Senior’s resilience drives triumphant return

November 20, 2014

Jordan Zides ’15 is not your everyday guy. While he crushes on Scarlett Johansson, can spend an entire day watching sports on TV and will never turn down a date to dinner and a movie, he has overcome a greater challenge than most will ever face in their lives.

On July 25, the summer after his first year at Brandeis, Zides, a member of the men’s soccer team, was in the back seat of a car that crossed the double yellow line and hit a car. The accident put Jordan in a coma for four weeks, collapsed both of his lungs and left him with a lacerated spleen. Although his chances of a nearly full recovery were only five percent, after waking from his coma he began the year-long rehabilitation process that helped him find his way back to Brandeis.

During the course of the following year, rather than attending school, Jordan went through a series of physical and cognitive rehabilitation programs. In the accident, he injured the right half of his brain, thus significantly decreasing his physical ability on the left side of his body. Additionally, he suffered from major short-term memory loss.

“In the hospital, they had to teach me how to use my left leg and my left arm,” Jordan explained. While a full recovery such as Jordan’s is rare, because he had been training for the upcoming Brandeis soccer season, he had been extremely fit, and his body was able to recover. “In the beginning, I literally had to lift up my left leg,” said Jordan. While the process was daunting, he could not have done it without his physical therapist at the hospital in New York City. “I still talk to my physical therapist and speech woman monthly just because I give them all the credit in the world.”

On top of his physical recovery, Jordan worked diligently on recovering his short-term memory. Every week, he practiced writing essays, played memory games and worked on mental puzzles. While at times Jordan still has trouble piecing together what he did the day before, he has come a long way from not remembering what he ate for dinner the next morning. Yet as much as Jordan credits his trainers for his recovery, it is his positive attitude and perseverance that have proven to distinguish him from his peers.

After returning to Brandeis, Jordan refused to give up on the soccer team, which he felt so dedicated to. Although he could not play, he attended practice every day and helped in any capacity he could. At the end of the season before the team left for NCAAs, Coach Michael Coven and Gabe Margolis made an announcement to the team that Jordan was going to be an official assistant coach. “Regardless, I would have come every day, and I think Coach Coven and Gabe knew that,” Jordan explained.

Although at times it has been fun coaching his peers, Jordan is making the most of his experience as assistant coach. “I am part of practice more than a player is,” said Jordan. In addition to attending all practices and games, Jordan sits in on coaches’ meetings, gives the coaches insight and serves as a link between the players and the coaches. “I am able to get messages through that maybe, if you’re a younger kid and you don’t want to tell Coach, you tell me,” Jordan said.

As a senior this year, Jordan’s role on the team is even greater than it has been in past years. Because he missed a year of school after his accident, he is a year older than all of the men on the team now. Reflecting on the season and the upcoming rounds in the NCAA tournament, Jordan believes the team has a good chance of going all the way. “I think we are good enough to at the least get past the first round of the sweet 16. I think this game versus Amherst on Saturday has just a lot of people confident and motivated about Brandeis soccer.”

When asked about the upcoming game against Amherst College this weekend, Jordan said, “I hope we just play our style. I just hope that—I know we are going to—stay to our game and keep the ball on the ground and move it like I know we can. If we do, I think there is going to be no issue with winning this weekend.”

While Jordan has accomplished so much at Brandeis as assistant coach for the men’s soccer team, academically and socially, he has proven to be one of the strongest, most inspirational students at Brandeis. He looks back on his accident and recognizes how lucky he is to be where he is today. Rather than stepping back and letting the accident define his life, Jordan has taken two steps forward and is someone the university can be proud to have as a student. Although he graduates in the spring, he will continue to forge forward and work to become the broadcaster for the New York Mets, a job he dreams of having one day.

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