Student Spotlight: Robert Van Nort
Hometown: Webster, Ma
Year of Graduation: 2016
All his life, Robert Van Nort had in his mind that he was going to attend Nichols College. He was your average student in high school playing two sports and having a lot of friends around him. That normal life all changed October 5, 2009 when he was sitting in Geometry class with what he thought was just “the worst headache he had experienced.” Seconds later, Robbie lost consciousness and was surrounded by his classmates and teacher, who luckily was a certified E.M.T.
The reason Robbie went unconscious was because there was a tangle of blood vessels on the right side of his brain. When one of the blood vessels popped, it caused him to pass out. While still in the classroom, he regained consciousness for a few moments before losing it again; this happened on more than one occasion that day. He was rushed to a nearby hospital by ambulance where a CT Scan of his brain was performed. After seeing the results of the scan, doctors told Van Nort’s parents that he had little to no chance of surviving this traumatic event. His parents were going to do everything in their power to prove the doctors wrong.
He was transferred to UMass Memorial hospital where he spent six hours in surgery to try to repair the damage done to his brain after this injury. After the surgery, he was sent to I.C.U. (Intensive Care Unit) where he would be in a vegetative state for three days on life support. He would stay at UMass Memorial for two weeks before being sent to Boston’s Spalding Rehabilitation Center. Van Nort spent two months in rehab, missing two semesters of the school year and was given no chance of recovery.
Doctors in Boston then told him, along with his parents, that he would most likely be paralyzed on his left side and go blind. This gave Robbie more inspiration to work towards complete recovery from his injury. He has undergone 2.5 years of physical therapy to work his way back to the life he once had. He is currently on a home program to continue performing therapy for the left side of his body. Unfortunately, this could happen again if the malformation reforms in his brain. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, he must go through a few procedures that will show the doctor if it grew back.
Robbie has achieved major accomplishments since his injury occurred. A few of them are the ability to drive and returning to the track team one semester after suffering his injury. Both would be highly unlikely had he given in to what doctors predicted in terms of his ability to live. Van Nort has achieved a lot in the classroom already after completing just one semester here at Nichols. In the Fall 2012 semester, he achieved a 3.81 G.P.A. and this qualified him for Dean’s List High Honors. As a reward for his success in the classroom, he was invited to the Board of Trustees dinner that takes place in Boston.
Overcoming this hardship would not have been possible if Robbie did not have support from his parents. He states, “My parents would switch off on days they would come to see me but every day one of them would be there. The hospital said they had never seen that.” His advice for anyone who would be suffering is if there is any sign of recovery, “Do everything you can and don’t waste time.”