Arizona Student Survives Car Accident, Becomes Campus Entrepreneur
November 14, 2006Comments (3)
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Abigail Cook (left), a senior at the University of Arizona, survived a car accident. She's an intern with Hillel's Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative.
by Abigail Cook
Around 3 a.m. on Monday morning, August 8, 2005, my brother and I were driving to Tucson from Scottsdale. It was monsoon season, so it had been raining all night. As someone cut us off, my brother slammed on the breaks to avoid hitting that person. The roads were wet and when he slammed on the break, the car spun and rolled over into a ditch, landing upside down.
My brother was able to get out of his side of the car, but because of the slope, I had to crawl out on his side. Thank God my brother didn’t have a scratch on him. I, on the other hand, had a big cut on the top of my head and my arm was bleeding pretty badly. I was really out of it and didn’t even realize I was hurt until I heard my brother yelling. He called 911 and we waited there in the dark and rain for what felt like an eternity. Finally, the ambulance arrived.
My memories from there until waking up in recovery are pretty spotty. I remember being scared and in a lot of pain. I remember them asking me a lot of questions over and over again. I remember asking for my brother because I was scared something bad had happened to him as well. I remember in the ER they cleaned out my arm because glass and road were stuck in it. When the doctor stuck his fingers inside my torn open arm to try and irrigate and clean the wound, it was the worst pain of my life. I remember they told me I needed surgery and I was so scared. The next thing I really remember is waking up in recovery on Monday afternoon.
My parents came into recovery and I remember being so scared that they were going to be mad at me. They weren’t mad. They were just glad to see I was okay. My arm was in a cast from my fingers to just below my shoulder. My arm was also in a sling that was clipped to my body so I could not move my arm at all. Later, a doctor came in to explain what exactly had happened. In the car accident, I had smashed and severed my ulnar nerve (which is your funny bone). Rhey reattached the ulnar nerve, cleaned out the wound and moved the nerve to protect it. I also had five staples in my head to close up the head wound. They kept me in the hospital over Monday night so that I could have a round of heavy duty antibiotics.
Because of the extensive damage done to the ulnar nerve, I was left without feeling in my ring finger, pinky fingers, and on the inside of my arm, all the way up to my elbow. I couldn’t do anything on my own. My mom had to help me dress and bathe. I felt like I was two years old all over again. My surgeon, Dr. Sheppard, told my parents and me that he thought I should take a semester off from school to focus on my recovery. My parents understood where Dr. Sheppard was coming from and told me they would support any decision I made. But I didn’t even need to think about it. There was no way I was going to drop out of school.
A week and a day after my accident and surgery, I was thrown back into the real world. With only five days left before school started, I had to enroll with the Disability Resource Center and find a good physical therapist. After school started, I had to figure out how to balance five days a week of school, three days a week of physical therapy, 15-25 hours a week of homework and five hours a week of physical therapy homework. When I first started physical therapy, a month after the accident, I couldn’t even bend my elbow or use my right hand (I couldn’t even grip a pen).
For four months I woke up three days a week at 6 a.m., rode the bus to physical therapy and then took the bus all the way back to campus for a full day of classes. Those four months were the most difficult and painful months of my life. But everyday I got up and did what I had to do. Because of my hard work and determination I was able to graduate from physical therapy, with full range of motion and the ability to once again write using my right hand. I also passed all of my classes and even got praise from one of my professors for my effort.
I have come a very long way in the last year and three months, but my journey is far from over. In August 2006, I had a second surgery on my arm to clean out the scar tissue in the joint. I have recently returned to physical therapy to work on getting back strength on my right side.
My arm is still not one hundred percent, but I know at this point the worst is behind me. Because of what I went through, I am a much stronger and determined person. I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of. From my experience I learned that God doesn’t give us more then we can handle; if you think he has, it is because you are underestimating your own strength.
About a month ago, I made the decision to stop wearing something to cover up my scar. The first time I walked out of the house without it I started to cry. I was so worried that other people would see my arm and think it was so ugly and gross looking. For the first few days I would barely move my arm from my side because I didn’t want people to see the scars. But I soon found out that people don’t care.
Today, I am a senior at the University of Arizona and an intern in Hillel’s new Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative program. The scars on my arm and the car accident don’t define who I am. Instead they are just things that help make me who I am today. The car accident gave me direction and reaffirmed what is important in life. If you were to look at the car, you would think there is no way anyone could have walked away from that accident. God protected me that night. Giving back to those in need is a way I can give back and say thank you for being given a second chance at life.
Abigail Cook is a senior at the University of Arizona.