Weekly Feature

2011-06-15 / Lifestyles

Benefit planned June 30 for injured police officer


Sengbursch Sengbursch After sustaining a large tear in the aorta, a ruptured spleen and having it removed, three life saving surgeries and a month in intensive care, Buffalo Police Officer, Gary Sengbusch is scheduled to be released from the Erie County Medical Center on Friday, June 17.

“It feels pretty good,” said Sengbusch immediately.

Sengbusch, a native of West Seneca, was critically injured in the early morning hours on Feb. 25 while off-duty, when he was leaving his part time job as security at a bar on Main Street and was struck by an alleged drunk driver at Ferry Street. He was on his way to pick up his girlfriend, Julie Bradigan on Elmwood Avenue.

The extent of his injuries did not allow Sengbusch to remember anything the night of the accident.

“All I know is I woke up in the hospital and tried to put two-and-two together,” said Sengbusch. “It didn’t really help.”

Sengbusch, who joined the Buffalo Police Department in 2008, has been at ECMC since the night of his accident. During his time there, he did not have any feeling in his left leg for some time. However, he kept a strong positive attitude because “it’s the only way to get through it,” he said.

“Then one day I woke up and started doing this,” said Sengbusch as he lifted his leg off the hospital bed.

Sengbusch said he often wondered why such a horrific accident had to happen to him. However, his strong positive attitude showed its strength and turned that thought into inspiration.

“Then I started to realize it was probably me because I am strong enough to get through it,” he said.

Sengbusch has been in the extensive rehabilitation phase of his recovery. For two hours each day, he does exercises to strengthen predominately the left side of his body, especially his left leg and shoulder. He sustained no injuries to the right side of his body.

After being released from the hospital, Sengbusch will live with his parents off of East and West Road in West Seneca and said he “can’t get enough of West Seneca.” Sengbusch graduated from Orchard Park High School after attending grammar school at Queen of Heaven where he was an altar boy and played baseball.

“It’s a little quieter than the city,” said Sengbusch. “You can actually hang out in the backyard and hang out with your neighbors.”

While at home, Sengbusch will have to go to rehab therapy at least three to four times per week. Sengbusch said one of the first things he wants to do at home, however, is get into his parents’ hot tub and eat a nice piece of steak.

Throughout his time at ECMC, Sengbusch found inspiration from the unlimited amount of support from his family, friends and people he has never met. One wall in his hospital room is decorated with cards. There have been enough cards sent to him that the ones not on the wall are stored in a trunk.

“Someone is here every day,” said Sengbusch. “A lot of younger kids and schools have gotten together and sent cards which are inspirational. It’s good to see they still have respect for police officers because a lot of people grow up and start to lose it.”

However, his greatest inspiration has been his girlfriend. Bradigan has slept on a cot next to his hospital bed every night. Bradigan only goes home in the afternoon to take a nap, pick up the house, do laundry and get Sengbusch something to eat.

“It’s exhausting. We’ve had our ups and downs, but together we make it better,” said Bradigan of the recovery process. “It’s hard to keep a positive attitude when you’re in the hospital this long, but we do it.”

He has also found motivation in not letting down the ones who have helped him along the way. “I don’t want to disappoint all of the people who have helped me,” said Sengbusch. Then a teary-eyed Bradigan whispered to him that he would not.

Because Sengbusch was off-duty when the accident occurred, he does not receive a full paycheck from the City of Buffalo. In order to help cover for his lost wages and medical bills, Buffalo Charities stepped up and has planned a benefit bash on June 30 for a Bisons game at Coca-Cola Field at 7:05 p.m.

Sengbusch is scheduled to throw out the first pitch for the game.

There will be a pregame tent party from 5-7 p.m. which will include live music by the Strictly Hip, food and beverages. Multiple prizes will be raffled off during the game including a television autographed by Jay Leno, autographed

Derek Jeter jersey, autographed Carl Yastrzemski jersey and an autographed C.J. Spiller jersey. After the game there will be a fireworks display and a post game party at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery — all donated. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.teamgary.org.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Sengbusch. “Definitely gives you something to look forward to. I think I am going to start giving back more to charity.” When asked about any specific charity Sengbusch said, “Buffalo Charities,” as he pointed to his longtime friend and director of Buffalo Charities, Paul Roorda.

Sengbusch not only hopes to successfully throw out the first pitch at the Bisons game, but also to return to a sense of normalcy.

“That’s kind of my big goal,” said Sengbusch. “Just go back to my apartment and be able to walk without a cane.”

As a police officer, Sengbusch protects the public against many different hazards including trying to stop people from drunk driving. Therefore, it is ironic that he is subject to his condition because of an alleged drunk driver.

“It only takes a minute or two and a few dollars to call a taxi when you’re drunk,” said Sengbusch. “Or call a family member. Or even call the police department, they will pick you up.”

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