Posted 7:21 AM 9/13/2012 : UA student injured in motorcycle crash abroad returns to campus
TUCSON- University of Arizona student Justin McCarthy-Contreras is back on campus, nine months after he nearly died in a motorcycle accident while studying abroad in Guatemala.
On December 12, 2011 McCarthy-Contreras and a friend he met while abroad, were traveling via motorcycle to Nicaragua when they collided head on with another motorcycle. "The day of the accident I don't actually remember anything," McCarthy-Contreras says.
His friend died instantly, while McCarthy-Contreras was fighting for his life. "My patella actually broke in five places and my femur actually broke in half," McCarthy-Contreras says. "I laid on my left side, so the left side of my brain was also injured."
He was in a coma for about a week, then flew back with his mother and sister to Tucson. He stayed at UAMC for two weeks. He could barely speak. "Someone would say, 'what's this?' and it would be a table, but I would say something else."
McCarthy-Contreras eventually moved to a rehab center in Phoenix, where the former gymnastics coach slowly began to regain his mobility and words. "I'm really lucky to be this far," McCarthy-Contreras says. "All my therapists have told me they have other patients with the same injury, but they're way behind me."
Now he's back at the University of Arizona, taking two classes this semester. He plans to major in business, focusing on international business.
He still can't taste, or smell and has trouble finding the right words. But McCarthy-Contreras is grateful to be alive and can't wait to get even better. "At first they didn't even know if I'd be able to go back to school, so it's great to be back and I'm going to work hard on everything and try to get the best grades."
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