Will & Drive: One OU Student’s Comeback Story

In this CNN video report, Will Carter ’12 demonstrates how an electronic device has enabled him to drive again after a brain injury.

Like many Oglethorpe students, Will Carter ’12 has found “his place” over the past three years, carving out his niche in theatre and slowly making a name for himself in Atlanta’s crowd of amateur stand-up comics.  But unlike most others, Will has had to overcome remarkable odds to get here, a story that he tells with pride on the CNN Health blog this week.

The rising senior and award-winning playwright has always enjoyed the performing arts, and as a youngster he enjoyed watching comedians perform on stage.

“I have always been a kid who loves to make people laugh,” recalls Will.  “I would watch a lot of stand-up when I was younger…when Toy Story first came out, I quoted it constantly just to make people laugh.”

But at age 17, Will was involved in a head-on car accident that left him with a severe brain injury and a long road to recovery ahead.  The once highly confident high school student had become wheelchair bound, he’d lost his ability to drive, and tasks that once came easy to him, like studying, took more focus and concentration than ever before.

“High school just wasn’t as easy as it was before…,” recalled Will. “Because of the injury, my memory wasn’t that great, and when I went to college, I spent all of my time focusing on schoolwork, so there wasn’t much time for a social life.  During my freshman year, [in order to keep up,] I [had] to read the text twice in order to remember enough for the test.  School definitely took a lot more time and effort.”

Will is quick to point out that brain injury is not the same as brain damage and these past few years have been a time of healing.  With the help of his instructors at the Shepherd Center, he’s back on the road again. With the worst part the process behind him, he’s had more time to focus on getting back to his old self.

Will says he felt shy when he arrived on Oglethorpe’s campus, but soon realized that Oglethorpe was a place he could thrive.  He was recently inducted into ODK, (the national leadership honor society for college students), he has directed a play, he’s on the honor council, and he’s back to doing comedy, a real confidence booster for him.

“I love the OU student body,” says Will.  “It’s a little bubble of love and acceptance.  When I was in high school, my limp was more severe [than it is now] and I wondered if people would accept me.  But when I came to OU, I felt that it was this awesome place where [that was not an issue.]  Now I’m very comfortable with my injury.  Honestly, [especially] within this past year I feel like, ‘I’m back!’

This includes helping others with the healing process.  He says that recuperating from such a serious injury has really humbled him, and he shares his story with others to encourage them to push through obstacles and pursue their dreams.  A man of faith, he believes that God gives people dream and desire, and the only real thing stopping them is themselves.

“I was once told that all you need to get where you’re going is desire, ability, and opportunity.  So if you’ve got the ability, and you have the passion, God will probably provide the people.”

“I’m sure that for some, their injury holds them back, but for me—I am more than my injury.  Now that I’m healed, I’ve got more to offer the world and I’m going to do what I love.”

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