On November 5th, 2009, U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire in a busy Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas. With both civilian and military personnel alike in the room, Hasan gunned down victims in the general area quickly and viciously. Staff sergeant Patrick Zeigler was one such victim of Hasan’s twisted vendetta. With a direct shot to his head, Patrick was deemed low priority by medics on scene because he suffered such heavy damage. Luckily, his humor saved his life. He spoke to the paramedics that were prioritizing the victims, somehow managing to get them to laugh in the midst of such a traumatic scene. They rushed into action to save him despite his low chance of survival. Removing 20% of his brain mass and fragments upon fragments of his skull bone, the paramedics were able to save Patrick’s life against all odds. Paralyzed on his left side, Patrick needed to receive intensive physical therapy to ever walk again. When news reached his girlfriend, Jessica Hansen, she immediately went to his side, thankful for the miracle of his survival. They worked as a team to help him overcome the tragedy, eventually helping him walk again.
Patrick and Jessica met while on vacation and their love blossomed while he served two tours in Iraq. Throughout all of his intensive physical therapy, Jessica remained at his side, giving him the strength to continue getting better day by day. Patrick remembers that “his biggest motivation [to get through therapy] was her.” True to nature, the first time he was able to walk, Patrick took Jessica to dinner and proposed to her. ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Rubber-Cal were so touched by their amazing story that we created a physical rehabilitation and workout room for Patrick in his own home. Rubber-Cal donated rolls of Elephant Bark for their gym equipment to rest upon and reduce the damage to their floors and equipment. The softer rubber cushioning of Elephant Bark also created an anti-slip surface for safer and more comfortable flooring than bare concrete. As a special surprise, the couple was also married on the episode with Patrick standing without aid to await his beautiful bride. The couple even dances together while friends and family watch. Jessica happily recounts on their wedding day that “Love really does overcome all.”
Today, Patrick Zeigler still remains in physical therapy five days a week for eight hours each day. He gets stronger and better every day, but is still not fully autonomous. The Zeiglers hope that he will one day be able to get back into the driver’s seat to fully reclaim his independence. He looks to the future now, even considering returning to college to receive a master’s degree in a business-related field. They are also expecting their first child, a baby boy named Liam Patrick Zeigler after Patrick’s father. Although Patrick is now stable from his grievous injuries, every day is still a recovery process. Jessica wants to express that severe brain damage will remain a struggle every day for the rest of Patrick’s life. It never becomes fully healed. Throughout all of their hardships and struggles, however, Patrick and Jessica Zeigler prove that no obstacle is too great when you have love and support. Here at Rubber-Cal, we are so proud that we were able to participate in Patrick’s recovery process and wish both Patrick and Jessica the best of luck for their future. We cannot wait for them to welcome Liam Patrick Zeigler into the world. Their story is truly an inspiration to all of us.