Amfahr shows perseverance, dedication to studies

Erika Amfahr knows what it must be like to be dead.

On Jan. 13, 2007, Amfahr was driving to her hometown of Grundy Center during a winter storm. Twelve miles from home, an oncoming van lost control and hit her head on.

“All of the sudden I literally felt like I was dead,” Amfahr said. “It felt like I was on a school bus and God was the driver. I thought maybe this was a dream, maybe I’m going to wake up, but I didn’t.”

Amfahr was in the intensive care unit at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, where she remained for the next five weeks. She was transferred to On With Life in Ankeny, a brain-injury rehabilitation center that became home for the next five and a half months.

When first admitted to On With Life, Amfahr could not walk. The staff worked to help her with balance and stability to get her on her feet again, along with her voice and general knowledge. The bizarre part, however, is that Amfahr has no recollection of being at On With Life for the first several months she was there.

“It wasn’t until the last week or two of On With Life that I fully snapped out of it and was like ‘OK, I’m here,'” Amfahr said. “I honestly don’t recall any of it. I remember people, and what they helped me do, but I literally felt like I was there for two weeks.”

When her time at On With Life was complete, Amfahr went home to her family.

“We debated whether we should get another house because she was very limited, but our home was the only thing she really remembered,” Amfahr’s mother Cathy said. “It was scary after leaving such a protective environment, but it was wonderful to have her home again.”

She began therapy at Covenant in nearby Waterloo, as well as classes through UNI’s speech and hearing clinic, with hopes of returning to school one day. Covenant worked on Amfahr’s thinking and memorization skills and tested her speed at answering questions just as she would have to at school.

“All students can learn something from her past,” said Marilyn Mueller, Amfahr’s academic adviser and a professor of management. “They can see how hard she’s working to get what some people take for granted.”

Amfahr returned to Simpson in Fall 2008. She was previously a valuable member of the Storm volleyball team, and was even recognized by The Simpsonian as a freshman as “a name you will all become familiar with over the next four years.” Amfahr still contributes to Simpson sports, though, by working with the athletic communication office.

Amfahr is majoring in management and hopes to use that degree to pursue a passion of hers.

“Honestly, what I want to go into is clothing,” Amfahr said. “It’s always been an interest to me and I’ve done some internship work through a clothing store.”

Mueller said that Amfahr will be successful regardless of what she does with her future.

“She is a remarkable young woman,” Mueller said. “With her determination, a community of support here at Simpson College, and her incredible hard work, she is going to make it happen.”