say how proud to be a cop Josh made me," the officer wrote. "I wish you all amazing health and thank you again."
Vadell told NBC10 he wants to be a motivational speaker for people battling life-threatening ailments.
"I just want to give people hope to show them that it is possible," Vadell said. "As low as you fall, you can get back up."