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Frank Gray

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Brain injury survivor still driving toward recovery


Last week, Kaye Mellencamp of Berne took a driving test that had her motoring 17 miles around Fort Wayne – and she passed.

Getting a driver’s license is always a big deal personally, but generally it’s not news.

What makes Mellencamp’s passing score significant is that she suffered a brain aneurism on Election Day in May, and doctors didn’t expect her to survive. In fact, when doctors tried to pull her out of a drug-induced coma after 12 days, she didn’t respond.

It looked bleak. Her husband, Tony, discussed the possibility of donating her organs when the time came.

On his Facebook page, Tony Mellencamp explained to friends exactly what the situation was and asked friends to pray for her.

Friends told friends, and they told more friends, and before long there were people all over the world, including a lot of people whom the Mellencamps didn’t know, offering support and prayers.

Then, after two days with no signs of improvement, Kaye Mellencamp suddenly woke up on Sunday morning, started looking around and trying to talk, though speech was impossible because she was attached to a breathing tube.

Now, Kaye Mellencamp, who at best was expected to spend the rest of her life in a nursing home unable to care for herself, is up and around, walking without assistance, shunning those motorized carts at the grocery store and even driving.

She’s not 100 percent, her husband says. She will probably never be 100 percent. But she remembers the doctors who treated her early on, remembers their names. And scans of what her husband calls the massive, massive bleeding in her brain are being shown to students as an example of what can happen during an aneurism.

She can’t work in the family’s restaurant.

Physical work tires her quickly, and she can’t handle multiple things at once, Tony Mellencamp says.

“You’re running a restaurant and you’ve got a customer up front and an employee asking questions. She can’t multitask yet,” he said.

But she can walk and drive and talk and, an amazing thing to all involved, she’s using the computer again to handle the family business’s books and do the payroll, something Tony Mellencamp said he doesn’t know how to do.

Throughout the entire ordeal, all Tony Mellencamp has been talking about is how marvelously his wife’s condition has improved. He’s never fretted, at least openly, about the huge cost that has been involved.

Fortunately for Mellencamp, he has good insurance that is paying most of the bills. He’ll be paying for the rest of his life toward his wife’s medical expenses, but there has been no whimpering on his part.

People in Berne, though, know what he’s been up against, so various groups have arranged for a variety of fundraisers on Saturday.

There will be a Poker Run motorcycle ride, with sign-up between 10 and 11 a.m. Saturday at the south entrance to South Adams High School. The entry fee is $20 a bike.

A dinner will be held at the high school starting at 4 p.m., followed by an auction at 6 p.m.

The American Legion on Berne Street will have a 50-50 drawing, food, music and games starting at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Kaye Mellencamp will be at the dinner at the high school at 4 p.m., but since she is still recovering she will likely not attend all the events.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.