The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

62° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Student injured abroad returns to campus after 6-month recovery

Robert Alcaraz/Arizona Daily Wildcat Iustin McCarthy-Contreras, who was injured abroad six months ago, has recently returned to the UA.

Few students studying abroad have to be evacuated and flown to UAMC.

But that’s what happened to Iustin Contreras, a pre-business junior, after a motorcycle accident in Nicaragua put him into an eight-day coma followed by months of recovery. Contreras is now back to attending classes after taking the past spring semester to recover.

On December 12, 2012, Contreras and two other students who were studying abroad in Antigua, Guatemala decided to take a weekend trip to Managua, Nicaragua to celebrate the end of their program. Contreras was a passenger on a motorcycle when it collided head-on with another motorcycle whose driver was intoxicated and driving without headlights.

The Costa Rican man Conteras was with died instantly. Contreras was left unconscious, with a half-broken femur, a kneecap broken in a five different places, and a severe brain injury. He was in a coma for more than a week.

Contreras has since returned to the UA, and is taking art history and astrobiology.

Due to damage to his brain, Contreras has been going through speech and physical therapy, and has worked with the UA’s Aphasia Research Project. Diane McCarthy, Contreras’s mother, said their family has remained hopeful throughout the recovery process.

“He could hardly say what was on his plate, and now he’s back at U of A,” she said. “It has been miracle after miracle.”

Contreras’s doctors told him that it normally takes patients with brain injuries about two years before they start readjusting to everyday life, but he has already moved on in one year.

Doctors in both Nicaragua and the U.S. said that Contreras is lucky he’s young, because his age gives him a better chance of a faster recovery process.

Contreras originally pursued Latin American studies but then changed his major to business. He is currently a student of the Eller College of Management.

After going through such a traumatic event, Contreras said he feels that by following his passion for international business, he can help others seeking to travel around the country.

“The reason I was left here is that I need to do a lot to change how people travel,” he said.

More to Discover
Activate Search