Redfield native, Briston Bruce, receives Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award in Aberdeen,
shares his journey
By Shiloh Appel
On Friday, May 11th, 2018 Redfield native, Briston Bruce, now a resident of Aberdeen, was honored by the Aberdeen VFW as Aberdeen Law Enforcement Officer of the Year after undergoing three surgeries in the Fall of 2017 to remove a brain tumor. A graduate of Western Dakota Tech, Bruce has been a Law Enforcement Officer for two years with the Aberdeen Police Department.
"I was kind of looking at chemistry and science in high school, and then when I got done with high school, that is when I started looking into law enforcement," said Bruce. "The more I looked into it, the more it started to interest me."
After becoming an officer, Bruce began having very painful migraines.
"They got so bad that I really couldn't do anything, so I ended up going into the ER here in Aberdeen. They did an MRI, they found the mass, and they rushed me down to Sioux Falls, then they did emergency surgery the very next day. It was about half or three quarters of the tumor [that they removed] at that time, which is kind of all that they could get. I did that, and I was in the hospital for about a week," said Bruce."I started having issues with brain fluid filling up under my scalp, so I came back and I had this huge lump on my head with brain fluid. It was right on my forehead above my right eye… I had to go and they had to put in a drain — they call it a shunt. I had a tube running from my head, down my neck into my abdomen."
As a husband to Lillie Bruce and father of three young children, Natalie, Liam and Ben, the whole ordeal was uncharted territory for Briston and his family. During the surgeries, the children stayed with Lillie's father as Lillie stayed with Briston in the hospital.
"Lillie and I ended up being gone for a long time. I think it was kind of confusing for them," said Bruce."But they went over to grandpa's house and they managed pretty well for the most part."
It was while he was recovering from the surgery to install the shunt, however, that another trial rocked the family. Their German Shepherd, Poppy, was stolen.
"Somebody broke into my father-in-law's house and took a bunch of his items and that is when they took Poppy.They ended up getting an idea of who it was (that stole it) because the guy ended up trying to cash one of the checks that was stolen out of the house. So [the police department] got the suspect and they found out where he was from, then they started working with the police department over in Minnesota where he was from," said Bruce."One of the detectives actually found a post on Facebook — somebody had actually found the dog over by Minneapolis.They ended up finding her kind of by luck through that Facebook post."
Poppy was soon returned safely to the Bruce family and Bruce recovered from his third surgery. He was back on duty by the end of November 2017. In the aftermath, Bruce is required to return to the hospital for an MRI every six months. However, Bruce said that the tumor is gone "for the most part". Only a very small piece remains.
"As of right now, they are just kind of monitoring it and just watching to see if it grows. If it doesn't really grow, then they are not going to do anything with it," said Bruce.
Meanwhile, Bruce shared some advice for families facing similar circumstances.
"Just lean on God. He'll get you through," said Bruce. "The whole thing brought us closer as a family. My parents got into a really bad divorce my freshman-sophomore year of high school, so it kind of divided the family. The siblings all got along pretty well, but we hadn't all been together for years — like spent time together. We have all been busy doing our own thing ever since that happened. It was interesting, because we were sitting in the hospital room — it was me and Brandi was there, Shandi was there, Sierra was there, my mom was there and my dad was there. And there is a lot of animosity between my mom and my dad. And for the first time in a very long time we were all together as a family again and there was no hatred. There was no bad feelings towards each other. It was just a peaceful time with us all together as a family again."
Although the past year and a half have been full of trials for Bruce and his family, he said he feels a lot of good has come from it.
"God took something that on the surface seemed really, really bad and he turned it into a good thing. It brought our family closer together. It brought me and Lillie closer together. It brought all of the kids together in the family, so me and my sisters and my brother. Just lean on God. It might seem like a bad thing, but it always fits into his master plan. You will come out stronger in the end," said Bruce.
Bruce extended his thanks to the Aberdeen Police Department for cleaning up his yard, planting grass, and for starting a Go Fund Me account for him. He also thanked all of those who have supported him and his family. He said he did not expect to receive the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.
"When they were like, 'oh yeah, you got this because of you fighting the brain tumor.' I was like, 'oh, I feel like there are people who probably deserve it way more than me. All I did was get a brain tumor, you know?'" said Bruce. "I was surprised. Grateful, but very surprised."