Matt Courson in His Own Words
I've always been an athlete. When I was younger, I pitched the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) World Series twice. After high school, I played baseball for the University of Arkansas at Monticello. But, despite those achievements, I never imagined how much physical strength I would need in a wheelchair. Late one Saturday night two years ago, I got on my fourwheeler to visit a friend, but I never made it to his apartment. My ATV (all-terrain vehicle) went over an eight-foot embankment, and I was knocked out. When I came to, I couldn't move. I laid there all night and staring up at the stars; I knew something wasn't right.
A fireman heard me yelling and got me to the hospital. I had an eight-hour surgery to repair my back. My jaw was broken too. When I woke up, I thought I would walk out of the hospital and play baseball.
Instead, the doctors told me that there was a 99 percent chance I would never walk again. My injury was classified as an ASIA A complete; I had virtually no function or control from my belly button down. But what I heard was that I had a 1 percent chance of walking again.
A year after my accident, I came to the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger. I've been around sports all my life, but the therapists and patients there are the best athletes I've ever known. I was given a very aggressive exercise routine. My therapists put me on a treadmill and moved my legs for me, and I rode a stationary bike that sent electrical pulses to my legs, making my muscles move and push the pedals.
In December, I came back to Kennedy Krieger and achieved the impossible-with the help of braces and a walker, I walked 300 feet. I can now stand and bear my own weight. My injury has been reclassified as ASIA C incomplete, and I've been told that I have a 35 to 40 percent chance of a full recovery. Kennedy Krieger has opened up a lot of doors for me. There are a lot of heroes there.
As an athlete, I felt I could do anything. That's what I tell people in the motivational speeches that I give: With hard work and faith, nothing is impossible.
In August, I moved to Baltimore to attend the University of Maryland Baltimore County. I'm majoring in political science and I hope to go to law school. I am inspired by Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, who is the country's first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now I hear a new calling in politics.
I know my accident happened for a reason. It's helped me make a difference in people's lives-and that feels even better than pitching a no-hitter.