The most important first-place victory of junior cross country runner Lorraine Fernandez’s life began not on the track, but almost two years ago on Temple Avenue,, when she survived a car accident, across from the Cal Poly Pomona campus.
Fernandez does not remember much after being struck by a car on November 12, 2014 while running with her coach and several teammates. Before crossing the street to head back to campus, she looked both ways and there were no cars in sight, but she ended up getting hit.
Fernandez remembers waking up seeing a pool of blood coming from her head and feeling severe pain. She woke up in a helicopter taking her to the LA-USC medical center.
Doctors waited to see if the bleeding would slow down, but instead it got worse. She had to undergo brain surgery. The doctors shaved the right side of her head and cut out a piece of her skull to remove her hematoma, bleeding of the brain.
Fernandez’s victory became a contest of survival. Doctors told her she could easily have not survived her injury, but Fernandez defied all odds and even surpassed her estimated prognosis.
“If you get hit by a car going about 60 or 70 miles per hour, you’re not expected to live,” said Fernandez.
Thankfully, she did live and her next obstacle was using a walker for about a month to learn how to walk again. In January of 2015, just two months after the accident, Fernandez was back on the track running. Yet, the timing was not right and she felt more pain.
“I just wanted to get back out there on the track, but after four months, I was ready to get back out there, so it felt really great,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez believes coming back to run after four months was not too soon, although doctors told her the injury she sustained would take a year or two of recovery.
Although the accident happened almost two years ago, Fernandez continues to suffer from bad migraines and pain in her head. There are days where she contemplates where she could have been had the accident not happened.
“I think the experience has been a revelation of her own resilience,” said Calene Morris, a senior and Bronco Athletics track and field athlete. “On the days Lorraine faces disappointment in a workout or race, we remind her of all the victory in her story – of how far she has come. She is an inspirational source of strength on our team, botha competitor in the raceand a down-to-earth friend.”
Fernandez attributes the love and support from her family, teammates and coaches as the primary reason for being where she is today.
“To see all the hard work and effort she has put in, trying to come back from the injury and see her accomplish some of her goals feels pretty satisfying,” said assistant coach Wes Ashford. “I’m really proud of her.”
Fernandez is making the most of her opportunity to run again and she does not show signs of slowing down any time soon. She plans on helping the team reach Nationals this season.
“She’s had so far a pretty good season,” said Ashford. “Her workouts lately have been pretty good, so I expect her to run a little faster than she did last year.”
Fernandez never gave up her positive attitude and her champion resiliency helped her to overcome every emotional, mental and physical obstacle she had to endure.
“So far this season has been going great,” said Fernandez. “I’m expecting for us to do really well because we have a really good team this year. I’m expecting for us to make Nationals as well.”