Three years ago, four Grinnell students left a Mardi Gras celebration in St. Louis to drive through the night back to Grinnell. Just outside of Iowa City, the student driving the car dozed off, and the car rolled into a ditch, sending two students, Liza Colburn ’09 and Yuki Goto (formerly ’08), through the car’s back window.
Though the other students involved in the accident recovered quickly and returned to school, Goto sustained a traumatic brain injury, was in a coma for two weeks, underwent brain surgery, and after three years is still at the Rusk Institute, an expensive state-of-the-art rehab center in New York City.
Goto will be beginning his last cycle of rehab treatments this month. “At the end of every cycle the doctors reevaluate him and recommend if he should come back or not and this should be the last one that he needs,” said Jelal Younes ’08, a friend of Goto’s. “It’s basically just semesters like college semesters.”
The rehab process has been long and draining not only for Goto, who works constantly to regain physical, emotional and mental capacity, but also for his family, who work with Goto to find sources of funding for the extremely expensive treatment.
In order to raise money for his rehabilitation program, in November 2008 Goto decided to run the New York Marathon, which he completed in a time of four hours and 43 minutes.
After the success of the New York Marathon, Goto has entered into the Boston Marathon, to take place on April 20, 2009 to raise funding for the costs of his final semester. “Since the 20-week program of the rehab costs and living expense sum up to 64,050 dollars it is very difficult for me and family to afford for me to continue this training,” Goto wrote in an email to his friends and family.
“[Goto’s] story shows both what an individual and community are capable of. Grinnell supported Yuki when he needed us,” said close friend Ben Schrager ’08. “Then Yuki drew on the support of us, his family, and his own determination to overcome his deficits. He is still a part of Grinnell.”
After his accident, a group of Grinnellians came together and created the Friends of Yuki group in order to spread awareness about Goto and his situation. The Friends of Yuki group and Grinnellians at large have greatly contributed to financing Goto’s rehabilitation to this point. Efforts have included presenting an art show exhibiting some of Goto’s photographs and arranging a FogFast program. As Goto looks to begin his final semester at the Rusk Institute, funds are now critical to his completion and hopes for maximum recovery.
Goto’s primary goal is to return to Grinnell to finish his degree, and to get back to his old life. “This last semester is crucial for him and would be the difference between coming back to college or not,” said Younes. “[The Rusk Institute] is expensive, but it’s really helping him get back to be in school. And that’s really where he needs to be.”
As his marathon and poetry (see sidebar) evidence, Yuki has made significant progress in regaining personal skills and self. “Every time I see him, it’s just leaps and bounds in his progress,” said Younes. “And as far as his personality, it’s all back, so it’s been great to see him because it’s been a slow process.”
All of these steps of recovery are helping to piece back together the a person Schrager calls “selfless” and “amazingly generous.”
“I remember before the accident, Yuki told me his life goal was to save one African orphan’s life,” Schrager recalled.
Donations are greatly appreciated and can be directed to www.firstgiving.com/yukigoto. For more information about Goto and his progress, visit teamyuki.org or www.friendsofyuki.org.