Doctors thought he wouldn’t survive after suffering severe head trauma… but he proved them all wrong. An incredibly heart-warming South African story.
Juan was a backseat passenger in a car with two friends in September 2007, when the accident happened and the nightmare began.
The driver had just gotten her licence. Juan & a couple of friends were on their way home to Kimberley from Bloemfontein for the holiday after a stressful semester… he was in the process of completing a B.Sc. in hopes of admission to medicine or veterinary science.
“There was something in the road in front of us. My friend went into the other lane to overtake the object, went into oncoming traffic, and in a panic swerved the car off road causing it to roll. I was in the backseat not wearing a seatbelt and flung through the sunroof.”
“My friends, wearing seatbelts, were mostly okay except for the driver who had a minor neck injury. Immediately obvious injuries were multiple skull fractures, a neck base fracture, multiple facial fractures, which is why I’m so pretty“ he laughs, “and broken radius and ulna.” Juan tells GoodThingsGuy.
Doctors told Juan’s family that it is unlikely he would survive due to the nature of his head injuries, and if he was to miraculously pull through to expect massive cognitive deficits that would most likely end his university aspirations.
They were also told he may suffer severe personality changes that would likely manifest as anger outbursts and rage.
By some amazing miracle, Juan was healing, and Doctors became confident about his survival. The road ahead would still be so long.
“I was kept on morphine in ICU. I started coming in and out of consciousness from time to time. When doctors were confident I would survive about 3 – 4 weeks after being admitted, they moved me to a regular ward.”
“Here I start remembering bits and pieces. I luckily didn’t seem to show any signs of cognitive deficits or any personality changes. I remember speaking very loudly. That’s when we noticed severe hearing loss.”
“That was not the biggest concern.”
I also complained about a runny nose that wasn’t the usual sniffles. I had a cerebral fluid leak or CFL. A membrane around my brain, near my sinus had torn and cerebral fluid was leaking though my nose. Doctors said if it didn’t clear up on its own it would mean surgery to take off part of my face to get the tear in the membrane and repair it and closing back up.”
“Must have been that shock that cleared it up, because it subsided within the next week or so.”
With all that was going on, Juan was managing quite alright, his hearing problems have been declared completely irreparable. But this has not stopped Juan by any means.
“I decided to restart (different curriculums) my studies through UNISA – which meant I could stay home and study, but I was late for registration and thus had lost 2008. 2007 and 2008 gone. But I started working in the mall and did certificate courses to keep busy.”
In 2009 Juan started his B.Sc. in Botany and Zoology at UNISA. In his second year he decided to contact schools to get information on applications and admissions to veterinary science and medicine. This was just not going as plan for him.
“I was told more than once that on top of other selection criteria in SA, my hearing loss would throw me out of the running. Being young and stupid then I didn’t make anything of it, but now I realize it was very wrong. Nonetheless I had discovered a new love for environmental science, so I pursued it.” says Juan
He got his degree with distinction, went on to get his honours and masters, he did an internship that had him working with the company that now sponsors his PhD studies.
“I’ve had my work shown at several conferences, two of which were international, and have two local and another international conference coming up in October of this year.” he boasts.
Take that cognitive deficit.
With regards to his hearing- he has a hearing aid for his good ear to make it stronger, but Juan complains that it just makes everything louder, not clearer. He also suffers with allergies to the materials that the hearing aid is made out of. So he only wears it when he really needs to.
“I make do with habits like staying on the right side of people, turning my head and looking at their mouth while they talk, and obviously avoid overcrowded and loud situations – these all help me hear better.”
“I hate it, but also always when I meet someone new it’s one of the first things I tell them – I’m deaf in one ear. It’s amazing how many people will think I was at a concert the previous night and can’t hear or am just joking. My hearing will degrade naturally, which means where most people are deaf in old age of 70-80, I’ll be deaf a little sooner.”
Juan’s attitude is so incredible. He adds so much light to a situation that he never thought he would overcome.
“I think what got me this far was mainly a refusal to become a victim of myself and my situation. It would have been so easy, acceptable even to feel sorry for myself, waste away and lay blame. I hate being pitied, but I appreciate being considered.”
“There’s a difference.”
Anyway, I decided to use the wreckage of this situation to a light a fire under the rocket that is me and blast off to infinity and beyond.”
“As for laying blame – I’m still great friends with the driver, invited to her wedding next year.”
“I’m also lucky in the few true friends and my family’s support. I’m grateful. Without this accident I probably never would have discovered the love for environmental science and met some of the awesome people who have built me up along the way.”
“I would also probably not have had the drive to succeed and overcome my setbacks and difficulties. A quality I apply to all aspects of life and has served me well. And like any near death experience it was a real wake-up call to grow up and use what the good Lord gave you, and use my story to tell others how important it is to realize your situation.”
“Deal with it. Get over it and get your mind in the right place to overcome yourself.”