We Are Westmont 2012
Our community here at Westmont is made up of a wide array of different experiences, backgrounds, and identities. This session is geared at taking a deeper glimpse within our community to reflect on who we are as a Westmont community. The goals of this session are to encourage awareness about student diversity, to encourage students to be themselves, and to own their stories. We hope to spark conversations around tough issues like race, gender, faith, and history.
Name: Robyn Bickerton
Hi! My name is Robyn Bickerton, and I am finishing my last semester at Westmont this Fall as a Communication Studies major.
My personality is very bubbly and upbeat, but I want to switch gears and share with you something really serious that happened to me last year….that changed my life.
Last August 10th, 2011 I was in a near-fatal car accident. I was driving north on 101 by myself, headed home to the Bay Area….no one really knows what happened, but the best speculation is that there was something in the road, which caused me to veer into the median. I must have realized I was crossing into the median, and when I did, I turned the wheel to the right, but overcompensated….I significantly overcompensated, and my car rolled seven times. I was rushed to the hospital, and among other things, it was determined that I had a brain injury, there was a tear in my carotid artery, I damaged my 6th cranial nerve, I fractured my skull and my cheek bones, and I shattered every bone in my left arm and wrist. I was in ICU in Santa Barbara for one month and then was transferred by ambulance to another hospital, up in the Bay Area, for another month.
It wasn’t until 6 weeks after the accident that I was aware of who I was and where I was and what happened to me. Although there are many aspects of my two-month hospital stay that I don’t remember, I remember this particular morning vividly: My speech therapist came into my room and asked me three questions, like she did every morning: She asked me, What is your name? Where are you? And, What is the date? It wasn’t until that morning that I was able to fully realize and answer that my name is Robyn Bickerton, I am at John Muir Hospital, and it is September 20th, 2011 (and the last day that I remember was a month-and-a-half ago). Up until that point, I thought it was all a bad dream. I thought it was a nightmare. Given the fact that I did have a brain injury and had no recollection of the accident, there was a huge disconnect for me. I I couldn’t understand why I had double vision, why I was wearing an eye-patch, why I couldn’t walk on my own, why my left eye was crossed, why I couldn’t feed myself, why I couldn’t recall basic words, why there were cards and pictures of my close family and friends on the wall of my room, (and more generally, why I was in the hospital and why I couldn’t go home). I remember sitting in my hospital bed and asking my mom what had happened to me. She told me that I was in a really serious car accident, and I didn’t want to believe her. And I tried not to. But day after day, when I would continue waking up in the hospital, I finally did.
But on October 4th, 2011—the day before my 22nd birthday—I was discharged from the hospital. I was giddy and amazed when my family pushed me in my wheelchair to our car and I got to go HOME. But, contrary to what I had thought, leaving the hospital didn’t mean that I was all of a sudden, better, and completely healed. Although it was a miracle and a HUGE blessing that medically, I didn’t need to be in the hospital anymore, I was still very much physically and mentally handicapped. As a result, two days after I got home, I started intensive speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. A therapy team, called Rehab Without Walls, came to my house almost every day, all day, to work with me. And, on December 23rd, I was discharged from Rehab Without Walls and I began my outpatient therapies, fewer times a week and for shorter sessions.
Last April, I am so happy to say, I graduated from Outpatient therapy and came back to SB to watch my class graduate from Westmont. Although that was a bittersweet time for me, after graduation, I had the privilege and gift of moving into a house here in Santa Barbara with some of my close friends. And, I am so happy and grateful to say, I will get to finish my remaining classes at Westmont this Fall.
My life is forever changed. There are some major life-changing realizations I could share with all of you, but for the sake of time I’m not going to expand of any of these realizations.( As a side note, though, please know that I would LOVE to talk with any of you who want to hear more about the accident or what I’ve learned). Having said all this, let me share just one thing with you that is more superficial, but I think is really applicable to everyone. One thing that this whole “experience” has taught me is that there is WAY more to someone than meets the eye. Most people who see me and meet me now would have no idea what I have gone through in the past year; and my response to that is THANK YOU Jesus. But that doesn’t discount the fact that it happened and it was extremely hard and scary… and has shaped me into the person I am today. Furthermore, just because I look fairly “normal” (by cultural standards) does not mean that I am completely healed and everything is easy for me. Perhaps my debilitations aren’t visible for everyone to see (as they were in the first nine months), but there are still things that I struggle with as a result of the accident. And I have to admit, I am kind of nervous to dive back into a full course load this Fall: I do not know how my brain will manage a full class schedule. And I will probably have to have another hand surgery, which may or may not complicate things.
I am NOT sharing this with you so that you can pity me or feel bad for me, but rather to show you that people are rich and multi-layered and there is often way more to a person than what you see. Although the car accident I was in last summer was a very traumatic and life-threatening experience that most people would not guess I was in just by looking at me now, there are many other things about me that you would never guess just by looking at me. And just as this is the case for me, it is also true for everyone. Each of you in this room has your own story~ each unique but most likely, so different. And that is my hope and challenge to you, that in your time at Westmont, you really get to know each other and discover things about each other that you never would have guessed when you first met or saw each other. I am really happy you are all at Westmont. Thank you for listening.