Oct. 12 will mark two months since the four-car collision that left City College President Michael Gutierrez with a concussion, a lacerated liver, four compressed back fractures and 15 fractured ribs.
In an Oct. 1 email to the City College community, Gutierrez announced his return to campus on a limited basis.
“I am starting off really part-time—four hours a day,” said Gutierrez, the faintest scar still visible on his forehead. “I can tell you that day one while I felt fine, by the end of the day I was pretty tired, I was pretty whipped actually.”
After six weeks of focusing on his healing at home, the president is on the mend and adjusting to being back on campus.
“As I was walking into the building, it was [with] some mixed emotions because it was a little bit of excitement mixed with nervousness mixed with even a little bit of doubt—not in my abilities as much as ‘Am I going to get tired after 30 minutes? Am I going to stay focused during the entire day?’ Am I going to be able to connect the dots with information like i used to before?’” said Gutierrez.
”Once I made my way up the stairs, I saw two or three people that smiled at me when I came in, and all of those emotions I had kind of went away and changed to just joy being here. I’m really happy to be back.”
Gutierrez said that while he has made significant progress as far as his healing is concerned, he is still taking things day by day.
“Everything has healed from the outside, for the most part,” said Gutierrez. “I’ve got some scars on different parts of my face and my arms and my back. It’s really the inside that’s still not quite right. But it is what it is right now. I’m grateful.”
“You just kind of plug away day in and day out and you try to keep negativity out of your head and thats what im trying to do,” said Gutierrez. “Even as bad as it was, it still could have been worse.”
Gutierrez said that the amount of love and support he received during his time recovering after the accident was heartwarming and overwhelming.
“My family has been really just tremendous and really supportive and helpful. The college community have all been incredibly supportive, and it’s ranged from cards, emails, flowers to people cooking meals for me and the family,” said Gutierrez.
“It was so helpful because sometimes it’s hard to say yes—we have a lot of pride, and were like, ‘What have we done to deserve this attention?’ But people are genuinely giving individuals. My family and I talked a lot about this, and we know that if one of our loved ones or friends were in this situation, we would be giving, too. We just happened to be in this situation, and it’s OK to say, ‘Yes, thank you.’”
Gutierrez’s vehicle was rear-ended on the Yolo Causeway as he was enroute to City College’s Davis Center. He got behind the wheel for the first time last week since the accident and said he felt like a teenager who had just started driving.
“It had been awhile,” he admitted. “I had some butterflies getting on the road. I drove to go get a haircut with my son, and on the drive back I really didn’t even think about it, so it was better.”
Since Gutierrez has been back on campus for eight days, he said he is starting to feel settled in. He said that while he isn’t quite where he was physically before the collision and still has some healing to do, he knows he will recover.
“I really feel like I’m back at Sac City and an employee, and I really feel part of the college again,” said Gutierrez. “It took a little bit because I just didn’t have the endurance—and I still don’t—but I’ll ease myself in little by little.”