Indiana Valedictorian and Star Athlete Fights Back Against Head Injury, Graduates with Class

I want to follow up yesterday’s sad high school graduation story with a much happier one. A Michigan City, Indiana girl who suffered a terrible head injury in April is out of a coma, back on her feet and enjoying her new found freedom as a high school graduate.

Eighteen-year-old Courtney Brinckman always stood out from the crowd in Michigan City. A 4.0 student and the class valedictorian, she was a four year track star and champion at pole vaulting.

"If there were ever the golden student, Courtney's the one," said Linda Meyer, a guidance counselor at Michigan City High School.

Courtney had been a special all her life, and accorded to friends and family, excelled at everything she tried. She was a gifted gymnast before switching to track and field in high school, and her name is one of many highlighted among Michigan City High School’s track record breakers.

In fact, the day of her tragic accident, Courtney had just finished breaking her own (and the school’s) pole vaulting record when, taking a practice attempt, she slipped, fell backwards, and hit her head. Some reports say that she landed directly on her head, but whatever the case may be, Courtney was rushed to the hospital.

At the hospital, Courtney was kept sedated and in a coma-like state in order to keep her brain from receiving too much stimulation. Her family and school friends worried that she would not get to graduate with her class, and perhaps not even take the full ride scholarship she had received to Indiana University in Bloomington.

"It's May, and she was so close to reaping all the benefits of her hard work that it was just really devastating for all of us," said Meyer.

Perhaps it was to be expected, but Courtney excelled at healing just like this smart and persistent teen excelled at everything else. Last Sunday, wearing a helmet to protect her still healing head injury, Courtney Brinckman graduated with her high school class.

Courtney’s brain had swelled after the accident, and doctors performed a procedure called a decompressive craniectomy that took off a section of her skull to counteract the swelling. At the graduation ceremony, part of Courtney’s brain was only protected by skin, hence the helmet. She also can’t smell or taste anything yet, but in an article on the WNDU television station’s website, Brinckman demonstrated some of the optimism that undeniably helped her through her ordeal:

"I'm thinking I've only been awake for three weeks now and I've made this much progress, I’m thinking in a couple of months I'll be just fine, back to my normal self.”

Courtney will undergo another surgery on June 24th in order to reattach part of her skull, and after that, the teen plans to take her University of Indiana scholarship and study pre-med, a fitting major, for someone who has benefitted so much from the miracles of medicine.

For more on this story

Michigan City high school student overcomes odds, walks in graduation, WNDU.com