For Ashton Kenerly, September 2, 2012, was a turning point. Planning to visit a family member, he jumped on a motorcycle—and made it 100 yards. Something caught his eye, and the motorcycle drifted into a curb. He went flying into a stone wall. Unfortunately, he wasn’t wearing protective gear.
Ashton remembers nothing, though the responding police officer says he was coherent, even provided his address. EMTs saw that he couldn’t move his legs, and things got worse on the way to Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital. He went into cardiac arrest. Once he reached the trauma center, doctors determined he had a torn aorta in his heart and rushed him to surgery.
He woke 12 days later in the ICU. His vertebrae, T9-T12, and both shoulders were broken. “When I woke up, I was just happy to see my family,” he says. “I thought I was OK. I wasn’t aware that I had been in a coma and on life support. I wasn’t angry when I realized I was paralyzed. I just saw it as an obstacle to overcome. I don’t believe God will give me anything I can’t handle. But it hit me hard to see the pain I had put my family through.
“I’ve been told that Ben Taub is the best place for trauma patients. I know I had the best care. Every time I touched the call button, the nurses came quickly. Before long, I didn’t see them as nurses. They became friends. They took care of my family, too.”
Today, Ashton is in a wheelchair and nearly self-sufficient, though he doesn’t drive yet. His goal is to walk again, and he works toward that goal daily, including weekly outpatient physical therapy. “My grandmother is a retired nurse and has lots of wisdom. She tells me I can never stop moving.”
He chooses his transportation wisely. “I would never ride a motorcycle again. Life is too short, too fragile, to ride a vehicle that doesn’t offer more protection.
“I look at life differently now. My eyes are open to how great life is. I don’t take it for granted. You’ve got to stay strong. Stay positive. Once you begin to lose hope, that’s when things go downhill. Keep saying, ‘I can.’ ‘I will.’ Giving up is not an option.”