The following chronicles Corey Davis' incredible true story. His rise, fall, and rise again is a genuine testament to the power of the human spirit and all we are capable of achieving. Parts of the story have been purposely left out as they did not follow this particular narrative. Rest assured, everyone involved in his life played a major role in getting Corey back on track, whether they were mentioned or not. To connect with Corey, find him on facebook or take a peak at this YouTube video to hear it from the man himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw6b74ancC0
It was June, 2006. The sun ripped through the sky in brilliant flames, bouncing with each new reflection from one shade of green to the next- feeding life in the trees, the grass, the air, until it reached its lowest point- the faded blacktop. I breathed in the passing wind and felt it running its course through my veins. I recognized this feeling- it was freedom. I was young, uninhibited by life's silent clock. And the world, well...my world, felt right.
Stepping onto my Harley Deuce, I awoke it from its slumber, pulled in the clutch and looked to make a left onto Racetrack Rd. Shooting through traffic I picked up speed, reveling in the power I held in my hands. Up to this point, I had conquered everything put forth in my life and I had done them quickly. Things came easily- whether it be working on tug boats, sport fishing for money, running marathons, and even triathlons. My success streamed in my head and my confidence grew as the hot air whipped through my shirt reminding me I was alive and so I pulled the throttle harder.
Gaining speed I could see ahead of me a truck pulling into my lane, and in my way. Pulling back on the bike with the brakes, anger grew in me. He cut me off. He never even looked. Fifty yards ahead I could see the road split into two lanes and so I took my chance. Shooting out to the right lane, neglecting my turn signal, I pulled the throttle...hard.
As if attached by a string, the truck mirrored my maneuver. Closing my eyes- I saw it all.
I was floating in a dream. Time was of no consequence. Past, present and future- they all existed simultaneously as I felt the foot peg lacerate the truck's tire, throwing me off balance, shooting the bike into the drainage ditch lining the man-made landscape. I was thrown forward into the handle bars- bone splintered, sharp pains shot into my back, what little breathing I was doing became labored, almost impossible and my hip exploded with the burst of a million exposed nerve endings. The handle bars gave way due to the pressure of my accelerating body and I was thrown, weightless and free, fifty feet into the air. In this terrifying freedom of flightless flying, there was nothing for me to think about. No worries. Nothing to be done. Nothing but the hard sound of my own cracked body landing, sliding, and aching its way to a dark stop. I felt nothing as a sun soaked June day quickly burned black and my heart, caught in between the colors of life and the darkness of death, with one last whisper- silenced its rhythm.
The road that day held the attention of many drivers. But at that instant of contact and flight, an off duty officer witnessed the entire event. He saw the man fly and land hard in the open field. And he did what he was trained to do.
Shooting on his lights he sped up, full of adrenaline and anticipation. “Was the man still alive?” he whispered in his head. Having no time for other questions he quickly pulled over, secured his vehicle and daftly moved over to the unconscious body. Pounding on his chest and breathing life into his lungs he knew, through his training, that this would work. It had to. One, two, three, four, five, he pumped, put his ear on his chest and listened. Nothing. Again he pumped, quickly losing faith in the silent ritual he was now partaking in. Leaning in closer, he heard it. He knew he did. The faint beating of a once dormant heart- the slow rush of life energy to the brain and other vital organs. The man was alive. And he had helped save him.
Within minutes an air-evacuation helicopter landed on site, stabilized the man's head and neck, strapped him to a stretcher and lifted him away. The police officer stood and stared. He hoped and prayed- that he had done something good today.
Lying still in the helicopter, the fragile muscle located in the center of the body, broke under the power of the injuries sustained. The EMT's calmly moved into action. With their training removing thought, they silently placed the defibrillator on the bare chest. “Clear,” was all that needed to be said in that moment. A wave of electrical currents pulsed through the fractured body, and life sprung forth as if the seasons had changed and warmth burgeoned from the frozen ground. The heart, the mighty heart, began to steadily beat- this time for good.
I awoke to the sound of a sharp beep, the searing brightness of harsh hospital lighting, and a stale taste in my mouth. To my right, a nurse was checking the monitor, apathetically looking at my refocusing eyes.
“What happened?” I asked.
Was that my voice? Why did it sound so different?
“You were in a motorcycle accident. You have been in a coma for 7 weeks. And you have brain damage,” she calmly replied.
What?! How could this be? The emotional onslaught of questions left unanswered flooded my damaged brain. It was too much to process. I went to speak, but nothing came out. Nothing except tears. They flooded my eyes and I closed them- ashamed at this outburst of weak emotions. I could not remember the last time I cried. And now, I would never forget it.
With each new day, came a constant reminder from the doctors on staff of my unfortunate position, “Mr. Davis, there is a real possibility you will never walk again. I hope you understand what I am telling you.”
“I understand,'' I replied.
Melancholy shook the foundations of my will to live. This experience was entirely new to me. Never had I been in a position of such helplessness before. And I did not know how to cope.
Time passed with the routine of being trapped in bed becoming commonplace. Life moved slowly in this silent prison. Friends came and went- unable to hide the pity in their eyes. And I was unable to hide my frustration. I was not meant for this sedentary decomposition. My life existed on the edge, the fast lane on the desert highway, the dangerous path straight to the mountain's precipice. And now, slowly looking to my left, the route to the bathroom which stood 10 ft away was all but insurmountable.
Feeling my self pity blossom rage at my own anemic thinking I pulled myself up, swung my lifeless legs towards the door and with a newly acquired resolute confidence I took my first step...and fell down, landing hard on my face. For the next twenty minutes I ached, pulled, pushed, grasped and clawed my way back to the bed. I had failed. And as the nurses' rushed in to assist me, my reward for this failure was to be strapped, helplessly, to the soft white sheets of my own prison. They prohibited me from trying to move again. But in that moment something changed. My self loathing and pity had turned to anger. And anger I knew... I could use.
It drove me, changed me, awoke me to possibilities beyond the limits of sadness. I threw myself into my recovery. Slowly gaining the confidence needed to climb out of my hospital bed and beyond. Progress was slow- every movement labored and difficult. My body had survived a harrowing experience but the nerve connections in my brain had been burn out, rewired, and sluggish in relaying their signals. I was not longer quick, or sharp, or bright. Everything had a distended sluggish reaction.
Regardless, I continued on. And often times during my intense physical therapy I caught myself staring out the window. I'd drift in and out of the present moment- thinking mostly of the past. Of a time when I had lived careless and care-free. When things were easy and right. And I would think about the way I treated people- especially those closest to me. I was never a mean person in any sense but I lived in a world of disjointed relationships and many feelings unfulfilled. I didn't give people the time they deserved. Nor did I go out of my way to help others much either. I was the sun in my own solar system. If you weren't a part of the orbit then you were cast out, set adrift into the blackness of apathy. I realized, staring out into the cloud dotted sky after a rigorous and exhausting workout- my self-centered mindset served no one...least of all, myself.
The seasons changed, as they do, with each new coming year. And with the change left the bright, warm sun, the green trees and the soothing wind. Replacing it was a gray sky, stark bare trees and white puffs of clouds drifting drearily out of my friend's mouths. The New Year was here and I was still defined by the accident. But with the change of the seasons came a change in my body. Muscles were again gaining their familiar rigidity. My mind began to process faster, my speech was still slurred but sounding better. And I had graduated to a wheelchair. No longer confined to one spot, this small bit of progress had inspired me. I knew I could go farther.
“Time for New Year's resolutions everyone!”
The room grew quiet as each had their turn. The usual points had been made: lose weight, save money, learn a new language. These had all been said before, and they had all been lost in living the timeline of a new year as well.
It was my turn and so I spoke up.
“I want to run another triathlon,” I said sternly.
The room deflated. The others looked away, awkwardly not believing in my resolution. Or unwilling to give credence to the power of their own will. For many instances in their lives, facing far fewer odds, they had failed- time and time again. And if they had failed at such simpler tasks, they would not allow themselves to believe in my impossible one. And I understood- for what good would it do to prop me up? Or fill me with false hope? If I failed, they figured it would only crush me, like it had crushed them throughout their lives. It was the inexhaustible burden of being human- having failed so many times in the past, they ended up living there. And by doing so, they refused to take the risk to move forward once again. But I was different. I didn't want to live in the past. What lived there was only pain and regret. I was on a resolute path into the future. Away from pity, and suffering, and self loathing. I needed to set my aim high because I knew, even if I didn't hit the bulls eye, I'd still hit the target. And that would be progress.
And so... I began to work harder. And I began to believe. I had gotten out of the hospital bed which held me down for a chapter in my life and made the shift into a wheelchair. And the wheelchair would become a distant reminder of a life I could have succumbed to- because I began to walk. Like a baby, I awkwardly stumbled to the disjointed rhythm of my labored breath. But through each step my confidence grew. And more importantly, my appreciation of those around me, giving me support, encouragement and love blossomed from my heart. My life had changed.
I realized through these past few years, I was no longer an island cast out into an empty sea. A team of people had helped me recover. They showed me encouragement when I made strides in my therapy and love when I felt hopeless and lost in the suffocating feeling of despair. Gratitude had swelled within my heart. This shift from selfishness to an overwhelming sense of benevolence made the accident not a period of unfortunate sequences but rather, a beautiful struggle burgeoning growth, understanding, and appreciation for my life and those involved in it. And for this realization, I will be forever grateful.
For in the past everything had come quickly and easily to me. And because of that, I took most of it for granted. I never thanked life for giving me what it saw fit to do. But one day, during an intense physical therapy session, that notion of giving up and moving on to something else because it came easily for me dissolved. And even though my brain had been damaged, it re-wired itself in a new and exciting way. I felt it. No longer would I take situations for granted. No longer would I give up and move on. I now knew, it is the little improvements on a day-to-day basis which add up to much larger ones. The smallest movements encapsulated my biggest dreams. For each moment of life was no longer ordinary. And the dream of walking, running, and swimming projected from my mind as a reality lived through the struggle of my broken body.
My steadfast stubbornness in my training and recovery progressed relatively smoothly into the spring of 2011, five years after the accident. It was during this year of '11 in which I came to the full understanding of the progress I had made.
I stood in line to receive my number, pinned it to the bottom of my shirt, and started to stretch. The sun shone bright on a cloudless, clear blue day. I felt a nervous uprising in the bottom of my stomach. Taking a deep breath I steadied my gaze and prepared my chattering mind for the task at hand. This was it. My first half marathon since the accident. I had defied the doctors, the odds, and even some friends along the way. I was not only walking... I was running.
My pace was slow and steady, my heart rate fast and labored. My mind flashed to images of the past, when I competed in races such as these to not just finish but to win. That drive, that competitive power laced my veins in my younger years. I would never take losing as any sort of triumph. But today, at this point, my view and my actions had changed. Winning was not important. Comparing myself to others was not important. But believing in myself and conquering my own insecurities was paramount. I only had to do the best I could do and that would be enough.
Coming to the last turn I could see the finish line. Sweat dripped down my exhausted face. Feeling a rush of energy I increased my speed and with each step I came closer to the end until finally...I had crossed it. I had completed my first half marathon since the accident. Unable to hide my smile I let it go as I closed my eyes and began to cry- the first time I felt warm tears since lying in that hospital bed- five long, hard, exhausting, terrible and triumphant years ago. Except this time it was different. This time, I would cherish the moment forever.
There I lay
broken and afraid
a prisoner in the formless prison
Whispers in the dark
shone a light on the courage of my heart
And I knew this was not the end
...I just needed to start again.
Corey's verse- his shattered body being reborn through struggle, through hard work, and through pain is one we are all familiar with. But what makes his story different is the shift in his attitude. How he views life now as opposed to before the accident and how he treats people now as opposed to before as well.
When we are young, we often take things for granted. We're all guilty of it. We feel invulnerable and because of this we treat situations and people in our lives as expendable. Such was Corey's attitude at the time. Interested in only money and his own self interests, he unavoidably alienated many of his friends.
After the accident is where his life took a turn for the better. Through his struggle to regain normalcy, Corey recognized the help of his doctors, his friends, and his family in lifting him up and showing him love through the toughest times. Because of this Corey treats people and his own life very differently.
He has come to the realization that life is above everything else, supposed to be fun. If it isn't, it's time to take a look at what you're doing and possibly change it. His once overbearing competitive spirit has been replaced by one of kindness and understanding. He knows to compare himself to others is a waste of time and energy because we are here to improve ourselves and help others improve themselves- not to judge anyone. And that's the secret:
Once we realize and truly understand that we are here, at this specific time in history, to use our talents and to tell our stories in order to help others instead of trying to defeat them then we will begin to live our lives peacefully, happily, surrounded by friends whom we create lasting memories with.
And I believe, Corey's lasting lesson is that we don't need to go through what he did in order to learn it. We have the opportunity everyday to say 'thank you.' To understand that life is much shorter than you can ever imagine. That we are all just a passing breeze rustling the leaves in the forest of our daily experiences. We have not long to live. And to waste it chasing arbitrary objects without meaning is to waste life completely. So give thanks for the people in your life, give thanks for the experience of being here, now, and take time to be quiet and understand completely- what it must have felt like to have complete darkness become his experience as he lay in the grass on that warm June day not knowing whether he would feel the sun on his skin ever again.
Once you have done that, once you have completely realized the gravity of what happened to Corey and actually become the main character in his story- I believe you will come to the complete realization that life is, through good and bad...beautiful.
For those curious- Corey did complete a triathlon after the accident- fulfilling the promise he made to himself those few years ago at New Years. He has also recently started a charitable race in order to raise money for the doctors who took care of him through his toughest times at Johns Hopkins.
To find out more info check out the link below: