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After 14 months of recovery, NC Highway Patrol Trooper hit by car on I-485 returns to duty

"One day at a time... I am proud to be here and I am proud to serve," Trooper Adolfo Lopez said Monday.

MONROE, N.C. — North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Adolfo Lopez, who was seriously injured when he was hit by a car on Interstate 485 in July 2020, has returned to duty.

Over the last 14 months, Lopez endured multiple surgeries, 12 weeks in the hospital, and countless hours in physical therapy. On Monday, he made his remarkable return to serve and protect.

“Tying my shoes again, I was like, 'Alright this is it. Let's go,” Lopez recalled while getting ready for his day Monday morning.

Lopez credits his 13-year-old son for pushing him through his recovery.

“[Doing] pushups, he was the one that said, 'You’re not doing it right,” Lopez jokingly recalled. "He made it look so easy. Doing it with one hand. I was like, 'Dang it.'”

FROM 2020: 'Thank God for miracles' | NC Trooper returns home 84 days after hit by car on I-485 while investigating a crash

The road to recovery for Lopez wasn't easy. On July 4, 2020, Lopez, then a 2-year veteran of the force, was investigating a crash on I-485. Shortly after stepping out of his cruiser, the police vehicle was rear-ended, causing his vehicle to slam into him.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol charged the driver with a felony for failure to move over.

Troopers were investigating a crash that killed five people.

RELATED: Driver who triggered I-485 crash that killed family was going over 100 mph, troopers say

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“Ribs broken. Jawline. I lost my hearing on the right,” he explained. “Rehab was more like learning about yourself again."

Lopez had to relearn tasks as simple as raising his arm but throughout his recovery, he knew he wanted to return to the job he loved.

“It was just trying to convince my body," Lopez explained Monday. "My mind was set to come back. It was just my body that needed to regain the strength to come back."

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For the first time in 14 months, Lopez got behind the wheel of a cruiser when he began his shift Monday with the North Carolina Highway Patrol Troop H in Union County.

“I just got to go one day at a time. One day at a time -- and like I said earlier -- I am proud to be here and I am proud to serve,” Lopez, who said he chose to return because he loves serving his community, said. “Talking to people. Helping people. It’s just something I enjoy doing."

Lopez’s story is exactly why North Carolina’s ‘Move Over Law’ exists. The law requires drivers to move over a lane when approaching any law enforcement or other emergency vehicle that is on the side of the highway.

Lopez said he is thankful not only that he can walk, but that he’s alive.

At least slow down and give us our space, we’re just humans and were just trying to do our job.

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