Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Overton student returns from car accident to graduate

Educational Assistant Elayna Boynton writes for senior Robert Wood during an Introduction to
Overton student returns from car accident to graduate Visual Arts class at Overton High School.
By SUZANNE NORMAND BLACKWOOD • Staff Writer (Tennessean)• May 7, 2008

SOUTH NASHVILLE — When Overton High School student Robert Wood Jr. receives his diploma this month, it will signify far more than the accomplishments of most graduating seniors.
For Robert, it will be a sign of how he has overcome such obstacles as learning how to survive without the use of his legs and with limited use of his arms — abilities he had just a year ago.
Last year near graduation, when Robert was a junior, he was involved in an automobile accident.
"We got done bowling after 2 in the morning. We started to race afterwards on Edmondson Pike," said Robert, recalling the moments leading up to accident.
Robert said they hit speeds up to 85 miles per hour.
"We took a slight turn, lost control (and) flipped over four times," he said.
Robert doesn't remember anything about the accident, itself. His only knowledge of it through the police report and what people told him.
"I remember waking up in the hospital," he said. "My first memory in the hospital was I was tied down to a bed. I didn't know what was going on. I had a whole bunch of machines hooked up to me."
Robert spent 3½ months at Shepherd Center, a rehab center in Atlanta for patients with spinal cord injuries. It was there that he realized his condition was really serious.
"I wasn't sure what was going to happen," he said.
Learning the basics
Robert was homebound for the first part of this school year. His dad, Robert Wood Sr., described the new lifestyle as "a total change."
"It's the everyday things — showers, getting dressed," he said. Of course, added Wood, those aren't "his" challenges, they're Robert's.
Wood said his challenge as a dad has mostly been keeping everything on schedule.
Robert said studying wasn't so much difficult during this time, but it was lonely and frustrating otherwise. "It sucks not being able to see your friends, not being around people," he said.
The only way he was able to deal with his condition emotionally, he said, was because "family and friends were there."
Art student to Web designer
Robert was able to return to school in January and has been able to attend classes regularly with the help of educational assistant, Elayna Boynton.
"I'm his hands basically," said Boynton, adding the accident affected Robert's motor skills.
"Art is the class in which he probably has the most socialization," she said. "It's really energetic."
Robert's art teacher, Michael Qualls, said Robert has tried really hard this school year. He has seen Robert's ability to draw improve, despite having weakened motor skills.
"He's got a really positive attitude," Qualls said. Also, Robert is "polite, courteous."
Robert plans to attend Nashville State Community College or another technical school to study Web design. He wants to manage and design Web sites.
Already, he has designed a few Web sites, including his own,
Overton grad "Mr. Personality"
When he returned to school, Robert said he had a lot of socializing to do to make up for lost time.
"I was excited to be around everybody," he said.
But he still faced frustration, "not being able to do stuff with my friends like I used to."
In spite of all that he has endured, Robert's classmates speak of him as if he's "Mr. Personality."
"He's really funny," said Joanne Tan, a freshman.
Added freshman Jessika Kelly, "He's kind. He makes people laugh. He likes to joke and talk."
Even with all he's been through, he has chosen not to isolate himself or become bitter, Jessika said.
"He doesn't keep to himself. He's not judgmental."
Don't 'take things for granted'
Wood said his son has made him very proud. "The first week he was at Shepherd Center, I wouldn't have thought that was going to happen," he said, referring to graduation.
Robert will have family coming from out-of-state for a huge graduation celebration.
Recently, Robert spoke to his classmates about being safe.
"I talked to seniors about not taking chances such as racing and how they shouldn't take things for granted," he said.
"You have something one minute, and then the next, you don't have nothing."

No comments: