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A Mother's Love, a Tireless Advocate

Deedee and her son, Nate.

Deedee and her son, Nate.

By: Christine Fanning

Name: Deedee McCarty
Age: 49
Hometown: Valley, New Hampshire
Event: 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Having children and watching them grow up is what every mother lives and breathes for. For most, the ultimate goal is to raise them into successful, independent adults who live an abundant life.

Deedee McCarty, 49, was getting ready to watch her son soar until she received a phone call on December 10, 2010. Nathaniel Bibaud, 27, was grounded from flying into the beginning stages of his adulthood.

Nate was in a head on collision, resulting in a dislocation of his spinal vertebrae, a C5 level injury. He is now living with paralysis from the chest down. McCarty ran the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon for Team Reeve in honor of her son, Nate.

The unforeseeable
"I would not wish this for anyone's child," McCarty explains. "To watch them suffer. It's the hardest thing in the world."

Nate was living in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands working as a graphic artist at the time of the accident. He was the passenger in a car while driving home from a friend's birthday celebration. They drove over a knoll, unable to see the other side, and collided head first into a previous accident. "Out of nine people involved in the three cars," McCarty explains, "he was the only one seriously hurt."

"You don't know why," she says. "You never know the answers to why, why your child, but that's the call we got." McCarty explains that not only was the phone call explaining her son was now paralyzed vague, but the accent and dialogue made understanding what happened even harder.

"I've lived 49 years and he's only lived 27," McCarty explains. "I would trade places. He was just getting ready to soar." Nate was getting ready to move back to the States to take an offer with an architectural firm before the accident happened. "I wouldn't say things happen for a reason, because I don't think this could happen for a reason."

"It happened, we can't change it," McCarty says. "But how can we make it better and something good come out of it." She remains positive about her son's accident. "I would do anything for him."

Nate Bibaud before his accident.

Nate Bibaud before his accident.

Proving the doctors wrong
While McCarty was training for the 26.2 mile marathon on October 9, 2011, she was also helping Nate with his daily life. "We built him a little apartment attached to his father's garage," McCarty explains. "But at 27, you're not really meant to move back home."

"It has changed every facet of his life," she says. "He has lost all his freedom. He was very independent, a bit of a free spirit, very artistic. It's grounded him."

Although Nate has to rely on others for a lot of his daily activities, he is making more progress than doctors told him he would. After the accident, Nate was told he would never move anything below his shoulders. "He's swinging his arms around left and right, he has sensation in his quads and gluts," McCarty happily explains. "They were already wrong."

"He doesn't have the use of his fingers," McCarty says. "That will be the victory day if something comes back in his fingers, because he's an artist and architect.". Although Nate has no function of his fingers, he is still making strides to regain strength while drawing!

"He's very motivated to get as much mobility and as much function as he can," McCarty explains. "Nate would like to be married and have kids, he loves children."

Waxing hair and shaving heads for awareness
Nate and McCarty's schedules are filled five days of the week with intense therapy sessions. McCarty, a personal trainer, says "I believe, really believe, that you can teach those muscles to work again."

In an effort to help Nate regain as much function as he can, McCarty and friends have held numerous fundraisers to support his cause. "Business leaders, politicians, athletes, people in the community that didn't know him personally, but may have known me," McCarty explains about Nathaniel Bibaud Recovery Fund, "have attached themselves to the cause and want it to be awesome."

Runs, dinner outings, silent auctions, and even an event called Rip it ‘n Clip it (where people have their heads shaved and chests waxed!) have been held to help pay for Nate's costly therapy sessions.

"We don't know what recovery will look like, but we do know that we are going for as much as we can get." McCarty says. But the secret to Nate's fundraising she explains, "A mother's love. A tireless advocate. You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that this is an expensive injury."

Nate at his college graduation.

Nate at his college graduation.

Never give up, always get more
Although it hasn't even been a year since Nate's accident, McCarty says Nate has been nothing but positive. "When I'm watching him do his therapy, it's just the way he doesn't lash out, the way he handles himself on a daily basis. He took everything with grace and dignity when they told him the news."

"Never give up," explains McCarty. "There's always a little more you can get. There's always a little more function and mobility you can get. There are going to be bad days, but they don't have to define you."

"The ultimate goal is to get out of the chair," McCarty says. "Some people may think that's a little bit of denial, that you need to accept it, but you don't need to accept it. Christopher Reeve taught everybody to dream the impossible. We have a goal and we are not stopping short of it."

A marathon kind of family
Running for Team Reeve has helped McCarty with her son's injury, "With this injury you tend to feel alone," says McCarty. She believes that running the marathon makes her feel, "a part of something larger than yourself."

"It's trying to go beyond." McCarty explains. "It would be selfish to just fundraise to have money in our bank account for him to go to therapy and we didn't give back to the organization that is doing the research.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders