'It just all sank in': student attends convocation after recovering from near fatal crash

Serena Tejpar was left in a coma after a crash along Highway 401. She defied the odds and graduated from Western University with last week with honours.

Serena Tejpar defied medical expectations to accept her science degree from Western University

Western University student Serena Tejpar survived a crash along Highway 401 in 2015. On Oct 24, 2018, she graduated with a bachelors degree (honours).

Serena Tejpar crossed the stage at Western University this past Wednesday to accept her bachelor's degree in Medical Sciences (Honours). 

The fact that she graduated, let alone walked at her convocation, is a remarkable story of determination.

Back in November of 2015, Serena Tejpar was driving with friends from London to Toronto.

The vehicle they were in was involved in a violent collision along Highway 401. She was a passenger in the back seat and took the brunt of the impact.

Extensive injuries left her near death

Tejpar, who was 18 years old at the time, suffered severe injuries. The list included a sheared aorta, torn bladder, collapsed lungs, and broken pelvis. But the most immediate concern was a head injury and massive bleeding in her brain. 

"I don't remember a lot of it. For me, I just woke up one day in the hospital," Tejpar told CBC News.

The reality was that doctors didn't expect her to wake up.

Her parents jumped a plane from Calgary - uncertain their daughter would still be alive when they touched down in London.

When they arrived at Victoria Hospital's Critical Care Trauma Centre, they found Tejpar in a coma, which she remained in for about six weeks.

The fear was that the damage to her brain would leave her with permanent disabilities. Medical professionals did not think it would even be possible for her to play a simple game of Tic-tac-toe. 

You really don't know when something can happen- Serena Tejpar

But Tejpar did recover and was back at the Western campus just 6 months after emerging from her coma.

She enrolled in summer classes to catch up and complete her degree. 

Tejpar said she does have lingering health issues due to the crash, saying it's an everyday struggle.

"Going through the injuries and living with the impact today. It's been difficult and there's still a long journey to go,"

Graduation day

Tejpar said one of her biggest motivators these past few years has been was not wanting the crash to define her future.

That's what she was thinking about when she was back in London for her convocation.

"It was very surreal. I thought it would hit me as soon as I crossed the stage. But it actually hit me when I went to visit my nurses and doctors at critical care," she said.

"I didn't even cross the fact that it was such a big deal, until the nurses were bringing me back to that day and explaining how critical my situation was. And then it just all sank in." 

Tejpar is currently attending McMaster University in Hamilton, where she is doing a master's degree in Global Health.

​"You really don't know when something can happen. I'm just enjoying today and taking it as it comes."