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Union County burn victim graduates from CATA

Ryan Frias receives his High School Diploma from CATA Principal, Rod Miller during a ceremony in his room at the NC Burn Center in Chapel Hill.

Ryan Frias survived a wreck in December that left nearly 80 percent of his body badly burned.

On Friday (October 23, 2009), he graduated from CATA while still a patient at the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

Frias, who turns 19 on Sunday, was injured in a wreck on New Salem Road in Union County. His girlfriend, Kristin Urbigkit, 19, was driving and died in the wreck. The state Highway Patrol said speed was a factor.

Frias sustained third- and fourth-degree burns. The first thing he remembers is waking up at the burn center and arguing with a custodian about what day it was. “She said it was late March … and I was arguing that, no, it was like Dec. 7 or so,” he said.

“I’ve seen a lot on tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Ain’t nothing in my life that ever prepared me to see my son that way,” Frias's father, Greg, said.

Union County burn victim graduates high schoolWATCH VIDEO
Burn victim gets diploma while still a patient

Despite his injuries, Frias said, he stayed focused on his goal to graduate Central Academy of Technology & Arts, Union County’s first magnet-based high school.

“I wanted to be part of the very first graduating class of my school,” Frias said.

So, between skin-graft surgeries and other procedures, Frias studied.

Before the wreck, he was scheduled to graduate with his class in June.

On Friday, he reached his goal, earning his diploma.

“Just because I’m a little handicapped now, I’m not going to let it stop me,” Frias said.

Burn Center doctors said they’ve never had anyone graduate while still a patient there.

Frias could soon leave the burn center. He said he plans to move to another hospital closer to his father on the West Coast.

Written by: Beau Minnik - WRAL Channel 5 News, Raleigh NC
Posted: Oct 27, 2009 by Deb Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator

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