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From Wheelchair to Triathlon

Corey Davis, Runner, ONRP, Johns HopkinsFour years ago, as Corey Davis and his friends were ringing in the New Year they began talking about their goals for the year. Taking it in turn, they went around the room, each talking about the things they hoped the year would bring for them. When it was finally Davis's turn to speak, his goal left the room in silence.

"I want to run another triathlon," he said.

Davis had completed triathlons before. He grew up as one of those athletes for which sports came easy. But that night, his goal left his friends speechless because for the past seven months he had been wheelchair bound.

In June of 2006, Davis was in a motorcycle accident. Reconstruction of the accident revealed that the wheel of another car clipped the foot peg of Davis' motorcycle as the driver of the car and Davis both changed lanes at the same time. Davis was thrown off the bike sustaining a lacerated kidney, collapsed lung, crushed pelvis, four dislocated bones in his right hand that would eventually require external/visible pins and what Davis describes as "the most painful injury," a type four separated shoulder. But the most severe and lasting injury was a traumatic brain injury that, many years later, still has lingering affects.

The evening of the accident, Davis stopped breathing and had to be revived twice before being transported to the hospital. For seven weeks he remained in a coma. Just a few days after waking up, his first instinct was to attempt to go to the bathroom on his own.

"I was just lying there in bed and looking at the bathroom and thought, well it is only about six feet away, I can do that," Davis said. "I sort of pulled myself up and positioned myself on the edge of the bed and tried to stand up."

Unfortunately, he was not ready. He promptly fell over and had to spend the next several minutes trying to pull himself back on the bed enough to push the "nurse" button on the side of the bed. After that incident, he was strapped into the bed and a wheelchair anytime he was left alone.

The wheelchair became a constant for Davis and few people believed him when he said he would get up and walk again. But he believes there is an answer to his recovery.

"Everything is a process and does not just happen because you want it to," Davis said. "It is little improvements that add up to the bigger ones. When I was still in the chair, it was hard to imagine I would be able to walk. As I was trying to walk, I would have never dreamed that I would one day run. And even when I began running, I couldn't imagine I would run a half marathon less than five years after my accident."

Corey Davis, Runner, ONRP, Johns HopkinsBut he did. In the spring of 2011 Corey completed his first half marathon. It was not easy and it called for having a much different attitude then he had before his accident but he got it done.

“I was always a very competitive person and I would never have been satisfied with just finishing a race, I wanted to win,” Davis said, “Now I know that winning is out of the question and the goal is to finish the race. Now I compete against myself.”

The half marathon is just one more step in the many that have brought Davis five years further down the road of recovery.  The first real step for him happened last spring as he completed the Assateague Assault Sprint Triathlon.

Each year after Davis set that original New Year’s Eve goal, he renewed his vow to complete a triathlon.  His father and his closest friends believed that he could.  Unfortunately, during this time, his wife decided she couldn’t wait around any longer to see what would happen.

After his divorce, Davis faced a mental challenge he had not faced before.  Suddenly, he found himself living alone, unable to get anywhere on his own and facing problems he had not had to face since the accident.  He was not sure if he could do it.  Could he pay the mortgage and other bills while he was unemployed?  Could he take care of himself on a day to day basis?  He was not sure and for a short period of time Davis found himself falling into a depression.

As he continued to progress, moving from walking on his own to being able to train, running, biking and swimming, he began to feel better and believes that it is the fitness that has helped him to avoid the depression that while brought on by the circumstances of his wife leaving are a known side affect of traumatic brain injuries.

But he gets more out of training and racing than just a relief from stress and depression.

“What I get from them now is a sense of accomplishment,” Davis said, “I have to work harder than most people do to even train for them. And I know that even if my body wants to quit, I am not going to let it.”

In addition to the half marathon Davis completed this spring he has recently completed the One Mile Bay Challenge Swim, has signed up for a 100 mile bike ride through a very hilly Frederick County Maryland and is eyeing an iron distance Aqua Velo for the fall.

When he is asked whether these goals are a bit lofty, he reminds people that it is a process and sometimes that process is taking the first step, then the next and the next until he crosses the finish line.

Written by Ann Brennan
Freelance writer, Ann lives in Severna Park with her husband and three children. When not at the gym or running outside, she spends every free minute chasing a four-year-old or running her older children to soccer fields all over two states. Read more by Ann at Ann’s Running Commentary.  Follow her on Twitter as BrennanAnnie She can be contacted at .


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