Six months after a near-fatal accident, UNL student Isra Somanas is back in the classroom and kicking up his heels on the dance floor.
On July 15, the senior mechanical engineering major was hit by a car while riding his bike on West O Street after dancing at the Pla Mor Ballroom. Somanas suffered a traumatic brain injury, broken pelvis and collapsed lung from the impact.
In a medically induced coma, Somanas spent nearly two weeks in the intensive care unit at Bryan West while doctors assessed his injuries. When he regained consciousness, his treatment transitioned to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.
By all accounts, he has made a remarkable recovery.
“The human body is programmed to heal,” Somanas said. “My personal opinion is that Jesus saved me — kept me from dying or being in a vegetative state.”
At UNL, Somanas has been active in the Lincoln Berean Church community and the Navigators. Many of his visitors at Madonna were from a Christian group that practices swing dancing at the Pla Mor, where Somanas spent many evenings.
He rejoined the dancers at the dance hall this fall, although his physical therapy team does not yet allow him to ride a bike.
The week before the accident Somanas met with his adviser, George Gogos, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and discussed future plans to pursue graduate studies.
“One of things I want to do is teach,” Somanas said. “I’ve worked as a teaching assistant and a tutor, which I really liked.”
Gogos — who said Somanas is, “an excellent student and innovative researcher,” — remained in contact during Somanas’ recovery. Now, Gogos is making sure Somanas is resuming research work at his own pace.
Returning to classes has exciting and nervous as Somanas explores what has changed for him as a student.
“I want to see if anything is different and (treat it as) a challenge,” Somanas said.
He has met with UNL’s Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, in case he needs their resources.
Determined and optimistic, Somanas eagerly keeps moving forward.
“This accident happened to me, and bad things can happen to anybody, but I don’t want to let it change my life,” he said. ”Why let it have that significance? When life throws you challenges, take them and go on, don’t sit on the sidelines.”