Meg Kulikowski’21
April 12, 2024

Recovery, Spirit, and Light

When Quisi Rodriguez-Oregel’21 was involved in a nearly fatal accident, multiple alumni stepped up to help her and her family, creating lifelong bonds in the process.

You could describe Quisi Rodriguez-Oregel’21 and her twin sister Zimri as typical Beloit students: bright, involved, and well-known on campus. Quisi, who graduated magna cum laude, was an international relations major with minors in Spanish and anthropology, a senior class officer, McNair Scholar, and an active participant in various student organizations.

Friends Kiara Davis'21, Quisi, Aryssa Harris'21, and Sophie Glaubius'21. Friends Kiara Davis’21, Quisi, Aryssa Harris’21, and Sophie Glaubius’21.In 2019, a Beloit sophomore shadowing program landed the twins in Denver, Colorado to meet Ben Galloway’62 — a former football and basketball player and member of the ’89 Council — and his wife Jean, whose home in Aurora is a hub for Beloiters. After hosting Quisi and Zimri and introducing them and their cohort to businesses, nonprofits, and other area workplaces, Ben and Jean kept in touch. When Quisi decided to move to Denver to pursue her master’s in anthropology, the Galloways were the first people she called.

“She regarded us as extended family,” Jean says. (Quisi and Zimri now refer to her as Grandma Jean.) “We helped her get settled. I introduced her to some people, made sure she knew the public transportation system, and got her situated with a bike. She became almost like our own granddaughter. We looked after her until I had a sense that she was comfortable and making friends at the University of Denver, where she was focusing on her master’s and assisting a couple of professors.”

A few months went by without any news, which Jean took as a sign that Quisi was feeling settled. On Aug. 29, Jean got a call from Zimri, who told her that Quisi had been hit by a bus while walking to school. The bus had continued moving, its tires going over her not once but twice, fracturing ribs and dozens of other bones throughout her body.

Quisi was rushed to Denver Health where she began the first of 12 surgeries. The medical staff was not sure if she would survive. Quisi was awake when she was first admitted to the hospital, but spent the better part of the next two weeks highly sedated, unconscious, and fighting infections.

Instantly, Beloiters stepped in. Ben and Jean offered to host Quisi’s mother, Maribel Oregel, who came from Inglewood, California, to care for Quisi, and Zimri and her fiance Alex, who arrived from Chicago. “We became family,” Jean says. “Our house became their home away from home.”

Maribel had heard of Jean and Ben’s kindness from her daughters years ago, but was nonetheless amazed by their generosity and hospitality. “The first day I met Jean, I went to her house and I stayed there,” says Maribel. “She said, ‘I don’t know you, but I feel like I know you because of Quisi and Zimri.’ The next morning, when I woke up, she had already made breakfast for me, and made lunch and cookies for me and Quisi.”

Ben regularly gave Maribel rides to the hospital, and after visiting hours, he and Jean would greet her when she came home. They took turns visiting Quisi, bringing her gifts and flowers, as did Quisi’s professors from the University of Denver. “My eyes would get teary from the amount of care and love Jean showed,” says Maribel. “She has a great heart and she’s like an angel on earth.”

The Galloways’ Beloit connections didn’t end there. A former doctor at Denver Health, Ben had worked with the trauma surgeon who was on call for Quisi’s first surgery and knew other members of the trauma team. When Maribel told Ben one day that she was worried about Quisi’s fever and chills, Ben contacted the team to ask them to check her for infection.

Ben and Jean had already planned to fly to their alma mater for Beloiter Days in late September and they didn’t want Maribel to be home alone. Astonishingly, they were already acquainted with Dr. Connie Savor Price’91, who happens to be Denver Health’s chief medical officer. They asked if she could be Maribel’s point of contact in case she had any questions.

In true Beloiter fashion, Connie then offered her own home — and an almost nightly ritual of talking about the day over a glass of wine — to Maribel while the Galloways were away.

“Connie greeted me with a hug as if I were a relative she hadn’t seen in a long time,” says Maribel.

Quisi was determined to attend her twin’s wedding in Chicago at the end of October. Maribel and Zimri wanted to keep her spirits high, but knew that her care team didn’t expect her to be discharged for at least another few weeks.

“The doctors would ask how she felt, and she’d say her pain was one or zero,” says Maribel. “With all her injuries, there’s no way she would have been feeling good. That’s when I thought she was going to be out of there sooner. She was the one doing everything. Her body was responding well to treatments because she was so positive and strong.”

After a month and a half of tests, surgeries, physical therapy sessions, mental health check-ins, and daily medical miracles, Quisi left the hospital in October, weeks before her doctors and nurses initially expected. That night, Connie hosted Quisi, Maribel, and the Galloways for dinner, toasting to what Jean called “Quisi’s wonderful recovery, spirit, and light.”

Quisi and Perciat their sister Zimri's wedding. Quisi (right) and Perci (left) at their sister Zimri's wedding.To everyone’s surprise and delight, Connie presented Quisi with a floor-length black gown — something she says she had in her closet that she thought might work for the wedding. It fit perfectly. Quisi attended Zimri’s wedding in the black dress, a wheelchair, and wearing a boot on one foot. Connie shared the good news with Quisi’s trauma team via email.

“Quisi had so many touches in the system,” Connie says. “So many of our healthcare workers saw her every day, over and over. She’s an especially warm human. Everyone was rooting for her and wanted to know if she made it to the wedding. They knew it was her goal. I got great responses — everyone was so happy. Sometimes, in healthcare, we see the hard things, so to see a picture of a patient who was struggling now looking so elegant and smiling and being where she wanted to be [was powerful].”

Now using a wheelchair or a walker to get around, Quisi is expected to regain most of her mobility over the next year. She completed all of her coursework and is returning to the University of Denver, possibly in a virtual capacity, to defend her thesis this spring. She’s currently living with Maribel at home, and with the help of physical therapy and rest, she’s getting stronger every day.

Maribel is grateful for the Beloit alumni who have cared for her and her daughter and treated them like family.

“They made all of our lives better,” she says. “Having to stop working, going over there and not knowing anyone or the area, I knew I had to figure it all out. I wanted to be there with my daughter. Having them, their hospitality and care and love, was the best thing that’s happened to me in my life.

“Somebody being there when you need them, especially when they didn’t know you before, is something so special. It changes you.”

Quisi, Maribel, Connie, and Jean celebrate Quisi's recovery. Quisi, Maribel, Connie, and Jean celebrate Quisi's recovery.Connie was stunned by the coincidences of Quisi’s journey to recovery and deeply inspired by how the Galloways, like other Beloiters she knows, jumped in to help.

“I’m always impressed by the small number but long history of alumni,” she says. “You can find them in all corners of life in unexpected places. I was so impressed with how everyone rallied around Quisi and how powerful our network is. Thank you, Beloit, for bringing us all together.”


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