This past week, I worked on a story about a man who was told he would spend his life in a wheelchair, yet here he is walking in 5Ks all over the region. He walked in the Applefest 5k and it was his 17th of the year after hip surgery gave him a new lease on life. His story appears in today’s edition of The News-Herald and The Derrick. As I was at the finish line at Applefest, I took note of something.
Waiting on Earl to finish I was watching others cross the line.
There were over 600 walkers and runners in the 5K. I thought, wow, there are over 600 stories here.
I was there to tell one.
But I watched people cross the line and I could see others coming in to support them. What do they know that I do not?
What is their story?
Why a 5K?
I admit when I was young I ran in one. I’m not a runner at heart but ran track and played every other sport. I was usually one of the fasted and I had stamina. But I don’t really find enjoyment in the way running makes me feel.
I looked at most of those people crossing the line thinking, they don’t look like they enjoy it either. But they do it anyway.
It’s a hard thing to run or even walk 3.1 miles. It takes it out of you.
Then, I talked with Earl again and there it is. To accomplish something that is difficult and good for you – you just feel good and you feel like you accomplished something you may not have thought you could.
And I don’t know all their stories, but I know they have incredible stories to tell just like Earl’s.
Here is the story I wrote:
Why would a big strong former army grunt walking at the end of this weekend’s 5k race at Applefest be so determined to make a quilt?
In the world of 5k races a quilt made from the participant t-shirts is, for some, their trophy of achievement. This idea grabbed Greenville resident Earl Corp’s attention earlier this year when he began participating in the 5k’s.
“I want to make a quilt to show my doctor,” Corp said.
Corp was one of more than 600 participants in Saturday’s “Race for any Pace” Applefest 5k sponsored by the Franklin YMCA. The 55 year-old grandfather will admit his ‘pace’ is slow. He had finished dead last in all 16 previous races this year. Finishing has a different meaning to him than where he finishes.
Every time he crosses that line it is a victory considering where he’s been.
Six years ago a doctor told him he would likely be in a wheelchair the rest of his life.
He suffered an injury to his back that required surgery to repair a cracked disc. While waiting to go under the knife an unexpected bacterial infection attacked his injury causing him to become disoriented and very sick. “I was talking to people who weren’t even there,” he said.
After making a trip back to Greenville Hospital to see what was causing this he passed out and didn’t wake up for three days. When he woke he was in a hospital in Pittsburgh. He didn’t know who he was, where he was and he didn’t even know his wife.
And he couldn’t stand up.
It took about three days for him to regain his memories and at this time his doctor began to explain to him what was going on. The infection got into his spinal cord and the damage would likely mean he would need to use a wheelchair to get around.
Corp said his wife, Franklin native Anna Poole, told him she knew watching his reaction to the doctor that he would walk again.
“She said I bristled right up straight and said ‘you wanna bet?’ to the doctor.”
The next day he began therapy and admits at that moment he thought the doctor might be right. He just couldn’t do it and he couldn’t get up.
He remembered seeing a sign back in his Army days that read “The soldier that says he can and the soldier that says he can’t are both right.”
So he decided that he would never say he can’t.
After three months of rehab he got up out of the wheelchair with the use of a walker and never went back.
“Water therapy helped a lot,” he said because the weight was taken off his muscles and the water in the pool kept him from losing balance with the threat of falling. He got stronger.
Though the wheelchair was a memory, his doctor’s words continued to be his driving force to keep working on getting stronger. He didn’t want to be using a walker the rest of his life and he didn’t want to be on disability either. He worked up to crutches and then he worked hard to get his drivers license back and to return to work.
For the next four years he lived his life at a slow pace using his crutches to get around.
In 2015 he noticed having increased difficulty getting up and down. An X-ray of his hips indicated he would benefit from hip replacement surgery.
“It was like I had a new lease on life,” he said after the surgeries to replace both hips. He felt immediate improvement and much less pain.
He left his crutches behind and was walking only with the aid of a cane.
But this still wasn’t good enough.
“I did what I was told, I didn’t push it too hard,” he said about rehab. He wanted to push harder but also didn’t want any set-backs.
He knew he had come a long way.
In January he put the cane in the corner for good.
Six years after being told he would be in a wheelchair the rest of his life he now is walking freely with no aids at all.
“I don’t quit,” he said.
Corp figures he needs to walk in at least 30 races to get enough T-shirts for a quilt,
“After the doctor told me I wouldn’t get out of the wheelchair I wanted to show him I could. I made it my goal this year to walk in the races so I could show him.” he said.
Corp says there isn’t anything special about him that has gotten him to this point. He thinks anyone can do what he did if they just think they can.
“I do a pirouette when I cross,” he said laughing. “Sometimes when I finish they are packing everything up, but the people waiting around for their medals are cheering me on.”
On Saturday at just over an hour and nine minutes Corp finished the Applefest race and he wasn’t in last place finishing ahead of two others.
“This was the first time I didn’t finish last.” he said just before walking back to congratulate the other two just seconds behind him for finishing their race.