NESCONSET, N.Y. (CBS 2)– Run down by a drunk driver, a Long Island police officer was given just a 10 percent chance of survival. But four years later, he’s winning the fight.
The husband and father is beating the odds, making steady progress thanks to his son and new technology.
CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff recently spent time with Kenneth Baribault, who is on a quest to recover.
His steps are slow, but there was a time no one thought Kenneth Baribault would ever walk again or speak.
His words also come slowly, but he can now string a few together with the help of an iPad and his 10-year-old son.
“I was wondering if he would ever get better and I guess the dream came true because he is much better now,” Christopher Baribault said.
Recovery has been slow but steady since May 2008. Kenneth Baribault, a Nassau cop, was patrolling the Long Island Expressway when he pulled over one unlicensed drunk driver and was hit by another.
“Initially, they told us to make arrangements funeral wise,” said Danielle Rella, the officer’s sister.
He spent two months in a coma and years in rehab. His brain injuries were similar to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
“They originally said he’s be lucky if he walked, if he fed himself, and he’s done that and 10 times more,” brother-in-law Vinny Rella said.
But the Baribault family didn’t give up. They have worked tirelessly for four years, every day at Kenneth’s side, through every innovative therapy — like learning how walk again in water.
“It’s amazing and remarkable and he still fights every day to get his life back,” mother Patricia Baribault said.
“If we are ever in a lull or feeling frustrated we say ‘Look at Ken, he’s never frustrated, always motivated, always upbeat.’”
He’s also one of the few to undergo cutting edge laser therapy to the brain. The procedure stimulates neurons to fire again.
“No one with this kind of injury has gone further. He’s in uncharted waters,” Danielle Rella said.
Now four years after the crash, New York State plans to install 10 pull off areas on the LIE for Nassau police to make safer stops. Kenneth Baribault is one of 25 to be hit along that one stretch of highway over the last decade. His sister, now a vocal advocate of tougher DWI laws, said that helps but it’s not enough.
“If the driver is driving recklessly or intoxicated, no matter what you do, police are still in danger,” Danielle Rella said.
Kenneth Baribault said he remembers the day of the crash. He said he understands everything asked, but struggles to answer. Despite that, no one close to him doubts his recovery will continue.
The drunk driver who hit Kenneth Baribault is serving seven years in prison. Danielle Rella is lobbying for tougher penalties for drunk drivers who cause catastrophic injuries.
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