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Hope in Motion

John Carson, a Team Reeve All Star

John Carson,
a Team Reeve All Star

By Padmavathy Sonti

On July 16, 2009, 28-year-old John Carson was riding his bicycle in preparation for an upcoming triathlon in New York City when he was struck by an SUV.

"I was in and out of consciousness," recalls John. "I had no ability to move anything and my breathing was labored." He was immediately flown to the Nassau County Medical Center for treatment. After a series of tests, the doctors concluded that John had suffered a C5/C6 spinal cord injury.

"I was lying in the hospital bed and for the first time in my life, I felt that there was nothing I could do to make the situation better," says John.

Seeking help
In a quest to find out more about the injury, John's family came across the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. "The Foundation was a source of knowledge and comfort," says John. "They laid the groundwork for us, which was so unknown."

Soon after, John began attending the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at the Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he received intensive physical therapy. "In the beginning, it seemed like it was going to be a whole new life," says John, an ardent cyclist and triathlete.

Within the first month, he regained movement in his toes and feet. "I was fortunate enough to get the therapy that I needed and it made all the difference," says John, "In my case, with the right therapy, there is life after what seems like a life-ending injury."

John Carson in the middle of his 26.2 mile run

John Carson in the middle of
his 26.2 mile run

Turning point
Two weeks after he was discharged from Mt. Sinai, in honor of his friend, John began training for the Multiple Sclerosis Bike Tour in New York City. At this point, John was walking a few steps at a time with assistance and he continued to use a manual wheelchair. He trained and completed the race with a hand cycle, a tricycle that is powered by the rider peddling with his arms.

"Right there, I decided that I was going to help people who were like me," says John. "It became a very important part of my recovery -- the idea that the better I get, the more I'd be able to accomplish." Today, John continues to serve the spinal cord community through his involvement with various fundraisers and events at the Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Putting hope in motion
John was particularly inspired by the documentary, Hope in Motion, produced and directed by Christopher Reeve's eldest son, Matthew, which focuses on Christopher Reeve's journey to recovery. "As long as I continued to keep hope and keep moving, I knew I would get to the finish line," says John, who has raised close to $10,000. "The gain for me is getting people aware and wearing the colors of the Reeve Foundation."

On July 25, 2010, almost one year to the day from his accident, John participated in the Ford Ironman Lake Placid in upstate New York, as a Team Reeve All Star. The event consisted of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bicycle race, and 26.2 mile run.

"What's important isn't coming in first place," says John. "It's about getting out there, despite the adversity, to make a positive change." With determination and perseverance, John finished the race in 14 hours, 56 minutes and 53 seconds, well under the 17 hour cut-off time.

"I'm not going to let any limitations hold me back from pursuing what I want to do," says John. "Maybe my life has drastically changed forever but that's never going to hold me back."

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders