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MIT Students Support Injured Peer Through Visits, Fundraising

By Katharyn Jeffreys

Features Editor

Since September, MIT students have held two bone marrow drives in the hopes of finding a match for leukemia patient and MIT student David X. Li ’02. Now a student group is again gathering support for causes which have benefitted an ailing peer.

On January 25, 1999, while on a Media Lab sponsored ski trip in Lake Placid, NY, two MIT community members were involved in a head-on collision. One was student Josiah D. Seale ’02, who was badly hurt, suffering a broken leg and facial injuries. The driver of Seale’s car, a Media Lab employee, and the driver of the other vehicle, who was charged with a DUI, were uninjured.

When the accident happened, a woman in her late 50s who lived nearby called 911 and went to the scene to assist the victims. She cleared Seale’s air passages using what she had learned in an EMT course in the Navy as well as what she saw on the television medical drama ER.

Seale was in a coma for four days, and after waking was transferred to Shepard Center in Atlanta, GA for rehabilitation. The center is one of the premiere spinal cord rehabilitation facility in the country.

Josiah’s mother, Dana Seale said, “There were weeks when he could just sit and stare and drool.” Seale’s short term memory was initially challenged, and he still is not able to recall the weeks after the accident.

Seale does not recall the accident, being pulled from the Ford Explorer or the several weeks following the accident. However he said, “I don’t want to remember that kind on thing.”

Regaining sencience, he said, was like waking from a deep sleep after being sleep deprived. The difference was that it lasted all day for weeks.

Though he said he suffered significant memory loss initially, his recovery has been rapid. Currently he is auditing two classes at Georgia Institute of Technology, Political Philosophy and Differential Equations. Dana Seale, said “He is at the point it feels very normal to be sitting there taking notes.”

Seale describes his accident as a “big annoyance.” He said, “the annoyances getting to me now are physical. I can’t put weight on my right leg and have to walk with crutches.”

Support widespread

His family attributes this successful rehabilitation to the many well-wishers who sent e-mails and cards to Seale. As his parents are missionaries, many of the wishes came in the form of prayers from around the world, including South America (Josiah attended high school in Venezuela), Africa, Europe, and Asia. Dana Seale said that “hundreds of churches, two counties, ... prayer groups, ... a nursery school, and entire schools” were alerted of Josiah’s situation through e-mails forwarded around the Internet.

In total Dana Seale estimates that upwards of 100,000 people may have prayed or hoped for Josiah’s recovery. “Paul and I could not believe the amount of love poured on him and on us” said Dana Seale.

MIT students, in true Tech style, created a mailing list which would allow Seale’s friends to stay updated on his contact information, well being, and even low airfare rates to Atlanta. Through this list Josiah’s parents were able to thank everyone for their support and send updates on Seale’s recovery. “He has received tremendous support from the MIT faculty, especially Dean [of Student Life Robert] Randolph.” said Dana Seale. “They said ‘we will do whatever it takes to get Josiah back up to speed.’”

Since the accident about 20 Boston area friends have journeyed to Atlanta to visit Seale. Several MIT students went over Spring Break and another large group from the Boston area’s Campus Crusade for Christ went later. “I feel so honored” Seale said, of the friends who came to visit.

Anna K. Benefiel ’00 was one of the students who visited during Spring Break, “Anna is precious. We really enjoyed getting to know her.” Andrew J. Wheeler G, Seale’s brother at Chi Phi “has been a tremendous support. He brought Josiah his stereo, a new computer from the Media Lab, his favorite music and clothes,” said Dana Seale, which allowed Josiah to “have his life back.”

Future looks promising

Seale said “I went into this as an agnostic. I said, ‘God if you are there, let me know.’” He views his accident as that sign and has reclaimed the faith of his childhood.

Seale hopes to return to Boston in May, and will begin by taking “one or two courses in the fall and gradually add more and more,” said Dana Seale. He will have another surgery on his leg April 20 to complete his physical rehabilitation.

Mentally, Seale is “95 percent back” according to his mother. He still experiences fatigue and has difficulty maintaining his concentration. “Sleep restores his brain like a battery that has run down,” said Dana Seale.

Seale is striving to stay involved in MIT life. “I am still on all sorts of mailing lists,” he said. He is currently using his time in rehabilitation to work on IFC projects, including a report on confidential medical transport at IFC. He had just been elected as IFC Risk Manager before the accident and plans to stay involved upon returning to MIT. “I am trying as hard as I can to keep my finger on the pulse of MIT,” said Seale.

Chi Phi 5K Roadrace to support cause

Now brothers of Seale’s fraternity are rallying to support causes which benefit their injured friend. The annual Chi Phi 5K Roadrace will be held April 8 starting at Kresge Oval at 10 a.m. Proceeds will go to Sheperd Rehabilitation Research Center, where Josiah’s rehabilitation is taking place. Registration is $15 and is available on the Internet off the Chi Phi web page at <http://web.mit.edu/chiphi/www/>.

Seale has also been recognized in Alpha Phi Omega’s Big Screw competition which will be held April 3 through April 7 in Lobby 10. The winner of the contest is the contestant who has received the most donations. If Associate Dean Neal Dorow wins the contest, his earnings will be donated to cover the medical expenses incurred during Josiah’s recovery. Dorow serves as the adviser to fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. Alumni of Chi Phi have also donated money to assist the Seale family with their expenses.