Sam Houston Spotlight: David Cliff

He’s just one of the many familiar faces seen around campus-you probably walk past him without even giving a thought to his background. In fact, you might even miss the reality that he has been through much more than the average college student.

So, what is it about David Cliff that makes him so different than other Bearkats?

He started off with a fairly common childhood: born in Houston, the youngest of seven children. Cliff swam for Cy Creek High School, where he graduated from, and then spent some time in Denver with his sister while he attended community college.

His family’s military background, as well as his desire for “more adventure in life,” were the main contributing factors to his decision to join the military at age 19.

He was educated in multiple areas, including dealing with explosive threats and Underwater Mine Countermeasures.

He had almost completed his training in Chicago and was serving his training position when his life took a drastic change. Cliff was involved in a training accident in which he drowned.

Fortunately, his friend saved his life by performing CPR to get him breathing again. Cliff remembers feeling “severe pain; [he] couldn’t breathe and then everything suddenly got real clear.”

Now conscious, Cliff had survived; however, the direct physical injury to his lungs caused him to develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).

Cliff was immediately transferred to the Houston Memorial Hermann Hospital for their exceptional lung and respiratory specialty.

According to the ARDS Support brochure, only “60 percent of ARDS victims recover to leave the hospital.”

Doctors were worried about Cliff’s condition, so they decided the best action was to send him into a drug-induced coma until they could get his lungs to produce enough oxygen to support his entire body on their own.

Cliff described how the drugs sent him into Skeletal Muscular Paralysis, “where all muscles stop working, except for the heart and brain.”

Most of Cliff’s muscles deteriorated during his coma, dropping him from 180 pounds to 120 pounds, losing the strength he had earned in the military.

During the four weeks that Cliff was in a coma, he experienced many hallucinations and vivid dreams caused by the medicines that doctors were giving him.

When doctors decided that it was safe enough to bring him out of his coma, they gave him Dopamine, forcing him to wake up violently.

After spending a month in Intensive Care, Cliff spent another three months in the Recovery Center. Due to his immobility while in the coma, Cliff also developed Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in his lower left leg. DVT is when a blood clot develops in a deep vein, or inside a blood vessel, which can ultimately be very dangerous. DVT actually caused his nerve impulse to be cut off, causing even more setbacks.

Also, the previous lack of oxygen in his blood flow caused mild brain damage, but there is no way for doctors to know exactly how much.

Cliff now makes excellent grades and has a full-functioning memory, but one of the most obvious effects is that he recurrently makes mistakes with days of the week.

Not only did Cliff have to go through an enormous amount of medical distress, but he was also given a RE-4 Honorable Medical Discharge, preventing him from ever joining the military again, as well as from receiving any benefits from his time in service.

One of his biggest supporters through this experience was his mother, who unfortunately died in a car accident soon after his physical recovery.

So many traumatic events happened to Cliff in such a short amount of time; many 23-year olds spend their time worrying about the next big party, while he had to focus on the theory that “suffering makes you stronger.”

He believes that “life has its ups and downs,” and he refuses “to let the little things in life affect [him].”

While admitting that he knows he is not the same person he was before the accident, Cliff has accepted the turns his life has taken, and is now a sophomore here at Sam, with his current aspirations being to finish his finance degree and become a stockbroker.

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