Even the steady walk up the pilot-side airstairs is a testament to Arik’s progress. In January, this was a man on the brink of survival, someone for whom things like taking confident steps, things like being a parent or husband again, were hazy and uncertain waypoints.
More than ten months of rehabilitation have led to this. A simple stairclimb into the plane cabin. In 45 minutes, he’ll be home in Waseca, Minnesota.
“I’m most excited to be with my family,” he says, flanked by QLI specialists and members of the Omaha Police Department, who join him today in ceremonial escort—a sign of brotherly respect.
“I just want to enjoy good food with my family. Just be back home with my family.”
They haven’t been in the same room since April—Arik, his wife, and his two daughters. Their only conversations have happened through tablet screens and phone calls. He’s grown weary of hearing his daughters’ voices through speakers.
Among police officers, the code phrase “10-19” serves a simple purpose. It means “Officer Returning to Station,” a simple sign-off that means a situation is normal or otherwise under control.
Perhaps it is sheer coincidence, then, that October 19 is the day Waseca police officer Arik Matson discharges from the intensive brain injury rehabilitation program at QLI. Empowered by clinical experts, Arik spent most of the year in isolation, making huge physical and cognitive gains after a gunshot wound changed all but the smallest details of everyday life.
Arik’s work continues. In his first week home, he will train with visiting QLI clinicians before beginning a remote therapy program with QLI Telerehabilitation. These efforts not only ensure a successful transition, but prime him for crucial next steps—including a potential return to the police force as an instructor and public speaker.
But it’s when he takes a seat near the front of the plane that Arik realizes he’s not alone. That they’re here already, in person—his wife, Megan, and their two daughters, Audrina and Maklynn. Here in Omaha. Here for him, always.
When his daughters bullrush him—tearfully, embracing him with loving hugs, as though a void in their lives has suddenly been filled—it’s easy to see this 10-19 is more than a reunion, more than an officer returning to station.
It’s a man, a husband, a father, returning to life.