At 22, Sean Carter was a college junior out drinking with friends. He knew he was in no condition to drive home – but neither was the buddy who gave him a ride.
The driver walked away from the crash that left Sean in a wheelchair and unable to speak.
Now a computer is his voice.
Meet Sean Carter.
Athlete, Model, Brother, Son
A Dallas native, Sean was a business major at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. He loved sports and girls, a good combination for a guy who was an athlete and who already had modeling agents in Dallas and New York City.
Sean’s mother, Jenny, had her hands full with Sean; his identical twin brother, Todd; and his older brother Ben.
The night before Easter Sunday in 2005 changed everything for all of them.
The Choice of a Lifetime
“The vehicle spun to the left and the right passenger door of the pickup struck a tree in the median.”
Sean still can’t remember that Saturday night. Like many times before, he had been out drinking. When he was ready to call it a night, he simply got a ride with a friend. Unfortunately, his friend had been drinking too.
Just five minutes from the safety of Sean’s apartment, the driver lost control of his truck and slammed into a tree – on the passenger side where Sean was sitting.
No one ever discussed being a designated driver.
Athlete. Friend. Felon.
Ryan McDaniel was once a college athlete enjoying the benefits of a full football scholarship at a major university. When his grades fell, he transferred to play at Midwestern State. That’s where he met Sean Carter.
After they’d been drinking for several hours, Ryan was driving Sean home when his truck hydroplaned and crashed into a tree. He pleaded guilty to a charge of intoxication assault and was placed on probation for 10 years. His goal to be a football coach vanished. When Ryan was again arrested for drinking and driving, his probation violation landed him in prison and county jails for 26 months. Released in 2011, he now works in his family’s fishing business.
Ryan and Sean met up seven years after the crash. They agreed their roles could have been reversed. Now both men are focused on hope, healing, and a restoration of their friendship.
A Prisoner of His Own Body
Sean’s brain injury left him unharmed mentally but physically no longer able to talk or walk. He couldn’t swallow his own saliva, causing him to drool. He couldn’t dress or feed himself. Or go to the bathroom alone. At night he found himself trapped under the covers in his bed, unable to move when he was too hot or cold. Once fiercely independent, he was forced to rely on his mother for everything.
Year after year, Sean and many others have worked tirelessly to heal his body and restore its connection to his brain. His recovery has meant relentless physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and rare neuro-bio feedback therapy.
Sean has made hundreds of inpatient visits to five different rehabilitation facilities and has had 20 major surgical procedures. He has 30 scars and 18 pieces of metal in his body. Sean’s medical expenses exceeded $1 million within the first three years alone.
Despite it all, Sean discovered a new calling.
Still a Model
Sean uses his injury and experience as an example to others. He and his mother travel to speak to groups all over the United States. He entertains. He warns.
Sean is still a model – a role model. His gift of inspiration draws people to his radiant smile, his quick wit, and his power to communicate. He develops an immediate rapport with everyone he meets, and he and his mother motivate audiences to never, ever give up.
A Mother's Commitment
Jenny Carter didn't think twice about giving up her job traveling the country as regional billing coordinator for a group of 4700 emergency room physicians. She now cares for Sean 24/7, 365 days a year, assisting Sean in every aspect of his life: she’s his driver, cook, housekeeper, nurse, trainer, coach, and business manager.
She’s also his biggest fan.
Jenny’s devotion to her son is as inspirational as Sean’s courage.
Since the crash, Sean and Jenny have embraced their new mission in life – to tell everyone they can about choices, consequences, and the preventable dangers of drinking and driving.
WhenSeanSpeaks, Inc. is Sean’s and Jenny’s nonprofit organization that raises money for traumatic brain injury research. Through it, they are sharing their story nationwide to help others with traumatic brain injuries like Sean’s.
This commitment to their new mission to help others led them to join the Texas Department of Transportation’s drunk driving prevention, awareness, and education campaign.
Hear Sean Speak
Sean and Jenny receive encouraging messages daily from others who have heard their story and are changing their lives for the better. They are grateful for their “Army of Angels” – those rooting for them, supporting them, and praying for them – and they are gratified that Sean’s story motivates teens and others to drive sober.
His progress has been nothing short of remarkable. Seven years after the crash that stole his brain’s ability to communicate with his legs, Sean has relearned how to walk – with the aid of a cane in his left hand and another person supporting him on his right arm.
Sean will tell you that happiness is a choice for every one of us and that despite his laundry list of challenges, he loves his life. And that’s why every day, he chooses to live each day being happy.