After serious accident, UNK senior Robert Messbarger ready to serve others

Robert Messbarger, seriously injured in an accident three years ago, graduates from the University of Nebraska at Kearney May 4. “I think it’s apparent to anybody who looks at my story the role that God played, that faith played,” said Messbarger, who had a metal visor clip of St. Michael in his pickup the day of the crash.
Robert Messbarger, seriously injured in an accident three years ago, graduates from the University of Nebraska at Kearney May 4. “I think it’s apparent to anybody who looks at my story the role that God played, that faith played,” said Messbarger, who had a metal visor clip of St. Michael in his pickup the day of the crash. (Photo by Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications)

By TYLER ELLYSON
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Robert Messbarger doesn’t remember the accident that nearly claimed his life.

It was March 10, 2015, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney student, then a freshman, was heading to his parents’ home north of Kearney.

As Robert Messbarger's 2001 Nissan pickup slowed along Highway 10 to make the turn onto West 92nd Street, the vehicle was struck from behind by a semitrailer. That collision pushed his pickup into the southbound lane, where it was hit by an SUV before coming to rest in a crumpled pile on the highway’s west shoulder.
As Robert Messbarger’s 2001 Nissan pickup slowed along Highway 10 to make the turn onto West 92nd Street, the vehicle was struck from behind by a semitrailer. That collision pushed his pickup into the southbound lane, where it was hit by an SUV before coming to rest in a crumpled pile on the highway’s west shoulder. (Photo Courtesy, Robert Messbarger)

As his 2001 Nissan pickup slowed along Highway 10 to make the turn onto West 92nd Street, the vehicle was struck from behind by a semitrailer hauling a backhoe. That collision pushed his pickup into the southbound lane, where it was hit by an SUV before coming to rest in a crumpled pile on the highway’s west shoulder.

Messbarger suffered a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury, two collapsed lungs, multiple pelvis fractures and two fractured vertebrae, which damaged nerves in his right leg. He spent five days in a medically-induced coma, underwent several blood transfusions and had a steel plate and rod surgically inserted to stabilize his pelvis and vertebrae.

He didn’t leave the hospital for three weeks.

“Sometimes it seems a little surreal to think about the condition I was in and look at the pictures,” said Messbarger, who knows he’s lucky to be alive.

The Kearney Catholic graduate has come a long way over the past three years.

The steel rod and plate were removed within a year and he started running again five months after the crash. Within 18 months, he was back to 100 percent – or as close to it as he can expect.

Messbarger still experiences minor back pain, as well as hearing loss and tinnitus in his left ear.

“Those are things I know I’m going to have to live with the rest of my life,” he said.

But he’s not complaining, and he’s not angry about the accident that late-winter afternoon.

“I’m very thankful for where I’m at,” said Messbarger, whose father Rob is a family physician at Family Practice Associates and mother Lora is a preschool teacher in Kearney.

The former high school athlete who could barely get into a wheelchair during the initial stages of his rehabilitation will walk across the stage May 4 at UNK’s Health and Sports Center to receive his degree in criminal justice.

It’s a moment many people helped make possible, starting with the first responders who freed him from the crushed pickup and rushed him to CHI Health Good Samaritan – a process that took just 21 minutes from the time the emergency call went out.

Robert Messbarger was seriously injured in a 2015 car accident while a freshman at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He graduates from UNK May 4 with a degree in criminal justice. (Photo by Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications)
Robert Messbarger was seriously injured in a 2015 car accident while a freshman at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He graduates from UNK May 4 with a degree in criminal justice. (Photo by Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications)

“It was incredible if you think about the whole response,” said Messbarger, who is quick to thank the firefighters, paramedics and medical staff involved. Physical therapists and family members joined in during his recovery.

Messbarger, an Omaha World-Herald/Kearney Hub scholarship recipient and Honors Program member, was able to maintain his academic standing with assistance from UNK faculty and staff members. He finished two spring courses from home following the accident then enrolled in 12 credit hours the following semester to catch up.

“I can’t say enough about how much UNK worked with me and how appreciative I am,” he said.

Messbarger, a member of the Alpha Phi Sigma criminal justice honor society, is also heavily involved with the Catholic Newman Center at UNK, where he assists with mowing, snow removal and maintenance as part of the grounds committee and helps with retreats and other activities.

The 21-year-old believes faith played a big part in saving his life.

“I think it’s apparent to anybody who looks at my story the role that God played, that faith played,” said Messbarger, who had a metal visor clip of St. Michael in his pickup the day of the crash.

The UNK senior previously hoped to become a military pilot after graduating from college. He got his pilot’s license in high school and had his sights set on the U.S. Marine Corps.

However, because of the head trauma he sustained and the possibility of long-term effects such as seizures, Messbarger must wait five years from the accident date before the Federal Aviation Administration will give him medical clearance to return to the cockpit. By then, he said, a military career is likely a long shot.

Messbarger, who interned with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, still plans to serve the public.

He’s applying for law enforcement jobs now with hopes of getting hired this summer and starting the 15-week state training academy next fall.

“Hopefully, I’ll be in a position where I can help others,” he said.

-30-

Robert Messbarger, seriously injured in an accident three years ago, graduates from the University of Nebraska at Kearney May 4. “I think it’s apparent to anybody who looks at my story the role that God played, that faith played,” said Messbarger, who had a metal visor clip of St. Michael in his pickup the day of the crash.
Robert Messbarger, seriously injured in an accident three years ago, graduates from the University of Nebraska at Kearney May 4. “I think it’s apparent to anybody who looks at my story the role that God played, that faith played,” said Messbarger, who had a metal visor clip of St. Michael in his pickup the day of the crash.

11 thoughts on “After serious accident, UNK senior Robert Messbarger ready to serve others

  1. What a great story about a fantastic person! Robert, your story is an inspiring one!

  2. Robert is a great role model for anyone who meets him and knows him. In the fall of the same year of his accident he helped with the middle school youth program, Edge, at Prince of Peace Catholic Church. That was also my first year as a Youth Minister. I didn’t know Robert very well, but his name was suggested as a someone who might be interested in being one of the leaders. He proved to be a great asset for the youth programs at Prince of Peace and the Kearney community as well. I can go on and on about the person I have watched him be and the development of his character traits, but I don’t want his head to get any bigger. Hahaha.
    I’m glad he was chosen to have an article written about his story! Congratulations Robert on another accomplishment.

  3. We heard about your accident from Kearney friends and followed your recovery with prayers. Glad for the update and your return to health!

  4. Just read your story Robert on my iPad. It is an amazing story and you are an amazing fellow. Wishing you the very best and your grandma and grandpa will keep us all informed about your future. God bless! Marvin and Sharon Rall

  5. Robert,
    You are truly amazing and inspiring. I was there the day of the accident and it is obvious that God has bigger plans for you. I wish you all of God’s blessings.

  6. It is apparent that our God was with Robert at the time of the accident, has always been with him and will always be with him. His faith is great.

  7. Robert, you are such a great person. You have heard this so many times I am sure. But to know you and experience your visits and hugs is a blessing to us. In your chosen field, God will travel with you, but don’t ever push it. We all love you. Hugs ALWAYS.

  8. Robert, may God continue to bless you as he guides your life.

    Dr. Sherry Crow

  9. Robert,

    Best wishes for your future. It was a pleasure having you in class and any law enforcement agency will be lucky to have you. There is no doubt there will be great things in your future.

    Dr. Wiersma

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.