In April 2015, former lacrosse goalie Rachel Hall was riding her bike on campus when she was struck by a car and critically injured in a hit-and-run shortly before her graduation. A year later, she was finally able to walk at the ceremony.
“It was a big day,” said Hall, a 2016 sociology and criminal justice alumna. “I’m just going further and further.”
Kathy Hall, Rachel’s mother, visited her at the hospital every day at the beginning of her recovery and is proud of her progress and “determination.”
“I was just really, really happy and I stood up and was clapping and cheering for her because I knew she had really worked hard to achieve that one goal of walking at graduation a year later after her accident,” she said.
Kaitlin Suzuki, a teammate who was a freshman when Rachel was a senior, decorated Rachel’s graduation cap with symbols she thought best represented her, like stars and stripes because of her love for the American flag, a shark and the number on her lacrosse jersey: 16.
“She knew my personality and we were very close,” Rachel said. “She had an art background, but I didn’t know how good of an artist she was. She went a lot further with it and made it a lot more special to me.”
Rachel still keeps in contact with her lacrosse friends by attending games or going out to eat with them.
“I’ve been in therapy, so it’s hard to see them in [lacrosse] season, but I try to see them frequently,” she said.
Rachel is still recovering from the accident in physical, occupational, speech and cognitive therapy.
Every weekday, Rachel goes to Independence Rehab Services in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for five hours of therapy. After that, Kathy picks her up and takes her to Magee Rehabilitation Health and Wellness Center in Philadelphia to work on her balance and coordination, and to help her get her athletic body back.
Rachel said she and her doctors aren’t sure how much longer she will need physical therapy.
When Rachel was at Temple University Hospital and Magee Rehabilitation Hospital immediately after the crash, she said she was surrounded by supportive friends and family.
“I had friends always offering me support,” Rachel said. “They would come almost every single day. I also had professors who wanted to make sure I was OK.”
Kathy said the majority of people who visited Rachel were from her lacrosse team, but she also had friends from her sociology and criminal justice classes and friends from home visit. Some of her criminal justice professors even visited her, and her sociology professors sent letters.
Since Rachel is focused on her recovery, she has not been able to pursue a career in the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. as she had originally hoped.
“She decided not to become a police officer because of the physical demands of it,” Kathy said. “She doesn’t know if she could really acquire that level of ability anymore.”
Instead of joining the police force, Rachel is trying to figure out a new career path that combines her sociology and criminal justice degrees.
“I want to do something with human trafficking and probably more of the victim’s side of it,” she said.
Through therapy, continued support from friends and family and new career goals, Rachel is making progress in her recovery.
“With a brain injury you have to work harder in life, but that doesn’t define you, you can keep going forward,” Rachel said.
“I don’t want to let that define me,” she added. “I want to get back to who I was and be seen as a strong person.”
Taylor Horn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.