home
RSS
July 19th, 2011
07:22 AM ET

Human Factor: Dreams change for accident victim

In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness or other hardship –- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. This week William Carter shares how a head-on collision changed his life's direction.

I was a sophomore in high school when I discovered what I wanted to do: work for the United Nations in some capacity.

From the moment I won my first award from the Model United Nations, I did everything I could to make sure that happened. I participated in more models, winning more awards, and even joined my school’s debate team to assist in my ability at discourse and just to look good on a college application.

I had it all set it out, a life plan that required a bachelor's degree from Wake Forest and a substantial SAT score to make sure that the first part was accessible.

On October 8, 2007, I was scheduled to retake the SAT’s. I had been working with a math tutor on improving my score, and I was confident that come Saturday, I would greatly increase my chances of making my dream come true.

But that was never going to happen, because on October 7, I was involved in a head-on collision with an SUV. I was catapulted out of my vehicle onto a stranger's lawn, suffered a seizure, and experienced a severe head injury.

Startled by the sounds of twisted metal, the homeowner rushed to the window to see the body of a boy, bloody and bruised, lying close to lifeless on her lawn. She rushed to the phone dialed 911, and dashed out to me, held my hand and prayed.

Put in an ambulance, I was rushed off to intensive care. The paramedics and soon the hospital doctors were not optimistic about my outcome. They consoled my parents and put me a coma, warning my family that even if I came out of it alive, I might not be the same person. I’m not, but we’ll deal with that later.

While comatose dreams danced through my brain, my parents and friends prayed for God’s healing hands. While I spent my nights with a oscillator churning my chest like a washing machine, my parents slept in the hospital, then in a camper in the parking lot.

The oscillator did my breathing for me, but after two weeks of being out of it, I opened my eyes to the Sufjan Stevens’ song “Chicago." The soulful melodies filled the air, as the medical staff smiled. That was the weekend.

On Monday, Dr. Weaver came in and leaned in to me, “Will, I’m going to ask you some yes or no questions. I need you to give a thumbs up if the answer's yes and thumbs down if the answer;'s no.” And, he proceeded to ask me a variety of simple questions, and my thumb went up and down.

The rain was falling outside, the pitter patter a welcoming symphony to return home, life’s sustainer announcing my return to life. There had been a drought and nothing seemed more appropriate for such a happy occasion than rain.

Dr. Weaver beamed as he came to my parents in the waiting room, “It’s a good day. It’s raining, and Will is responding to commands.”

It’s been a long road, and I’ve had my patience pushed and resolve tested, but now, I’m a senior at Oglethorpe University, pushing myself academically, proudly strutting a 3.887 GPA and membership in the Omicron Delta Kappa leadership fraternity.

The difference between a brain injury and brain damage is that with an injury, you heal, and I can see that clearly in my own life. During my freshman year at Oglethorpe, I was forced by the recent effects of my injury to focus completely on my academics. Now, I have finally re-blossomed into my social butterfly self.

Additionally, I’m pursuing my dreams by performing comedy all over the Atlanta area, even getting a chance to headline earlier this spring. I’m also pursuing my dreams of becoming a playwright, winning the playwriting portion of the 2010 Agnes Scott Writer’s Festival and writing a play about race issues with a world renowned stage-actor and writer, Curt Cloninger.

So yes, it’s been a challenging almost four years, but I’m doing great, loving life, and looking forward to grad school and my plans of teaching the joys of standup and dramatic writing to the future generations. Maybe I’m an eternal optimist; maybe I’ve finally realized my full potential. Either way, I’m smiling into the future, excited for the possibilities tomorrow has in store.


soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. mjh

    GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS

    July 19, 2011 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dude

      mjh: God did not do this to him. Bad things happen randomly.

      July 19, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
    • T

      No, God SAVED him...

      July 19, 2011 at 23:16 | Report abuse |
    • dsm

      His doctors and luck saved him
      Many good people die from accidents every day.
      I believe that God exists, but I also believe that God has nothing to do with whether people survive these accidents or not – its the randomness and unfairness of life

      July 19, 2011 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
    • SoundOf Forest

      Mjh, Amen to that.

      July 20, 2011 at 22:27 | Report abuse |
  2. dcn8v

    Good on ya, kid. I hope your story brings hope to someone who may be walking in your shoes.

    July 19, 2011 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. CPT R

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is very insperational and forces others to evaluate thier own lives and where they are headed. Your courage inspires me. Good luck in your future career.

    CPT R
    Kabul, Afghanistan

    July 19, 2011 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. DTC

    Driving a car is extremely dangerous. This could happen to any of us and it's a frightening thought.

    July 19, 2011 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      People travel on residential streets faster than a horse can gallop; on a highway faster than a cheetah or ostrich; but people have the reaction times of a walk at 4 mph or the fastest run of 15 mph. So, cars get us places, but please wear your seat belts all the time!!!

      July 19, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse |
    • Garyford

      This is a great lesson on the importance of wearing seat belts.

      July 20, 2011 at 07:12 | Report abuse |
  5. MaggieQuack

    Life changes on a dime and sets you on a path you hadn't envisioned..Doesn't mean it's not the right path, just different.
    Good luck on all your future endevors!

    July 19, 2011 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Geri

    No one really knows what their future will be; it can change in an instant. Something can happen that you had no way of knowing is coming. But life will go on. Make the best of every moment you have; if your dreams need to change, than do so. There will alwys more fish in the sea!....

    July 19, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. elove

    1981 lost both parents and brother to car wreck brother lived but not same he has brain injury he thinks he'S god almighty praise be your life can Continue

    July 19, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. sonas76

    I'm curious as to wether the author was wearing a seat belt...it certainly doesn't sound like it. Having seen more then a few car accidents and head injuries in my line of work (nursing), I can't stress how important it is. Recently, we had a 19 year old (the passenger) not wearing a seat belt who was thrown through the windshield during a high-speed crash. They were not as lucky as the author. He died on impact with a roadside tree. The driver had on a seat belt. He had serious injuries, but will recover.

    July 20, 2011 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Yes, Will was wearing his seat belt that night.

      July 20, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse |
  9. Logically Lost

    @William Carter – I'm glad to hear you recovered and are thriving despite the accident; however, after reading your post, I'm left wondering why you went from wanting to do work with the UN to wanting to be a performer and writer.

    July 20, 2011 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kmlewis

      Will is a remarkable individual. I had the pleasure of being a classmate of his at Oglethorpe, and his comedic side is something that you are struck with upon your first meeting. I don't think it was a change of heart as much as a way of dealing with the accident. At least, that's how he explained it to me one day in class, but do know, his passion and drive are unwavering.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  10. Jane

    It's strange he did not mention what was the cause of the accident! Hmmm...perhaps he was drunk driving on that day? I guess we will never know. In anycase, good for him.

    July 20, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Well, I'm his father. No, he was not driving drunk. He was on his way home from working at a restaurant. His accident occured at 10:30 p.m. and there was no alcohol in his blood.

      July 20, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    This is a wonderful account of a person that has gone through a major tragedy and has worked very hard to make his life exactly what he wants it to be. He is a role model for us all!

    July 20, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. TN

    I really dislike the way some commenters are casting aspersion's upon the correctness of Will's actions that night. But this is a great account of a driven person, and as a former high school classmate, I am glad to hear that he's doing well. I hope to be able to make it to one of his comedy shows one day.

    July 20, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. TN

    *aspersions

    July 20, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Vera

    The Breast Health and Healing Foundation believes that finding the causes of breast cancer will lead us to prevent this disease. We are trying to fund trials on Dr. Vincent Tuohy's breast cancer vaccine [Cleveland Clinic] which was completely effective at preventing breast cancer in mice that normally get this disease. It also slowed the growth of tumors in the control group of mice. BHHF is also trying to fund Dr. Beatriz Pogo's work on the human mammary tumor virus, which is present in approximately forty percent of all breast cancers! Please donate to BHHF! 40% of your money will go to FUND TUOHY'S VACCINE, 40% will go to FUND the POGO VIRUS, 10% will be spent on EDUCATING THE PUBLIC on BREAST CANCER PREVENTION & 10% will be used to offset administrative costs at BHHF. Send checks to: 36 Newark Avenue, Suite 130, Belleville, New Jersey 07109. Donations can be made via PayPal at http://www.breasthealthandhealing.org. BHHF is a tax-exempt non-profit.

    July 21, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. John A

    Will and his family are amazing people. It takes great courage to share their story in this way. What I get from this story is that he was living life as most people do and then one night he had CRAP for luck. Does not matter if it was his fault or not and I don't think it was. These things happen. This is part of being human. What is amazing is how this wonderful family responded with love, caring, faith and tenacity. I am sure this family continues to have tough days and I am equally sure that they do not take life for granted. Everyday is precious. We should all be impacted to live our lives to the fullest in honor of Will and his family. As far as seatbelts go... Wear them but don't put too much stock in a car's ability to protect you in a crash. I truly thought a very large car known for engineering and safety standards would be a great option. I got that horrible call that no parent should ever, ever get. Both of my children were gone in an instant. After seeing the car and the way it was hit I knew they did not suffer. My darling daughter was able to share her eyes while my son shared his eyes, bone, heart valves and other tissues. This was their wish while they lived so it was a bit easier to answer the questions about organ donation. (sorry, I can't stop being proud of them) All I really want to say is God bless Will and his family and everyone. Please be as careful as you can out there. Please realize that we have new and also elderly drivers who deserve courtesy on the road.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Barclay

    Great story cousin.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Aad Mecyquieksilvermagotapwg

    Escaping the right amount for that damages triggered for you along with your auto or vehicle within the perfect time is critical. However, this will likely not sound so simple as possible by no means ...wypadek drogowy uk stluczka w uk

    February 1, 2012 at 05:10 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.