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Life is Beautiful- Finding motivation and inspiration from tragedy
The Interview-Corey Reed; a Blind, Below the knee amputee, and Athlete
What makes you happy? Who are you? Where do you find purpose and meaning in your life? These are all questions that I asked Corey Reed when I spoke to him two weeks after our initial meeting at the Transition Possible Sealfit/ Crossfit Challenge, for which I was hired to photograph the events progression as Adaptive Athletes and Local San Antonio CEO were pushed to their mental and physical limits by retired Navy Seals. Although the Sealfit Challenge was a life changing, inspiring event which touched me as well as Corey and all that were involved in the event, this is not where Corey's story began. Corey Reed is a thirty year old man, whom portrays confidence, independence, understanding of himself, and a drive to inspire people to live their lives to the fullest. During our two hour long conversation, we talked as friends and through this conversation, I got to know the man beyond his disabilities, and his reasons for working so hard to inspire others.
In a world that is in need of much inspiration, Corey shares the Ride that is the story of his life, the past, the present and where he sees himself in the future. Let's take a ride- Ride with Core
Corey is a California native. He grew up the oldest of three children, being the big brother to two sisters. In High School he was popular and involved in various school activities and clubs, and was an avid sports player both in and out of school. Like many kids, Corey's life revolved around his experiences and interests in High School, so when High School ended and he graduated, a void was created. Corey searched for a way to fill this void and to feel as fulfilled as he did before graduation. He began to work, and eventually started his own business with a longtime friend, installing home theater systems. The business was growing and both Corey and his partner relished in the success. His new focus was on money and with making money the partying came. He describes this time of his life as having a false sense of self and with every party, he drifted further away from fully understanding or knowing his purpose in life.
The tragedy that changed everything
One tragic night, Corey jumped into the cab of his friends truck. The two sped down the road excelling speeds of 100mph. This was a road that both men had traveled a thousand times before. They knew this road, and they were close to home, giving them a confidence that this night would end as each party always had ended, with no harm, no foul. Unfortunately, both men were wrong and the driver lost control of the vehicle, hitting a Palm Tree only a few miles from home. It took rescue workers hours to remove Corey from the wreckage, after which he was rushed to the emergency hospital, where no one was able to give a definite answer as to if he would survive. In fact, Corey died twice in the hospital, having Code Blue called as his parents waited. The injuries sustained from the accident included; unrepairable crushing damage to his right leg, three broken ribs, a broken collarbone, two collapsed lungs, major internal injuries with massive internal bleeding, a valve tear on the heart which caused fluid to fill around it. The doctors used drain tubes to continue draining the fluid from his heart for a week before they decided what was wrong and how to fix it. He suffered a broken jaw, which required reconstructive surgery and veneer implants, blunt head trauma, compound fractures on right wrist and lost a quarter of his middle and pointer finger. When he first arrived at the hospital he was put-on a ventilator to assist his breathing for two weeks which was followed by a tracheotomy and received assisted oxygen for one month. He required 8 blood transfusions and underwent two major abdominal surgeries in which he was packed with ice to keep swelling down.
Corey underwent multiple surgeries to repair damage to his heart, and arm, but he continued to defy death and after months in the hospital, much of which was spent in a coma, Corey did in fact return home, although altered in physical appearance and ability. A night of partying, and bad choices cost Corey greatly. He recalls the moment in which he woke up and describes opening his eyes only to see darkness and to realize he no longer had his vision or his right leg. He did not remember the accident, but knew that it was his reckless behavior which had cost him so much. The world had changed, he was now Blind and a below the knee amputee, and he now had to adapt. He shared with me the sense of loss and the depressive feeling that he felt, but hid from his family. He knew that the accident did not only change his world and effect his life, but the lives of the ones closest to him, so in an effort to limit any additional pain to others, Corey held in his feelings of fear, and confusion.
Finding out that life can and does go on
The void that Corey had been trying to fill for so long was more open and empty than ever in the months and even years initially following the accident which began taking its toll on his overall well being. Like any person who found themselves a below the knee amputee, and blind; he longed to enjoy what he once could do, and missed the thrills and excitement that participating in sports once gave to him. Two years following the accident, Corey's life was changed when he was invited to Extreme Mobility Camps Inc. Winter Camp for the Blind located in Colorado. Corey was intrigued with the possibility that he would once again be able to participate in some of the sports that he had enjoyed before his accident.
Over the course of the camp, Corey finally began to feel a sense of self again, fore this was the first time in a long time that Corey found himself surrounded by people other than the ones who knew him before the accident. The new unfamiliar surroundings gave Corey more freedom than his family was able to give to him, and because they did not know him before the accident, they based their perceptions and ideas of who he was and what he was capable of based in the moment- rather than on a memory. Initially, he did not see how it would be possible to snowboard as a blind amputee. He now looks back at the experience and at the time ,as a point in which he had not quite accepted his disabilities, and jokes that he is surprised that he didn't kill himself on that first trip down the slopes. He soon learned that although sports were not necessarily out of the question, he would have to adapt a new approach to how he was able to participate in the sports that he had always enjoyed and felt fulfilled by.
Becoming a more fulfilled Corey Reed
In the years that follow, Corey became a more fulfilled and complete person. Even though he earned his certification as a Massage Therapist after the accident, Corey knew that was not where he needed to be, and truly began his journey of self discovery. He describes his experiences as a spiritual transformation that put him on a path that has filled the empty void that he was carrying for so long. Corey's accomplishments since the accident, have led him in becoming an inspirational person that has a unique outlook on life and he believes that there are reasons that he is still alive today, which is why he shares his story. Corey dedicates his time and his efforts to more than just making life better for himself, but strives to improve the world by showing those who need a little hope, that life can get better, and things can change. He has taken great pride in speaking to High School and Middle school classes on the dangers of drug and alcohol use. He was the first amputee and blind persons to participate in the able body Extremity Games in 2012, he is an accomplished Crossfitter, and most recently he participated in a Crossfit collaboration with Sealfit to raise money for Wounded Warriors. He participates in Wakeboarding Competitions, enjoys Free Snowboarding and other high endurance activities. As an adaptive athlete who has accomplished so much both in and out of sports, he touches the lives of many that have suffered a loss of this magnitude, but he also touches the lives and the hearts of many that feel lost, are searching for more and have yet to find a way to fill the void that they have within themselves.
An unexpected connection
When I met Corey Reed on April 17, 2013- Never would I have guessed that I would consider him a friend in the weeks to come, or that I would find anything that he and I had in common. After all, I am not an athlete, I am not disabled in any way, and I see clearly the colors of the world. I was wrong and regardless of our differences, I connected with Corey and many members of the team that has been the motivation and power behind Ride with Core. Corey is far more than his disabilities, yet it is his disabilities and his fight to survive the accident and its aftermath, that have ultimately brought him to where he is now. I am a believer, and I believe that God brings people into our lives for a reason. When I met Corey and learned of the passion behind Ride With Core, God opened my eyes to another world of strength and courage.
In todays world, it is sometimes difficult for people to find something that inspires them, or gives them hope. People spend so much time trying to fill the void in their lives and soul, with money and material possessions, that will never provide them with the satisfaction or happiness that they yern for. Ride with Core is about rediscovering your core values, surrounding yourself with motivation, rather than materials to find your happiness. Ride With Core is for anyone who needs hope. It is for Amputees, Disabled Athletes, Recovering Addicts, Second Chance hopefuls, misdirected youth and anyone who finds themselves searching for more.. Ride With Core is about showing people that even when you are down, and counted out- there is hope, and things can change.
Our world is in desperate need of some inspiration. No matter what you have experienced or where you find yourself in your journey, things can change. The Ride with Core Team, Corey as well as I have a goal and dream in life, and that dream is to show people how beautiful this life truly is. We hope that you will join the ride, and RIDE WITH CORE!