In 2008, AJ Chorbak of Philadelphia was preparing to attend graduation and receive his master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism.

But after a routine doctor’s appointment, Chorbak’s plans changed. His doctor discovered a heart murmur, the result of a hereditary heart defect that required immediate valve replacement surgery.

Chorbak’s doctors gave him a good prognosis and said to expect a short recovery.

Despite being told he would have plenty of time to complete his coursework, Chorbak wasn’t taking any chances.

He told his doctors, “just let me turn in my graduate thesis project first. That way, if I die, at least I’ll know I earned my master’s.”

Chorbak passed his final course and was approved for graduation from the IMC program.

However, while recuperating in the hospital after his surgery, he contracted MRSA, a difficult-to-treat infection. This caused a series of six strokes, which robbed Chorbak of large chunks of his memory and left him convinced that the year was 1993. He had no recollection of his girlfriend, his three English bulldogs or earning his master’s degree.

What was to be a week’s hospital stay turned into four-and-a-half months, followed by another four-and-a-half months of rehabilitation. Chorbak learned to read, write and walk again. It was only through photographs and other memory aids that he was able to piece together his past – and his present.

A friend and fellow IMC student showed him a photograph of the two of them together, and that helped Chorbak remember his graduate school career.

While in rehabilitation, Chorbak began his own grassroots promotion and marketing business, Promotions R Us. He looks forward to continuing his career in marketing and would eventually like to work for a university.

Now rehabilitated and with his career on track, Chorbak plans to complete his graduate degree the way he always intended – by walking across the stage at the School of Journalism Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 16 at the WVU Creative Arts Center.

“Being part of graduation was always something I wanted to do,” Chorbak said. “Now I finally can.”


CONTACT: Angela Lindley, Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism
304-293-3505 ext. 5432