May 24th, 2011
10:35 AM ET

Human Factor – A life reclaimed in tiny steps

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 Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces us to Matt Courson, whose life was changed by an ATV accident. But this week, he walked across a college stage to accept a diploma.

On April 23, 2006, my life was forever changed.  Before this date, I was an avid adventurer with a love of sports and all things outdoors.  My mornings were filled with long runs, and I often spent my afternoons playing games of catch.  I was a college student, an athlete, and the youngest son of three boys.  Watching my brothers grow up with athletic backgrounds, I wanted to be just like them.  I lived each and every day as if there was always a tomorrow.  With little care in the world, I truly thought I was invincible.

Late one spring evening in 2006, I learned a very valuable lesson – invincibility is not always a reality.  On this cool night, my life took a gut-wrenching turn.  I was a sophomore in college at the University of Little Rock and my life was about to be turned upside down.

Like a typical Arkansan, I hopped on my four-wheeler  that evening to ride a quarter of a mile down the road to visit a friend.   I had ridden four-wheelers since I was 4 years old, but this ride turned out to be unlike any other.  As I pulled out of my driveway, the next thing I remember was being on my back, unable to move staring at the stars.  I had ridden my four-wheeler off a 20-foot embankment.  The landing knocked me out for a few moments.  When I awoke, I felt an intense pain on one of my arms and soon noticed that it was completely covered with fire ants.  I slapped off the ants and began to cry for help.

Unable to get up or even move, I knew that I was in a bad situation.  I just kept thinking about how I was an athlete and nothing like this could possibly happen to me.  I don't get hurt... nothing can hurt me. The hours began to pass and the moon began to move across the sky.  I was in an incredible amount of pain and I began to pray to God.  I confessed to God that I had not lived my life to the fullest up to that point; I hadn't been the best person that Matt Courson could be.  I told God that from that moment on I was going to change my life and live up to my potential.  I lay in the embankment all night, enduring the 50-degree temperature and fighting for my life. As the sun arose in the distance,  I continued to yell for help. That was when I heard the words, "Where are you?" I replied, "I'm down here, I'm down here!"  The man then yelled, "Don't move, I'm going to get help."


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.