# N I C K T U L L I E R S T R O N G
Paved by Prayer
by Susan Brown
I know the power of prayer. There’s no doubt in our minds. When people gather, wherever, to pray for a common cause, it’s heard. And we have the proof. Is Nick a miracle? Well, yes. I mean, by everything that science told the doctors, Nick shouldn’t be here. -James Tullier, Nick Tullier’s father
If there is one lesson the Tullier family has learned over the past 18 months, it is that nothing is impossible with God. The 24-hour vigil over their son – that began with the 2016 fatal shooting of three law enforcement officers and wounding of three others – is bathed in the prayers and support of well-wishers from across the globe. They have learned to expect the unexpected.
“Nick did lose some brain mass. He’s got bullet fragments through his brain and on his brain stem,” said Nick’s father, James. “They had told us in the beginning he wouldn’t live 24 hours, then 48 hours, then five days.”
James and his wife, Mary, refused to believe the prognosis. “Mary told the doctor, ‘No, you don’t understand, this is not your decision. This decision is between God and Nick.’”
“About two weeks before we left Baton Rouge, the neurosurgeon caught Mary in the hall at Our Lady of the Lake and said, ‘I understand now. It never was in my hands,’” James said. “A higher power was guiding him.”
“Anoxic brain injury affects the whole brain. People usually don’t remember what happened, but the fact that Nick does is another miracle,” said Nick’s fiancé Danielle McNicholl. “He should not be able to breathe on his own or regulate his temperature or swallow, but he can, which is also a miracle. There are just so many delicate things he shouldn’t be able to do, and there’s no medical explanation for it.” And then, there is his smile. “It’s contagious,” Danielle said. “You can’t not smile when you see him smile.”
The journey toward healing is a journey of faith. “I grew up going to a Catholic church, Immaculate Conception in Denham, and Nick had questions. A lot of people do. I always had religion in my life, but it was what you’re supposed to do,” Danielle said. “I would pray to God when something bad happened, but I wouldn’t say that I really had a real deep connection before. This has changed all of us. It’s changed his parents; it’s changed me.”
“I blame my mom for this, actually,” she said with a smile. “It’s sort of our little joke. Because the morning this happened, she was at church with my stepdad, and she was praying, ‘Please God, bring my kids back to church, bring them back to prayer.’”
“I’ve never been a non-believer, but I’ve been from one end of the spectrum to the other,” James said. “I was raised Catholic and Mary was raised Baptist.” At his lowest point, he ended up in the chapel at Our Lady of the Lake where he made – not a bargain – but a promise to God to promote Him and promote prayer. “I talk to Him often, multiple times a day, multiple times a night. I ask for direction and help to keep that promise.”
“Nick did lose some brain mass. He’s got bullet fragments through his brain and on his brain stem,” said Nick’s father, James. “They had told us in the beginning he wouldn’t live 24 hours, then 48 hours, then five days.” James and his wife, Mary, refused to believe the prognosis. “Mary told the doctor, ‘No, you don’t understand, this is not your decision. This decision is between god and Nick.’”
As they celebrate each small step, the family is amazed at the way God places people in their path. “So many people were praying for Nick at this time,” James said. A church in Thailand asked for details to direct their prayers toward specific injuries. The family of former TV star Steve Irwin, owners of the Australia Zoo, sent a photograph of the entire staff wearing Pray for Nick bracelets. Tullier was contacted by praying people from the Philippines, Sweden, England, France, Germany, Italy and across the U.S. Father Charbel El-Jamhoury, pastor of St. Agnes Church, flew back to Baton Rouge from overseas to pray over Nick every night. The Tullier family still receives messages of support each day.
When memorial services were held for the three officers fatally wounded in the attack – Brad Garafola, Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson – at least two officers representing every state and Canada took time to visit. “At almost 3 in the morning there was a line of law enforcement officers in ICU,” James said. They would come in very formally and walk to the side of Nick, pop to attention and salute him. And every one of them asked, ‘Do you mind if we pray?’ So, we know what helped save Nick.”
God continues to connect the family with support, James said. Shortly after Nick was wounded, their home in Denham Springs was flooded. They were able to save only their three chihuahuas, two bags of clothes and their motor home. Lighthouse Charity Team stepped in to provide a place to park the motor home, so they could live near the treatment facility.
Then, after receiving care in Galveston, the family moved Nick back to Houston to remain under the TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) umbrella of care. With insurance for round-the-clock care ending, they needed to quickly find a home that would meet Nick’s needs. Then, they were offered a rental house through their connection with Houston police officer Ronny Cortez and his wife, Sheri, a couple they met while Ronny was also receiving treatment at TIRR. The Cortez family is providing the house rent-free for the first few months for Nick’s parents and fiancé, who share responsibility for his 24-hour care. “It’s a lot, but he doesn’t quit, so we’re not quitting,” Danielle said.
Tullier has been contacted by praying people from the Philippines, Sweden, England, France, Germany, Italy and across the U.S. Father Charbel el-Jamhoury, pastor of St. Agnes Church, flew back to Baton Rouge from overseas to pray over Nick every night. The Tullier family still receives messages of support each day.
Neither is the community that has supported the family with donations and encouragement. Courville Construction in Baton Rouge took on the task of remodeling the house to meet Nick’s needs, including a rolling shower and expanded doorways. Donors are contributing home furnishings from a gift registry. “Everybody’s been wonderful,” Danielle said.
“You hear all the time in the Bible that people dropped everything and just followed Jesus,” Danielle said. “In today’s time, how would you quit your job and leave everything? That wouldn’t work. I was a hair stylist. But literally, I have not worked since Nick was shot, and God has provided everything.”
It is prayer that keeps the family going, Danielle said. “Nick’s brain is fully there; his body needs to catch up. So that’s what we’re waiting on. Now that he’s past all the infection he was dealing with, his muscles are starting to listen to his brain.”
“He’s doing multiplication and division, and he remembers everybody and everything,” Danielle said. “He’ll nod his head for yes and then turn his head for no. If you ask him a multiple-choice question, you can say A, B or C and he’ll turn his head. He thrives with pushing and pushing.”
“God knows everything that’s going to happen, but he set up all the people in Nick’s life so perfectly,” Danielle said. “And we want to tell them, ‘thank you.’ It’s been a God thing.”
“Danielle’s just fantastic,” James said. “She could easily jump up and say this wasn’t in my plan. But Danielle is in this game with us.”
Before the shooting, Nick and Danielle planned to marry the next summer. “I told him as soon as he can say, ‘I do.’ No pressure,” Danielle said. “I believe 100 percent that he will talk and walk again. I’ve just had that in my heart since the beginning. If you ask him if he wants a break – no. He just doesn’t quit, he doesn’t stop.”
“People have called us for over a year asking, ‘What can I do for Nick?’ Continue to pray,” James said. “That’s my fear, that it loses momentum. But we’ve got prayer warriors all over the nation and outside the nation, who message me and assure me they’re not going to forget. Please continue to pray for Nick.”
For more information, visit the Nick Tullier Strong page on Facebook.
Susan Brown began her career in radio news. she was news director for WJBO/WFMF radio and a journalism instructor at LSU. She holds Master’s Degrees from LSU and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary, and served as a chaplain at Louisiana Correctional institute for Women.