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Liz Mikell, Graduate Student in Speech Language Pathology

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Liz Mikell
Liz Mikell

Liz Mikell does not remember the first day of summer vacation following her sophomore year of high school, when she and a friend decided to drive to the lake and get an early start on their suntans. She has no memory of giggling with her friend as they turned into the neighborhood of the Gainesville, Georgia lake house where they planned to spend the day, nor can she recall the moment a Dodge Ram t-boned the passenger side of the small Nissan in which she was riding.

She may not have any memories of the event that forever changed her life, but Liz has spent the past six years recovering from its effects. There was a time when her parents thought she would never return to high school, but she graduated from UF in May with highest honors and enters graduate school in the fall to pursue a master’s in speech language pathology. “I have experienced the power of speech therapy and what it can do, so I really empathize with the people I am going to serve,” she says.

Following the accident, Liz was reverted to infancy. She had to relearn how to hold her head up, walk and talk. She immersed herself in therapy and was able to return to high school in the fall only a month behind, for the first time as a straight-A student. She graduated from UF in May 2006 with a bachelor’s in communication sciences and disorders having only earned one B+ her entire four years of college. She plans to work with brain injury patients and has accepted a graduate assistantship through her department, as well as a position as a speech language assistant at Tacachale, the oldest and largest community for the developmentally disabled in Florida.

As an undergraduate at UF, Liz worked as a research assistant in the lab of Lori Altmann, an assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders. She is a member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, where she met her boyfriend of nearly four years, Eric McKinney, a 2002 UF political science alumnus. She is also a member of Signing Gators, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Golden Key International Honors Society.

“Liz is so special, she has worked so hard,” says her mother, Beth Splichal. “The hope of every parent of a child with a severe brain injury is for them to have independence, but every story doesn’t turn out this way. It’s just remarkable. She’s my miracle child. I am so proud of her.”

Liz believes she was spared for a reason, and plans to spend the rest of her life serving others. “After all that happened it took me years to get to where I’m at now,” she says. “It is just such a blessing I am even walking and able to go to college.”

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