Brian Kennedy was living his dream.
A piano prodigy, he moved from his hometown of Kansas City, Missoliduri, to Los Angeles in 2003, when he was 20. He started out as a musician for hire, playing a handful of instruments and composing on his own. Then, in 2009, “everything finally started happening,” he says.
Kennedy earned Grammy awards for his writing and production contribution to Jennifer Hudson’s self-titled debut album and for being a writer and the producer for Rihanna’s No. 1 song “Disturbia,” while also producing the No. 2 song, Chris Brown’s “Forever.”
Kennedy quickly became in high demand as a producer and writer. He’d been in Los Angeles long enough to know that when that happens, “you don’t say no.”
“Producers might be working for two days straight,” he says. “You don’t sleep. You just gotta keep working.”
The lifestyle took a toll.
What started as a regular headache grew in intensity, reaching the point where he described them as “insane.” He also felt exhausted. While he didn’t smoke or drink alcohol, his diet was fast food, sodas and snacks.
A stroke waiting to happen
In 2010, Kennedy’s hot streak enabled him to afford health insurance. One of his first appointments was with a dentist. He learned he needed his wisdom teeth pulled.
“Yes, that’s my problem!” he thought. “Get this done, and life is going to get better.”
When Kennedy returned for the procedure, the hygienist took his blood pressure. Alarmed by the result, she went to get the dentist. He checked again.
The dentist told Kennedy his blood pressure was extremely high and that he needed to