OC native overcomes near-fatal accident to earn degree
Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:06 pm
By: Emily Williams, Messenger Intern
By EMILY WILLIAMS
Jamie “Trey” Hamilton III, a 1997 graduate of Obion County Central High School, completed work on his second college degree May 15 from the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Earning two college degrees is quite an accomplishment for anyone, but it is especially so for Hamilton, who could not even open his eyes four years ago — much less attend class — due to a terrible boating accident that left him in a coma.
In 2002, he earned his first degree at UT Martin in international studies with a minor in Spanish.
His second degree proved to be much more challenging.
On Nov. 13, 2005, he hit his head on the aluminum step of the boat in which he was a passenger after the boat hit a tree at high speed. He was transported to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City and then airlifted to the Vanderbilt Trauma Center in Nashville, where he had to be revived.
A few days later, a trachea tube was placed in his throat and a feeding tube was sewn into his stomach. Shortly after that, a shunt had to be placed in Hamilton’s skull to relieve the pressure from the swelling in his brain. Doctors diagnosed him as being in a persistent vegetative state with very little hope of recovery.
A few days later, doctors discovered the shunt in his brain had caused him to develop two different bacterial infections. As efforts were made to treat these infections, he developed a staph infection.
Finally, the infections were cleared and he was moved from the Trauma Center to a long-term care unit in Milan. On Dec. 15, 2005, Hamilton miraculously awakened from the coma he had been in for 32 days.
However, the road to recovery would not be easy as he would have to relearn everything from walking and talking to eating.
“Coming out of or awakening from a coma is not like Hollywood would have one believe,” said his father, Jamie Hamilton Jr. “It is very different. A coma is a nightmare of the worst kind.”
The younger Hamilton stayed at Milan’s NHC HealthCare for three more months before he was well enough to return home. He enrolled at Health Quest in Union City to begin rebuilding the muscles and regaining the 39 pounds he lost during the coma.
A month later, he entered the Center for Comprehensive Services in Carbondale, Ill., which helps patients who have experienced traumatic brain injuries. During this time, he was often found helping and encouraging other patients, though he was far from a full recovery himself.
Throughout his “re-education,” and even today, the 31-year-old Hamilton said his entire left side continuously experiences a tingling feeling as if a muscle is about to wake up, yet never does. He still suffers from short-term memory problems. Also, he said he has double vision because his eyes do not line up correctly anymore, making it harder to read. Finding ways to compensate for this has been hard, especially at the college level.
Dr. Jeff Rogers, a professor of geography at UT Martin, taught Trey both before and after his accident.
“One of the most remarkable aspects of Trey’s recovery has been the awakening of his intellectual curiosity,” he said. “He is an individual with many significant, often philosophical, questions about our culture and society. He tried to use his time at UT Martin, through his coursework and participation in student organizations, to answer some of these questions.”
On Sunday, Hamilton began his job as a park ranger for the Department of the Interior in the Smoky Mountains, utilizing his new degree in geoscience.
His injury and long recovery were not easy for him or his family. His experience should serve as an inspiration for all to, as Hamilton himself puts it, “Endeavor to perservere.”
Editor’s Note: Emily Williams, daughter of Roger and Juli Williams of Woodland Mills, is a senior at Rhodes College in Memphis. She is interning at The Messenger this summer.
Published in The Messenger 5.25.10