Onnr Grogan doesn’t remember much about her fall semester.

The period from mid-September to late October is lost to her entirely. When her memories pick up in November, they are not of an Aggie Homecoming, her classes, her friends or even her Undergraduate Research Scholar Program project. Instead, she remembers learning to stand and walk from a wheelchair, to shower by herself and to form the numbers 1-6.

“I remember my mom teaching me how to use a fork again,” said the senior biological engineering major.

On Sept. 17, 2019, Grogan was hit by a car crossing East Market Street at Laurel Street and rushed to Moses Cone Hospital in life-threatening condition. After two weeks in intensive care, she was transferred to Wake Medical Center in Raleigh, her hometown, and spent most of the fall regaining skills and undergoing speech, occupational and physical therapy.

Now released from the hospital and continuing to recover at home, Grogan recalls several certainties amidst much that is still shifting daily: She loves school; she is passionate about her major; and she wants to return to campus, her projects and her coursework this coming fall.

“When they asked me in the hospital what activity I was most anxious to resume, I said, ‘Going back to school,’” she said. “I really hope that I can handle it, because I really love my field.”

In the hospital, Grogan said, she was known as a happy patient who worked hard at recovery with a positive outlook. Since her final discharge in late November, her recovery hasn’t been easy, she said. She still has daily headaches and shoulder and back pain. She is still skill-building, and trying to recover the information that she once knew. And from time to time, her emotions are anything but happy.

“Most of society doesn’t understand what it means to have had a traumatic brain injury,” she said. “You look and seem like a normal person in so many ways, but then, I’ll have an emotional outburst or a period of depression. It’s as though I didn’t fully process the accident until after I came home.

“There are three parts to recovery: the physical, the mental and the emotional. Even though I’m out of the hospital, I’m still healing in all three aspects.”

In the early days of her hospitalization in Greensboro, while Grogan was unconscious, her mother and family received visitors and kept track of the phone numbers, cards and email addresses that they provided. When Grogan regained awareness, she discovered that her A&T family had been present all along.

“I didn’t remember who had come to see me, and I didn’t know that the departments had been communicating about my status since my accident, but it makes me very happy that they did,” she said. “It’s so sweet to know that they were there, and that they have been checking in with me and my mom, and helping her.”

Among the cards and phone numbers, Grogan found that of College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Dean Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D.

“I went to visit her at the hospital few times, and was impressed by the strength of her mom,” said Ahmedna. “Onnr is also strong and determined. She was one of our undergraduate scholars who excelled in the classroom and had grand plans, and we look forward to welcoming her back into the CAES and Aggie family so that she can finish them.”

In the hospital, Grogan learned that traumatic brain injuries take a year to heal. Because of this, she has made it her goal to return to campus, and to her BIOE major in fall 2020. She wants to resume her Undergraduate Research Scholar project with Niroj Aryal, Ph.D., in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design, assessing levels of nitrate contamination in groundwater when municipal wastewater is released into the environment.

She is also eager to start the composting project for which she won a grant from the N.C. Composting Council last year, turning food scraps from Williams Dining Hall into compost at the University Farm.

Other aspects of her return to campus, however, may be a little different.

“When I started looking at my school information again, I found out that I had been taking more than 18 hours in fall 2019. I like to be busy, but I think I’ll take more like 12 hours when I start back,” she said. “I want to get out and about more – get a cup of coffee, walk through campus, go out with my friends.

“I have so many dreams of going back, and I’m really going to appreciate this time,” she said. “Getting my degree in biological engineering from N.C. A&T is one of my biggest goals in life.”

Aryal and her other professors will be glad to have Grogan resume her studies, but will also be glad to have her presence among them.

“Onnr was doing exceptionally well when this unfortunate accident happened,” said Aryal, who has kept in touch with Grogan throughout her recovery. “We are proud of how she was able to stay positive throughout the difficult period, and proud of her decision to come back to finish her B.S. degree in Biological Engineering. The BIOE family has the utmost confidence in her ability to excel and be the best biological engineer that she can be, and we are extremely excited to see her smile in Sockwell Hall again.”