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Posted 2012-12-30T23:31:47Z

Justin's Story

Justin McCarthy-Contreras had just completed an exciting academic study abroad program in Guatemala with the University of Arizona. He was looking forward to meeting his sister and mother in Costa Rica on December 14th before traveling back to the USA. He had a weekend to travel and went to Ometepe, Nicaragua with friends from the study abroad program. On the night of December 11, 2011 Justin (a passenger on the back of a motorcycle) was hit head on by another motorcyclist, reportedly, drunk, with no headlights and on the wrong side of the road. Before Justin arrived at Metropolitano Hospital in Managua, Nicaragua, Justin had been found unconscious and bleeding profusely on the side of a cobblestone road. He had been transported one hour and 45 minutes on a bumpy boat ride to the mainland then 9 hours to Managua. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury, compound fracture of the femur and crushed patella.


Justin was in a coma for approximately ten days while in Managua due to his brain injury and swelling. He was medically evacuated the evening of December 21st and flown back to the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. He remained in critical condition for two weeks and on January 6th he was stable enough to be transported to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix where he remained until the end of February. While at Barrow he was gradually able to participate in speech, occupational, neuropsych and physical therapy. Throughout most of this therapy, Justin remained unable to swallow and found it challenging to complete many occupational and physical therapy sessions either due to the pain in his knee, the anger brought on by the brain injury or extreme fatigue from each days' challenges.

More About Justin

Before the accident Justin enjoyed coaching gymnastics. He loved observing the young boys he worked with learn the skills he was quick to demonstrate likes tumbling passes, parallel bar routines and trampoline. Justin also put many of his gymnastic abilities to the test in his passion for parkour, flipping backwards off of walls and scaling brick buildings with ease and precision. He was constantly training and received enormous satisfaction from all the physical challenges his workouts presented. Justin also exceeded academically graduating high school with honors and finishing in the top ten percent of his class. The University of Arizona was a fairly easy transition for Justin. He was independent, living with some friends, going to classes and working- a balance that Justin managed easily. 

Since the accident Justin has worked to get range of motion back in his left knee. He can bend his knee 110 degrees but the limited amount of movement, the stainless steel rod in his leg and the brain injury itself has severely limited the physical activity Justin became accustomed to. He plans to look for a safer physical outlet. The risk of injury from parkour or gymnastics is too great right now. Justin realizes that he has had to give up something that he really loves but in time he knows finding another way to stay fit and strong will develop.

Justin has also had to study longer and harder and implement study habits and tools that he didn't need before. His connection with the Disability Resources Center at the U of A allowed him some support in his classes. He has a reduced class load and remains connected to his speech therapist to assist in navigating the demands of the university.

In summary, Justin is on the right path to recovery but he still has a lot ahead of him (he deals with the stress of multi-tasking differently, frustrations are higher, patience shorter, different personality and the 

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