SALT LAKE CITY — Nine weeks after suffering multiple gunshot wounds in the neck, face and head, Montana trooper Wade Palmer left University Hospital in Salt Lake City to be transferred to a hospital close to home.
Palmer suffered the wounds on March 15 as he was investigating a shooting in Missoula that left one person dead and two others injured the night before.
“This type of event is everybody in law enforcement’s fear,” said Montana Highway Patrol Col. Tom Butler. “Wade hasn’t left my thoughts, every morning it’s one of the first things I think of and every night it’s one of the last things I think of before I go to sleep.”
He was initially treated at St. Patrick Hospital, then airlifted to University of Utah Hospital, where he was placed in a medically-induced coma in extremely critical condition.
After regaining consciousness in early April, Palmer was moved from University of Utah Hospital’s Neuro Critical Care Unit to the Neuro Acute Care Unit.
Every day since the accident, officers from both the Montana Highway Patrol and Utah Highway Patrol stood watch outside of Palmer’s room 24/7.
“To each and every one of you that took a watch outside our door, to the continuous times I needed a friendly ear to listen to me talk, someone was always there to lean on,” said Wade’s wife, Lindsey, as she held back tears reading her prepared statement. “You made a scary time for my family and myself a little less scary.”
As he left the hospital Wednesday, Palmer was seen wearing protective headgear. His right arm was in a sling and his left was operating an elbow crutch.
“From day one to today, it’s like night and day,” said Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Sean Finley.
“I’m just so happy he’s in the position that he’s in today because when this occurred it did not look that promising,” Butler said.
But Palmer broke a smile for those who cheered him on as he walked from an SUV at the TAC Air runway to board a private plane back to Montana.
“The future here today is brighter than when we first landed here in Utah,” Lindsey Palmer said before leaving the room to join the procession taking Wade Palmer to the airport.
Members of Palmer's family, the Montana Department of Justice, University Police, the Utah Highway Patrol and others were at the airport Wednesday to wish him well as he departed for the return trip.
“I’m authorized to say, on behalf of the people of Montana, thank you, Utah. We love you and you’re now all honorary citizens of the state of Montana,” Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said as he choked back tears.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Wade is coming home,” Bulter said in a news release sent to FOX 13. “From the very beginning, he has received the best possible medical care and I know that it saved his life. Words cannot express my gratitude to all of the health care providers in Missoula and Salt Lake City who have cared for him during these past two months. Wade has a long road ahead, but I am glad that he will be traveling that road here in Montana with his family, friends, and fellow troopers at his side.”