Clovis senior Jessica Wymore was in a coma at the beginning of the school year after an auto accident. She graduated Saturday with honors. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.
By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ staff writer
A few months ago, Jessica Wymore never thought she’d be able to graduate with her Clovis High School class on Saturday.
About the time school was scheduled to start last fall, Wymore was in a coma on life support at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock following an Aug. 13 truck crash. Wymore, who had not been wearing a seat belt, hit her head on the inside of her truck and damaged her brain.
“Her head was shaken loose more or less like Jell-O,” said Jessica’s mother, Denny Wymore.
Jessica woke up from her coma five days after her injury, but then spent nearly a month in the hospital. She had only minor physical injuries, but for months after the crash, she couldn’t remember anything after May 2003, and continued to have trouble with short-term memory of more recent events. The former volleyball player who once prided herself on her ability to beat opponents in sports was reduced to needing assistance with brushing her teeth and applying makeup.
As hard as that was for Jessica, her mother found it even harder to cope with a daughter who had been a top student but now couldn’t remember the most rudimentary facts.
“They did a diagnostic evaluation at one point and they found her IQ was at 70,” Denny Wymore said. “She would come up with really off-the-wall answers, like what hospital she was in. She’d be in Lubbock and say she was in PRMC.”
A number of Jessica’s classmates drove to Lubbock to visit her, but weren’t sure what they’d find.
“My classmates were afraid I wouldn’t recognize them, and in the hospital I didn’t,” she said. “As for the accident, all I can remember is the truck going into the ditch and me trying to counter-steer.”
Jessica was able to return home about a month after the crash, but going back to regular classes was out of the question at first. For the fall semester, she enrolled for two courses — English and choir — with one-on-one tutoring. Her parents said the classes were selected to help her develop memory and brain function, and Jessica said the personal tutoring worked. By the spring semester, Jessica was ready to return to normal classes.
“I even played a small part in the Oklahoma play,” she said. “It was something to get myself out, use some different muscles, and experience more things.”
Jessica’s mother said the careful attention to building memory retention skills actually helped her daughter become a better student than she was before the crash.
“She learns differently now, but honestly speaking, she learns better,” her mother said. “It used to be that the night before a test, she’d study, study, study, remember everything for the test but forget it the next day. Now when she studies, she remembers things and they don’t go away.”
As a result of her hard work, Jessica was able not only to return to school but even graduate as an honor student and become a member of the National Honor Society. Her plans call for enrolling this fall at Eastern New Mexico University and beginning the courses necessary to become an occupational therapist.
That wasn’t her goal before the crash, but Jessica said her positive experience with an occupational therapist assigned to her rehabilitation was responsible for the career choice.
“The job she had inspired me to major in occupational therapy,” she said.
One thing Jessica Wymore won’t be doing is driving without a seat belt.
“Everybody who gets into my car automatically puts the seat belt on now; they all know what I went through,” she said. “Whenever you think you are in a rush, you aren’t. There’s always enough time to put on a seat belt, and you should slow down and concentrate on how you’re driving.”
“Driving isn’t just something that’s easy and fun,” she said. “It can be life-threatening.”