Mich. cop recovering from brain injury sustained during off-duty crash

Maureen Kennedy once pulled a man from a burning car, dragging the disoriented driver to safety minutes before the vehicle was fully engulfed in flames

By RJ Wolcott
Associated Press 

MASON, Mich. — Maureen Kennedy once pulled a man from a burning car, dragging the disoriented driver to safety minutes before the vehicle was fully engulfed in flames.

The detective sergeant with the Michigan State University Police Department had been driving home from a graduation ceremony in April 2015 when she saw a sedan veer off the road and crash into a ravine. A combination of training and gut instincts sent her running to the driver’s aid.

Kennedy was in a car accident in January. She suffered a concussion.

The people who saved her life, she said, have been the doctors and physical therapists at the Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center.

“They gave my life back to me, piece by piece,” she told the Lansing State Journal. “They literally put me back together.”

Kennedy was a passenger in a vehicle struck on her side by a driver who ran a red light. She suffers from post-concussion syndrome as a result of the crash. She’s been on medical leave since.

Dizziness, headaches and a skewed center of focus brought her to Origami in April.

More than anything, the 30-year veteran of MSU Police Department wants to get back to work.

“I didn’t want to lose my career, and they gave it back to me,” Kennedy said, referring to Origami staff.

Origami is a Mason nonprofit that grew out of a partnership between Michigan State University and Peckham Inc. The center serves individuals with mild to severe brain injuries, with the majority of patients coming in for physical therapy a few days a week.

Headaches often plague patients like Kennedy who walk through Origami’s doors, according to Rebecca Wyatt, the center’s medical director and an associate professor with MSU’s department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The frequency and severity of these headaches often leave individuals unable to work or drive, severely hampering their independence and quality of life.

“It’s the number one complaint among our patients,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt successfully went after $150,000 in grants from the American Osteopathic Association and the AT Still Foundation to understand how to better treat symptoms associated with mild to moderate brain injuries.

A two-year research effort beginning in September will look at whether patients see improvement in headaches and other brain injury-related symptoms through targeted manipulation of muscles in the neck and back of the head.

In simple terms, Wyatt and three other osteopathic physicians will manipulate these tissues to release tensions built up in the muscles connected to the back of the skull.

Doing so is believed to reduce the severity of headaches, something Wyatt — a frequent headache sufferer — is well accustomed to. Wyatt said she taught her husband the basics to help with her headaches.

Oftentimes, doctors prescribe those who suffer from frequent or severe headaches with opioids that don’t address the underlying problem, Wyatt said.

“It doesn’t work,” she said.

Wyatt’s study is expected to involve some 200 patients. Kennedy likely won’t be among them. She’s hoping to be back in uniform and working MSU football games by October.

“I’m going to be back in blue.”

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