As Joshua Kolsrud drifted in and out of consciousness, his left arm cut to the bone after being stabbed, the Arizona State University student kept thinking "Oh my God, my parents are going to kill me."
"I guess it was God’s way of telling me I was going to live to see them," the 23-year-old said.
After 16 surgeries, numerous skin grafts and nerve transplants, Kolsrud continues recovering from the Feb. 13, 2002, attack that rendered his left arm practically useless.
"It’s indescribable," Kolsrud said. "Being in a state of pain and helplessness you tend to cling to certain goals."
Like finishing college and becoming a lawyer. On Thursday Kolsrud will graduate summa cum laude with a degree in business. He plans to attend law school at either the University of Miami or the University of Arizona.
"He’s tenacious," Kolsrud’s mother, Nancy, said. "If he sets a goal for himself, it’s very hard for him to get off track."
Kolsrud withdrew from ASU during the spring 2002 semester. Against the advice of doctors, he took a class during the summer to see if he had the stamina to go back to school in the fall.
When he returned to ASU, Kolsrud wanted to be treated like any other student, said Hoskie Largo, a disabilities specialist.
"He qualified for certain accommodations, but refused them," Largo said.
Kolsrud was having a drink with friends at the nowdefunct Have a Nice Day Cafe on Mill Avenue in Tempe when he was confronted and stabbed by a man who bumped into him.
The attack and aftermath set Kolsrud down a different path, one that "nobody ever would have expected, including me," his mother said. He’s much more open and empathetic and he "grew in more ways than a lot of people do in a lifetime," she said.
These days Kolsrud would rather sit in a coffee shop discussing philosophy and bioethics than hang out in a bar. He wrote his honors thesis on stem cell research, and plans to get a masters in bioethics while pursuing a law degree.
"Everything happens for a reason," Kolsrud said. "I thought I was invincible. I took a lot of things in life for granted."