Let's start the weekend on an inspirational note! Back in August we told you about the miraculous recovery of RaeVaughn Gardner-Williams, an 18-year-old honor student who was struck in a hit-and-run while getting ice for a family barbecue and was not expected to survive the night. Instead of dying, though, he not only survived, he's thrived.
Despite some very serious injuries, RaeVaughn got out of the hospital on Thursday and is now planning on starting college at Franklin & Marshall College—where he has a four-year scholarship—in January, only one semester behind. But while he settles back in at home with his family and siblings, RaeVaughn took a few minutes to talk to us about his memories of the accident, his plans for the future, and how he knew that the college he chose is the right one.
Hey, thanks for talking to me. How are you doing? I’m actually feeling well.
Congratulations on getting out of the hospital, is it good to be home? Definitely. I feel good to be around my siblings. Just trying to get re-acclimated with what I was doing prior to the accident and everything along that line. Just to get home-cooked food and watch English television, because in the hospital the majority of the channels were in Spanish. So I don’t know how that worked out but..
How is your recovery going? There were an awful lot of people praying for you. It is going okay. My mom told me all about the people and I genuinely appreciate it.
And you’re still planning on going back to school in January? Yeah, that’s the plan.
Nice. And your scholarship is going to stay true and all that? Yes, and the president actually came and visited me and he told me if I take one semester of summer courses he’s going to try his hardest to make sure I graduate with my class in 2015.
I took summer classes in college; they’re actually fun, I swear. [laughs] Yeah, that’s what he told me, and then he said they go by like the snap of a finger.
Do you remember much of the accident at all? I just remember that I had the walk signal as I was coming across the street from the ice store. Because yesterday was my first day back from the hospital, my dad took me back to the corner to where the accident actually happened and kinda explained to me the things that he can recall, and the person that came and got my mom to tell her that they were taking me to the hospital, he explained to me how they found me and everything along that line. So it’s just refreshing to me to hear what actually happened and actually get my point of view on it because I definitely remember having the cross signal.
Did the hit-and-run happen before you got the ice or after? After because I was actually heading home. My brothers told me, and other people told me that in the same area, that three other hit-and-runs happened around the same time and from witnesses that also saw it happen...it was described as the same car. So, from my perspective, this is one ruthless individual who hit four individuals and continued driving as if nothing happened.
Do you know if the police have any leads yet? They said it’s a white Honda or Toyota.
There are unfortunately a lot of those out there! Yeah, so I don’t know. That’s as far as I know. They only know it’s a white Honda or Toyota and there is a handful of those in this area. Actually, when I came back from one of my appointments today I was actually looking to see how many I could spot and there’s really a lot.
How much physical therapy do you have to do? I resume outpatient physical therapy October 21. And basically they just said I’ll be there for a full week just to get the full rotation of my knee back. Because that was the only thing that they really had a main concern about. They said after the surgery, by September 30, everything should be 100% normal as long as I do the things they told me to do, such as reading and getting re-acclimated with academics and things along that line.
I reached out to a couple of students at my school who have been extremely supportive. These are complete strangers, and for them to give me the amount of comfort that they gave me...Even my roommate, we've never met before but he reached out to me and told me everything that’s going on on campus and he was telling me “you’re not missing out on much.” And everybody is just really getting into the swing of classes and how sometimes he feels lonely in the room because it’s just him and his stuff but he understands why I can’t be there but that he’s 100% looking forward to when I get there. So they’ve been really accepting and these are complete strangers!
That’s really nice to hear. Yeah, and the college president and his assistant, they made the four-hour trip up and the four-hour trip back down to come visit me at the hospital. His basic job description is just to facilitate things on campus, not to make trips to go visit students that are injured and different things along that line. So, the fact that he came was extremely amazing to me. And he actually brought me stuff. Like, the dorm that I’m in, they have sunglasses, so he brought me a pair of sunglasses the RA had for me, and a Franklin & Marshall water bottle and some other things. So they've been really supportive.
I remember one day I just felt down and we have a Facebook page for anyone that attends F&M, where I said “I’m sorry that I’m unable to be with you guys but I’m working to get there as fast as possible.” And everybody, they'd say, “No, no. Make sure you're 100% before you get down here because God forbid anything happens to you down here you’ll end up in a Pennsylvania hospital and they may not know what happened to you. And then you’ll have to go all the way back up to New York and commute.” So, just to hear that from complete strangers was so reassuring and comforting to me. And it genuinely made me feel that I’m going to the right place to spend the next four years of my life. It’s the perfect fit.
It sounds like it. Do you know what you are going to study? Political science and English, and then law school.
Wow, you've got that planned out, awesome. [laughs] Yeah. It’s just been my long-term dream to be a lawyer. I had my internship over the summer at Carter, Ledyard, and Milburn down on Wall Street, I had such a phenomenal time. Like to read Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s case and have open access to it, and to read some of the other cases, I’m like "Yes, this is exactly what I wanna do.” So it was a great experience and I appreciated the fact that my boss, she actually came to visit me in the hospital. But it was kinda disheartening because all summer all they would see is this smile and then they would come and see me with these tubes in my head, and the tube sucking the blood into the cup and everything and me not conscious when they were there was kinda disheartening, but they came back another time.
I can't imagine anyone blamed you for being unconscious! Yeah. Even my friends, one of them, he was telling me that was the first time it was hard for him to hold back tears. And I’m like “I’m sorry you had to see me like that.” And he’s like “Don’t be. The fact that you’re still with us is a blessing.” So that was just so reassuring. I definitely found out who my real friends are and different things like that.