Sean Ferguson was struck by lightning in the University of Dayton C parking lot April 8. He spent about four and a half weeks recovering at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy Hospital and is living with his family in Pittsburgh until August, when he will return to campus for one semester to finish his undergraduate degree in marketing and management. Ferguson spoke in a phone interview with Online Editor-in-Chief Amanda Dee about his experience.
So, how have you been since you’ve had to go back to Pittsburgh?
It’s just been so much more of a sense of normalcy. I mean, when I was in the hospital for those five weeks, all you think about are the little things like sleeping in your own bed, having a home-cooked meal, playing with your dog, having your friends be able to stay over at your house longer than staying in the hospital… The comforts of your own home go such a long way. To be able to go home to such a wonderful family and to live in a community with my church and friends nearby – it’s been just kind of like a dream come true being able to kind of overcome such a huge bump in the road.
And is that kind of how you feel about coming back to UD this fall?
I always have looked at UD with so much praise and admiration, but the sense of support that I’ve received from students, staff, faculty, all of the alumni that sent me letters of support… I just… for the rest of my life, my UD pride will be beaming…
Do you think that other people, whether that’s strangers or teachers, your friends… do you think that they’ll treat you any differently when you come back or have you thought about that at all?
I’ve definitely thought about it a little bit because it has been a little bit of a whirlwind, whether it’s we run into someone at the grocery store here, whether it’s after mass at my local parish or at the grad party we just had for my sister. It’s as if everybody wants to come talk to me. I definitely understand. It’s such a unique incident. People have a lot of questions. I’m just thankful that people are still giving me that support, you know, “We’re still praying for you, man and if there’s anything we can do…” It’s certainly exhausting, but, at the same time, I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who care and love me. I’d say my expectations right now are I’m sure those first couple weeks when I run into fellow friends and I’m sure strangers in the classroom and I wouldn’t be surprised if a professor’s calling roll they look at my name, they might say something, but I welcome all the conversations that I’ll be able to have and I’m really excited to kind of share my story because I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. My faith has just been such an instrument of hope and strength for me, so I can be able to helpfully tell students and faculty [how to get] closer to Christ and closer in their strength. I believe that this is kind of a story of hope and inspiration that not even the strongest things that can happen to you can keep you down. And it was through my faith that I really got through this.
Other than your faith, do you feel changed?
The way I would describe it is that when you feel that you’re granted a second chance at life, you just have a new lens with which you look through things. You just hold your loved ones that much closer. You truly enjoy the simple things such as a nice conversation with your friends, a nice time talking to a stranger, fully appreciating your health, your mind, your body… While I appreciated things beforehand, now I feel like God gave me a second chance for a reason, and any kind of experience that I’ll have moving forward, I’ll just feel really blessed and not really take things for granted. I believe I was saved for a reason, and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me.
Do you have anything that you would like to say that you haven’t had a chance to say?
First off, just the biggest thank you to everyone who is a Flyer. You know, I thought I knew what the word “community” meant before this. My friends had always told me, “You should be a tour guide for how much you love Dayton and for how much you try to recruit people to come there.” But when I first chose to come to UD, I had that feeling… But now, seeing how Flyers respond to someone when they’re truly in need… It still baffles my mind with how many Flyers that I didn’t even know who reached out to me, saying that “you’re going to get through this and when you get through this, we’re all here to still support you.” I would not have been able to get through that initial, really tough recovery process without the support of the Flyer faithful and Flyer community, so I would just tell the students your Flyer community and Flyer pride doesn’t end on graduation day – it continues with you for life… and to just be so proud of such a wonderful close-knit community. You know, when you lay your head down at night, that’s something to be really proud of.