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May 24, 2001
Contact: Tim Woodhull



California State University, Dominguez Hills student survives near-fatal crash and returns to school to complete studies to help injured children

Confined to a wheelchair by injuries that almost killed her, and still in rehabilitation five days a week, Amy Corrigan is graduating this spring from California State University, Dominguez Hills with a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Her goal: to help children cope with serious injury or chronic disease.

“It was always my intention to help young people,” says Corrigan, 28, of Los Angeles. “But, I think I ‘m even more sensitive to the challenges they face, and more determined to help them the way my doctors and nurses and family and friends helped me.”

Corrigan’s near-fatal automobile crash occurred during a visit to Tennessee in December 1999. Driving alone along a highway not far from her house, Corrigan lost control along the soft shoulder of the road. The vehicle rolled, sheared off the guardrail, sliced a telephone pole in half, and cart-wheeled down an embankment. Ripping apart the buckle of her seatbelt and tearing open her driver’s side door, the impact flung Corrigan like a rag doll over a distance of 60 feet.

Medivaced to Vanderbilt University Hospital, home to one of the leading trauma centers in the nation, doctors there diagnosed Corrigan as critical with almost no chance of survival. She had suffered fractures to three of the seven vertebrae in her back. Even if she lived, doctors said, she might never move again.

Corrigan lay unconscious for a week. To help her breathe, surgeons performed a tracheotomy.

When she finally awoke, Corrigan was surrounded by her mother and father, two brothers and sister, and friends. She managed a weak smile and mouthed instructions to tell her teachers that she might miss a few days of class. In fact, it’s been a long, hard road back: In the summer of 2000, after six months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, she returned to Dominguez Hills to pick up where she had left off.

“I was so sick and so injured…right after the accident I couldn’t move anything,” Corrigan says. “But there was never a doubt in my mind I would finish school and get my degree. There was never a consideration I wouldn’t.”

Corrigan explains she has long wanted to help people cope with the hardships and obstacles that life presents. After all, people were there for her when she most needed them not that long ago.

“I was really, really fortunate for my family and my friends, the support group that I had. I was never alone. Never.”

She faces approximately two more years of rehabilitation at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey – where she plans to also complete 2,000 hours of internship to qualify for her credential as a marriage and family therapist.
She wants to walk again, Corrigan says, so she can fully help young people who are suffering as she did from spinal cord injury.

“I want to heal,” she explains, “so nothing can come between me and the work I want to do, to help others.”

Additional information can be obtained by contacting Tim Woodhull, director of Media Relations, at (310) 243-3367.