For Bel Air Police Officer First Class Kayhla Hendren, 34, Nov. 20, 2013 couldn’t have been more routine. She was directing traffic at a fire scene when a vehicle struck her and rolled over the right side of her body. The force of the vehicle was so great that it destroyed her firearm.
A typical day on the job became one that changed the next three years of her life.
The story of Hendren’s determination to return to the emotionally and physically demanding work of a police officer after her extensive injuries is already the stuff of legend around the Bel Air Police Department.
“There were a lot of skeptics out there who didn’t believe she could come back,” says Police Chief Charles Moore. “She’s proven them all wrong.”
“I am stubborn,” adds Hendren, who began telling people that she wanted to be a career police officer as far back as kindergarten.
R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center medical staff took stock of extensive injuries to the right ankle, knee and elbow. Most troublesome, though, was the concussion that caused an almost complete vision loss and cognitive difficulties for two months.
Inpatient rehabilitation after hospital discharge was out of the question, says Hendren, who is married and had a three-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old son at home at the time. Instead, she embarked on three years of grueling outpatient physical therapy, several major surgeries and chronic pain.
Doctors often implied that she had reached “maximum medical improvement.” That meant only one thing to Hendren: an end to her law enforcement career.
“Returning to full duty as a police officer is not something that is taken lightly,” says Moore. “We have to make sure that she can take care of herself as well as all of us.”
Once her surgeries were complete, Hendren underwent four hours a day of work conditioning that included running on the treadmill while wearing 30 pounds of police gear, weightlifting and strength training. She was also required to catch up on all training, including firearm certifications.
“I wanted my children to see that you work hard for something that you want,” says Hendren. “I wasn’t going to let one incident control the rest of my life.”
Moore and the entire force were on hand to welcome her back to work: “It’s a victory for her and for us.”