Bloomsburg University Student Recovers from Accident to Earn College Degree
Bloomsburg, PA (05/10/2022) — Waking from an induced coma in November of 2020, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania student Sean Sears '22 overheard a doctor telling his mother that "he may not walk again for at least six months. May never be able to speak words correctly. May never go back to college."
A month earlier, on Oct. 17, 2020, Sears, from Jermyn, Lackawanna County, had been struck by a motorcycle in the early evening while crossing Lightstreet Road. The injuries were extensive. Sears' heart stopped for several minutes, he had jaw, nose, skull and cranial fractures, his spleen was ruptured, and his leg was broken in three places from his knee to ankle.
"There was a two-page long list of injuries," says Sears. "There were 18 reasons on the paper of why I should not have made it."
For Sears, not making it was never an option. And this Sunday, May 15, at 3 p.m., he will walk across the stage at Redman Stadium at commencement to receive his degree in digital forensics.
Those hundred steps across the stage are the culmination of support from his family, the Bloomsburg University community, and Sean's own indomitable determination.
In the months that followed the accident Sears' mother, Terry, visited every day. To aid the family, the university provided an apartment on campus for Terry to stay in. The campus community also rallied with a Go Fund Me campaign that raised thousands of dollars to help the family with expenses.
Sean's own determination manifested itself soon after coming out of the coma. "Against the doctor's direction, I grabbed a walker," recalls Sears. "By the end of that day, I walked to the end of the hallway."
"I'm very family oriented. Prioritizing the people I cared about helped me fix myself faster because I had set goals," says Sears. "I want to be home by Christmas. Initially, they told me it might be eight weeks minimum at the hospital and physical rehab, which I started in November. I walked out of there on Dec. 12. That was three and a half weeks rather than eight."
In addition to his family, Sears had the support of his professors, particularly Scott Inch.
"Throughout physical rehabilitation, I was emailing my adviser, Dr. Inch," says Sears. Because of his head injury, Sears has amnesia of his time around the accident and his language skills were impaired at first. "The first couple weeks of emails around were in broken English. But he understood what I was saying. He wasn't just an adviser; he was a teacher and a friend. Even the months after I returned from the hospital before I was able to return to school, we still kept in touch."
"Bloomsburg feels like a family," says Sears, whose parents Terry and Marc met at Bloomsburg. Sean chose Bloomsburg because of its digital forensics program. "I've always been interested in computers, but I didn't really know what direction to go with it. And then, as I looked into digital forensics, it was like figuring out a puzzle and stopping the bad guys. For me, it was a perfected fit."
"And Bloomsburg is very local to me - an hour and fifteen minutes away," adds Sears, whose family is from Jermyn. "I've always been a very family-based person. I wanted to stay close to home in case they needed me for something."
The road to recovery wasn't easy. "Physical rehab was four times a day every day for weeks. 'And they'd be like, does this hurt? We can stop. We can take it easy,'" recalls Sears. "I think, no, I'm okay. We can keep going because of the end goal of Christmas. In my head, I was screaming. It was painful. But if I don't keep pushing, I'm not going make it by Christmas."
Even when he returned home, Sears' journey was far from over. On waking from the coma, his formerly 215-pound frame had withered to 162 pounds. "I had no muscle mass. I started going to the gym six days a week, gained muscle, and taught myself how to diet. Now I'm 198 pounds. I've taught myself how to be well."
"One of the biggest hurdles I had to deal with, due to the head injury, was that my right eye couldn't follow things at the same rate that my left eye could. I wasn't allowed to drive. I had to go to vision therapy every day. After three months of doing that, I could drive again safely."
And there are lingering effects from the accident that may never go away. Such as neuropathy in his foot, which causes pain, particularly in the cold.
"I still deal with tinnitus. It's just a very loud ringing." Sears has dealt with the ringing with his trademark determination and humor. "I've learned to come to terms with it, so now it's just like free music. If that's the worst thing I have to deal with after everything I went through, so be it. I can walk and talk again. It's more important than some ringing in my ear."
"Never give up," says Sears. "It sounds very simple. At the end of the day, that's the only decision you can really make. If something is really cutting you down, something beating you up. If you give up, you're letting that win. As long as you never give up, even if something that can't be fixed, at least you try, which is the most important part."
Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 7,600 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in five distinct colleges: College of Education, Zeigler College of Business, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Technology, and Honors College.