ALBANY -- In May of 2005, just days short of her high school graduation, Christine Katz's car was T-boned by a fully loaded dump truck. It took emergency personnel more than 20 minutes to extract her from her vehicle, and she spent the next nine weeks in a coma.
Tuesday morning Katz was one of two speakers at Darton College's Fall Convocation. The day's topic was "Overcoming Adversity."
"My pelvis was broken in two places, my left femur was shattered and I suffered traumatic brain injury," Katz, an art major, said. "I'm here to say that life isn't fair, but there is always hope."
Katz, now 24, spent three months in two different hospitals before she finally got to go home for a visit.
"When I got home I couldn't laugh or cry. I haven't cried since the day of the accident," Katz told the hushed crowd at the college's theater. "My world was off kilter. I had to relearn how to speak, add and subtract again. It was very hard for me. I saw my friends going off to college, and I felt like I was being left behind. I looked in the mirror and barely recognized who I was now."
Katz credits Darton with playing a role in her recovery.
"I really wanted to go to college, I wanted to grow up," she said. "Dealing with my adversity has not been easy for me; in fact, it's been downright hard. It may take longer for me to get my degree, but I am determined to get it. I am determined not to give up.
"I had to learn the hard way it's OK to ask for help."
The second speaker, Darton English instructor Jamie Barker, spun a different tale of adversity.
"Neither of my grandfathers graduated from high school," Barker said. "My uncle spent time in jail for hijacking an airplane. To say the least, my family is not normal folks."
Barker said he nearly died twice from a cardiac condition and dropped out of college three times before finally eschewing a nursing major for an English degree.
"I'm incredibly dyslexic, so I naturally majored in English," Barker said. "Life is a lot like college: Getting through is not necessarily about how smart you are, but how tough you are.
"Life is hard, mean and nasty, but you gotta keep on fighting."