Student perseveres after accident to pursue degree

Release Date: July 17, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – The events of Oct. 7, 2001, are blurry for Beau Bishop. He knows he was in an automobile accident in central Texas, the passenger in the car who was left with major injuries including a broken neck, three skull fractures, a punctured lung and three broken vertebrae. He knows he ‘slept’ through the worst of it.

Beyond that, the details are buried deep inside Bishop, who personally prefers to dwell not on his past trauma but on his recovery and bright future.

“One of my first conscious memories is being in a nursing home bed in a hallway,” said Bishop, now a senior at Wayland Baptist University. “I was in a coma for weeks and had to have a ventilator to breathe.”

One thing is clear: the wreck changed life as Bishop knew it dramatically. Only 25 at the time, his entire life went on hold while he simply struggled to recover health and then rehabilitate, essentially relearning all the basic functions of self-sufficiency.

His stint in the skilled nursing facility in Lubbock – his first stop after Aerocare delivered him to a Lubbock hospital – lasted nine months. Then Bishop transferred to the Transitional Learning Center in Galveston for another six months, where he relearned basic skills from hygiene to meal preparation along with other post-acute brain injury patients. An assisted living facility in San Antonio was the next stop as Bishop continued to hone his life skills and recover from the crash. It was a difficult, uphill battle, he recalls.

“I wouldn’t take it back now, but at the time, I didn’t want to do (all the rehab), of course,” he said.

Finally, Bishop ended up in Borger, where he worked in an oilfield machine shop and tried to return to some sort of normal life. Bishop had a nagging dream that survived the wreck: he wanted to go to school.

“I enrolled at Frank Phillips College in an elementary algebra class just to see if I could cut the mustard,” he smiled. “I worked my tail off, but I made an A.”

That A propelled Bishop to keep going in his studies, and he began to double his load. With each class, he collected more As, encouraging Bishop that he really could pursue his degree. He eventually earned a scholarship to go full-time to FPC, finally earning his Associate of Arts degree in 2007.

While in Borger, Bishop had heard about Wayland Baptist and knew it was nearby. He also knew about the Christian environment and felt it would be a good fit. He enrolled in Fall 2007, attending full-time and working in the school library, and will finish his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in December.

Bishop believes it was definitely God’s will that he end up at Wayland. He’s found much encouragement from faculty and staff members, notably his psychology professors with whom he’s spent much of the last two years. He is also receiving assistance from the state’s Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services in financial support to reach his educational goals.

“Everything that has happened here has been awesome. Every professor I’ve dealt with here has been great. I’ve made the Dean’s List every semester,” he adds with a smile. “Now I want to help other people have been through the same trials I faced.”

Bishop said he sees some sort of social work or counseling in his future, encouraged by counselors who assisted him during the rough journey of the past few years. But besides wanting to give back to others, one thing in particular has compelled Bishop to complete the degree and begin a rewarding career.

“I have a daughter who is 11 and lives in Levelland. I want to be able to contribute to her welfare as much as possible,” he said. “It really hasn’t been a bed of roses (the past few years) but she has definitely been my driving force to live right and do the right things for the right reasons.”

Bishop said his faith has been his “backbone” during these difficult years of recovery and moving forward. He also said his stubborn, optimistic attitude played a role in keeping him focused.

“I go through trials all the time just like everyone, and there are times I don’t know what to do. But I know that the Creator will see me through,” he said. “I’m not a victim. I don’t choose to see myself that way. I’m a survivor.

“I know I still have to iron out the kinks, but all in all I’m getting better with each and every day. I never wanted to be content with just letting things be. I wanted to be as normal as possible.”

After years of therapy and regular exercise, Bishop bears only a few scars from the accident, slightly slowed speech and a very slight limp to his walk. But he paused thoughtfully while pondering how the events of the last eight years have changed him in less noticeable ways.

“It’s made me more aware of the small things in life,” he said with a peaceful smile. “And I realize that it’s important to tell people what they mean to me.”