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MME student returns after near-fatal accident

Among UNL students returning to classes for the Spring 2014 semester is Isra Somanas, a mechanical engineering senior who spent the past six months recovering from a near-fatal accident when a car hit the bike he was riding on Lincoln's West O Street, after leaving the Pla Mor Ballroom.

Somanas spent nearly two weeks in ICU at Bryan West, in a medically induced coma while doctors assessed his traumatic brain injury. He also suffered a broken pelvis and collapsed lung from the impact. When he regained consciousness, his treatment progressed with another month at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. By all accounts, he made a remarkable recovery.

“The human body is programmed to heal,” Somanas said. “My personal opinion is that Jesus saved me—kept me from dying or being in a vegetative state.”

At UNL, Somanas has been active in the Lincoln Berean Church community and the Navigators. Many of his visitors at Madonna—young people saying “I’m here to see Isra”—were from a Christian group that practices swing dancing at Pla Mor, where Somanas enjoyed many weekend evenings.

He rejoined the dancers at Pla Mor this fall, although his physical therapy team does not yet allow him to ride a bike. Still, Somanas calls himself lucky—which he defines with the acronym “living under Christ’s kindness.”

The week before the July 15 accident he met with his adviser, Prof. Geoge Gogos with the Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, to discuss Somanas’ future plans. Having just completed a course on heat transfer, Somanas was excited to pursue graduate studies.

“One of things I want to do is teach,” Somanas said. “I’ve worked as a teaching assistant and a tutor, which I really liked.”

Gogos described him as “an excellent student and an innovative researcher,” but Somanas’ plans had to wait.

Their next visits were during the difficult days of recovery; as fall arrived, Somanas felt ready to resume his research work with Gogos' team, at his own pace.

Returning to classes, Somanas said he’s excited and nervous, to see what has changed for him as a student: “I want to see if anything is different and (treat it as) a challenge.” He met with UNL’s Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, in case he needs their resources.

Determined and optimistic, Somanas eagerly keeps moving forward. “This accident happened to me, and bad things can happen to anybody, but I don’t want to let it change my life,” he said. ”Why let it have that significance? When life throws you challenges, take them and go on, don’t sit on the sidelines.”

January 2014 videos about Isra Somanas' recovery:

UNL MME Assoc. Prof. Li Tan's research as Advanced Materials cover story, 13 November 2013

After recovering from a car-bike collision, UNL mechanical engineering student Isra Somanas (right) returns to a favorite hobby: dancing at Lincoln’s Pla Mor Ballroom. At left is a dance partner, UNL student Liz Merrett. Photo courtesy Alan Dasenbrock.

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