Benefit Saturday for local student

Gym-class accident changed life of Wyoming’s McKenna Konze


In the newspaper, and on television, we often hear sports stories about athletes who suffer debilitating, life-changing moments while on the field, track or rink.  Earlier this month the focus was on one-time baseball player, Adam Greenberg, who was featured on the NBC Today Show, and offered a one-day contract by the Marlins.  What was his story?  He took the field on July 25, 2005 for his first game with the Chicago Cubs and in his first time at bat, got struck in the head by a 92-mph fastball.  At the time of impact he reported that it felt like his “head exploded.”  He awoke the next morning with a concussion and nausea stimulated by bright light.  The media connected with this dramatic story.

We hear these stories of traumatic injuries, and we are moved by them.  But some of them are smaller stories–not the kind of stories that movies are made about.  Like this one.

In February 2011, local student and Wyoming resident McKenna Konze collided with another student.  But not during a hockey game, and not under the hoop during a basketball game.  McKenna Konze collided with a classmate during gym class.

In the gym class collision McKenna broke her cheekbone in two places, crushing her occipital nerve.

Sidelined student, McKenna Konze celebrates her 17th birthday with her mother, Lisa Miller. (Photo submitted)

The resulting occipital neuralgia is chronic and excruciating for the 17 year-old, who should be enjoying her senior year at Forest Lake High School, instead of spending her days in her bedroom, in the dark, trying to wait out her horrible pain.

Because occipital neuralgia and hyperacusis (ear related damage from the accident) leave McKenna with hypersensitivity toward light and sound, she wears dark glasses and hearing devices to tone down light and sound.  Loud noises and stress can cause her to suffer a seizure.  To relieve the pain as much as possible, she receives monthly “sedation” shots in the back of her head.

In hope of gaining pain relief in her occipital region, on Sept. 10 McKenna had expensive experimental surgery to implant a stimulator that tricks her brain into thinking the pain isn’t as bad as it really is.

McKenna Konze

The relief provided by this surgery will last for approximately five years, after which time her central nervous system will adapt to the stimulator and the pain will return. Her family hopes that over the next five years there will be further advancement in medicine, but for now, in the short term, this is their only hope for McKenna’s quality of life to improve.

Meanwhile, McKenna’s mother, Lisa, stays home to take care of her ailing daughter.  Lisa, who has five other children, would love to see her daughter back at school, enjoying the same things other 17-year old girls enjoy – like dancing with her friends at The Dance Factory.

Friend, and fellow dancer, Kate Dudley says, “Kenna is an amazing friend.  I want everything for her.  She is the most courageous person I know and now I need to be there for her.”

A benefit with an auction, raffle, music and more is being held from 3 to 7 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 20 at the The Dog House Bar and Grill, 2029 Woodlynn Avenue in Maplewood to help raise funds for McKenna’s expensive medical care.  Tickets are $12, or $10 in advance. Contact Louise Miller at (651) 497-8995 for ticket information.

For more information about McKenna, or to make a donation to her cause, check out her mother’s blog at