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JM friends help teen who is fighting for her life

By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

The girls on the John Marshall High School soccer teams dyed stripes of blue in their hair and painted "KJ" on their cheeks.

They also wore red wristbands with the word "Kay" and the number "1" for a Sept. 22 home game.

And, then they asked for a moment of silence, explaining that the game — and the entire season — is being dedicated to Kaitlyn Johanson, a member of the junior varsity squad.

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Friends know her as Kay. They also know she has long wanted to dye her blond hair blue. Her soccer jersey is No. 1.

Since Aug. 24, the 16-year-old has been fighting for her life in Saint Marys Hospital after being critically injured in a traffic accident.

That’s when she was driving to see a friend, using an unfamiliar road because the road she always took was closed due to the recent flooding. She went through a stop sign and was struck broadside by a pickup pulling a camper. She suffered multiple injuries, including a severe traumatic brain injury. Until recently, she was in a coma.

"The outpouring of support has been incredible," said Kasey Johanson, who has taken a leave from her job as supervisor of the records division for the Rochester Police Department to be at her daughter’s side.

Friends regularly make trips to the hospital for updates, seeing Kaitlyn when possible. On Friday afternoon, they filled a room at John Marshall to hear one of Kaitlyn’s nurses tell them what to expect.

Kaitlyn is out of a coma and in a minimally conscious state, Anne Moessner, a traumatic brain injury clinical nurse specialist, told the students, and she is making progress.

"But this is a marathon, not a sprint," Moessner said.

Large sheets of paper with notes to Kaitlyn from friends from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, where the family attends, were taped on the walls in her hospital room. Co-workers at Hobby Lobby, where she has worked part-time, have taken up donations.

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Classmates have designed T-shirts that say "Keep the Hope Alive"; the shirts will be available at a fundraiser planned for Oct. 13 at John Marshall.

Brian Johanson shakes his head in disbelief, saying the teens have done all of this on their own.

In the days after the crash, he was at a loss for making sense of what happened to his daughter. He admits he was even angry.

The couple keeps friends and family updated on Kaitlyn’s progress through a Web site named CaringBridge. It’s here that Brian posted his first message on Aug. 31:

"I have been told everything happens for a reason, but I prefer to think that things like this happen for no reason. Because otherwise, philosophically, it means that this was an intentional plan. That seems too cruel for me to comprehend. Kaitlyn went through a stop sign, and the reason is because she didn’t see it. That’s all."

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