Carson's Race to the Finish Line

Hello great people, friends, and stewards in this community, I am a rising junior at UNC Chapel Hill.  A year and a half ago, I decided to go to Brier Creek and continue my routine of doing at  least 10 miles a night after working for NCDOT. I have been a compassionate long distance runner since middle school. I began running for Leesville Road Middle School in the 800 and 1600 meter events.  After Seventh grade spring track, my parents highly encouraged me to participate in summer track with the Carolina Elite Track Club. I first started running with a coach at Durant Road Nature Park. The following summer, I trained under very good and experienced distance coaches, Rod Williams, Chris Love and O’Shun Williams. Summer Track proved to be a very efficient way to help me as I transitioned to run Cross Country and Distance Track for Leesville Road High School. I ran junior varsity the first year of High School. I elevated to Varsity the last 3 years of high school. In fact, I set the school records in both the 1000 and 800 meter races my senior year. I competed at New Balance National meet in Harlem New York during the winter track season, my Senior Year.

I received offers from several universities to run cross country and track and field. It was a tough decision however I decided to enroll at UNC Charlotte. The first month of training, I injured my IT Band. The injury made it difficult to run on trails, and I got physical training from the team physical therapist.  Although the injury caused me to sit out during cross country season, it did not affect my grades at all. In fact, I earned 4.0 GPA the first semester. The Second semester was better and more comfortable for me physically.  I was able to run in the Indoor and Outdoor Track seasons. I earned a 3.75 GPA the second semester, thereby rounding my GPA to a 3.875.

Running is like meditation for me and my senses. It is the gift from God to be able to move like a machine and efficiently function.  I have practically run in many places, especially in the Triangle area, these places include William B Umstead State Park, Lake Crabtree, Falls Lake, and areas around the Leesville area. I love running on the greenways in Raleigh and Cary. In fact the summer of 2016, I drove to Jordan Lake then continued my way forward to the American Tobacco Trial in Morrisville, North Carolina.

After my freshman year at UNC Charlotte, due to my excellent performance, I applied to and was accepted into UNC Chapel Hill. My experience at UNC Chapel Hill was very phenomenal. The very first week, I became very accustomed to the culture and campus life. I became really good friends with my roommate and I felt very welcomed literally the first day. One young lady from a Hispanic organization, CHISPA, introduced me to my dormitory. As an Economics major and Urban Planning minor, the course load was and will continue to be relatively challenging.   My goal is to work for the Federal Reserve  Bank as well as performing social services for people in need, whether economical, medically, or educationally. My persona is more about giving out than to receive.

At UNC Chapel Hill, I was able to earn over a 3.0 GPA while being very much involved with school organizations. The first organization I joined was Cobb Community Government. Other organizations included Minority Business Student Administration, The Black Student Movement, Heavenly Groceries, Hope Gardens, Economics Club, Buckley Public Service Scholars, Campus YMCA, and finally UNC Club Cross Country.

My very engaging spirit is one of the reasons for my initiative to return back to UNC Chapel Hill. Sometimes after my therapies, usually in the morning, Occasionally, I crave to go and do volunteer work at the Marian Cheek Jackson Center and go to campus to see familiar sights like the Student UNC Chapel Hill Student Union.  Additionally, I crave to be involved in the Back Student Movement and Minority Student Business Administration.  Hope Gardens is another community service activity that I am aiming to return to help sustain a healthy environment.

In order to return back  healthy and confidently to UNC Chapel Hill, the major physical issues with my body, my left knee and foot, need very strenuous training. On July 20, 2016, after completing my run and attempting to return to the hotel where I had parked that evening, a car hit me.  I was taken to WakeMed Hospital where I spent several months in ICU, Neurocare and the Rehab Hospital.  There, I received months of Speech, Physical, and Occupational therapy.  I am a true Tar Heel fan, but I had the privilege of a visit from former NC State basketball player Derrick Wettenberg.   I was at Wakened until December 6th. 

After a month of therapy activities around the Triangle, my mother made a very crucial effort to get me accepted into therapy at the Shepherd Pathways Day Program  in Decatur Georgia in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. I am blessed to have a parent to put forth so much of her endurance and toughness to ensure my health and self-confidence.

Shepherd Pathways has an extensive staff of therapists, counselors, doctors, and nurses.  The physiatrist at Shepherd Pathways, Dr. Fadia, helped me understand the importance of motor coordination.  My Physical Therapist, Jamie, worked very hard to get me to confidently maneuver within the Rehabilitation facility, especially inside the gym. My counselor, Laurie, recommended 2 years of recovery before I can enroll in an almost full load of courses. As a very hardworking student, I found it difficult to swallow her advice. However, I have learned that with Severe TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) it is worth being patient because it takes time to heal and in the long run, it will benefit my academic performance and quality of life.

At Shepherd Pathways, I made some incredible leaps. The first week in February, I was able to get into my mother’s car. Later in February, my mother thankfully had me attempt to try the walker.  I was in the day program at Shepherd until March 24th.    After a week break, my mother and I had the privilege to move into a new apartment that was somewhat closer to Shepherd Pathways. I started outpatient at Shepherd Pathways on April 2nd. The length outpatient program was shorter, however, more rigorous. For example, my physical therapist wanted me to walk up the stairs between the 2 gyms. In addition, I used the standing frame and the recumbent bicycle.  Given I have very tight muscles in my legs and limited range of motion in my left leg and hips; I have found the use these equipment to be very effective.  At the apartment, I also began to use the Luminosity app to increase my cognition, especially the left side of my brain.

The weekend prior to my mother’s birthday we went home, and I walked upstairs to my bedroom for the first time.  I was very proud to complete this seemingly impossible task. I was very joyous and very grateful to God for continuing his miracle work. Though God is continuing to bless me, I understand that I have to be accountable and work strenuously.

A week later, my mother and I returned home to celebrate my birthday.  The day before, on April 29, 2017, I was the official starter at Leesville Road Middle school’s (my old middle school) 2017 5k Fun Run. The race was also dedicated in my honor. I appreciated it; however, personally it was my pleasure and an honor to be recognized. I would like to encourage distance runners and pedestrians like myself to be very cognizant of running in high trafficked zones to avoid the possibilities of injury or death.   For my birthday, my family members, coaches, church members, and friends from my high school and UNC came to celebrate my 21st birthday.  My birthday weekend was very pleasing and my Mother and I made our way back to Shepherd Pathways for the last 2 weeks. The last 2 weeks my physical therapist challenged me by prompting me to only use my walker to get around Shepherd Pathways. The last two weeks, my Counselor Laurie worked with Jamie encouraging me to use a band to stand up for the longest time possible. My last day at Shepherd Pathways was May 11th.  My Father and sister, Briana, came to Atlanta.  We left Atlanta on May 12 to return home permanently until my return to UNC Chapel Hill. 

Since my return home, I have successfully completed a history course at Wake Tech and am continuing speech, occupational and physical therapies. I had knee surgery on June 22 to remove debris from the back of my left knee and toe surgery in September to straighten my toes for an infection in my big toe.  Both surgeries were successful though my knee remains stiff and I have a pressure area on my big toe. 

My physical therapist recommends the use of a recumbent bike and a standing frame to help with my posture, strengthening and walking effort. I believe this along with my spirit of passion to recover is crucial to my recovery.  Working on resistance and rates per minute will dramatically aid with my cardiovascular endurance.  In fact, working on the bike my freshman year at UNC Charlotte significantly helped my ability to run after my moderate ITB injury.  All of my work and due diligence my freshman year at UNC Charlotte helped me to be admitted to UNC Chapel Hill. Hard work will get me back to UNC as well.  My hope is to get enough funding to help pay for training, medical expenses, a recumbent bike and standing frame. I am preparing to take at least 1 course during the 2018 summer session at UNC. 

I like to thank God for his many blessings throughout this relatively long healing process. Additionally, I would like to thank my family, church family, friends, therapists, and everyone who has supported me over the past 18 months.


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Carson Ellerby 
Raleigh, NC
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