Sean Carter and Jenny Carter, Sean’s mother and caretaker, shared the dangers of drinking and driving to Del Rio Freshman students as part of the WhenSeanSpeaks presentation. Sean told his story to the students at the Carl P. Guys Gymnasium on Thursday morning.
“This is not the norm, to take you out of your first period for a presentation … but the presentation is that good, that I feel it’s worth pulling out of whatever first period class you (the students) have,” Del Rio Freshman School Principal Thomas Cabello said.
This is the third time Sean and his mother have visited the city of Del Rio for a presentation. Jenny opened up the presentation by retelling Sean’s incident.
“Life has a way of laughing at us. Sean went out with a couple of friends, he was not the driver, but he did have the important conversation with the driver, ‘you’re my designated driver, my life is in your hands,’” Jenny said.
Sean was involved in a car accident on March 27, 2005 in Wichita Falls, Texas and sustained injuries on the entire right side of his body. At the time, he was a student in Midwestern State University majoring in business administration and had future pursuits of becoming a lawyer.
Sean was the passenger in a single cab Dodge Ram pickup truck and was being driven by a college friend that was intoxicated. He suffered multiple fractures, internal injuries and traumatic brain injury.
Sean did not suffer a spinal cord injury, rather the brain injury caused Sean to lose the ability to walk and talk.
“He did not get hit in the head … what happened was at the point of impact Sean’s head continued to move and as his head went side to side, his brain rubbed up against the inside of his skull,” Jenny said. The brain injury was classified as severe diffuse axonal injury, the worst kind of brain injury.
The Carters presented video clips of Jenny changing Sean’s diapers, wiping his face, spoon feeding him and many other small tasks during the first few months after the accident.
Throughout the video, Sean spoke to the students using an iPad as an intermediate speech communicator. He said he had the same dreams the students have: to fall in love, have kids, run on the beach and even getting up from the bed to walk to the kitchen.
“If I knew then the decision I would make … would affect the rest of my life … you can bet I would have not done what I did,” Sean said.
Sean said the students should listen to their mothers, because “momma knows best.” Jenny gave up a full-time career, that had her flying across the states, in order to take care of her son.
Sean said he did contemplate self-harm at the beginning because he felt trapped in his own body. As time passed on, Sean was able to come to terms with his condition and has improved since the incident.
“What happened to me is just unthinkable, but the unthinkable did happen. Society glamourizes alcohol so much; what is never shown is what it does to people like me or people worse than me,” Sean said.
In the beginning, he was bedridden and then upgraded to a powered wheelchair for 10 years. Through physical therapy and a gym at home, Sean has been using a walker for four years.
Now Sean and his mother travel as speakers and address the danger of drinking and driving. Last year, they met over 350,000 students throughout their presentations.
Students were allowed to ask questions and one student asked if the driver was okay.
The driver did not suffer any injuries and was arrested at the scene of the incident.
“This guy was given the maximum sentence … 10 years, however it was probated,” Jenny said.
The driver had a full ride scholarship to Baylor University revoked, due to his drinking, and kicked off the football team. The driver was given a second chance at Midwestern State University but was kicked off the football team.
Jenny said since then the driver was picked up twice for drinking and driving, incarcerated in Huntsville, Texas and released 10 years ago.
The presentation has been funded by a Texas Department of Transportation grant awarded to Texas A&M AgriLife’s Watch UR BAC program since 2015.
Sean presented his story in a lively manner, with smiles, thumbs up and jokes throughout his speech to brighten up the tragedy he faced. Cabello said the students should keep in mind a life-changing incident will affect those around them as well.
Sean challenged the students to not drink at all until they reached the legal age limit. He said drinking for a moment of popularity is not worth risking the ability to speak or walk.
After the presentation ended, the students were given an opportunity to speak with Sean and his mother. Many of the students chose to have their picture taken with Sean and some students expressed well wishes to Jenny.