PHOENIX — After nearly 30 years of fighting to help victims of violent crimes in Phoenix get justice, Detective Jen Smith is battling her biggest fight yet - regaining full function of her body.
In August 2021, Smith suffered a bilateral pulmonary embolism that led to four consecutive heart attacks, a stroke, and a severe anoxic brain injury.
Doctors believed there was a 98% chance she would be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life, but Jen proved them wrong.
While in various nursing facilities for over ten months, the detective’s body and brain healed, but her arms and legs lost function.
“Many of us would not survive just one of those events,” said Commander Mark Heimall. “I walked in the room the other day, and she immediately recognized me and said, ‘Hey Mark, how you are doing?’”
Heimall was Smith’s supervisor for about three years while she worked with the Fugitive Apprehensions and Investigations Detail, also known as FAID. The unit helps locate and arrest criminals of violent crimes in and around the city of Phoenix.
Smith served as FAID detective for more than 20 years.
“They’re the best of the best, and Jen is one of the reasons why that unit is at that level,” Heimall said. “She didn’t really do [this job] for herself, it was all about the victims of violent crimes and their families.”
Throughout her time in the department, Smith was directly responsible for getting thousands of dangerous criminals off the streets, Heimall added.
“She’s a high-performing detective in a male dominant environment,” the commander said.
Smith is currently at an advanced therapy hospital where therapists are helping her regain the ability to do basic tasks like eating and bathing.
Although she’s made significant progress, the road to full recovery will require months of specialized treatment and eventually modifications to her home to accommodate her limited mobility.
Friends and family have created a GoFundMe account to help pay for the necessary services Smith will need.
“I fully expect in a couple of years she’ll come bouncing into my office with all her energy in the world that I knew her as a detective, excited about the direction of her case or frustrated with my decision about the direction of her case, and I look forward to that day,” Heimall said.
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