TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — For former Austin Police Officer Tammy Barrett, it’s about the little things.
“We take for granted the things that we have and you don’t understand what you don’t have until you don’t have it,” said Barrett.
Her life changed completely in September 2018 after she plunged off a cliff in an ATV accident near El Paso. Paralyzed from the waist down, doctors told her she would never walk again.
“Everything’s different,” said Barrett. “I used to run marathons and workout and I can’t run now but I still try to go to the park and get some exercise in and obviously I’m not gonna be able to be a police officer anymore.”
Since then many have come to her rescue, including her shift mate Jason Borne, who designed T-shirts with the hashtag “#TammyStrong.” Other friends of hers have helped raise money in different ways for her medical care.
“I felt loved,” she said tearfully. But an organization called Operation Finally Home, went above and beyond and partnered with a builder who is donating his services to build Barrett a home that is completely paid for.
“Loved, blessed — it’s hard to explain how all of that coming to you — it’s hard to put into words. But it’s heartfelt, it’s coming from their heart, so that means everything,” she said.
They broke ground on the project back in March, and hope to have the home ready soon. “I feel like a kid who’s waiting to go into the candy store. I’m just like ‘Let me go, let me go,’ it’s like Disneyland,” she said. “I’ve been told by everyone to go into the house and because of my service, I understand an order when it’s given.”
KXAN got an exclusive look at the house in progress that will feature wheelchair accessible rooms, bathrooms and kitchen. Barrett will even have a pulley to help her get out of bed.
“To be able to reach something in a shelf for myself and be able to cook for myself, be able to pick out my own clothes, not just go to my closet and go, ‘No that one, no a little bit more to the left,’ it’s the little things.”
Though the accident changed her life forever, Barrett said wholeheartedly that it was almost for the better.
“Before I always strived to be a good person and I always strived to have a smile on my face and just do the right thing, but because of everything, all the blessings that are coming my way, I’ve tried to amplify that now. Not only always smile and do the right thing but if I can give, then you need to give two-fold because so much has come my way.”
Robin Bond, who is designing the interior of Barrett’s home, said when she was approached about working on the project, the answer was an immediate yes.
“Tammy is an amazing officer,” Bond said. “She is so worthy of this.”
She approached some of the vendors she regularly works with, and they helped donate much of what they have raised so far.
“I really wondered how everything was going to get done with our work load as a design firm but it’s been nothing but a joy,” Bond said. “She showed me the designs that she loves, and I was able to design it specifically for her.”
Bond hopes to completely furnish the house for when Barrett gets to see it for the first time on July 31. “We’ll know we’ve done our job if she comes in the home and ugly cries,” Bond said excitedly, adding that in fact, it’s her goal.
The total cost of the home’s interior design is about $20,000 and about $12,000 has already been raised. If you would like to donate, follow the link here.